- The Red Sox and Diamondbacks are among the teams with interest in Twins righty Brandon Kintzler, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter). Kintzler, 32, represents an interesting potential addition to the trade market as Minnesota ponders a change in plans. The sinkerballer owns a 2.84 ERA with 27 saves on the year. As regards the interest from Boston, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Red Sox had looked into Pat Neshek before he was dealt to the Rockies, due in part to their desire to add a “different look” to their setup mix. With the side-armer now off the market, Boston isn’t a lock to move onto other targets such as the Mets’ Addison Reed or the Marlins’ AJ Ramos, Crasnick notes.
- While the Astros continue their search for arms, the club has done some “background work” on Twins righty Ervin Santana, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (Twitter links). Santana’s velocity has wavered a bit, though perhaps that’s not the real issue in assessing his value. The veteran righty has produced a strong 3.37 ERA over 136 1/3 innings, following up on last year’s near-identical 3.38 mark, but he’s managing just 6.9 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 and has benefited from a .227 BABIP and 82.9% strand rate.
After dropping three straight games to the Dodgers and falling below .500 for the first time since April, the Twins are now fielding offers on their shorter-term assets, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (on Twitter). That includes right-hander Ervin Santana and newly acquired lefty Jaime Garcia. They’re also getting hits on closer Brandon Kintzler and second baseman Brian Dozier, Feinsand adds. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi suggested yesterday that the Twins would be open to such moves if their struggles continued.
[Related: Minnesota Twins depth chart]
The 34-year-old Santana paced the Majors in ERA for a full calendar year, working to a 1.75 ERA from June 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017. However, Santana’s peripheral numbers never came close to supporting that aesthetically pleasing figure, and he’s regressed substantially over the past couple of months. That said, he’s still as durable veteran with quality results that has averaged nearly 6 2/3 innings per start this year. He’s also averaged 6.9 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 with a 42.8 percent ground-ball rate and is still averaging a respectable 92.7 mph on his heater.
Santana is earning $13.5MM in 2017 and is controlled through 2018 at the same rate. His contract also includes a $14MM club/vesting option for the 2019 season ($1MM buyout) that’ll automatically kick in if he throws 400 innings between now and the completion of the 2018 campaign (with at least 200 frames next year).
Dozier was the focus of rumors all offseason, primarily drawing connections to the Dodgers, but he ultimately remained in Minnesota. He’s predictably seen his power regress after last year’s 42-homer campaign, but he’s still on pace to approach 30 homers and is hitting a solid .249/.334/.441 with 16 homers, 21 doubles and two triples on the year. He’s earning a highly affordable $6MM in 2017 (with about $2.1MM of that sum remaining) and will make $9MM in 2018 before hitting free agency upon completion of his age-31 season.
Kintzler has gone from minor league signee to closer in short order since joining the Twins, and while he doesn’t miss many bats, he’s a ground-ball machine with strong control. Set to turn 33 years old the day after the non-waiver deadline, Kintzler is earning $2.9MM this season and has averaged 5.6 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 with a 58.7 percent ground-ball rate since joining the Twins in 2016. That’s led to a 3.01 ERA in 98 2/3 innings. Most clubs probably view the impending free agent as more of a setup option, but his strong results against lefties and hard sinker would fit well on a number of teams looking for short-term ’pen help.
The inclusion of Garcia likely causes some to raise an eyebrow, as the Twins gave up a prospect to acquire him just three days ago. Minnesota, though, also took on the entirety of Garcia’s contract as well as $200K of what the Braves still owed catcher Anthony Recker. In doing so, the Twins minimized their own cost of acquiring him and also created the possibility of flipping him for a greater return. Garcia reportedly drew interest from roughly a half-dozen teams before he went to the Twins, and if Minnesota is willing to pay the remaining ~$4.5MM on Garcia’s deal, he could conceivably be flipped for a superior prospect to the one the Twins surrendered (Huascar Ynoa). In essence, that would be akin to buying a better prospect. Garcia, a free agent at season’s end, is set to make his first start for the Twins tomorrow in Oakland.
