Minnesota Twins – MLB Trade Rumors 2021-04-12T03:59:34Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress TC Zencka <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Twins, Braves, Dodgers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=433984 2021-04-11T03:39:35Z 2021-04-11T03:04:35Z Josh Donaldson ran the bases well enough progress to the next portion of his rehab, suggesting a return to the Twins as early as Monday or Tuesday, per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com (via Twitter). When Donaldson does return, he’ll put his perfect season on the line. He doubled in his only plate appearance of the season before straining his hamstring. Luis Arraez, however, has maintained the potency of the hot corner while Donaldson’s been away. Arraez has slashed .381/.462/.571 while starting six of the seven games since the injury. Willians Astudillo started on Arraez’s day off, going 0-2 while driving in a run with a sac fly. Elsewhere…

  • Braves setup man Chris Martin will be eligible to come off the injured list on April 17th, but manager Brian Snitker doesn’t think it will be that simple, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com (via Twitter). Martin’s shoulder only recently became an area of concern. Still, Martin is looking at a longer-than-minimal stay on the injured list. In the meantime, Sean Newcomb and Jacob Webb will have the opportunity to raise their stock in the Atlanta pen, per the Athletic’s David O’Brien (via Twitter). Webb from the right side and Newcomb from the left will try to soak up some of Martin’s setup duties.
  • Brusdar Graterol is readying to make his season debut. Per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter), Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “Everything looked good, so we’re trying to figure out the next step. We’re hoping to get him back soon. Just hesitant to put a day on it.” Graterol got a late start in preparing for the season, leaving Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and Kenley Jansen as the late-game righties available to Roberts. The Dodgers have high hopes that the 22-year-old Graterol can be weaponized either as a traditional setup man or as a multi-inning option out of the pen.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Twins Select Brandon Waddell, Place Brent Rooker On Injured List]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=430345 2021-04-07T16:09:27Z 2021-04-07T16:00:56Z The Twins will place outfielder/first baseman Brent Rooker on the 10-day injured list with a cervical strain in his neck and select the contract of left-hander Brandon Waddell from their alternate training site today, the club announced. Hard-throwing young righty Edwar Colina was transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Waddell. Colina is dealing with inflammation in his right elbow.

Rooker, 26, was the No. 35 overall pick back in the 2017 draft and has had some rough luck early in his big league career. He burst onto the scene with a .316/.381/.579 slash through seven games last summer before sustaining a fractured forearm when he was hit by a pitch. That injury ended his season, and Rooker will now head back to the injured list after just appearing in just three games in 2021.

Rooker is a bat-first prospect who isn’t likely viewed as the team’s long-term answer in left field, but his power bat is still expected to get a legitimate audition when he’s healthy. He can shift between first, left field and DH, and given that his most recent minor league work in 2019 produced a .282/.399/.530 batting line in 67 games between Double-A and Triple-A, it’s not hard to see why the organization is bullish on him. The Twins did not give an immediate indication as to how long the new injury is expected to sideline Rooker.

As for the 26-year-old Waddell, an eventual big league audition with the Twins appeared likely after the former Pirates farmhand turned heads in Spring Training. Waddell yielded five runs in 9 1/3 innings, but he also struck out 15 of the 36 hitters he faced (41.7 percent) and showed what the Twins felt was a demonstrably improved arsenal. Minnesota claimed him off waivers from Pittsburgh at the end of the 2020 season and managed to sneak Waddell through waivers in late February, but his absence from the 40-man roster proved brief.

Waddell has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Twins will be able to send him down to their alternate site in St. Paul without exposing him to waivers for a second time. For now, he’ll join Taylor Rogers and Caleb Thielbar as a third lefty in manager Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen.

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Twins Place Josh Donaldson On 10-Day Injured List, Recall Brent Rooker]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=426434 2021-04-03T20:43:38Z 2021-04-03T19:45:16Z The Twins have placed Josh Donaldson on the 10-day injured list because of a mild right hamstring strain, per the team. The move is retroactive to April 2nd. Outfielder Brent Rooker has been recalled to take his roster spot.

Donaldson left the Twins’ opener after doubling in his first at-bat of the year. Donaldson has, of course, dealt with myriad injuries since his heyday in Toronto. This looks to be another of the ticky-tack variety. That’s not to diminish the difficulty of dealing with this sort of injury, as hamstring injuries are notoriously fickle. Still, the assumption right now would be that Donaldson shouldn’t miss too much time. Luis Arraez is slated to play third base today, and he could be a frequent replacement while Donaldson is out.

