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  1. Baseball's latest plan to return features a number of alterations designed to accommodate a shortened schedule and circumstances that are beyond unusual. Part of this reshaped framework (per CBS Sports): 30-man active rosters with a 20-man taxi squad for reinforcements. What might an expanded short-season roster look like for the Minnesota Twins?Once we swim through the mountains of logistical hurdles involving health, safety, and finances, this is one of the practical matters I find most intriguing: Which players will be part of the 2020 season, either from the start or as readily available fill-ins? We'll start with the obvious: the projected 26-man roster (per my final offseason status update, which was published approximately seven years ago). Position Players: Mitch Garver, Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave, Alex Avila Pitchers: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak. Little has changed that would affect any of the above players' chances of making the team. But one new player might now be in the mix: Rich Hill, whose recovery from elbow surgery would've delayed a normal start. A season starting in July would line up with his expected return, and Hill believes he'll be ready to go. Luckily, he doesn't need to supplant anyone else, since the Twins will have four extra active roster spots to work with. So presumably Hill gets one. As for the others, I would guess we'll see a couple more arms and one other position player. Something like Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Willians Astudillo. The taxi squad is where things get interesting. First, with no minor-league seasons taking place, I'm wondering how these players stay sharp and ready for action. Regular scrimmages and sim games? Regardless, the makeup of such a player group will also be fascinating. My initial thought was that the Twins start by carrying every spare piece on the 40-man roster. But that doesn't necessarily make sense. Are they really gonna want to dedicate spots to raw talents like Gilberto Celestino and Dakota Chalmers, who aren't especially close to getting big-league shots? I would guess, at least, that these MLB-experienced or nearly-ready players from the 40-man will on the taxi squad: Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Sean Poppen, Fernando Romero, Lewis Thorpe, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade Jr.. That's eight. Next, it is probably most instructive to look at the list of non-roster spring training invites from February. That list includes pitchers Charlie Barnes, Chacín (already in, per our projection), Sam Clay, Edwar Colina, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Blaine Hardy (out for season), Griffin Jax, Jake Reed and Caleb Thielbar; and position players Juan Graterol, Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt, Tomás Telis, Royce Lewis, Jack Reinheimer, Wilfredo Tovar, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker. The Twins will surely want at least a couple of extra catchers available, given the position's heightened injury risk and intensive physical toll. And of course they'll probably want to load up on pitchers to the extent they're able – especially with the likelihood of increased doubleheaders and decreased off days. At this point it becomes very much a guessing game, but I'll wager the Twins want to lean mostly on experience and reliability at these positions, while mixing in a bit of prospect upside, so I'll go with... Catchers: Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers Pitchers: Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar So now we're at 16 members of the 20-man taxi squad. Who fills those last four spots? Given that the Twins now have all their bases covered with multiple contingencies at every position, they might want to make a few of their very best prospects available as potential wild-cards for an all-in sprint. Then again, maybe not? This is where I really get stuck. Do these prospects need to be added to the 40-man roster (or some expanded version) in order to feature on this taxi squad, thus starting their service clocks? If so, is it worth doing so just to keep them on hand as longshot possibilities to contribute? Is it even wise to push these crucial future talents into such an odd situation, as opposed to just letting them work out on their own and come back strong in 2021? But if that happens, do they not get paid at all? Is it a slap in the face? There's also the matter of Michael Pineda. It seems he'll still be on suspension for the first part of the year. Does he require a "roster spot" on the taxi squad? Are those really even considered roster spots under any traditional definition? He's still occupying space and consuming the resources of any other player. (He's also not supposed to get paid during the suspension, so what happens with that? I assume he's not just gonna throw himself in harm's way for free.) The litany of questions that begin to sprout up as you ponder these consequential factors is flat-out overwhelming, which is also true of MLB's daunting health-and-safety protocol at large. We'll need a lot more clarity before we can give serious credence to the very idea of a season happening, let alone how the Twins' roster will shake out. But the specificity around roster sizes at least gives us