- It may have taken longer than expected for the Twins to re-sign designated hitter Nelson Cruz, whom they inked to a one-year, $13MM guarantee earlier this month. The Twins believed they’d keep Cruz throughout the process, though, as president of baseball operations Derek Falvey told MLB Network Radio on Thursday that “we passed on some other players” who could have prevented them from bringing back Cruz. The identities of those players aren’t known, but the Twins would have been hard-pressed to upgrade at DH over Cruz, who slashed an incredible .308/.394/.626 with 57 home runs in 735 plate appearances with the team from 2019-20.
The Twins announced Wednesday morning that shortstop Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 draft and one of their top two prospects, has been diagnosed with a tear in his right knee’s anterior cruciate ligament and will require surgery. The procedure comes with an expected recovery time of at least nine months, so it’s likely to wipe out his entire season. Lewis is slated to undergo surgery on Friday.
As Twins president of baseball ops Derek Falvey explained to reporters (Twitter link via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com), Lewis had been dealing with some soreness in his knee during offseason workouts. That may not have accounted for the tear, but he also recently slipped on some ice during the blizzards in Texas, where he lives during the offseason, which worsened the discomfort. It’s not known precisely when the tear occurred, but the end result is the same.
It’s a brutal blow for both the Twins and Lewis, who had a chance to break through to the Major Leagues in 2021. While his 2019 season between Class-A Advanced and Double-A didn’t go particularly well — combined .236/.290/.371 slash — Lewis rebounded from that performance with a huge showing in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Through 22 games there, Lewis raked at a .353/.411/.565 clip, connecting on three homers and nine doubles while going 5-for-6 in stolen base attempts. That production earned him AFL MVP honors.
While some prospect rankings have seen outfielder Alex Kirilloff surpass Lewis as the Twins’ top prospect, that’s more a testament to Kirilloff’s progress than to a decline in Lewis’ stock. Lewis has been a consensus Top 30 prospect in all of MLB since the time he was drafted, landing at No. 17 on MLB.com’s 2021 rankings and No. 26 over at Baseball America.
The setback for Lewis is particularly poorly timed given the lack of a minor league season in 2020. While he spent the summer working out at the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul, the 2021 campaign would’ve given Lewis a chance to participate in a much more competitive setting and further his development as he continues on toward his Major League debut. He’ll now go more than two years between that huge showing in the 2019 AFL and his next at-bat in an actual game setting.
As a high school draftee, Lewis won’t even turn 22 until June, so youth is still on his side as he works to rebound from a devastating injury. Looking down the line, his ability to regain mobility in that knee will be particularly important, as there’s already been some debate about his eventual position. Lewis was drafted as a shortstop and has spent the bulk of his career there, though some in the industry feel he’d be better-equipped to play center field. He’s also spent a bit of time at third base.
There’s no guarantee that Lewis would’ve made it to the big leagues in 2021, although with some Double-A and/or Triple-A time under his belt, he’d at least have been a consideration in the event of an injury in the infield. He’s still a major part of the organization’s future, but Lewis will now have to navigate a substantial roadblock in his path to a Target Field debut.
The Twins announced this morning that they’ve signed veteran utilityman Andrew Romine to a minor league contract. The Moye Sports client will join the club’s Major League group in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
Romine, 35, has appeared in parts of 10 big league seasons — most of which came with the division-rival Tigers from 2014-17. He spent the 2020 season with the Rangers organization but appeared in only two big league games last summer, collecting a double in four trips to the plate. Through 1327 plate appearances in the Majors, the switch-hitting Romine is a .235/.291/.301 hitter.
Production at the plate has never been Romine’s calling card. He’s far more known for his defensive versatility, having spent at least 238 innings at each of the four infield positions and another 559 frames in the outfield (including 313 in center). The Twins got a first-hand look at that versatility late in the 2017 season, when then-Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus allowed Romine to play all nine positions on the same diamond in a game the Tigers topped the Twins by a 3-2 margin.
At 35, Romine might not be the defender he once was, but he’s turned in average career defensive marks at shortstop, above-average showings at second and third base, and above-average marks in left field as well.
The Twins already have several utility options in camp. With the signing of Andrelton Simmons, they’ll slide Jorge Polanco over as the everyday second baseman and move Luis Arraez into the super-utility role vacated by Marwin Gonzalez. Catcher/infielder Willians Astudillo could be in line to take another bench spot, and Minnesota also has second/third base prospect Travis Blankenhorn on the 40-man roster. Former Red Sox infielder Tzu-Wei Lin is in camp on a non-roster deal as well. All of that could make it tough for Romine to win a job to begin the year, but he’d be a reasonable depth option to stash in Triple-A St. Paul if a big league opportunity doesn’t present itself this spring.
