- While there were reports that Twins prospect Tyler Jay, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 draft, would require thoracic outlet surgery earlier this summer, the left-hander is healthy and pitching well in the Arizona Fall League, writes MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. Jay did miss nearly three months of the season with neck and shoulder issues, Bollinger continues, but TOS was ruled out by doctors. Rather, Jay was diagnosed with a shoulder impingement and biceps tendinitis. The Twins have moved Jay to the bullpen for the foreseeable future and expect him to open next season in Double-A Chattanooga. ESPN’s Keith Law recently wrote that Jay has been “electric” in the AFL. The 23-year-old could well emerge as a late-inning option in Minnesota next year.
1:57pm: Bollinger tweets that there is indeed a chance that Perkins could return to the Twins on a minor league contract, but he’s likely to retire if such a deal cannot be arranged.
1:26pm: The Twins have informed former closer Glen Perkins that his $6.5MM club option for the 2018 season will be declined, tweets MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. The three-time All-Star will instead receive a $700K buyout and become a free agent.
It’s not clear what’s next for the St. Paul native, who has spent his entire professional and collegiate career playing in the Twin Cities. This outcome has been seen as a foregone conclusion for some time now, as Perkins has pitched just 7 2/3 innings over the past two seasons after undergoing significant surgery to repair a torn labrum during the 2016 campaign. He did return to the roster and toss 5 2/3 innings out of the ’pen late in the 2017 season.
Upon his activation from the disabled list, Perkins averaged just 90.3 mph on his fastball — a far cry from the 94.9 mph he averaged during his peak years with the club in 2012-13. It’s seems reasonable to believe that the Twins could look to bring him back on a minor league pact in hopes of better health next year, or he could seek out similar opportunities with other organizations if he wishes.
However, Perkins told Bollinger and other reporters in an emotional interview that he may also consider retiring if he is unable to return to the Twins next year. That interview came after a fitting tribute from the team, when the Twins brought Perkins on for the final out of their second-to-last game of the season, and he took the field to his former entrance music as the team’s closer: Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.”
Perkins, 35 in March, struggled as a starter early in his career but emerged as a dominant reliever for Minnesota in 2011. From 2011-15, he pitched to a 2.84 ERA with 9.8 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. Along the way, he established himself as the Twins’ closer and racked up 120 saves, including a career-high 36 in a 2013 season that was the finest of his professional tenure.
The Twins have hired longtime Baseball America editor John Manuel and added him to their pro scouting department, Manuel announced yesterday (on Facebook). The Twins later confirmed the hiring, as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes. Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey suggests to Bollinger that the team has no intention of cutting its scouting department despite a notably increased emphasis on analytics. “We’ve talked a lot about staff enhancement and continuing to build out,” said Falvey. “We’ll do that with different voices with advances in video scouting and live scouting. We have a good number of pro scouts, but we’re looking to add to it. It’s not our expectation to have fewer people in the field.”
Manuel has spent more than two decades at BA and has been the publication’s editor-in-chief for more than half that time. As someone who owns a mountain of BA Prospect Handbooks and has had an active BA subscription for a decade or so now, I can earnestly say that his work will be missed. Congrats to John, and best wishes in his new role with the Twins.
- After Twins pitchers recorded the majors’ third-worst swinging-strike rate in 2017, team brass is hoping to build a staff capable of missing more bats, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press details. At the same time, the Twins aren’t ruling out having some pitch-to-contact types on hand. In fact, even though closers Matt Belisle and Brandon Kintzler (now with the Nationals) generated fewer swings and misses than the average reliever this season, the club’s interested in re-signing the former and reuniting with the latter in free agency, according to Berardino.
- Twins owner Jim Pohlad tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that while there have yet to be any talks of long-term deals for young talents such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano or Eddie Rosario, those topics could come up in the near future. “I’d be looking forward to that conversation,” said Pohlad, who generally praised his team’s emerging core. Pohlad also suggested that while Brian Dozier was the focus of trade rumors last offseason and is entering the final season of his contract, it’d be tough to consider trading him this winter. “You would have to believe you’re getting a future core player back,” said Pohlad, going on to stress that it’d need to be a player (or players) that could help the Twins immediately.