Rooker debuted last season with 21 plate appearances. He notched seven hits, including two doubles and a homer. A first round pick by the Twins in 2017, Rooker is a power bat who could be especially helpful as a pinch-hitter for the rest of the current series while they don’t have a designated hitter at their disposal.  The Twins return to American League rules on Monday when they face the Tigers in Detroit.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Donaldson, Red Sox, Peacock, Casali]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=425007 2021-04-02T03:08:07Z 2021-04-02T03:08:07Z Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson doubled in his first at-bat of 2021 on Thursday, but the club then pulled him out of the game as a result of right hamstring tightness. The Twins will re-evaluate Donaldson on Friday, manager Rocco Baldelli told Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com and other reporters. While this fortunately doesn’t appear to be a calf problem for Donaldson, who has dealt with those in previous seasons, it’s nonetheless disheartening for Minnesota to see him deal with yet another health problem at the outset of the campaign. The former AL MVP only played in 165 regular-season games from 2017-18 as a Blue Jay and Indian, and after a healthy 2019 with the Braves, the Twins signed him to a four-year, $92MM contract. Donaldson appeared in just 28 of a possible 60 games in the first year of the deal, though.

  • The Red Sox and right-handed reliever Matt Barnes discussed a contract extension during the spring, but there’s little optimism about a deal coming together, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com writes. That leaves the 30-year-old on track to reach free agency next winter, and in the meantime, he’ll earn $4.5MM this season. The hard-throwing Barnes, a career-long member of the Red Sox, has pitched to a 4.08 ERA with a 29.9 percent strikeout rate in 337 1/3 innings since debuting in 2014. He amassed 60-plus innings in each season from 2016-19.
  • Free-agent right-hander Brad Peacock is healthy after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery last October and will hold a showcase for interested teams Friday in Florida, MLBTR has learned. The 33-year-old Peacock’s shoulder troubles limited him to a mere three appearances in 2020, his last season as an Astro, but he was an effective swingman for the club during the few preceding campaigns. Between 2016-19, Peacock recorded a 3.48 ERA and a 28.7 percent strikeout rate across 128 appearances (42 starts) and 320 1/3 innings.
  • Catcher Curt Casali earned a $500K bonus when he landed a spot on the Giants’ season-opening roster, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Casali, whom the Giants signed to a $1.5MM contract in free agency, will back up Buster Posey. He earned that deal after a three-year stretch with the Reds in which he hit a respectable .260/.345/.440 with 18 home runs in 485 plate appearances.
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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Twins To Sign Randy Dobnak To Five-Year Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=420008 2021-03-29T15:25:25Z 2021-03-29T15:20:52Z TODAY: Bob Nightengale of USA Today provides the details on Dobnak’s extension. He’ll make $700K this season, $800K in 2022, $1.5MM in 2023, $2.25MM in 2024, and $3MM in 2025, his final year of initial team control. The three team options will be worth $6MM in 2026, $7MM in 2027, and $8.5MM in 2028 with buyouts of $1MM for 2026 and just $100K for both 2027 and 2028.

MARCH 29: The Minnesota Twins are in agreement with right-hander Randy Dobnak on a five-year, $9.25MM extension, per Jeff Passan of ESPN (via Twitter). The deal includes three club option years with escalators that can bring the total amount up to $29.75MM. The first option year in 2026 will include a $1MM buyout, per MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park (via Twitter). That leaves $8.25MM to be spread out among the five seasons prior. For each of the three option years, escalators can add up to $1.8MM per season based on innings pitched thresholds.  Dobnak is a client of Gaeta Sports Management.

This definitely rates as somewhat of a surprise, given that Dobnak, 26, will begin the year in the bullpen after spending all of last season in the rotation. While starting the year in a piggyback role might seem like a demotion, the Twins clearly feel compelled enough by Dobnak’s performance to guarantee his role in the organization for years to come. Further, with just 1.047 days of service time, he wasn’t likely to become arbitration-eligible until 2023.

