Hey all. Since we’re not on the ground at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando for the MLB Winter Meetings, we felt the least we could do was keep you updated with what we’ve seen and heard from those on the ground — with a little #analysis baked in.

For what it’s worth, here’s who you can follow down there on-site:

@MikeBerardinoSt. Paul Pioneer Press
@LavelleNealMinneapolis Star Tribune
@RhettBollinger – MLB.com

Keep checking back through the end of the meetings, as we’ll update with the newest info at the top. The meetings officially wrap with the Rule 5 draft at 8 a.m. on Thursday, so we’ll keep you up to date until then.

There’s your closer, at least to start the season. Rodney will turn 41 before the season starts, but he throws gas, strikes guys out and gets grounders. He had a superficially-high 4.23 ERA, backed by a 3.03 FIP that reflects his low strand rate (61.1 percent against a career rate of 73 percent).

Stay tuned to ZoneCoverage.com for the full analysis of the Rodney signing.

The Phillies took Burdi third overall in the Rule 5 draft, then shipped him to the Pirates. He’ll likely be out for most, if not all of this year after Tommy John surgery, and will have to fulfill his MLB requirement after that. It’s a good gamble for the Pirates.

Kinley sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and also has a slider. He turns 27 in January, and is coming off posting a 3.54 ERA between High-A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville in the Southern League. As a result, Chattanooga saw him — but only once. On April 14 — amidst a 10-game stretch where he posted a 7.88 ERA and was sent back to Jupiter — he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings against the Lookouts with two strikeouts.

Kinley’s second stretch with the Jumbo Shrimp — from late July to the end of the season — was markedly better: 4.00 ERA, 24-10 K/BB ratio in 18 innings, .664 OPS against and a swinging-strike rate of 16 percent.

The real question that’ll have to be answered is what specifically the Twins brass likes about him, rather than adding any of the players they lost in the draft to the 40-man roster.

Bard was behind the curve a bit after missing the entire 2014 season due to injury, and even then he’d only pitched 19.1 pro innings over his first two seasons. So by the time he surfaced in Cedar Rapids in 2015, he was two years older than his average Low-A counterpart thanks to also pitching at Georgia Tech.

Since then, however, he’s put together three fairly solid seasons and should have a good shot at making the Angels out of spring training. Bard made it to Rochester for a brief spell last year, posting a 3.46 ERA with 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings with a WHIP of 1.31.

There’s not much more to add here but that the Twins missed out on one of their targets. There are still plenty of relief fish in the sea, however.

I’ve said on multiple platforms that Arcia would be the perfect player to head overseas and mash before coming back and trying to get another look in the big leagues. Arcia hit a ridiculous .326/.410/.639 with 400 plate appearances at Triple-A Reno (Arizona) this year. Even in the inflated Pacific Coast League, that’s still a ridiculous line.

This would have been a good spot to buy-low on Rondon, who was non-tendered after a tough age-29 season with the Cubs. Rondon is one year away from free agency, and has a 3.22 career ERA in five seasons with 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings and a WHIP of 1.13. He took a step back in pretty much every way last year — with a 4.24 ERA (4.12 FIP), 1.22 WHIP and 3.1 walks per nine — but set a career-high in strikeout rate (10.8 K/9) and will probably sign just a one-year deal. That’s something the Twins have gravitated toward in recent years.

There hasn’t been any steam with Addison Reed to the Twins, but the rest of this bunch also mirrors who the Twins are in on. Kintzler still appears to have plenty of suitors, and should be able to secure a two-year deal maybe in the $12 million range. Reed might get three years since he turns 29 right after Christmas — maybe three years, $18-20 million? — and Cishek will probably be in the same mix as Kintzler with perhaps a little more money. He has a bit more closing experience than Kintzler, and in addition to adding more grounders also gets strikeouts. He might be more in the 2/$14-15 mix.

This is a little surprising, though Levine suggested elsewhere that the free-agent relief market is on a bit of a bell curve. Basically he was suggesting the Twins will hop in when things calm down a bit. Nicasio signed a two-year deal with the Mariners for $17 million.

Some good details here from Mike, including quotes from Derek Falvey and Paul Molitor and a new reliever the Twins are interested in — Steve Cishek. The 31-year-old righty split last season between Tampa and Seattle and posted a 2.01 ERA (3.34 FIP) with 8.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and perhaps equally as important, a groundball rate of 56.1 percent — his highest mark since his 2011 rookie campaign. He’d be a nice fit, and has some closing experience.

Good to note. If he hits those bonuses, the Twins did very well with this contract. You can find my full breakdown of the deal here.