- J.A. Happ tested positive for coronavirus upon his intake with the Twins, per the Athletic’s Dan Hayes (via Twitter). Happ is asymptomatic for now. Assuming he remains that way, Happ should still be ready in time for the start of the season. The Twins signed Happ to an $8MM deal in January, and the Twins expect him to hold down a spot in the middle of their rotation.
The Twins announced Friday that right-hander Ian Gibaut went unclaimed on waivers and has been assigned outright to Triple-A St. Paul. His spot on the 40-man roster goes to righty Matt Shoemaker, whose previously reported one-year, $2MM deal is now official. Gibaut will be in Major League camp as a non-roster invitee for Spring Training.
Minnesota claimed Gibaut, 27, off waivers from the Rangers back on Oct. 30 and held onto him throughout the winter before utilizing his roster spot for a late-offseason addition to the 40-man. He’s spent time in the big leagues both with Texas and Tampa Bay over the past two years, pitching to an ugly 6.08 ERA in 26 2/3 frames. However, Gibaut has also fanned nearly a quarter of the batters he’s faced while showing a heater that averages 95.3 mph. He’s also pitched to a combined 2.53 ERA with a 30.7 percent strikeout rate in 124 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
Gibaut is the third offseason waiver claim the Twins have now managed to pass through waivers in the past week, joining righty Ian Hamilton and lefty Brandon Waddell. That’ll help keep the Twins’ upper minors stocked with some depth that has experience at the big league level to call upon as needed throughout the season. If he ends up being added back to the 40-man roster, he does have a minor league option remaining, which will allow the Twins to shuttle him from Target Field to their new Triple-A affiliate in St. Paul without being required to place him back on waivers.
Former All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier announced on Thursday that he’s retiring after a nine-year career in the Majors and at the age of 33.
An eighth-round pick by the Twins back in 2009, Dozier was never considered a premium prospect even within his own organization, topping out as Baseball America’s No. 10 Twins prospect heading into the 2012 season. That didn’t stop the University of Southern Mississippi product from not only making it to the big leagues but to cementing himself as one of the club’s better players of the past decade.
After an inauspicious debut in 2012, Dozier claimed the everyday second base job at Target Field in 2013 and steadily improved his output at the plate over the next several years. In a brief but excellent peak from 2013-17, Dozier was one of the game’s best all-around second basemen, hitting at a .252/.333/.465 clip with 145 home runs, 81 stolen bases and solid defense. Along the way, he won a Gold Glove, made an All-Star team and took home MVP votes in three different seasons. Dozier was worth about 22 wins above replacement in that five-year stretch according to both the Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs versions of the metric.
Unfortunately for both the Twins and for Dozier, he sustained a knee injury early in the 2018 campaign that severely hampered him at the plate. He was traded to the Dodgers that summer and struggled badly down the stretch — hardly the platform any player would want for his first trip to free agency.
Dozier landed a one-year, $9MM deal with the Nationals that winter and served as the club’s primary second baseman for most of the year. In many ways, Dozier enjoyed a rebound campaign, posting a .238/.340/.430 output with 20 homers and 20 doubles alike. His playing time faded late in the year, however, as hot-hitting trade acquisition Asdrubal Cabrera saw more and more of the playing time at second base. Dozier kept his spot on the Nationals’ postseason roster and was hailed as a vital presence in the clubhouse, but he tallied just seven plate appearances during the club’s World Series run.
Dozier signed a minor league deal with the Padres prior to the 2020 season before requesting his release and turning up for a brief seven-game stint with the Mets. That proved to be the final act of Dozier’s career.
All in all, Dozier will head into retirement as a career .244/.325/.441 hitter with 192 home runs, 231 doubles, 21 triples, 105 steals, 664 runs scored and 581 runs driven in. He made an All-Star team, won a Gold Glove, and in his final full season took home a World Series ring for his role in the Nationals’ improbable Cinderella run. Dozier cleared $30MM in salary during a career that Baseball-Reference pegged at 22.7 WAR and FanGraphs valued at 23.7 WAR. Best wishes to Dozier on the next chapter.