The Twins, meanwhile, get three additional seasons of optional team control at what are likely to be reasonable rates. Both sides benefit from the financial certainty, though the escalators still provide Dobnak with a path to increasing his future earnings. Importantly, this is likely to be Dobnak’s primary source of career earnings: If the Twins choose to buy out the option years, it’s not likely to lead to a higher salary elsewhere, and if the Twins don’t buyout any of the option years, Dobnak will reach free agency for the first time prior to his age-34 season. Still, given his non-traditional path to professional baseball, it’s certainly understandable why a deal like this would appeal to Dobnak.

His rise, after all, certainly qualifies as one of the less likely origin stories in recent season. The Twins signed Dobnak with a mere $500 signing bonus in July 2017 after scouting him exclusively over YouTube, writes the Athletic’s Dan Hayes. He supplemented his income by driving for Uber and excelled through the Twins’ system despite overwhelming velocity or a knock-out put-away pitch. For a 26-year-old who signed out of independent ball, this deal represents life-changing money.

On the hill, suffice it so say that Dobnak has repeatedly overcome his underdog status to provide valuable innings for Minnesota. He was a genuine revelation in making his debut during the 2019 season, posting a 1.59 ERA/3.92 SIERA in five starts and four relief appearances covering 28 1/3 innings. Dobnak’s sophomore season had more ups-and-downs, but he still managed a 4.05 ERA/4.56 SIERA in 10 starts covering 46 2/3 innings. In 75 total career innings, Dobnak has achieved an excellent 58.8 percent groundball rate with a similarly-encouraging 5.7 percent walk rate and less-than-thrilling 15.7 percent strikeout rate.

He certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s hurler. His fastball lands in the 31st percentile for velocity and 5th percentile for spin rate. He is in the 13th percentile for whiff rate and fourth percentile by strikeout rate. Nevertheless, he has been better than average at avoiding barrels and coaxing below-average exit velocity while burning worms and avoiding free passes.

The recipe has worked for Dobnak thus far and earned him a long-term home in Minnesota. His four-seam fastball/sinker averaged just 91.4 mph, but strong arm-side run has proved it particularly effective against righties. He re-worked his slider and increased its usage in 2020 to promising results. While he will begin the season in the bullpen, the Twins rotation features a number of veterans with a history of injuries. It’s highly unlikely that the Twins won’t need to access their depth behind Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, and the oft-injured Matt Shoemaker. Chances are the Twins’ mustachioed, bespectacled, newly-wealthy right-hander will be called on for bulk innings in 2021 and beyond.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell Passes Away]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=418900 2021-03-26T22:35:05Z 2021-03-26T20:14:36Z In shocking and sad news, the Twins announced that bench coach Mike Bell has passed away at the age of 46. He had been suffering from kidney cancer.

Bell was one of many members in his family who enjoyed a long career in baseball. The grandson of former major league outfielder Gus Bell, the son of ex-third baseman and manager Buddy Bell, and the brother of former infielder and current Reds skipper David Bell, Mike Bell was the 30th overall pick of the Rangers in 1993. The ex-third baseman appeared in the majors in one season – 2000 – as a member of the Reds, his hometown team and one near and dear to his family’s heart.

After wrapping up his run as a professional player in 2005, Bell moved on to the minor and major league coaching ranks in 2007. He was also the director of player development with the Diamondbacks before becoming a prominent part of Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s staff prior to last season. He garnered interest as a managerial candidate from the likes of the Mets, Orioles, Red Sox and Pirates over the past couple offseasons.

MLBTR sends our condolences to Bell’s family, the Twins organization and everyone affected by this tragic and sudden loss.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Andrew Romine Opts Out Of Contract]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=418450 2021-03-26T02:00:34Z 2021-03-26T02:00:34Z Utility player Andrew Romine has exercised the opt-out clause in his minor league contract with the Twins, per an announcement from team director of communications Dustin Morse. He is now a free agent.

Romine began with the Angels in 2010 and has also played with the Tigers, Mariners and Rangers in parts of 10 seasons since then. The 35-year-old has slashed .235/.291/.301 – good for an uninspiring wRC+ of 63 – with 10 home runs in 1,327 plate appearances. But Romine has shown off impressive defensive versatility, having appeared at every infield and outfield position during his career.

Romine’s ability to play all over the diamond could attract other teams now that he is back on the open market. However, the Twins haven’t ruled out bringing him back on a different contract, according to manager Rocco Baldelli (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com).