Of course, the mention of Oakland makes it worth reminding that the situation is likely fluid. The Twins drew a tough schedule coming out of the break and have already faced baseball’s two best teams, the Astros and Dodgers. Their next six games are against the rebuilding Athletics and Padres, so a quick rebound in Oakland could cause new chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine to pump the brakes a bit.
The Twins’ presence near the top of the AL Central was a surprising development for most, and comments from Levine and Falvey all summer have suggested that the team wouldn’t deviate from its long-term focus by mortgaging significant pieces of its future. Seeing what offers materialize for veteran players likely wasn’t the route the club hoped to take this summer after a hot start, but the Twins also never separated themselves from in the division by a wide enough margin to fully rule out the possibility.
The D-backs announced that they’ve acquired minor league catcher John Ryan Murphy from the Twins in exchange for minor league left-hander Gabriel Moya. In a corresponding move, Yasmany Tomas has been transferred from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on Arizona’s 40-man roster.
Murphy’s tenure with the Twins will come to a disappointing end after roughly a season and a half. Acquired prior to the 2016 season in a straight-up swap for outfielder Aaron Hicks, Murphy floundered in his first season with the Twins in ’16 and has yet to see the Majors in 2017. Hicks, meanwhile, finally broke out and delivered on his former top prospect status as a member of the Yankees in 2017, though he’s been sidelined for about a month due to an oblique injury.
The 26-year-old Murphy showed plenty of promise in 2015, hitting .277/.327/.406 in his first extended look in the Majors as a member of the Yankees. With a long-term need behind the plate and a glut of outfield depth in his system, former Twins GM Terry Ryan moved the out-of-options Hicks to New York in exchange for Murphy with the hope that he could succeed Kurt Suzuki as the Twins’ starting catcher in the long run.
Murphy, though, logged just 90 plate appearances with the Twins in 2016 and hit .146/.193/.220. He posted a .609 OPS at the Triple-A level last year as well and hasn’t been much better in 2017, hitting just .222/.298/.330 with four home runs through 218 plate appearances. The Twins inked Jason Castro to a three-year pact this winter and have backup catcher/mop-up reliever extraordinaire Chris Gimenez controlled through 2018, while 26-year-old Mitch Garver’s strong minor league play has easily vaulted him over Murphy on the organizational depth chart. The inclusion of journeyman Anthony Recker in this week’s Jaime Garcia swap gave the Twins yet another experienced option at catcher and likely made Murphy all the more expendable in their eyes.
For all of his flaws at the plate, Murphy has halted 39 percent of stolen base attempts against him and has delivered superlative framing marks both this season and last in Triple-A Rochester. For a Diamondbacks organization that has placed a clear emphasis on catcher defense — highlighted by the signing of light-hitting Jeff Mathis to a two-year deal — the interest in Murphy is understandable. He’s probably behind Mathis, Chris Herrmann and Chris Iannetta on the depth chart for now, but Iannetta is a free agent at season’s end while Herrmann (also a former Twin) is a clear non-tender candidate, if not a DFA candidate.
In Moya, the Twins will pick up a left-handed arm that ranked as the 25th-best asset in a thin Diamondbacks farm system, per Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The 22-year-old Moya has served as the closer with the D-backs’ Double-A affiliate this season and posted a gaudy 0.82 ERA with 14.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 42.5 percent ground-ball rate. He’s saved 17 games at that level, though Callis and Mayo suggest that he doesn’t have the stuff to close at the game’s top level. They do note that unlike many relievers, Moya has four useful pitches, highlighted by a changeup and also featuring an average fastball and slider.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that the Twins are at least open to the idea of moving Ervin Santana and Jaime Garcia if their recent struggles don’t turn around before the non-waiver deadline. Minnesota dropped below .500 for the first time since April after a pair of losses to the Dodgers, and the Royals are surging toward the top of the division as well. Santana has struggled over the past month and a half but would still figure to draw interest as a fairly reasonably priced rotation stabilizer, even if his ERA has never been supported by peripheral metrics. And while some may raise an eyebrow at the notion of moving Garcia, I’d point out that since the Twins took on all of the money owed to Garcia, they could offer to flip him, still pay his contract, and potentially receive a better prospect than the Huascar Ynoa, whom they traded to Atlanta to get Garcia in the first place.