the ability to speculate a little, which is more than welcome after weeks of being completely in the dark. Given our limited information, I'm gonna guess the Twins choose to preserve their three best prospects – Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach – but carry Rooker, along with the minor-league vets Tovar and Reinheimer. I'll also assume Pineda gets a taxi spot. So here it is, my shot-in-the-dark guess at what a Twins 2020 roster and taxi squad might look like under the altered format. Feel free to air your quibbles and make your own guesses in the comments. (Active-roster players in bold.) CATCHERS: Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo, Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers INFIELDERS: Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, Wilfredo Tovar, Jack Reinheimer OUTFIELDERS: Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr., Brent Rooker PITCHERS: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Rich Hill, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Lewis Thorpe, Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  2. Once we swim through the mountains of logistical hurdles involving health, safety, and finances, this is one of the practical matters I find most intriguing: Which players will be part of the 2020 season, either from the start or as readily available fill-ins? We'll start with the obvious: the projected 26-man roster (per my final offseason status update, which was published approximately seven years ago). Position Players: Mitch Garver, Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave, Alex Avila Pitchers: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak. Little has changed that would affect any of the above players' chances of making the team. But one new player might now be in the mix: Rich Hill, whose recovery from elbow surgery would've delayed a normal start. A season starting in July would line up with his expected return, and Hill believes he'll be ready to go. Luckily, he doesn't need to supplant anyone else, since the Twins will have four extra active roster spots to work with. So presumably Hill gets one. As for the others, I would guess we'll see a couple more arms and one other position player. Something like Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Willians Astudillo. The taxi squad is where things get interesting. First, with no minor-league seasons taking place, I'm wondering how these players stay sharp and ready for action. Regular scrimmages and sim games? Regardless, the makeup of such a player group will also be fascinating. My initial thought was that the Twins start by carrying every spare piece on the 40-man roster. But that doesn't necessarily make sense. Are they really gonna want to dedicate spots to raw talents like Gilberto Celestino and Dakota Chalmers, who aren't especially close to getting big-league shots? I would guess, at least, that these MLB-experienced or nearly-ready players from the 40-man will on the taxi squad: Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Sean Poppen, Fernando Romero, Lewis Thorpe, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade Jr.. That's eight. Next, it is probably most instructive to look at the list of non-roster spring training invites from February. That list includes pitchers Charlie Barnes, Chacín (already in, per our projection), Sam Clay, Edwar Colina, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Blaine Hardy (out for season), Griffin Jax, Jake Reed and Caleb Thielbar; and position players Juan Graterol, Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt, Tomás Telis, Royce Lewis, Jack Reinheimer, Wilfredo Tovar, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker. The Twins will surely want at least a couple of extra catchers available, given the position's heightened injury risk and intensive physical toll. And of course they'll probably want to load up on pitchers to the extent they're able – especially with the likelihood of increased doubleheaders and decreased off days. At this point it becomes very much a guessing game, but I'll wager the Twins want to lean mostly on experience and reliability at these positions, while mixing in a bit of prospect upside, so I'll go with... Catchers: Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers Pitchers: Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar So now we're at 16 members of the 20-man taxi squad. Who fills those last four spots? Given that the Twins now have all their bases covered with multiple contingencies at every position, they might want to make a few of their very best prospects available as potential wild-cards for an all-in sprint. Then again, maybe not? This is where I really get stuck. Do these prospects need to be added to the 40-man roster (or some expanded version) in order to feature on this taxi squad, thus starting their service clocks? If so, is it worth doing so just to keep them on hand as longshot possibilities to contribute? Is it even wise to push these crucial future talents into such an odd situation, as opposed to just letting them work out on their own and come back strong in 2021? But if that happens, do they not get paid at all? Is it a slap in the face? There's also the matter of Michael Pineda. It seems he'll still be on suspension for the first part of the year. Does he require a "roster spot" on the taxi squad? Are