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Twins Granted Fourth Option On Lewis Thorpe]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=417206 2021-03-24T15:35:55Z 2021-03-24T15:35:08Z The Twins have been granted a fourth minor league option on southpaw Lewis Thorpe, tweets Dan Hayes of The Athletic. The 25-year-old was one of several players in limbo waiting for an arbiter to rule whether he could be optioned for a fourth year or had exhausted his minor league options. The Cubs were also granted a fourth option over righty Adbert Alzolay yesterday, while Nats righty Erick Fedde was determined to be out of minor league options.

The discrepancy stems from the rules surrounding eligibility for a fourth minor league option. Teams can be granted a fourth option over players who have fewer than five “full” seasons but have exhausted all three of their original minor league options. A “full” season, under the collective bargaining agreement, stipulates that a player spends 90 or more days on an active roster — be it at the big league or minor league level. Time on the injured list does not count. Given last year’s shortened, 67-day schedule and the lack of a conventional “active roster” at teams’ alternate training sites, there was an obvious lack of clarity regarding some players on the cusp of that fourth-option distinction.

The ruling on Thorpe benefits the Twins, as they can now shuttle Thorpe to and from their new Triple-A affiliate in St. Paul without needing to expose him to waivers. The Aussie lefty has pitched quite well this spring, holding opponents to a pair of runs on four hits and two walks with eight punchouts in 7 2/3 innings. However, the Twins have a full rotation at the moment, and Thorpe has some competition for the remaining bullpen spots. Had he been out of minor league options, he would’ve been all but assured a roster spot given that the Twins wouldn’t have risked losing him to waivers.

With a fourth option in place, Thorpe will likely split his time between Target Field in Minneapolis and CHS Field in St. Paul. He could be a depth option in the rotation behind Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker, joining righty Randy Dobnak and lefty Devin Smeltzer in that regard. Thorpe could also eventually be seen as a multi-inning bullpen piece or a more conventional one-inning lefty, depending on performances and health among the Twins’ more established relievers.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Twins Option Alex Kirilloff]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=416747 2021-03-24T00:51:00Z 2021-03-24T00:51:00Z The Twins have optioned outfielder Alex Kirilloff to their alternate trainng site, per a team announcement. The move means Kirilloff will not make the Twins’ Opening Day roster.

The 23-year-old Kirilloff was a first-round pick in 2016 who has ranked as one of baseball’s best prospects over the past couple seasons. Kirilloff had a chance to claim a spot on the Twins’ roster this spring in the aftermath of Eddie Rosario’s departure, but the .129/.182/.258 line he posted in 31 exhibition at-bats didn’t suggest to the team that he was ready for a role in the majors. With Kirilloff on his way down, Brent Rooker, Kyle Garlick and Jake Cave are all candidates to join Byron Buxton and Max Kepler as the Twins’ outfielders when the season starts, according to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.

Kirilloff’s demotion could buy the Twins an extra year of control over him, though it’s unclear whether that motivated the team to send him down. After all, along with his struggles this spring, Kiriloff hasn’t played above the Double-A level yet. He hit .283/.343/.413 with nine home runs and seven stolen bases there across 411 plate appearances in 2019.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Twins Option Devin Smeltzer, Shaun Anderson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=414110 2021-03-20T01:47:15Z 2021-03-20T01:47:15Z
  • The Twins optioned southpaw Devin Smeltzer and righty Shaun Anderson, ruling them out for the Opening Day roster, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune relays. Both pitchers had been competing to earn spots in Minnesota’s staff. Smeltzer made 18 appearances (seven starts) with the Twins from 2019-20 and registered a 4.57 ERA with a below-average strikeout rate (19.3 percent) and an above-average walk rate (6.2 percent) in 65 innings. Anderson, whom the Twins acquired in a trade with the Giants during the offseason, could only muster a 5.17 ERA/5.26 SIERA over 111 1/3 frames in the previous two years.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Minnesota Twins]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=406506 2021-03-18T14:11:00Z 2021-03-18T14:11:00Z The reigning AL Central champs moved on from their longtime left fielder, retained their top slugger and improved their defense. They’ll face stiff competition in their quest for a third straight division title, however.