In need of a 40-man spot after today’s trade, the Twins have returned Rule 5 pick Justin Haley to the Red Sox, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (via Twitter). Haley evidently cleared waivers; Boston has accepted him back and assigned him to Triple-A, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter).
Haley, 26, had been nearing a return from a DL stint owing to shoulder problems. The righty did appear in ten MLB contests earlier this season, however, allowing a dozen earned runs on 22 hits over 18 innings while striking out 14 and issuing six walks.
The results have been somewhat more promising of late in the upper minors. Over his 102 2/3 Triple-A frames over the past two years, Haley owns a 3.59 ERA with 6.8 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9.
As part of the swap, the Braves will send $100K to cover a piece of Recker’s remaining salary, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. Minnesota is absorbing all of Garcia’s remaining salary, per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter); that represents just over $4.5MM of the original $12MM salary.
While these two clubs had seemingly been nearing a deal involving Garcia just days ago, those talks broke down — at least temporarily — when an issue arose in the medicals of Twins righty Nick Burdi. When that fell through, the southpaw ended up making another start for the Braves. It was a good one, which helped buttress the club’s position, though obviously Atlanta did not have an enormous amount of leverage here.
Garcia is a useful pitcher, to be sure, but no team was going to give big value to get him. That was especially true of a Minnesota organization that is looking to stay in the postseason hunt, but has little interest in mortgaging the future to do so. The Twins have said all along their preference was to add a controllable starter, but perhaps that was going to cost too much in prospect capital. Instead, the team will take on a bit of payroll and give up a far-away prospect to help boost its rotation in the near-term.
While he’s no ace, Garcia will represent a pretty significant improvement for this particular staff. Indeed, he’ll probably slot in as the club’s third-best starter behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Assuming that Adalberto Mejia will hold a rotation spot and Bartolo Colon will receive at least a few more outings, it seems Kyle Gibson is most likely to lose his rotation spot as a result of the move.
Since arriving over the winter from the Cardinals in a deal that sent young hurlers John Gant, Chris Ellis, and Luke Dykstra to St. Louis, Garcia has largely been a steady presence. He has continued to stay healthy after years of shoulder woes, throwing 113 innings over 18 starts, and has turned in a solid 4.30 ERA. Garcia is carrying only 6.8 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9, but does have an excellent 55.4% groundball rate.
Minnesota also adds Recker, who provides some depth behind the dish. He has received scant MLB action thus far in 2017, but hit quite well last year for Atlanta. Over 156 Triple-A plate appearances thus far in 2017, Recker is slashing .223/.301/.381.
The Braves aren’t likely to make a postseason push, so the club could now safely part with Garcia. Of course, there have also been whispers that Atlanta is looking at adding a controllable starter as soon as this summer. That remains a somewhat low-likelihood proposition, at least as viewed on paper, though it’s worth noting that this deal will free up some finances, which may conceivably aid the team’s efforts to add a pitcher who can be retained past the present season.