Left-handed reliever Fernando Abad has changed agencies and is now represented by Octagon, FanRag’s Robert Murray reports (on Twitter). Abad’s shift in representation is particularly notable, as Abad is set to become a free agent once the playoffs come to a close. The 31-year-old lefty (32 in December) enjoyed a solid season out of the Boston bullpen, working to a 3.30 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 with a 45 percent ground-ball rate in 43 2/3 innings. Abad was shelled in 12 2/3 frames with the Red Sox in 2016 after being acquired in a trade with the Twins, but his 2017 numbers bear a strong resemblance to his quality work in 34 innings with Minnesota prior to the trade. In all, lefties have posted a putrid .186/.240/.304 batting line against Abad in 150 plate appearances across the past two seasons. His change in representation has been reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains info on more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players.
- Despite whiffing on free-agent investments to starting pitchers in recent years (most notably Ricky Nolasco), Twins owner Jim Pohlad tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he won’t be afraid to add starters via free agency if that’s what his front office recommends to him. “There’s no question we have to work on the pitching,” said Pohlad. “It’s absolutely obvious.” Asked specifically about free agency in the wake of some deals that haven’t panned out, Pohlad stated: “Not everything works. … You can’t be afraid to try.” Those decisions, of course, will be largely up to chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, general manager Thad Levine and the rest of the Twins’ front office. Minnesota figures to be a bit more aggressive in adding pieces this offseason than last now that the team has greater expectations of contending on the heels of a Wild Card berth.
The Twins announced a few baseball operations changes on Tuesday, including the hiring of 27-year-old Jeremy Zoll as the team’s new director of minor league operations. Brad Steil, who had previously been the team’s farm director since 2013, will now instead head up the Twins’ pro scouting department. Zoll has spent the past few seasons in the Dodgers organization, most recently holding the title of assistant director of player development. Zoll has also worked as an advance scouting coordinator with the Angels. “We’re really fortunate and excited to have him,” said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey of the newly hired Zoll (link via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger). “He came in highly recommended from the people he worked with and around. He’ll bring some new ideas into what we’re doing developmentally.”
- While it’s been suggested that surgery isn’t expected for Twins slugger Miguel Sano, GM Thad Levine said today that surgery is still an option for the third baseman’s ailing shin (via Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Levine painted surgery as a last resort, however, and said the team will explore other avenues. A decision will be made sooner rather than later though, as the procedure Sano would theoretically require would come with an eight-week recovery, so the Twins understandably don’t want to wait too long before making the call. Whether Sano requires surgery or avoids going under the knife, manager Paul Molitor said today that he doesn’t think Sano needs to play in the Dominican Winter League this year, per Berardino.
The Twins have decided to part ways with pitching coach Neil Allen, as La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune writes. While Paul Molitor will remain as the manager after inking a new deal, the organization is now on the market for a new hand to guide the pitching staff. Minnesota is sure to enter the offseason in search of ways to boost the productivity of its rotation after a season in which only two starters (Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios) turned in high-quality overall campaigns. While others showed signs at times — Kyle Gibson finished strong, for example — there’s clearly room to improve through both new acquisitions and internal development.
- In other Twins news, the organization does not presently expect Miguel Sano to require surgery to address his shin injury, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Though there have been some prior indications to the contrary, a surgical option would be an “extreme” measure and isn’t on the table at this point, per the report. Berardino adds that young reliever J.T. Chargois is also not under consideration for a surgical approach despite missing virtually all of the season due to elbow problems. You’ll also find some player reactions to the coaching staff decisions at the link.
The Twins announced Monday that they have signed manager Paul Molitor to a three-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2020 season. Molitor’s new deal is worth approximately $4MM, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter). He and the Twins are still discussing whether there will be changes to his coaching staff, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link).
While a new deal for Molitor was expected by many, it wasn’t quite a given. Molitor was initially hired as the successor to longtime manager Ron Gardenhire, but that hire was made by former general manager Terry Ryan, who was fired from his post last year. Some speculated that Falvey and general manager Thad Levine may want to bring in their own candidate to take over the dugout, but Molitor will stay in the fold.
While the 2016 season was an unmitigated disaster, the Twins have surprised in two of Molitor’s three seasons at the helm. The 2015 club won 83 games — a 13-game improvement over the preceding season — and was in contention for an AL Wild Card spot until the very last weekend of the regular season. Last year’s 103-loss campaign now looks to be largely an aberration, as Molitor’s Twins posted 85 wins and secured the second AL Wild Card spot this year before falling 8-4 against the Yankees. That surprising performance has positioned Molitor as one of the speculative front-runners for American League Manager of the Year honors.
