- The Twins have let other clubs know that while they plan to be buyers at the deadline, they’ll act in a measured sense and won’t gut the upper echelon of their farm system in order to land a significant name. Minnesota has previously been linked to bullpen and rotation help, and while GM Thad Levine has outwardly suggested that the team will at least consider pursuing controllable assets this July, Olney’s column casts some doubt on how strongly the Twins will be in the mix for the top names available (e.g. Gray).
- Currently sitting at 46-49 and buried in the AL West but just 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, the Angels will determine their deadline course based largely on their play in the next week or so, per Olney. A strong week that puts them closer to a Wild Card spot could lead to a conservative buyers’ mentality (similar to the Twins), but if they struggle and fall further back, rental relievers like Bud Norris, David Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit could all be marketed. The same goes for other impending free agents such as Cameron Maybin and Yunel Escobar.
Though the Twins have received trade interest in both ace Ervin Santana and closer Brandon Kintzler, it would be “very difficult to justify selling” either hurler with the team still in the pennant race, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets. Minnesota enters play today just 1.5 games out of first place in the AL Central and one game out of a wild card slot, and if anything, the Twins look like they’ll be trying to acquire pitching at the deadline rather than sell arms.
- Glen Perkins isn’t sure he is interested in pitching in 2018, though the former Twins closer tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he is still determined to complete his long recovery from 2016 shoulder surgery to return to the bigs this season. “I still just want to pitch in a game. I mean, I do. I’m aware that the further along this goes, the less likely that is. But as long as I have a chance, I’m going to try,” Perkins said. The southpaw tossed just two innings in 2016 before being shut down due to the surgery, and Perkins has yet to be cleared for a full rehab assignment. The Twins have a club option for Perkins in 2018 that can (and almost surely will) be bought out for $700K, though Perkins said he is too focused on his recovery to worry about contract issues at this point.
Right-hander Bartolo Colon, whom the Twins signed to a minor league deal July 7, will start Minnesota’s game against the Yankees on Tuesday, reports Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. The 44-year-old spent the first couple months of the season with Atlanta, which signed Colon for a guaranteed $12.5MM over the winter but had to release him after he recorded an 8.14 ERA across 63 innings. Colon has made one minor league start with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, and even though it didn’t go well (four earned runs on four hits and two walks, with five strikeouts, in 3 2/3 innings), he’ll return to the majors for the upstart playoff contenders. Colon won’t get any defensive help Tuesday from standout center fielder Byron Buxton, whom the Twins placed on the 10-day disabled list Saturday with a left groin strain. His absence will make room for the return of Joe Mauer, who went on the DL earlier this month after straining his lower back.
With the deadline approaching quickly, teams will be forced to make tough decisions. Health issues will play a large role in complicating those decisions. In some cases, when a player is known to be out for the entire season, acting decisively to find a replacement makes clear sense. But there are plenty of unresolved health issues throughout the game that will likely have significant impacts on a team’s approach to the deadline. Teams will be gathering information on internal players and on possible targets; here are a few players whose uncertain health status will be watched closely:
Carson Smith & Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox: While Pablo Sandoval is nominally on the DL, and perhaps still factors into the team’s needs at third base, the real action is in the pitching staff. Smith could yet represent a significant pen arm, but it’s still unclear how much (if at all) he’ll contribute. And while Rodriguez has been excellent, and seems slated to return shortly from the DL, his recurring knee problems could become a major near-term concern.
Matt Andriese, Rays: There have been plenty of suggestions that the Rays could consider dealing a starter — particularly, pending free agent Alex Cobb — even if they’re in contention. But that’d be much harder to do if Andriese isn’t showing clear signs of returning to full health. Even if he is, the club could elect to stand pat, perhaps deciding to use the abundance of starting options to bolster the relief corps rather than spending young talent to get a new bullpen arm.
Greg Bird & Tyler Austin, Yankees: Perhaps the ship has sailed on the Yanks fully relying on Bird in the second half. After all, he struggled when he was available and is dealing with an ankle injury that does not appear to come with a straightforward solution. And it’s unclear just how much stock the Yankees would put in Austin even if he were at full health. Still, the injury signals coming from these two over the next few weeks could impact the Bronx Bombers’ deadline plans, particularly since the organization is clearly looking to avoid parting with significant prospects unless strictly necessary.