those really even considered roster spots under any traditional definition? He's still occupying space and consuming the resources of any other player. (He's also not supposed to get paid during the suspension, so what happens with that? I assume he's not just gonna throw himself in harm's way for free.) The litany of questions that begin to sprout up as you ponder these consequential factors is flat-out overwhelming, which is also true of MLB's daunting health-and-safety protocol at large. We'll need a lot more clarity before we can give serious credence to the very idea of a season happening, let alone how the Twins' roster will shake out. But the specificity around roster sizes at least gives us the ability to speculate a little, which is more than welcome after weeks of being completely in the dark. Given our limited information, I'm gonna guess the Twins choose to preserve their three best prospects – Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach – but carry Rooker, along with the minor-league vets Tovar and Reinheimer. I'll also assume Pineda gets a taxi spot. So here it is, my shot-in-the-dark guess at what a Twins 2020 roster and taxi squad might look like under the altered format. Feel free to air your quibbles and make your own guesses in the comments. (Active-roster players in bold.) CATCHERS: Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo, Juan Graterol, Tomas Telís, Ryan Jeffers INFIELDERS: Miguel Sanó, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon, Wilfredo Tovar, Jack Reinheimer OUTFIELDERS: Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave, LaMonte Wade Jr., Brent Rooker PITCHERS: José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey, Jhoulys Chacín, Rich Hill, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, Matt Wisler, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Jhoan Duran, Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Lewis Thorpe, Danny Coloumbe, Edwar Colina, Ryan Garton, Jake Reed, Caleb Thielbar MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. There are not many question marks on the Minnesota Twins 26-man roster coming into the 2020 season. Jake Cave and Willians Astudillo are in contention for the final bench spot, and the rotation has turned into a two-man race. How do Randy Dobnak and Jhoulys Chacin stack up? Coming into the spring there’s no denying the Twins hope was to have the veteran Chacin make this decision easy. Forget that Dobnak was the game two starter during the 2019 ALDS in Yankees Stadium, he’s a guy that showed up out of nowhere and has options remaining. The caveat though, is that he is the one continuing to force Minnesota’s hand. By now you know the story. Former Uber driver that played through all three levels of the farm in 2019 while posting a ridiculous 2.07 ERA, he’s the fun-loving guy with the handlebar mustache. Although he deviates from the traditional strikeout hurlers of today, he’s also incredibly strong with both his control and command. In not allowing hitters to beat him with big innings, he’s pitching in front of a lineup that will always give him a chance. After arguably his worst spring start, Dobnak now own a line of 10.0 IP 5 H 3 R 3 ER 3 BB and 6 K. Dominant, maybe not, but he’s looked the part of a big leaguer ever single time he’s stepped on the mound. Again, with the Twins hoping to unlock the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers version of Chacin, this wasn’t likely part of the equation. The long-time vet was an absolute mess last year. Jhoulys posted a 5.79 ERA while walking everyone before being jettisoned from The Crew. He landed in Boston and things actually got worse. Contributing just north of 14 IP, he tallied an ERA north of 7.00 and continued giving out free passes for frequently than an ice cream man at the playground. Looking to rekindle the arm that produced a 3.50 ERA in 192 innings during the 2018 season, Minnesota made a smart decision by nabbing him on a non-roster deal. Given his big-league experience, the assumption should have always been that the final rotation spot out of the gate was his to lose. He’s been projected as such in each of my roster breakdowns in this space, but it’s becoming ever harder to do so. After his last outing Chacin has now totaled 8.0 IP in Grapefruit League play for Minnesota. Although he does have a solid 8/2 K/BB, he’s given up seven hits, plenty of hard contact, and six earned runs. To say that hitters have rarely been fooled by his stuff would be accurate. Obviously as a newly developed pitching institution, there’s plenty of tweaks the Twins are working on with the Venezuelan. Between analytical deep dives and scrapping of offerings, the goal has been to rekindle a career under the tutelage of Wes Johnson and the infrastructure that Derek Falvey has built. So far, the fruits of everyone’s labor have yet to produce anything ripe. We’re probably still too far out to call this race over, and still with an option Dobnak is going to need to be head and shoulders above his competition. Right now though, it’s inaccurate to call him anything but the most productive candidate, and once again the taxi driver is weaving his way through traffic. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. Prior to the 2019 season the Minnesota Twins took a chance on Michael Pineda. They paid him for the 2018 season with the intention of monitoring and directing his rehab. He rewarded them to the tune of a 4.01 ERA over 26 starts last year and was an anchor during a run to the Postseason. Once again in 2020, they’re taking the chance. After signing another two-year deal, this one doubling the previous pact, the Twins will be without Big Mike’s services for the first couple of months. After being reinstated from suspension (for an unapproved diuretic) he’ll return as a back-end starter for Rocco Baldelli’s staff. It remains to be seen how he’ll have been prepared to hit the ground running, but the hope would be that he picks up where he left off. The 4.01 ERA and 4.02 FIP are not all that noteworthy for the former Yankees starter, but it’s what he did down the stretch that jumps off the page. After owning a 5.34 ERA through his first 12 starts, he found a groove and turned a corner. Over his final 14 starts, from June 13 through September 6, Pineda posted a 2.96 ERA while allowing a .650 OPS against. He chalked up an 87/17 K/BB ratio and Minnesota went 10-4 in the contests he started. There was no denying his loss was a crushing one, as he appeared as a possible answer to the question of who would start game one of the ALDS. Once he returns this year, it will be in a very similar scenario. He’ll slot in behind the established top three, and he’ll be looked at as an addition as opposed to the necessary stopper. Minnesota would certainly love to see better than the 5.00+ ERA over his first handful of starts, but the rule won’t be how he finished either. Assuming that the Twins begin the year with Homer Bailey and Jhoulys Chacin at the back end of the group, they’ll be tasked with keeping the seats warm until someone is ready to step in. There’s no reason to believe they can’t outpitch their expectations but having someone like Pineda to fall back on is a major boost for the Twins. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have created an infrastructure that enhances development. We saw the emergence of unexpected arms like Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak contribute a year ago. That can still take place in 2020, all while having proven veterans going out to do their thing. There’s no reason to believe starts will be spread across any less than 10 players, and top loading the second ground with the efforts Michael Pineda is coming off must be viewed as a major win. Results are never guaranteed, and he’ll still need to go out and make it happen, but a second go-round with Pineda seemed like an ideal situation for everyone involved. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  5. After a busy and fruitful offseason, the Twins will have several new faces entering the fold in 2020. As they get to know their new teammates in Fort Myers, let's get to know a little more about them. Read on to learn five revealing facts about newly acquired players, each of which tells a bigger story.1: Tyler Clippard won a World Series in 2017 ... but didn't pitch in the playoffs. Marwin Gonzalez has received a lot of attention for playing a role in the Astros' tainted 2017 championship. That make sense; the numbers make it quite clear he was a prime beneficiary of the cheating. One player who's receiving less attention is Clippard. That also makes sense; he was a pitcher and he wasn't even on the postseason roster. But the veteran reliever was on the 40-man roster, and with the team during their run, so he got a ring. It's unfortunate that Clippard's time with Houston coincided with one of the worst stretches of performance in his career. The Astros had acquired him from the White Sox in mid-August, hoping he could assist in their World Series pursuit, but the right-hander failed to earn confidence, posting a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings. So, he wasn't a contributor in October. But he was out there on the field celebrating as the Astros reveled in their title*. Unlike Rich Hill, who is singularly focused on winning a World Series after coming just short against those Astros in 2017, Clippard does have the coveted accomplishment checked off. But something tells me he'd like to do it again and play an actual role this time around. (Oh, and like Hill – plus almost every other free agent the Twins signed – Clippard does have postseason experience: a 4.26 ERA in 12 2/3 innings with the Nationals and Mets.) 2: Kenta Maeda's medicals raised red flags when he first came over from Japan. When looking back at the initial coverage of Maeda's signing with the Dodgers back in 2016, I found this tidbit rather ironic. Much has been made of the new starter's highly appealing contract, which includes low guarantees and heavy incentives. But the reasons behind this unusual deal architecture are interesting in light of all the drama that unfolded with the recent trade. Physical exams at the time of Maeda's signing revealed irregularities in right elbow, leading to a "strong suspicion ...he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point." "It's factored into the length and structure of the contract," which maxed out at more than $100 million but guaranteed less than a quarter of that, according to Dodgers head exec Andrew Friedman at the time. Maeda was 27 then. Four years later, he's thrown 589 innings over 137 appearances for Los Angeles and had not one issue with his pitching elbow. All three of his stints on the injured