Molitor, of course, enjoyed a 21-year playing career and is among the most decorated offensive players in Major League history. The seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner finished his career with a .306/.369/.448 batting line, and his 3,319 career hits rank 10th all-time in MLB history. Molitor is widely praised by his former teammates and current players for his baseball intelligence, and while he may not be as sabermetrically inclined as some other skippers around the game, his arrival in Minnesota did prompt a much more aggressive implementation of defensive shifting.
Overall, he’s managed the Twins to a 227-259 record in his three-year tenure, though the future looks considerably brighter in Minnesota following explosive second halves from young talents such as Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario. Those three will join a hopefully healthier Miguel Sano, outfielder Max Kepler and right-hander Jose Berrios in forming a long-term core that the Twins hope can lead to additional postseason appearances in the very near future.
Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported (via Twitter) that Molitor would return to manage the Twins under a new contract. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reported Sunday (Twitter link) that the two sides were closing in on a deal. La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune confirmed the agreement Monday. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
After quickly shifting from buyers to sellers at the 2017 trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins’ offense went on an absolute tear during the second half, thanks in part to blazing hot streaks from Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco and Brian Dozier. The lineup’s offensive storm resulted in a whopping 412 runs after the All-Star break, surpassing even the Indians for most in the American League. They surged up the standings to claim the AL’s second wild card spot, but fell to the New York Yankees in the one-game playoff after starting pitchers Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios gave up a combined seven runs across five innings.
The heartbreaking loss alluded to an overarching theme of the Twins’ 2017 season: the woes of subpar performances from starting pitchers. While Santana and Berrios were actually the team’s most respectable performers during the season, the rotation performed miserably on the whole. Sixteen different pitchers started games for Minnesota. Of those sixteen, only one (Santana) qualified for the ERA title. Only five finished with an ERA below 5.00. Minnesota starters as a group finished in the bottom ten in all of baseball in innings pitched (24th), fWAR (22nd), strikeouts (26th), xFIP (27th), least hard contact allowed (21st), and fewest home runs allowed (23rd).
Without dramatic improvements to the rotation, the Twins have little hope of dethroning the rival Indians as AL Central Champions. However, if they can add pitching reinforcements to an offense that’s intimidating from top to bottom, it’s easy to see a path for them to reach the playoffs again. Adding to their fortunes is a weak division wherein the White Sox and Tigers are in the midst of full teardowns, with the Royals likely to follow suit this offseason.
The problem has the potential to solve itself. Santana and Berrios will both return to their roles in 2018, with Kyle Gibson likely to slot in behind them after performing very well in the second half this past season. LHP Stephen Gonsalves and RHP Fernando Romero both rank as top 100 overall prospects and could potentially see major league action next season. And Adalberto Mejia is at the very least a reasonable back-end starter. If Berrios is able to take another step forward, and one of Gonsalves or Romero emerges as a top-of-the-rotation type, the Twins would certainly be no worse off on paper than most contenders.
But even the highest-rated prospects are never sure bets, and Santana, Berrios and Gibson all have at least a few question marks hovering over them. Meanwhile the free agent market for pitchers is full of high-upside starters who carry tremendous risk. Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta represent the top options on the market, while Masahiro Tanaka and Johnny Cueto can both opt out of their current contracts. Most of these pitchers would likely cost more than the Twins can afford to pay, and all carry significant injury risk. Japanese phenom Shohei Otani would be an incredibly exciting target, but the competition for his services will certainly be fierce. It’s difficult to imagine what the Twins could offer him that other teams cannot. So while it’s certainly possible the Twins could land a high-end starter, a foray into the free agent pool would likely end with the Twins having to settle for an even riskier tier of starters that includes Andrew Cashner, Tyler Chatwood, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jason Vargas and a somewhat resurgent Doug Fister.
To say that the trade market for starting pitchers this offseason will be competitive would be an understatement. The top starters in baseball are heavily concentrated on teams with plans to contend next season. Michael Fulmer and Gerrit Cole are examples of solid pitchers who could be made available, but due to heavy demand, the Twins would probably have to fork over at least one of top 30 overall prospects Royce Lewins and Nick Gordon. Both Fulmer and Cole come with injury concerns.
While many teams are in need of rotation help, the Twins’ situation is dire. If the offense can repeat anything close to their late 2017 production, Minnesota will be in the thick of contention all next season. But they absolutely must get significant improvements within the starting five.
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