Atlanta will also pick up a prospect that has value. Ynoa (the younger brother of Michael Ynoa) just turned 19 years old and has yet to advance out of Rookie ball. This year, he has struggled through just 25 2/3 innings in the Appalachian League, allowing 15 earned runs with 23 strikeouts and 14 walks. MLB.com rates him as the Twins’ 22nd-best overall prospect. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, meanwhile, tweets that he sees Ynoa’s upside as at most a #4 type of starter — an outcome that’d be plenty valuable, but perhaps still remains a best-case scenario.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Breslow signed a minor league deal with Minnesota last winter that ended up paying him $1.25MM in guaranteed money when he broke camp with the team after Spring Training. After getting off to a good start in his first 21 outings, Breslow struggled in June and then spent much of July on the DL with a rib injury. Overall, Breslow has a 5.34 ERA, 5.3 K/9, 1.64 K/BB rate over 30 1/3 IP for the Twins.
Twins manager Paul Molitor told Berardino and other reporters that Breslow (who turns 37 on August 8) intends to continue his career. Despite the lackluster overall numbers, there is still evidence that Breslow has something left in the tank — he held left-handed hitters to just a .176/.262/.235 slash line this season. Since right-handed batters (.992 OPS) were responsible for much of the damage against Breslow this season, he could still provide value to another team in a strict specialist role. With several teams looking for bullpen help, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Breslow get some calls should he hit the open market, or perhaps even a club could work out a minor trade to acquire Breslow from Minnesota during the DFA period.
This is the second trade of the day for the Blue Jays, who picked up utilityman Rob Refsnyder from the Yankees earlier this afternoon. Like Refsnyder, Tepesch should only be a minor contributor for the Blue Jays – if he contributes anything, that is. Tepesch made one start this season in Minnesota, on May 6, and yielded seven runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks over 1 2/3 innings. The Twins released the 28-year-old a month later, but he quickly re-upped on a minor league contract. Tepesch logged 29 innings with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate this year and recorded a 5.59 ERA, 8.38 K/9 and 2.79 BB/9.
At one point in his career, Tepesch was a passable back-end starter in Texas, where he posted a 4.56 ERA, 5.42 K/9, 2.92 BB/9 and a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate across 219 frames (39 starts, 42 appearances) from 2013-14. Tepesch hasn’t been nearly that effective since, though, so it’s doubtful he’ll do much at the major league level with his new organization.
SUNDAY, 12:41pm: Add the Brewers to the list of teams interested in Garcia, per Crasnick (Twitter link).
10:34am: Minnesota and Atlanta continue to discuss Garcia, but the Twins are also focusing on starters from other teams, Wolfson indicates (on Twitter).
SATURDAY, 1:32pm: Righty Nick Burdi was involved in the deal, Rosenthal tweets. Burdi had Tommy John surgery in late May and will be out until next season. The Braves already obviously would have been aware of that, and they haven’t shied away from acquiring injured pitchers in the past (such as Max Fried, who they got when they traded Justin Upton to the Padres in the 2014-15 offseason). So perhaps the player whose medicals they took issue with was someone else. It’s still possible, though, that they saw less than they hoped for in Burdi’s medical reports. The 24-year-old Burdi had an 0.53 ERA, 10.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 17 relief innings with Double-A Chattanooga before the injury.
11:30am: Talks between the Braves and Twins came to an impasse due to a medical issue the Braves had with a prospect they would have received from the Twins, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. The two sides are currently considering other options, though they could return to the table at some point.
FRIDAY 8:34pm: All indications are that Garcia will take the ball for Atlanta tonight. The front office is in contact with a half-dozen organizations regarding the lefty at present, Feinsand tweets.
3:04pm: It is still possible that the Twins will acquire Garcia, though MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that such a trade is “not probable.”
2:35pm: Garcia will make his scheduled start for the Braves tonight against the Dodgers, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Talks are still ongoing between the Braves and other teams about Garcia’s services, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports, so a late deal could still happen. Aaron Blair was scratched from a minor league start yesterday and is in Los Angeles to make a spot outing should Garcia be scratched at the last minute.
9:32am: Teams besides the Twins are still talking to the Braves about Garcia, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (via Twitter). It isn’t known who the other clubs in the mix are, though earlier today, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweeted that the Astros and Royals were two of the the teams that had previously shown interest in Garcia. Kansas City, however, now appears to be more focused on acquiring a right-handed starter.