list in LA were due to lower-body injuries. It's just another data point to illustrate that the human body is unpredictable, and medical prognosticating is an incredibly inexact science. So whatever concerns arose in Boston's eyes when they looked at Brusdar Graterol's medicals, causing them to sour on him and back out of the original trade, were flimsy at best. 3: Jhoulys Chacin has a better career ERA+ than Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi. His 108 ERA+ mark in the contextualized metric (100 is average) over 1,300 career innings edges that of either incumbent All-Star. Berrios (105) and Odorizzi (106) have been solid in aggregate, as has Michael Pineda (103), but Chacin's body of work surpasses them all. ERA+ shines a positive light on the former Rockie because it accounts for his six years spent in the league's toughest pitching environment. Chacin's 3.78 ERA in Colorado was even more impressive than it looked. Per ERA+, he's been above-average in six of his nine seasons with 50+ IP, including two of the past three. He has also been very durable of late, logging 100+ innings and 22+ starts in four straight campaigns. Because he's coming off a rough year, Chacin is being slept on as one of the most underrated additions in the Twins offseason. Tabbing him for the fifth rotation spot with a non-guaranteed deal is a completely risk-free proposition with very real upside. 4: Josh Donaldson was a childhood friend of former Twin P.J. Walters. I came across this factoid in a profile on Donaldson from 2013. In his junior year of high school, the Florida native transferred to Faith Academy in Mobile, AL, partially because Walters – "one of Josh's best friends," per MLB.com's Jane Lee – had enrolled there a year earlier. At the time that article published, Walters was pitching in the Twins organization. The right-hander threw 152 total innings in the majors, and 101 of them came with Minnesota, where he made 20 starts in 2012 and '13. It was a real low point in the franchise's recent history, as Walters epitomized the perpetual struggle of Terry Ryan's front office: throwing fringe arms at the wall in desperate hopes of adhesion. Walters was one of many misfires, posting a 5.79 ERA and 1.60 WHIP for the Twins, and never again appearing in the majors afterward. Donaldson, meanwhile, represents just how much things have changed for the Twins since those dark days. He's the marquee addition to a 101-win division champ, assembled by an overhauled front office that has elevated the club's operational sophistication drastically. 5: Alex Avila developed a rep as "The Titanium Catcher" ... and as a lightning rod for foul tips. In January of 2014, months after the Twins announced Joe Mauer would be moving away from catcher, an article on Fox Sports Detroit boasted of this nickname for Avila, who missed two weeks the prior season due to headaches and nausea resulting from a foul tip (incidentally, sustained just 11 days before the one that ended Mauer's catching career). "One thing Avila did do after he returned from the disabled list," according to the writeup, "was start wearing a heavier mask to absorb more of the impact from the foul tips he seems to get so frequently." His ability to bounce back from the bell-ringers earned Avila a rep for imperviousness, and he has gone on to start 387 games at catcher in the six years since. But as Twins fans know all too well, just one foul tip can change everything, especially when there is a history at play. Mauer moved to first base permanently in 2014, and later retired at age 35 following another flare-up of symptoms. Mitch Garver suffered a concussion on a foul-tip in September of 2018, and didn't catch again for the final three weeks of the season, casting some doubt on his own future behind the plate. Thankfully, he avoided any further issues or complications in a breakout 2019. The Twins will hope that Avila can continue to be titanium-grade this year, so he can help lighten Garver's load and continue the productivity of Minnesota's catching unit. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  6. 1: Tyler Clippard won a World Series in 2017 ... but didn't pitch in the playoffs. Marwin Gonzalez has received a lot of attention for playing a role in the Astros' tainted 2017 championship. That make sense; the numbers make it quite clear he was a prime beneficiary of the cheating. One player who's receiving less attention is Clippard. That also makes sense; he was a pitcher and he wasn't even on the postseason roster. But the veteran reliever was on the 40-man roster, and with the team during their run, so he got a ring. It's unfortunate that Clippard's time with Houston coincided with one of the worst stretches of performance in his career. The Astros had acquired him from the White Sox in mid-August, hoping he could assist in their World Series pursuit, but the right-hander failed to earn confidence, posting a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings. So, he wasn't a contributor in October. But he was out there on the field celebrating as the Astros reveled in their title*. https://twitter.com/dcsportsbog/status/925937167834271744 Unlike Rich Hill, who is singularly focused on winning a World Series after coming just short against those Astros in 2017, Clippard does have the coveted accomplishment checked off. But something tells me he'd like to do it