Grading the Moves
Dec. 6 – Twins trade international slot money to Angels for outfielder Jacob Pearson: A
It’s not so much that Pearson is a terrific prospect — he’s No. 25 according to MLB.com on the team’s list — but it’s what it cost to bring in a potential future major leaguer that makes this such a good move. The Twins traded international slot money so the Angels could sign Shohei Ohtani, but actual money didn’t change hands — just the right to spend their own money on the pitcher’s signing bonus. Pearson’s arm is still weak from when he had labrum surgery in high school, but the rest of his tools grade out as average or better. If his arm comes back, he might be able to hang in center — otherwise it’s a left field profile.
Dec. 6 – Twins trade international slot money to Mariners for catcher David Banuelos: A
Pretty much everything said about the process of trading a bonus slot to the Angels applies with the Mariners, along with the obvious caveat that Seattle didn’t land Ohtani as it had hoped. Banuelos is a defensively-capable catcher who showed solid plate discipline in his first pro season last year at Low-A Everett. He’s already 21 after spending time at Long Beach State, so he’ll likely move fairly quickly through the system and might be a backup catcher in the future.
Dec. 8 – Twins sign international free agent infielder Yunior Severino ($2.5 million bonus): A-
Severino’s deal with the Braves was voided after general manager John Coppolella was fired for circumventing international signing rules during a three-year period. Severino, who turned 18 last October, signed in 2016 and spent the 2017 season between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League, hitting a respectable .270/.345/.420 while being a year younger than the average DSL contemporary and more than two years younger than his GCL foes. At this point it’s far too early to know what his future holds, but according to MLB.com, the Twins think his future is on the left side of second base after Atlanta had moved him to the keystone.
Dec. 13 – Twins sign starting pitcher Michael Pineda (two years, $10 million): A-
While the big righty may make his way back late this year, this is all about 2019 as Pineda’s deal is structured for $2 million this year and $8 million next. Pineda is a thoroughbred who brings everything one could want in a starter — velocity, strikeouts, limiting walks, grounders — but his primary bugaboo has been allowing homers. Still, he’s typically a 2.5-3.5 fWAR pitcher when he’s right, and is a hell of a lottery ticket at a solid price. This is a terrific signing.
Dec. 14 – Twins select reliever Tyler Kinley in the Rule 5 draft from Miami: C+
These guys always seem to come out of nowhere, as the Twins usually find an Arizona Fall League standout or something of that ilk to take in the Rule 5 draft. In Kinley’s case, he was dynamite in the Dominican Winter League: 0.47 ERA (one earned run in 19 IP), 32-11 K/BB ratio. Kinley throws cheddar and has a good slider, but he threw more than half his innings last year at High-A Jupiter. The other half were at Double-A Jacksonville — a Southern League foe of Chattanooga — and it wasn’t pretty: 5.19 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 5.5 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.73. There isn’t too much risk and there’s a potential huge payoff here, but this roster spot might have been better off given to Luke Bard, who is in the Opening Day bullpen for the Angels as a Rule 5 pick.
Dec. 14 – Twins sign reliever Fernando Rodney (one year, $4.5 million with 2019 option): B+
Rodney has young man skills — fastball, strikeouts — in an old man’s (41) body. Father Time has never lost a battle, but right now he’s engaged in a stare down with Rodney, who has 300 career saves and is in line to add to that total with the Twins. The team has plenty of insurance for him, but for one year and this kind of money, it’s a perfectly fine risk.
Dec. 26 – Twins sign reliever Zach Duke (one year, $2.15 million): B
He eventually fizzled out as a starter, but since becoming a full-time reliever, he’s been great. Don’t worry about his shaky 2017 numbers; he rushed back from Tommy John surgery to throw 18.1 so-so innings with the Cardinals with the goal of boosting his stock as an impending free agent. With some of that rust knocked off, Duke allowed zero earned runs this spring, and will battle Taylor Rogers for lefty work out of the pen. Duke, unlike Rogers, can also get righties out consistently. He keeps the ball on the ground and out of the seats, too. This is a sneaky good signing.
Jan. 13 – Twins sign reliever Addison Reed (two years, $16.75 million): A-
For the first-ever multi-year deal handed out by the Twins to an outside reliever, this is a pretty damn good bet. Reed is a terrific insurance policy for Rodney — 125 career saves — but is one of those “just give me the ball” guys who is happy to take it in the sixth or the 12th or any inning in between. He’s a bulldog who isn’t sexy statistically, but is just a terrific reliever. This was a great pickup.
Feb. 16 – Twins sign pitcher Anibal Sanchez (one year, $2.5 million non-guaranteed): F
He was a Twin for less than a month, and it took just one day for the team to upgrade. Sanchez has been awful for a few years now — 5.67 ERA, 5.01 FIP over his last three seasons spanning 415.2 innings — and was nothing more than a stab in the dark. The Twins ultimately released him on March 11.
Feb. 17 – Twins trade shortstop Jermaine Palacios to Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi: A
This was the worst possible offseason for the Rays to hold a liquidation sale, as they were forced to move an asset coming off a tough year for pennies on the dollar. Odorizzi was basically just an average pitcher last year no matter which WAR you prefer, but after battling injuries for much of the year, he was nails down the stretch: 1.72 ERA over his final 31.1 innings (six starts), .472 OPS against and 33-12 K/BB ratio. Is he an ace? No. But he’s a damn fine pitcher for the price of a prospect who is likely to be a utility man in the big leagues.
Feb. 23 – Twins sign infielder Erick Aybar to minor-league deal: C+
Whether this was insurance for Miguel Sano or Jorge Polanco, it hardly mattered as Aybar was cut at the end of camp once he was told he was not going to make the Opening Day roster. Aybar has hit just .253/.301/.335 over the last three seasons — nearly 1,500 PA — and is not much of a shortstop anymore. He’s nearing the end.
Feb. 25 – Twins sign first baseman Logan Morrison (one year, $5.5 million): A
Morrison made significant swing changes, blew up in Tampa Bay — not an easy place for left-handed power hitters — and still had to settle for a pillow deal with the Twins after a cold offseason market. This is left-handed reliever money — except those guys typically used to get three years at this rate. This could be a pivotal signing for the Twins offense, which was already fourth in the AL in runs scored last year and just three runs behind Cleveland, which lost Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce and may not get as much as they’d like from Michael Brantley.
March 10 – Twins sign starting pitcher Lance Lynn (one year, $12 million): A-
The first year back from Tommy John surgery was not great — 4.82 FIP, 7.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 27 homers allowed in 186.1 innings — but the second year back tends to be much better. If that holds true for the Twins, they’ve just locked in a solid No. 2-3 starter for a well-below-market rate. It sucks that it came to this for Lynn, but this is a terrific deal for the Twins.
March 16 – Twins trade starting pitcher Luis Gil to New York Yankees for outfielder Jake Cave: B+
The Yankees don’t even have room for super prospect Clint Frazier in their outfield, so of course, capable players down the roster are going to have trouble holding their 40-man spots as well. The Yankees designated Cave for assignment to make room for Neil Walker, and the Twins pounced on him with visions of a solid fourth outfielder in the future. Cave bats and throws lefty — and is thus susceptible to same-sided pitching — and finally showed good power (20 homers) after hitting just 19 long balls in his first five minor-league seasons. He’s got some speed, the ability to play some center and good pop/athleticism. There are worse guys to flip a nondescript prospect for to fill out your 40-man roster.