TODAY, 7:14am: No deal has been finalized between the two sides as of this morning, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.
THURSDAY, 8:24pm: Minnesota is “very likely” to take over all of Garcia’s remaining salary (about $4.7MM), per 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (via Twitter).
7:42pm: For what it’s worth, Garcia is still in a Braves’ uniform tonight, Kevin McAlpin of the Braves Radio Network tweets. Of course, that doesn’t mean the deal isn’t nearing completion; he isn’t scheduled to start until tomorrow.
6:44pm: It’s possible the Twins will be receiving an additional player in the deal, per LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune (via Twitter), though it seems that’d likely be a lower-level player of some kind.
6:12pm: It seems the swap is done except for the formalities. It’s being finalized right now, tweets Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, while MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger adds on Twitter that the sides are currently waiting on medical assessments. Atlanta will be receiving a minor-league player in return, he adds.
5:51pm: Minnesota is closing in on a deal for Garcia, Rosenthal tweets.
5:46pm: Amidst ongoing rumors that Braves starter Jaime Garcia may be dealt in short order, the Twins are engaged in discussions on the veteran southpaw, according to Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (via Twitter). It’s not apparent at this point whether other teams are still involved or whether an agreement could be nearing completion.
Garcia is probably one of the better rental starters on a market that doesn’t have many of great interest (pending the availability of Yu Darvish). I’d generally concur with MLBTR’s readers, who rated him alongside Jeremy Hellickson, and behind Trevor Cahill and Marco Estrada, in a poll yesterday.
Over his 106 innings this year, Garcia has pitched to a 4.33 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 along with a healthy 54.7% groundball rate. At times, previously, he has shown a fair bit more, but that sort of output likely represents a reasonable expectation moving forward for Garcia, who the Braves acquired over the winter after a long run with the Cardinals.
Those looking for upside will note that Garcia does carry an 11.5% swinging-strike rate that is more reminiscent of his prime-level work. And it’s important to note that he has been plenty durable recently after experiencing several seasons marred by shoulder troubles.
While Garcia doesn’t necessarily excite, he should represent a sturdy option for a club that needs good innings down the stretch. That’s the case for Minnesota, which finds itself firmly in the AL Central (and AL Wild Card) hunt despite a generally underwhelming overall performance — particularly from its pitching staff.
The Twins just lost Phil Hughes back to the DL, where Hector Santiago also resides. Neither has been effective when healthy, and the same holds of Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia — whose palatable 4.22 ERA isn’t supported by the peripherals. That leaves just two reliable rotation pieces in Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. The Twins did just add former Braves hurler Bartolo Colon, though it’s anybody’s guess what he’ll provide.
While the Minnesota front office has focused more on the possibility of acquiring a controllable starter, it has acknowledged that rentals could also be pursued in the right circumstances. “We’re probably not going to be inclined to spend lavishly on short-term assets,” GM Thad Levine explained recently, “but we would be very open to spending aggressively on assets that we could use to propel our team forward this year and for years to come.”
Garcia would help shore things up for the rest of the season, but he’ll head to free agency thereafter. If Levine’s statement still holds, then, it seems reasonable to anticipate that the Twins won’t be sending a big package to acquire Garcia — who, it should be noted, is earning at a hefty $12MM rate this year. Taking on some salary now, though, may be the preferred route to boosting the team’s chances at earning a surprise postseason spot, particularly if the demand for the few available top-end controllable pitchers is as great as it seems.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Twins have added righty Michael Kohn on a minors deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports (Twitter links). He’ll continue rehabbing a rotator cuff injury that has kept him off the mound since 2015. Kohn previously turned in 115 innings of 3.52 ERA ball — but with 6.2 walks to go with his 8.7 strikeouts per nine — in parts of five seasons of MLB action.