J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Chris Davis is on the shelf as well, though the team’s glut of corner options allows them to weather that storm fairly well. It’s another story with Hardy, who is still one to three weeks from even resuming baseball activities. The Orioles have been in a free fall since mid-May, but GM Dan Duquette was maintaining a buyer’s outlook as recently as late June, but more recent suggestions indicated that the team is presently on the fence. If the O’s perform well in the first two weeks coming out of the break, Hardy’s absence creates a potential area of need.
Danny Salazar, Indians: Shoulder issues have significantly limited the talented right-hander, who is working back towards the majors at present. If he can return to full health, Salazar could conceivably get back to providing quality innings from the rotation — or, at least, the bullpen. If not, the team’s possible pitching needs will be all the more clear.
Hector Santiago, Twins: With a somewhat mysterious and lingering back issue, the southpaw is a question mark for Minnesota in the second half. The team is shopping for young starters regardless, but the urgency of that effort — if not also the possibility of considering at least a modest rental investment — could hinge in part upon Santiago’s progress.
Nate Karns, Royals: Kansas City is reportedly looking to augment the back of its rotation, which is likely in no small part due to the fact that the return of Karns is looking less and less likely. The last update on Karns suggested that thoracic outlet surgery may very well be in his future. If he is indeed lost for the season, as lefty Matt Strahm recently was, the Royals’ need to snag a back-of-the-rotation rental becomes more acute.
Dallas Keuchel & Collin McHugh, Astros: The AL West crown is already nearly in hand for Houston, but that doesn’t mean the team is without its needs. The ’Stros have the luxury of looking ahead to the postseason, but still clearly would like to add to the top of the rotation. So long as Keuchel and McHugh are moving back toward the major league mound, the addition of a starter will remain classified as a strong want. But if either (particularly Keuchel) show any worrying signs, the organization will surely feel a much greater urgency to add an arm that can help drive the team through the postseason.
Matt Shoemaker, Angels: Obviously, Mike Trout is of even greater concern. But all indications are that he’s good to go beginning this Friday. For the Angels, deciding whether it’s worth adding to the roster at the deadline could hinge more upon the health of the rotation. Shoemaker will get checked out before hopefully beginning a throwing program within the week; whether he is progressing toward a return will be important to the Halos’ plans. (Honorable mention: Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, who are on longer-fuse rehab paths.)
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: It’s not clear at this point whether Seattle can expect much at all from the veteran down the stretch. Seattle is already without Drew Smyly for the year due to Tommy John surgery. If Iwakuma can’t begin to make his way back from shoulder problems before the deadline –and if the team can hang in the Wild Card hunt over the next two weeks — then pursuit of a starter would make all the more sense.
Keone Kela & Jake Diekman, Rangers: The Texas pen has produced plenty of hand-wringing this year. Ironically, perhaps, the first crack seemed to form with Kela’s stunning demotion to start the year, owing to behavioral issues. But he has been effective since making his way back, pitching his way into consideration for the closer’s role that has been vacated by Sam Dyson and Matt Bush. Now, however, Kela is dealing with shoulder soreness; his status could help dictate the team’s needs over the coming weeks. Diekman is even more of a question mark after surgery to treat ulcerative colits cost him the entire first half. He’s throwing from flat ground as of early July, and a return to the mound would obviously be a potential boon for the Texas relief corps. But, they also can’t fully know how much to expect from him in the second half given the unique nature of his medical status.
The Twins are “checking in” on a few starting pitchers around the game, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Minnesota is seemingly limiting its interest to controllable arms at this point.
That’s not terribly surprising to hear. After all, the Twins are still treading water in the AL Central and AL Wild Card races. And GM Thad Levine said recently that the organization “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.”
As noted in that above-linked post, the Twins have an obvious need — both now and in the near future — for reliable starting pitching. While there’s little reason to think that the team would part with significant future talent just for an immediate upgrade, it makes sense that the club would value the chance at contending this year while also considering arms that could bolster the roster for a few more seasons to come.
Rosenthal notes that Jose Quintana of the White Sox and Sonny Gray of the Athletics are two pitchers who’d likely appear on Minnesota’s list of possible targets, though it’s not clear whether the Twins have eyes for either in particular. He also suggests Dan Straily of the Marlins as an option, though again there’s still no indication that he’s specifically on the radar of Levine and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey.