The Twins and free-agent right-hander Matt Shoemaker have reached a one-year, $2MM agreement, pending a physical, Jeff Passan of ESPN tweets. The deal includes up to $250K in performance bonuses. Shoemaker is a client of ISE Baseball.
Shoemaker began his career as a member of the Angels, with whom he pitched from 2013-18 and typically provided respectable production as a mid- to back-end type of starter. But Shoemaker had some injury issues then, throwing just 108 2/3 innings in his final two seasons as an Angel, before moving on to the Blue Jays prior to 2019.
Shoemaker was also unable to stay healthy during his two years as a Blue Jay, as a torn ACL limited him to 28 2/3 innings in 2019, while shoulder problems held him to a matching 28 2/3 frames last season. That said, Shoemaker mostly did a decent job in Toronto when he was able to take the mound. The 34-year-old now owns a 3.86 ERA/3.88 SIERA with above-average strikeout and walk percentages of 21.8 and 5.9, respectively, in 602 1/3 major league innings.
Shoemaker will be the second free-agent signing this offseason for the Twins’ rotation, which added J.A. Happ earlier in the winter. Those two are in line to complement Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda at the beginning of the season, though Randy Dobnak could also push for a starting spot. It’s unclear if the Shoemaker addition will affect whether the Twins re-sign Jake Odorizzi, arguably the No. 1 starter left in free agency.
- The Twins announced that southpaw Brandon Waddell has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A after being designated for assignment last Thursday. Waddell has been invited to the Twins’ Major League Spring Training camp. A fifth-round pick for the Pirates in the 2015 draft, Waddell made his MLB debut in 2020, tossing 3 1/3 innings over two games with Pittsburgh. Minnesota claimed Waddell off waivers from the Pirates in October.
It was a short stay on the 40-man for Hamilton, whom the Twins claimed from the Phillies via waivers exactly one week ago. Hamilton also spent time with the Mariners earlier in the offseason. He entered the pros as an 11th-round pick of the White Sox in 2016, but they designated him for assignment in September.
Now 25 years of age, Hamilton has thrown 12 innings in the majors and yielded six earned runs on 10 hits with nine strikeouts against seven walks. Hamilton has averaged almost 96 mph on his fastball, though, and has another minor league option remaining. He owns a 4.85 ERA with 48 strikeouts against a meager seven walks in 42 2/3 Triple-A frames.
The Twins have claimed outfielder Kyle Garlick off waivers from the Braves, per a team announcement. Left-hander Brandon Waddell was designated for assignment in order to open a space on the 40-man roster.
It’s the latest stop in a growing list of organizations for Garlick, 29, whose stay with the Braves will only prove to last for a few days. Garlick was the Dodgers’ 28th-round pick back in 2015, but in the past calendar year he’s been traded to the Phillies, claimed by the Braves and now claimed by the Twins.
Minnesota still needs a 40-man spot to make Alex Colome’s one-year deal final, so it’s far from a sure thing that Garlick will last on the roster for too long. It’s fairly common for clubs to claim a player and then try to pass him through outright waivers shortly thereafter — thus allowing the team to retain him without committing a 40-man roster spot.
Garlick spent most of the 2020 season at the Phillies’ alternate site in Lehigh Valley, though he did appear in a dozen games at the MLB level. He went just 3-for-22 with a double and seven strikeouts in that time, however. Garlick showed a bit of promise with the Dodgers in 2019 when he made his big league debut and hit .250/.321/.521 with three long balls and four doubles in a small sample of 53 plate appearances. He’s a career .281/.332/.568 hitter in 645 Triple-A plate appearances and does have a minor league option remaining as well.
As for the 26-year-old Waddell, he was a 2015 fifth-rounder by the Pirates out of Virginia. He made his MLB debut last year with Pittsburgh and tossed 3 1/3 innings with a pair of strikeouts and walks apiece. The Twins claimed him off waivers back on Oct. 30.
Waddell has a strong track record up through the Double-A level and was solid at Triple-A in 2018 as well. Like most Triple-A pitchers in 2019, however, his season was an unmitigated disaster as offensive levels spiked to all-time highs in that league amid the widely held belief that the ball was juiced. (Triple-A adopted the same ball used in MLB that season.) Even after being clobbered for 59 runs in 61 innings of Triple-A ball that year, Waddell has a 4.12 ERA in 478 minor league frames with a 20.4 percent strikeout rate and a 9.8 percent walk rate. He’s not a huge strikeout pitcher but induces grounders at an above-average clip and has two minor league options remaining.