    Major League Signings

    Trades and Claims

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Extensions

    • None

    Notable Losses

    For the first time in half a decade, the Twins will open the season with someone other than Eddie Rosario patrolling left field. The homegrown slugger held that spot for the better part of six years, but faced with Rosario’s final raise in arbitration and with multiple high-end prospects on the horizon, the Twins felt that money was better spent elsewhere. The league seemingly agreed, as Rosario went unclaimed on outright waivers before being non-tendered. He’d go on to sign in Cleveland for an $8MM salary that gives him a modest raise over 2020’s $7.75MM mark but still falls shy of what he’d have earned in arbitration.

    While it was at least a mild surprise that no club jumped to grab Rosario on outright waivers, the Twins’ decision to move on in some capacity was largely foreseeable. Rosario is a fine player with above-average pop, but given his sub-par on-base skills and rising price tag, the writing was on the wall.

    The Twins have two of the game’s top overall outfield prospects, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, nearly ready for a long-term audition in the outfield. Kirilloff, who has a chance to make the Opening Day roster, made his big league debut in last year’s postseason and seems to be first in line for the left field vacancy. The Twins also saw former No. 35 overall pick Brent Rooker, a left fielder/first baseman, make his big league debut last year. Jake Cave gives them another option in left should injuries or struggles keep the prospects from taking over.

    It may not have surprised as many fans as the Rosario move, but the Twins’ non-tender of righty Matt Wisler was also unexpected. Having plucked the former top prospect off waivers to begin the 2019-20 offseason, the Twins pushed Wisler to throw his slider at a staggering 83 percent clip. The experiment was an unequivocal success, as Wisler turned in a 1.07 ERA and punched out nearly a third of the batters he faced. His 13 percent walk rate was far too high, however, and though his projected arbitration salary wasn’t much more than $1MM, the Twins appeared confident they could replace his production.

    With that pair of non-tenders saving $10MM or more, the Twins’ payroll outlook in early December was relatively pristine. Josh Donaldson is earning $23MM annually, but the 2021 projected payroll at that point was a mere $90MM — down from more than $130MM in 2020. The number plummets in 2022, when the Twins have just $48MM in guaranteed contracts on the books.

    As such, the Twins had the financial wherewithal to pursue just about any free agent, but it quickly became clear they were focused primarily on one-year additions. Whether the driving factor there was uncertainty about further revenue losses in 2021, the desire to keep a clean outlook for next year’s mega-crop of free agents or a combination of multiple factors, the trend is clear both in the free agents they signed and in the names they pursued.

    Minnesota tried for one of the market’s bigger names out of the gate, reportedly making a strong offer for Charlie Morton before he took an early deal with the Braves. The Athletic’s Dan Hayes wrote back in November that the Twins were a “finalist” for Morton, but the righty’s strong preference to pitch near his family home in Bradenton, Fla. has long been known.

    Pursuits of Corey Kluber and James Paxton led to similar results. After spending months rehabbing at a facility run by Yankees director of health and performance Eric Cressey, Kluber went to the Bronx. Paxton re-upped with the Mariners, and Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto said afterward that Paxton “wanted to be a Mariner” gave the club a “hometown discount” of sorts on his $8.5MM salary.

    The Twins did ultimately add a pair of veterans to the rotation, inking 38-year-old lefty J.A. Happ to a one-year deal worth $8MM and signing righty Matt Shoemaker to a one-year, $2MM deal after an injury-wrecked pair of seasons. In many ways, the signings mirror last winter’s signings of Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. The more expensive of the two additions is designed to stabilize the rotation, while the more affordable one carries more upside and a greater risk of injury. The combined $10MM price point is a dead match with the combined $10MM base salaries of Bailey ($7MM) and Hill ($3MM).

    While neither Happ nor Shoemaker gives the Twins a top-of-the-rotation presence, the organizational hope is surely that last year’s breakout from Kenta Maeda gives them the ace-caliber arm they’ve lacked since Johan Santana. Between Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Happ and Shoemaker, the Twins have a solid Opening Day rotation. Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe give them a trio of younger options with some big league experience (and a good bit of success, in Dobnak’s case). Right-handers Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran, both top 100 prospects according to FanGraphs and The Athletic, loom in the upper minors and could debut in 2021.