again and play an actual role this time around. (Oh, and like Hill – plus almost every other free agent the Twins signed – Clippard does have postseason experience: a 4.26 ERA in 12 2/3 innings with the Nationals and Mets.) 2: Kenta Maeda's medicals raised red flags when he first came over from Japan. When looking back at the initial coverage of Maeda's signing with the Dodgers back in 2016, I found this tidbit rather ironic. Much has been made of the new starter's highly appealing contract, which includes low guarantees and heavy incentives. But the reasons behind this unusual deal architecture are interesting in light of all the drama that unfolded with the recent trade. Physical exams at the time of Maeda's signing revealed irregularities in right elbow, leading to a "strong suspicion ...he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point." "It's factored into the length and structure of the contract," which maxed out at more than $100 million but guaranteed less than a quarter of that, according to Dodgers head exec Andrew Friedman at the time. Maeda was 27 then. Four years later, he's thrown 589 innings over 137 appearances for Los Angeles and had not one issue with his pitching elbow. All three of his stints on the injured list in LA were due to lower-body injuries. It's just another data point to illustrate that the human body is unpredictable, and medical prognosticating is an incredibly inexact science. So whatever concerns arose in Boston's eyes when they looked at Brusdar Graterol's medicals, causing them to sour on him and back out of the original trade, were flimsy at best. 3: Jhoulys Chacin has a better career ERA+ than Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi. His 108 ERA+ mark in the contextualized metric (100 is average) over 1,300 career innings edges that of either incumbent All-Star. Berrios (105) and Odorizzi (106) have been solid in aggregate, as has Michael Pineda (103), but Chacin's body of work surpasses them all. ERA+ shines a positive light on the former Rockie because it accounts for his six years spent in the league's toughest pitching environment. Chacin's 3.78 ERA in Colorado was even more impressive than it looked. Per ERA+, he's been above-average in six of his nine seasons with 50+ IP, including two of the past three. He has also been very durable of late, logging 100+ innings and 22+ starts in four straight campaigns. Because he's coming off a rough year, Chacin is being slept on as one of the most underrated additions in the Twins offseason. Tabbing him for the fifth rotation spot with a non-guaranteed deal is a completely risk-free proposition with very real upside. 4: Josh Donaldson was a childhood friend of former Twin P.J. Walters. I came across this factoid in a profile on Donaldson from 2013. In his junior year of high school, the Florida native transferred to Faith Academy in Mobile, AL, partially because Walters – "one of Josh's best friends," per MLB.com's Jane Lee – had enrolled there a year earlier. At the time that article published, Walters was pitching in the Twins organization. The right-hander threw 152 total innings in the majors, and 101 of them came with Minnesota, where he made 20 starts in 2012 and '13. It was a real low point in the franchise's recent history, as Walters epitomized the perpetual struggle of Terry Ryan's front office: throwing fringe arms at the wall in desperate hopes of adhesion. Walters was one of many misfires, posting a 5.79 ERA and 1.60 WHIP for the Twins, and never again appearing in the majors afterward. Donaldson, meanwhile, represents just how much things have changed for the Twins since those dark days. He's the marquee addition to a 101-win division champ, assembled by an overhauled front office that has elevated the club's operational sophistication drastically. 5: Alex Avila developed a rep as "The Titanium Catcher" ... and as a lightning rod for foul tips. In January of 2014, months after the Twins announced Joe Mauer would be moving away from catcher, an article on Fox Sports Detroit boasted of this nickname for Avila, who missed two weeks the prior season due to headaches and nausea resulting from a foul tip (incidentally, sustained just 11 days before the one that ended Mauer's catching career). "One thing Avila did do after he returned from the disabled list," according to the writeup, "was start wearing a heavier mask to absorb more of the impact from the foul tips he seems to get so frequently." His ability to bounce back from the bell-ringers earned Avila a rep for imperviousness, and he has gone on to start 387 games at catcher in the six years since. But as Twins fans know all too well, just one foul tip can change everything, especially when there is a history at play. Mauer moved to first base permanently in 2014, and later retired at age 35 following another flare-up of symptoms. Mitch Garver suffered a concussion on a foul-tip in September of 2018, and didn't catch again for the final three weeks of the season, casting some doubt on his own future behind the plate. Thankfully, he avoided any further issues or complications in a breakout 2019. The Twins will hope that Avila can continue to be titanium-grade this year, so he can help lighten Garver's load and continue the productivity of Minnesota's catching unit. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Over the weekend the Minnesota Twins inked Jhoulys Chacin to a minor league deal that’s worth roughly $1.5 million if he makes the big-league club. With the non-roster invitees yet to be unveiled, and some chatter going around, he’s probably not the last arm to be brought in. Although the rotation didn’t experience a big jolt, Rocco Baldelli’s club is going to have some interesting options. A week ago, the assumed Opening Day rotation would have been Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Randy Dobnak, and Lewis Thorpe. With every new arm brought in, the thought is that the shift takes place from the bottom up. Now obviously a minor league deal is not guaranteed, and the reality is results must match some level of expectation during Spring Training. Assuming that happens though, Minnesota is putting themselves in a nice spot. Chacin was downright terrible in 2019. Pitching for the Brewers and Red Sox, he posted a 6.01 ERA 5.88 FIP and walked four per nine while allowing 2.2 HR/9. A slider first pitcher that was very good in 2018 however, there’s a lot to like here. Jhoulys is an 11-year veteran with a career 4.03 ERA and three sub 4.00 ERA seasons from 2015-2018. It’s a decent gamble that he could have a better 2020 than Bailey, who is on a guaranteed contract from the Twins. In 2019 Minnesota needed to get starts from just 10 different pitchers, and five guys made all but 16 of the initial trips to the mound. That’s extraordinary, reflective of strong performance, and more importantly indicative of superior health and good fortune. Rather than banking on that taking place again, Wes Johnson has been given an arsenal to utilize going forward. Randy Dobnak posted a 1.59 ERA and 2.90 FIP in his debut season en route to a Postseason start. Lewis Thorpe is a former top prospect that looks the part of a breakout arm. Devin Smeltzer has become somewhat of an afterthought despite being a key acquisition from the Dodgers and having a strong rookie season of his own. That’s all before we even touch on Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic. Then you add in the Michael Pineda will be back after suspension and Rich Hill will be healthy down the stretch, it’s safe to see Minnesota is overflowing with arms. We don’t yet know what level all the options will perform at, but the Twins have both opportunity and the mounts to feed in the year ahead. Plugging in the right guys in the most opportune situations will be the task of Johnson and Baldelli. There’s probably opportunity to flip an asset or two, and there’s definitely a level of insurance built into the roster construction here. I have no idea which Chacin shows up in 2020, but it appears Johnson is intrigued enough to work on getting the 2018 guy to take the mound. If you throw Taijuan Walker or someone else into the mix as well, the rotation that didn’t get its impact arm has an inside track at being both very good as well as very well supplemented. Who makes starts when should be up in the air for the next month or so, but give it to Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, they’ve done work stocking the cupboard with plenty of ammunition. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. Reports from Jon Heyman and Robert Murray indicate that the Twins have signed veteran right-handed pitcher to a minor league contract.While Chacin is signed to a non-guaranteed, minor league contract, it is very likely that he will be in the Twins Opening Day rotation. When Nick put together his list of still-available starting pitcher options recently, he ranked Chacin at #2 behind only RHP Taijuan Walker. The addition of Chacin, who is coming off of a tough 2019 season, provides the Twins rotation with some short-term stability as the team waits for Michael Pineda to return from his suspension and Rich Hill to return from his elbow injury. Chacin doesn't bring upside, but his sturdiness is valuable. The 32-year-old has made 22+ starts and thrown 100+ innings in each of the past four seasons. He struggled mightily for Milwaukee and Boston in 2019 (6.01 ERA), but previously put up a 3.69 ERA over 373 innings between 2017 and 2018, holding opponents to a .227/.309/.365 slash line. If he fails to turn things around from last year, Chacin can still eat up innings until Michael Pineda is available in mid-May, But if he finds his prior form, Chacin can become another mid-rotation asset. One needn't look too hard to see similarities here with Anibal Sanchez a couple years back. This move on its own still doesn't necessarily mean that the Twins will stop shopping for starting pitching. Mostly likely, any further signings would also be on minor league deals. Click here to view the article
  9. While Chacin is signed to a non-guaranteed, minor league contract, it is very likely that he will be in the Twins Opening Day rotation. When Nick put together his list of still-available starting pitcher options recently, he ranked Chacin at #2 behind only RHP Taijuan Walker. The addition of Chacin, who is coming off of a tough 2019 season, provides the Twins rotation with some short-term stability as the team waits for Michael Pineda to return from his suspension and Rich Hill to return from his elbow injury. Chacin doesn't bring upside, but his sturdiness is valuable. The 32-year-old has made 22+ starts and thrown 100+ innings in each of the past four seasons. He struggled mightily for Milwaukee and Boston in 2019 (6.01 ERA), but previously put up a 3.69 ERA over 373 innings between 2017 and 2018, holding opponents to a .227/.309/.365 slash line. If he fails to turn things around from last year, Chacin can still eat up innings until Michael Pineda is available in mid-May, But if he finds his prior form, Chacin can become another mid-rotation asset. One needn't look too hard to see similarities here with Anibal Sanchez a couple years back. This move on its own still doesn't necessarily mean that the Twins will stop shopping for starting pitching. Mostly likely, any further signings would also be on minor league deals.