Burdi going early in the draft makes a lot of sense for multiple reasons. First, he’s really good when healthy — that isn’t really up for debate. Secondly, a team coming off a tough season is more likely to be able to bring him along slowly for the eventual payoff. Regardless of when he’s healthy, he’ll have to spend 90 days on the active MLB roster to fulfill Rule 5 requirements before he can be sent to the minor leagues. That can happen after next year, hypothetically.

Odorizzi would be a nice secondary prize in the trade market — reunited with Kalk from Tampa Bay, besides — but it seems like the Twins are aiming higher (Cole, Archer) for now. Odorizzi is certainly solid, but is coming off a down year (4.14 ERA, 5.43 FIP) and his fly ball-heavy tendencies don’t play well in the current run environment. Odorizzi turns 28 in March and has two years of club control left.

This is good to hear after all the devastation from Hurricane Maria during mid-to-late September. The Twins and Indians will play a two-game set at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan on April 17-18.

We like to keep up with #OldFriends, and Anthony Swarzak has landed a multi-year deal with the Mets. Swarzak finished last year with the Milwaukee Brewers, but really found his footing working in relief for the Chicago White Sox to start the year under the tutelage of vaunted pitching coach Don Cooper. Swarzak’s repertoire was exclusively fastball-slider last year — something he started a bit late in his Twins tenure — and he averaged a career-high 94.7 mph on the fastball and 87.1 mph on the slider in 2017. Swarzak was as high as 97.2 mph on his fastball and 90.8 mph on his slider, and posted terrific numbers across the board between both stops last season: 2.33 ERA (2.74 FIP), 10.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9.

There seems to be some fire to follow the smoke that the Twins are in the mix for Darvish, and LEN3 breaks it down in detail here from the scene in Orlando. Neal concludes, as we have as well, that it’ll come down to dollars and cents. Talk is cheap; pitching is expensive.

Now there’s some official news to report on! The Twins have inked former Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda to a two-year deal worth $10 million. He’ll get $2 million in 2018 as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery and $8 million in 2019. Teams like these sorts of deals — like the Cubs with Drew Smyly on a contract that was almost identical — because then they aren’t just paying for a pitcher to rehab with them and then go on to possibly help someone else.

This is a good article from Rhett, and they key takeaway that seems to fly in the face a bit from what we’ve heard before is that the team might prefer to spend on free agents as opposed to making trades. General manager Thad Levine told Rhett that the trade market might be even more slugging than the free-agent market at present, which is….surprising. Be sure to click the link and take a peek.

It’s hard to know how fast these things can move, but again, this feels like further along than what the old regime got on these sorts of things. Best guess is it needs to be a five-year deal around $120 million. The Twins can handle that kind of deal with Joe Mauer coming off the books at the end of next year — but will they?

This isn’t huge news but Hague had a really nice year for the Red Wings last year and was the International League (Triple-A) MVP for Buffalo in 2015. Hague played first and third base and a little outfield, though it appears that role will be filled this year for Rochester by Brock Stassi, who signed a minor-league deal with the Twins last week.

According to Baseball America, the following former Twins have found new homes this offseason in minor-league free agency:

  • IF Niko Goodrum – Detroit Tigers
  • RP Ryan O’Rourke – Baltimore Orioles
  • SP David Hurlbut – Texas Rangers
  • IF Pedro Florimon – Philadelphia Phillies
  • SP Jason Wheeler – signed to play in Korea

The Twins have signed pitcher Myles Jaye, catchers Willians Astudillo and Bobby Wilson, shortstop Gregorio Petit and Stassi in addition to bringing back catcher Yeison Perez and shortstop Leonard Reginatto.

This isn’t terribly surprising. Kintzler makes sense to return to the Twins as the team that helped — in addition to his hard work, of course — resurrect his career. I’ve heard he was terrific in the clubhouse — and experienced it in conversations with him — and wouldn’t be surprised to see him come back. There is, as noted, competition, however. The Twins might be able to offer him a more prominent role than other clubs, though.

Neal notes that the market outside of Pat Neshek — who returned to the Phillies on a two-year deal on Tuesday — is slow, and that the Twins haven’t made formal offers to either Kintzler or Juan Nicasio. The latter is a very interesting name, not only because he spent the year with three teams but because he brings an element of swing-and-miss (72 strikeouts in 72.1 innings in 2017) that the Twins don’t have much of. He doesn’t have platoon splits, keeps the ball in the park and doesn’t have anything hidden in his numbers that suggest he couldn’t close if given the opportunity.