    Jake Odorizzi remained on the Twins’ radar for much of the offseason, but his desire for a multi-year deal never seemed to align with the team’s general approach. While the eventual terms of his deal with the Astros may arguably have been a better investment than the one-year deals with Happ and Shoemaker, Odorizzi was reported to be seeking a three-year deal at $13-15MM annually for much of the winter. By the times his asking price dropped, the Twins had signed multiple pitchers and turned the page on the 2019 All-Star.

    Looking to the bullpen, the Twins lost nearly their entire setup corps with Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard and Wisler hitting the market. All four will pitch elsewhere in 2021. In place of that trio, Minnesota signed former division rival Alex Colome to a one-year deal and took a chance on a Hansel Robles rebound. Both have closing experience, and Colome has been particularly effective in terms of ERA over the past couple seasons with the White Sox. Even though Colome’s secondary marks don’t look as appealing as his ERA, it’s hard to find fault with the $6.25MM price tag. He’s expected to share closing duties with holdover Taylor Rogers, who took a slight step back in 2020 but has amassed a generally strong late-inning track record since 2018.

    The Twins’ acquisition of righty Shaun Anderson didn’t draw much attention, but he gives the club a spin-rate project on which they can dream. Anderson has elite spin on both his four-seamer and, in particular, his slider. Walks have been a significant problem thus far in his big league career, but Anderson has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Twins can take their time in trying to shape him into a quality reliever.

    In the meantime, the Twins will look for incumbent options to step up. Tyler Duffey broke out as one of the game’s best relievers in 2019-20 (2.31 ERA, 2.72 SIERA, 34.2 K%, 6.1 BB%). Flamethrower Jorge Alcala had a quietly excellent showing in 2020, and righty Cody Stashak is another largely anonymous but highly effective reliever through his first 40 big league frames. Southpaw Caleb Thielbar was tendered a contract in December after a strong season, continuing his emotional comeback effort following a five-year absence from MLB.

    On the offensive side of the coin, the main storyline for the Twins entering the winter (beyond Rosario) was whether they’d re-sign veteran slugger Nelson Cruz. A reunion with Cruz was dependent on the universal designated hitter — or the lack thereof. Cruz reportedly sought a two-year contract, while the Twins were steadfast in their preference to keep the commitment to one year. With few AL contenders having the capacity to add a pure DH, however, Cruz seemingly needed the universal DH to be permanently implemented if he was going to create enough market pressure to get to a two-year deal. That still hasn’t happened, and Cruz eventually signed on for a third season at Target Field after the Twins upped their one-year offer to match the AAV from his first two years there.

    As noted when previewing their offseason, the Twins didn’t necessarily have a true “need” in the middle infield, but it represented an opportunity to get creative. President of baseball ops Derek Falvey, GM Thad Levine and their front office crew did just that, pursuing one-year pacts with free-agent shortstops Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien. When Semien took a larger offer in Toronto, the Twins quickly wrapped things up with Simmons.

    In doing so, they secured a historically gifted defender and pushed incumbent shortstop Jorge Polanco to second base. Versatile Luis Arraez will slide into the vacant super-utility role previously held by Marwin Gonzalez, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent. Arraez, a .331/.390/.429 hitter through his first 124 MLB games, will get into the lineup regularly by filling in around the infield and in left field.

    Both Simmons and Polanco have battled significant ankle issues the past two seasons, but the hope is that after a pair of surgeries, Polanco will be back to full strength for the first time since 2018. If Simmons is healthy, he and Josh Donaldson could form one of the game’s best left-side tandems on defense. Polanco has never rated as a strong defensive shortstop, but the Twins feel he can be above-average at second base.

    If that’s indeed the case, the Twins could be one of the game’s best defensive clubs. Miguel Sano isn’t going to win any awards for his glovework at first base, but the rest of the infield, combined with strong defenders behind the dish (Ryan Jeffers, Mitch Garver) and elite defenders in the outfield (Byron Buxton, Max Kepler) should be formidable.

    The Twins were dealt a tough blow early in Spring Training, when it was learned on report day that some knee discomfort being experienced by Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, was due to an ACL tear that will end his 2021 season before it begins. Lewis, widely regarded among the game’s top 30 or so prospects, hurt his knee during offseason workouts and aggravated it when he slipped during the blizzards near his Texas home. He’ll now go more than two years between competitive games, although at just 21 years old, he has youth on his side.

