The Twins announced that they claimed right-hander Zack Weiss off waivers from the Red Sox. They also made their previously–reported signings of first baseman Carlos Santana and right-hander Jay Jackson official. To open spots on their 40-man roster for those three players, outfielder Bubba Thompson as well as right-handers Daniel Duarte and Jordan Balazovic were designated for assignment.
Weiss, 32 in June, has made 24 major league appearances over the past two seasons with the Angels and Red Sox. In 27 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 3.29 earned runs per nine. He’s paired a strong 29% strikeout rate with a high 11.4% walk rate. He notably leans heavily on his breaking stuff, with Statcast characterizing 63.7% of his pitchers last year as sliders and another 7.1% as cutters. Opponents hit just .121 off the slider and and couldn’t muster a hit against the cutter.
Weiss was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox last year and now the Twins, suggesting clubs are interested in his stuff. He’ll likely need to improve his command a bit but he still has a couple of options and can be kept in the minors as depth until he better harnesses his stuff or is needed at the big league level.
Thompson, 26 in June, is a speedster with questions around his hitting ability. One of the fastest players in the league, he has 22 steals in 27 tries over the past two years but has hit just .242/.286/.305, pairing a 4.6% walk rate with a 29.9% strikeout rate. Since August of last year, he has gone from the Rangers to the Royals, Reds, Yankees and Twins via waiver claims. He still has a couple of options and could be valuable to other clubs as an optionable role player, as his speed naturally helps him both with baserunning and in running down balls in the outfield.
Duarte, 27, has also been a mainstay of the transaction logs this offseason, having gone from the Reds to the Rangers in a cash deal and then to the Twins via a waiver claim. He tossed 31 2/3 innings with the Reds last year with a solid 3.69 ERA. He got grounders on half the balls in play he allowed but only struck out 16.9% of opponents while giving out walks at a 14.7% clip. A .218 batting average on balls in play and 81.6% strand rate helped to keep runs off the board, which is why his 5.84 FIP and 5.52 SIERA weren’t nearly as exciting.
But his Triple-A work has been much more interesting. In 35 innings at that level last year, he posted a 3.34 ERA, 25.8% strikeout rate, 11.3% walk rate and 51.8% ground ball rate. He still has one option year remaining and could serve as optionable bullpen depth, which is why various clubs around the league have acquired him this offseason.
Balazovic, 25, was a fifth-round pick of the Twins in 2016 and shot up prospect lists as he climbed the minor league ladder. In 2019, he posted a combined 2.69 ERA between Single-A and High-A and Baseball America ranked him the #95 prospect in the league going into 2020. The minors were canceled by the pandemic that year but the righty got a roster spot in November to keep him out of the Rule 5 draft.
He proceeded fairly well in 2021, as he made 20 Double-A starts with a 3.62 ERA, but things seemed to come off the rails the year after that. He was lit up for a 7.39 ERA in 22 Triple-A appearances in 2022, with Baseball America highlighting that his stuff had diminished in terms of velocity.
Last year, he and the Twins were surely hoping for some kind of bounceback, but things got off to an ominous start. It was reported in February that he had a broken jaw due to “an altercation away from the field.” He eventually returned to health and made his major league debut, with a 4.44 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. But he struck out just 15.7% of hitters in that time while walking 11.1%. In 45 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level, he had a 5.32 ERA, 25.7% strikeout rate, 15.2% walk rate and 49.2% ground ball rate.
He is now out of options and would have needed an active roster spot if the Twins wanted to hang onto him. It seems they weren’t prepared to do that, so he has been bumped off the 40-man entirely. He’s likely to draw interest from somewhere based on his former top prospect status. The results of late weren’t pretty but he was still getting strikeouts and grounders in the minors last year. But any club looking to acquire him would need to deal with his out-of-options status once the season begins.