There seems to be quite a bit of steam behind the Darvish-to-the-Twins rumors, and it’s worth noting that Berardino wrote an article citing former Twins catcher — and former Texas teammate of Darvish’s — Chris Gimenez on how he’s done some recruiting of the righty for the club.

That article can be found here.

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to dollars and cents more than city. Will the Twins offer five or six years at $25ish million per?

Shaw would have made for an interesting fit — he’s been a durable, exceptional workhorse for the Indians for some time now — but word broke Tuesday evening that he’d signed a deal with the Colorado Rockies. No terms have been announced yet, though it’s almost certainly a multi-year deal. (ESPN’s Buster Olney hears three years and around $9 million per.)

This again feeds the steam about Yu Darvish, though right now it feels perhaps a bit more like the Twins will be active on the trade market than in free agency. Ultimately, while the Twins seem to be as well-positioned as ever to add a great starter in free agency, it’s a numbers game. The Twins may love Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta, but that’s just four arms with probably 20-25 teams in the mix.

Dominican infielder Jelfry Marte — whose deal was voided when a vision issue cropped up in his physical exam — signed for less than one-third of his previous bonus. It also wasn’t with the Twins, as he landed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Various reports suggest the Twins were in the mix until the very end, and as Berardino previously reported, there were no hard feelings between the team and Marte’s representatives.

These are both interesting fits, and both could be in the mix for saves if they sign with the Twins. Neal added that Kintzler has interest from multiple teams. It sounds like those teams include the Nationals and Cubs — both in need of late-inning help — as well as the Rangers and Diamondbacks, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

As noted by Berardino on the most recent episode of Midwest Swing, the Twins have never signed a reliever from the outside to a multi-year deal. With Rodney turning 41 in March, this probably wouldn’t have to be an exception. Rodney posted a 4.23 ERA with the Diamondbacks last year as their closer, but his secondary numbers looked a lot better: 3.03 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 10.6 K/9. He still did have some trouble with walks (26 in 55.1 innings), but for a bridge closer, it’d be hard to find a better fit.

The Twins came into the meetings with just 36 players on their 40-man roster, which is a bit aggressive but means the team likely plans to be active this winter. They may also be willing to add a player in the Rule 5 draft — a pitcher always seems to be a good bet — but overall they’re more likely to lose players than anything else.

Lewin Diaz is a hulking first baseman, but he has played only 122 games above Rookie ball and none over Low-A. He’s almost guaranteed not to be selected, and if picked, not to stick. Nick Burdi will miss almost the entire season, and would still need to fulfill the “days on the roster” rule after he gets healthy, which is 90 days without being sent to the minors. He’s a trendy pick for mock drafts — if such a thing exists for the Rule 5 draft — to go to the Tigers at No. 1 overall, though that might be giving Burdi a bit too much credit for where he’s at physically.

Kohl Stewart is an intriguing case. His stuff has underwhelmed in the minors — career 5.9 K/9 in almost 500 innings — but he still is just five seasons removed from being a top-five pick in the MLB draft. He pitched briefly at Triple-A last season and posted a 4.09 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga, but the numbers there outside of that were not pretty: 6.1 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 1.52 WHIP. It’s possible someone will try shoehorn him into a long relief role to get him right, then transition him back to the rotation a la Carlos Carrasco, but at this point, that seems like a longshot to work.

Reed was good at Triple-A Rochester in the second half of the season — 2.05 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 1.14 WHIP — but doesn’t blow anyone away with those numbers. With that said, he held opposing batters to just a .224/.306/.271 line at Rochester and his swinging-strike rate was 11 percent, which paints a better picture than his K/9. It seems unlikely he’ll sneak through without being claimed, and he could reasonably stick with another team quite easily.

Again, it’s obvious they have guys they like in this bullpen — don’t sleep on a possibly healthy J.T. Chargois, either — but they’ll probably want someone to come in and close games at least to start the season.

This isn’t terribly surprising. I’ve written in this space and elsewhere that the Twins probably need to bullpen arms to really head into next season feeling good about the unit as a whole. Trevor Hildenberger had a terrific season, Taylor Rogers is great when used properly and Alan Busenitz has plenty of potential. Both Ryan Pressly and Tyler Duffey could easily have bounce-back seasons, and John Curtiss and a few others have significant potential. Adding at least one back-end arm would help this bunch immensely.

We touched on this here earlier, but the Meetings somewhat kicked off with the announcement that former Twins starter and St. Paul native Jack Morris and former teammate Alan Trammell were inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee. The induction will take place in late July, and both players had to get in via the special ballot after spending 15 years on the BBWAA ballot.


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