    The 2021 Twins have a different feel to them than 2019’s “Bomba Squad,” but this looks to be an improved defensive club with a good bit of thunder in the middle of the lineup and a deep pitching staff. The Indians’ trades of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco have dropped them a ways back in projections, but improvements on the White Sox roster mean the Twins will still face stiff competition as they look for an AL Central threepeat. Meanwhile, both the Royals and Tigers added some veterans to complement rosters that are seeing the fruits of their rebuilding efforts percolate to the big league level.

    This should be the best iteration of the AL Central we’ve seen in years. The Twins have again positioned themselves as clear contenders in 2021 and done so while maintaining the long-term flexibility to be prominent players in next year’s stacked free-agent market.

    How would you grade the Twins’ offseason? (Link to poll for Trade Rumors iOS/Android app users)

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Jorge Polanco To Miss "A Few Days" With Adductor Problem]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=413067 2021-03-17T18:37:59Z 2021-03-17T18:36:53Z
  • Jorge Polanco was removed from Tuesday’s game due to left adductor tightness, but Twins manager Rocco Baldelli thinks Polanco should be removed after “maybe a few days.”  Baldelli told MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park and other reporters that Polanco was initially hurt after an awkward landing on the baseball while trying to field a grounder, and the decision was made to take Polanco out two innings later when he reported some tightness while running out a ground ball.  With Andrelton Simmons taking over as Minnesota’s shortstop, Polanco is expected to move from his old shortstop position and get the bulk of playing time at second base.
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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Jake Odorizzi On Minnesota]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=409100 2021-03-11T04:59:12Z 2021-03-11T04:59:22Z
  • Jake Odorizzi is moving on from the Twins after a three-year run in Minnesota, but the right-hander said during yesterday’s Astros introduction that the Twin Cities “hold a special place” in his heart and left the door open for a return down the road (link via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Phil Miller). “I loved my time in Minnesota,” said Odorizzi, whose two-year deal with the Astros became official this week. “Maybe there’s a time to circle back after this stint [in Houston] is done.” Odorizzi noted that he originally hoped a new deal would come together, but he saw the writing on the wall when the Twins inked fellow free agent J.A. Happ to a one-year, $8MM deal earlier in the winter.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Should The Twins Extend Byron Buxton?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=407331 2021-03-07T01:33:48Z 2021-03-07T01:19:58Z The Twins have high expectations for their offense in 2021. It’s a talented group with veterans Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson playing alongside young players on the rise like Alex Kirilloff, Ryan Jeffers, and Luis Arraez. In the middle both metaphorically and positionally, however, centerfielder Byron Buxton undergirds the Twins’ machine in both halves of the inning. He’s the player on the roster with the highest two-way ceiling, and at 27 years old, he’s in his prime. He’s also two years from free agency. Buxton’s agent has been in contact with the Twins about a potential extension, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (via Twitter), but there’s a lot for the Twins to consider.

    Defense has long been Buxton’s calling card. He is routinely one of the more impressive performers in the grass, and the numbers back it up. He has averaged 18.3 defensive runs saved and 9.8 UZR per 1,200 innings, which roughly amounts to one season. Both are excellent marks. Statcast is similarly complimentary of Buxton’s glovework, crediting him with five outs above average in 2020. That tied with four others for sixth among outfielders, despite only appearing in 39 games. In 2017, when Buxton was healthy enough to play more than 100 games, he racked up 30 OAA, not only topping the field in that season, but setting the bar. It remains the highest single-season mark from any outfielder in the Statcast era by a fair margin.

    Buxton entered the league less polished on the other end, but he has nonetheless come into his own over the past two seasons. Early in his career, he was plagued by strikeout rates over 30 percent, only average power, and well-below-average walk rates. The latter still holds true, but the Twins want him swinging the bat because good things happen when he does. His exit velocity has surged from 88.3 mph in 2015-18 to 90.4 mph the past two seasons. His power has climbed into an elite range as well, rising from .157 ISO his first four seasons to .292 ISO in 430 plate appearances across 2019-20. A bat that was 23 percent below average through 2018 has been 13 percent above average since.

    Put together, Buxton’s potential is that of a two-way centerpiece at one of the most important positions on the diamond. The Twins have to be tempted to find a way to keep the former number two overall pick in a Twins uniform long-term. Buxton would like to stay in Minnesota, but the Twins are focused on keeping him healthy in 2021, per the Athletic’s Dan Hayes.