  10. In looking at the final three pitching names, a certain level of brevity will be used. Given that both Lynn and Chatwood seem to be a bit better fit on the surface, the following trio would be nice complementary pieces to one of the top two options. Without any further explanation though, let’s get into it. Alex Cobb He turned 30 years old on October 7, and has exactly 700 big league innings under his belt. Through 115 starts, he owns a career 3.50 ERA and has compiled a 7.3K/9 to go with a 2.6 BB/9. Cobb missed the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, and made just five starts in 2016. This season however, he posted a serviceable 3.66 ERA and 4.16 FIP in his first “healthy” year since 2014. At one time, having looked like another darling of the Rays staff, Cobb is now well past the 2.82 ERA he posted across 49 starts in 2013-14. After making $4.2 million last season, he’ll enter free agency for the first time. With the opportunity to sign his first lengthy deal, the Twins could land a more-than-capable guy for the rotation. Throughout his career, Cobb has a relatively pedestrian strikeout rate. That said, he limits walks and has induced ground balls over 50% of the time. Home run rates have been in check, and this past season was really the first time he’s served up more than 1.0 HR/9. Working in the low 90’s, he’s a pitcher who works for his outs, and the sinker/curveball combination is one he utilizes often. I don’t know if Cobb can get back to his early career success. Injuries have taken place, and age is against him. That said, the floor is pretty safe here, and the ceiling may be ripe for the picking. Jhoulys Chacin After pitching the first six seasons of his big league career in Colorado, Jhoulys Chacin bounced around the big leagues a bit. With stops in Arizona, Atlanta, Los Angeles (AL), and San Diego, he’ll be joining his fifth team in the past four years. Over the course of 32 starts for the Padres in 2017, Chacin owned a 3.89 ERA with a 4.26 FIP and a 7.6 K/9 with a 3.6 BB/9. Those numbers, especially playing half your games at Petco, don’t make you jump up and down. Command jumps out as an issue, and in a pitcher’s park you’d like to see a better FIP number. Looking for positives, Chacin made just $1.75 million last season, and should be able to be had relatively cheaply. He’ll also be only 30 years old, and likely has plenty of juice left in the tank. Although he doesn’t generate quite as many groundballs as Cobb, Chacin also tends to give up fewer home runs. In 2017, Chacin was mainly a fastball/slider pitcher, mixing in the occasional curveball and changeup. His stuff sits low 90s, and his swinging strike rate has hovered around 8.0% for most of the past seven years. He’s far from flashy, but if the Twins are looking for a low-cost arm to round out the starting rotation, they could look in his direction. Andrew Cashner Finally, and in somewhat of a flipping-the-script move, we take a look at Andrew Cashner. The oldest and most expensive of this group, Cashner will be 31 in 2018 and made $10 million on a one year deal with the Rangers last season. Across 28 starts, he compiled a 3.40 ERA along with an incredibly odd 4.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Long the darling of many writers, Cashner’s allure has never been alluring to me. There’s a decent amount to like here, but we’ve just never seen it all come together. His 3.80 ERA over the course of his career is just fine, but there have been plenty of mediocre seasons sprinkled in between good ones. Whether or not he takes a step forward or back is anyone’s guess. Despite striking no one out, and walking too many batters in 2017, Cashner kept the ball in the yard. Playing home games in Texas, that’s a pretty tough task and he’s to be commended for that. The fastball is his pitch of choice, and he relies on secondary offerings of a slider, curveball and changeup almost equally. Despite once being an upper 90’s hurler, he’s since settle into the mid-90s at this latter half of his career. Compared to the other two options, Cashner is the greatest wildcard. The strikeout and walk numbers a season ago were baffling, and not getting hurt more with them also leaves plenty of room for exposure. With velocity on his side however, he might have the ability to unlock more value. In my thinking, signing someone like Lynn or Chatwood, along with one of this trio, seem to be intriguing options. Cobb represents the guy I’d most trust, and Cashner is probably the biggest flier. For the price, Chacin has appeal of his own as well. If you’re taking a look at it, how do you see them stacking up? Check back next week as we move to the relief side of supplementing the Twins.
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