The Twins announced today that they have selected the contract of right-hander Oliver Ortega. Fellow righty Louie Varland was optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding move while outfielder Kyle Garlick was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
Ortega, 26, pitched for the Angels in each of the past two seasons, registering a combined 3.95 ERA in 35 outings between those two campaigns. He was designated for assignment in the offseason and claimed by the Twins, though the latter club passed him through outright waivers a few weeks later.
He’s been putting up good numbers in Triple-A so far this year, posting a 2.42 ERA through 22 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 31.8% of opponents while walking just 8% and getting grounders on 36% of balls in play. That strong work has got him back to the big leagues again, where he’ll provide a fresh arm for the Minnesota bullpen. He also has a couple of option years remaining, giving the club a bit of roster flexibility.
Varland has been working out of the club’s rotation, posting a 5.30 ERA over 10 starts. His option today seems to point towards the imminent return of Kenta Maeda, who has been on a rehab assignment of late. He had a rough start to the year, with an ERA of 9.00 through four starts before landing on the injured list with a triceps strain. He’ll hope to get in a better groove going forward, jumping into the rotation next to Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Pablo López and Bailey Ober.
As for Garlick, he has had some success in the past, primarily as a right-handed platoon specialist. He’s hit .240/.288/.510 against southpaws in his major league career, good enough for a 115 wRC+. However, he hasn’t been hitting in the majors or the minors this year. He’s hit just .210/.308/.427 in 143 Triple-A appearances for the season, including a dismal .160/.263/.300 against lefties. Those struggles surely contributed to nudging him off the roster.
The Twins will now have a week to trade Garlick or pass him through waivers. He has a previous career outright and over three years of service time, which means he could reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency. However, since he has less than five years of service time, he would have to forfeit the remainder of his $750K salary in order to do so. That’s just barely over the $720K minimum for a major league player but it’s surely much better than what he would get in Triple-A, where the minimum salary is just $35.8K.
For any clubs weighing a claim, Garlick is in his final option year, meaning he could be kept in the minors as depth for the rest of the year. He isn’t hitting much here in 2023 but has had some past success that could appeal to another club that has some question marks in its outfield.