    Though the idea of Buxton wearing a Twins uniform long-term is tantalizing, the injury concerns are real. The Twins have placed Buxton on the injured list no less than 13 times since he’s been in their organization, with the ailments ranging from concussions to wrist sprains to shoulder issues. The Georgia native hasn’t seen his skills affected, however. He remains one of the fastest players in the game, finishing in the 99th percentile for sprint speed in every season of his career. He turned in a strong batted ball profile in 2020 as well, landing in the 85th percentile for exit velocity, 89th percentile for hard hit percentage, and 88th percentile for barrel percentage.

    Finding the right price point for such a high-risk, high-ceiling player will be a challenge for the Twins and Buxton’s representatives at Jet Sports Management. The muddled centerfield market certainly doesn’t help matters. Despite it being one of the weaker positions around the game, Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled to find the kind of deal he was looking for and ultimately settled on a two-year, $24MM offer with an opt-out. Meanwhile, George Springer had no trouble securing a deal, signing in Toronto for six years and $150MM. There were no free agent centerfielders to sign a multi-year deal last winter. The year before it was AJ Pollock joining the Dodgers for five years, $60MM and Andrew McCutchen signing a three-year, $50MM deal with the Phillies. Neither player primarily plays center anymore, however. Lorenzo Cain signed a five-year, $80MM deal with the Brewers the year before that.

    Pollock is a natural comp as an oft-injured potential star in center, but he was entering his age-31 season as a free agent, two years younger than Buxton would be after 2022. Cain was also 31, so was Dexter Fowler when he signed with the Cardinals, so will be Springer and Bradley in the first seasons of their new deals. Suffice is to say that it’s hardly a simple task to project what Buxton might find in free agency – especially two years from now under the conditions of a new CBA. The Twins have maintained flexibility in long-term payroll, with their luxury tax payroll falling from ~$147MM this year to ~$66MM in commitments for 2022 and ~$57MM the year after.

    But let’s put the financial parameters of a deal to the side for now, and consider the question simply. Should the Twins try to sign Buxton to a long-term deal?

    (poll link for app users)

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Twins’ Falvey On Odorizzi: “We Wish Him Well”]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=405068 2021-03-04T18:27:02Z 2021-03-04T18:27:02Z With Jackie Bradley Jr. now headed to the Brewers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi is the clear top free agent left on the board. Oftentimes, when a player’s market drags to this extent, there’s continued speculation about a return to his prior team. There’s been some of that with regard to Odorizzi and the Twins, but president of baseball operations Derek Falvey all but ruled out the possibility in an appearance on MLB Now with Brian Kenney yesterday (video link).

    “We look at our team as primarily put together here,” Falvey candidly replied when asked about a reunion with Odorizzi. “We know Jake contributed exceptionally well for us over the last few seasons, and certainly we wish him well. For us, our focus is on the players who are internally in camp at this point. We feel really good about the pitching we have already.”

    Odorizzi has spent the past three seasons in Minnesota and had previously expressed interest in extending that stay, but he set out into free agency seeking a lucrative multi-year deal this winter at a time when the Twins have been focused on short-term additions. Minnesota has brokered one-year deals with Nelson Cruz ($13MM), Andrelton Simmons ($10.5MM), J.A. Happ ($8MM), Alex Colome ($6.25MM), Matt Shoemaker ($2MM) and Hansel Robles ($2MM) over the course of the winter. That series of moves has pushed the payroll to about $129MM — a number that could further rise by as much as $10MM as Kenta Maeda reaches his annual incentives for games started and innings pitched.

    With Odorizzi seemingly out of the picture, the Twins will field a rotation of Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Happ and Shoemaker. Randy Dobnak is on hand as a sixth starter or possible long man, and other in-house options to start games include lefties Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe. Prospects Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran could both be ready for a look later in the 2021 season, and the Twins have some non-roster arms with big league experience in camp as well (e.g. Andrew Albers, Glenn Sparkman).

    As for Odorizzi, the uncertain outlook on his market continues. Earlier this week, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman suggested the right-hander is content to wait for the right offer to arise rather than to substantially drop his asking price. It’s possible that injuries in camp will open some opportunities. The Astros are suddenly facing a very lengthy absence for Framber Valdez, for instance, and other clubs figure to encounter similar setbacks in their rotation as the spring schedule ramps up.

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