Of course, those sorts of pitchers — Quintana and Gray, in particular — figure to draw interest from many other organizations. Those two have done so for quite some time, in fact, with the continued demand perhaps also representing a big reason that their respective organizations have felt comfortable waiting to deal them.
At this stage, there’s still a lack of clarity as to how the market will develop. Quintana and Gray might spur bidding wars; certain contenders could pivot to more affordable rental pieces (or even relievers); and/or we could see other long-term rotation assets (such as Julio Teheran or Gerrit Cole, among many other possibilities) reach the market to meet the demand. The level of involvement of teams such as the Twins will very likely play a role in dictating those developments, though the question remains whether Minnesota will press to get a deal done for a new starter.
The Twins have signed veteran righty Bartolo Colon to a minors deal, per a club announcement. He’ll head to the organization’s top affiliate.
It’s not tough to see the fit. Minnesota has struggled to find reliable innings from its rotation, outside of top starters Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, and also has depth issues in the bullpen. With the club still holding onto hopes of competing for the postseason, but not interested in punting too much future value for immediate improvements, it’ll take a shot on the veteran castaway just three weeks before the trade deadline.
Minnesota will only be responsible to pay Colon at the league-minimum rate during any time he spends in the majors, with the Braves covering the remainder of his $12.5MM annual salary. Evidently, the Twins offered a more appealing situation — whether in terms of opportunity, competitiveness, or otherwise — than did the Mets, who were among the other teams pursuing Colon.
Colon, 44, had thrived for the Mets over the past three seasons, capping off his time there with 191 2/3 innings of 2.43 ERA ball in 2016. But he has been rocked through 13 starts in the current season, allowing 57 earned runs on 92 hits through 63 innings. The Twins will hope that Colon can regain his pinpoint control while also returning to the good graces of the BABIP gods, who cursed him with a .360 batting average on balls in play and 48.2% strand rate during his time in Atlanta.
- Though Twins players had a strong relationship with former GM Terry Ryan, Brian Dozier tells ESPN’s Scott Lauber that the club has quickly taken to chief baseball officer Derek Favley and GM Thad Levine. “They were always upfront with me, honest, and that’s one thing I respect more than anything,” said Dozier, one of this offseason’s most oft-discussed trade candidates. “…They’re always bouncing ideas off of us, from the biggest of things to the smallest of things, like not taking BP. They have a collaborative effort and find every possible solution to what’s going to make this thing work. That’s their best trait, I think.” Falvey spoke with Lauber about the team’s blend of scouting and a rapidly growing analytics practice. And, as Lauber writes, Falvey also isn’t taking the team’s status as contenders for granted. Echoing Levine’s recent comments about being open to adding long-term assets, Falvey told Lauber: “If we can find ways to add to that group that builds toward the future, that’s what we’ll look for.”
- The Twins sent left-hander Hector Santiago to the 10-day DL on Wednesday for the second time in a month and recalled righty Alan Busenitz, tweets Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Santiago, who’s dealing with upper back pain, first went on the DL on June 7 with a shoulder strain. He returned to make two starts, the latest of which came Sunday. Overall, Santiago has struggled to a 5.63 ERA, with 6.53 K/9, 3.97 BB/9 and a 30.2 percent ground-ball rate, over 70 1/3 frames.
The Twins and 16-year-old Jelfry Marte have reached agreement on a deal that will pay the Dominican shortstop a $3MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link).
Marte was ranked as the third-best prospect in the 2017-18 international signing class by MLB.com, with Baseball America slotting him 13th in their top 50 ranking. Scouting reports from both outlets praise Marte’s defense, tabbing him as a potential everyday shortstop at the big league level with good range and a good throwing arm.
The difference of opinion seems to come with Marte’s hitting, as while MLB.com feels Marte has some raw hitting potential that could improve under regular tutelage from minor league coaching, BA’s subscriber-only scouting report notes that many scouts see Marte as a hitter best suited near the bottom of a batting order. Marte has little power right now, though at 5’10” and just 140 pounds, more pop could come as he matures and adds some more weight. On the plus side offensively, Marte is seen as a good baserunner with potential to be a good base-stealer.
Minnesota entered the 2017-18 July 2nd period with $5.25MM available in bonus pool money, though the Twins and other teams are allowed to acquire more bonus pool space.