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Solarte, 11 Others Become Free Agents

4 Nov

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Yangervis Solarte was one of 12 Twins minor leaguers who were allowed to become Six-Year Minor League Free Agents five days after the World Series. Solarte signed with the Twins from Venezuela in June of 2005. In 2011, he hit .329/.367/.466 with 36 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 49 RBI. Not bad for a 2B. For a team that has struggled with middle infield development, it’s hard to believe that Solarte would not have been added to the 40 man roster before becoming a free agent. He can now sign with any team, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get a 40 man roster spot with another team. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if he re-signed with the Twins still.

Here are the others who became six-year free agents:

  • RHP Andy Baldwin – The Duluth native pitched in Rochester last year.
  • LHP Dusty Hughes – Spent time with the Twins early in the season and pitched alright in Rochester the rest of the season.
  • LHP Chuck James – The #FreeChuckJames campaign, and his tremendous early-season pitching, got him a couple of very brief looks with the Twins.
  • LHP Jake Stevens – The Naples native pitched in New Britain and Rochester. Following the season, he mentioned that he was called in to the Twins minor league offices, was given a ring for his part in throwing a no-hitter in Rochester, and then told his services were no longer needed with the Twins.
  • C Jair Fernandez – The catcher came to the Twins from Seattle for RA Dickey, and played pretty well. He was just too injured in 2011.
  • C Allan de San Miguel – The Aussie catcher signed when he was so young. Great defense. Struggled with the bat. Elbow surgery in 2011.
  • 1B Jeff Bailey – Brought in quickly after becoming a free agent last year to help the Red Wings, he struggled mightily the first couple of months of the season.
  • IF Toby Gardenhire – The manager’s son has been a utility infielder throughout his minor league career. Great teammate and leader, not much of a hitter. Can’t help but assume he’ll be back. Should be.
  • 3B Chase Lambin – 32 year old came to the Twins last offseason as a free agent. Struggled early.
  • SS Paul Kelly – 2nd round pick in 2005 from Texas high school. Solid debut in 2005, and played well for half of 2006 before he was hurt. Since 2007, he has played a combined 24 games in five seasons with various injuries. If healthy, he probably (maybe?) could have been the Twins shortstop the past few years already. After three games this season, they found a blood clot in his neck and he missed the rest of the season. What could have been!? And, hopefully he can continue to play!
  • OF Brandon Roberts – Came to the Twins in the Kyle Lohse trade, the speedy outfielder had too many knee issues and missed a lot of time.

It’s possible some of these guys will be back. It’s possible some of these guys won’t play again.

Here are some other names you may recognize that became free agents for other organizations:

  • Michael Restovich – Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Armando Gabino – Baltimore Orioles
  • Brendan Harris – Baltimore Orioles
  • Matt Fox – Boston Red Sox
  • Jose Morales – Colorado Rockies
  • Matt Macri – Colorado Rockies
  • Alex Romero – Florida Marlins
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith – Houston Astros
  • Gil Velazquez – Los Angeles Angels
  • Anderson Machado – Milwaukee Brewers
  • Boof Bonser – New York Mets
  • Mike Lamb – New York Yankees
  • Steve Singleton – Philadelphia Phillies
  • Jeff Clement, Brandon Wood – Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Steve Tolleson, Bobby Kielty – San Diego Padres
  • Casey Daigle – San Francisco Giants
  • Doug Deeds – Texas Rangers
  • Yohan Pino – Toronto Blue Jays

Any thoughts?


Perkins to Disabled List

22 May

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If you stayed up to watch the Twins and Diamondbacks finish their second of three games this weekend, I’m sorry! Many of you likely went to bed with the Twins leading 4-3 or maybe even 6-3 going into the 8th inning. Joe Nathan, who needed just eight pitches to get through the 7th inning, gave up a leadoff single in the 8th frame. Ron Gardenhire went to Glen Perkins as the Diamondbacks had three straight left-handers coming to the plate, well, and Perkins has been the team’s top relief pitcher this year. Just a few pitches later, the game’s outlook changed completely. Perkins gave up a single to right-field, but as he was moving toward the 3B line to back up the bag, he stopped and summoned the training staff. He immediately left the game and was replaced by Matt Capps.

Obviously these were the correct moves for the manager to make at the time, but things just went bad. Capps allowed a couple of inherited runners to score, but the team held on to a one-run lead when Kelly Johnson came to the plate. I immediately tweeted that Kelly Johnson is so similar to Adam Kennedy in my mind that this would not be a good matchup. A couple of pitches later, the Johnson crushed a Capps fastball into the right field bleachers to give the Diamondbacks the 9-6 lead that they would hold on to.

But, back to the key point in the game, the Glen Perkins injury. After the game, the manager acknowledged that the Perkins injury would put him on the Disabled List. He said that it was an oblique injury.

UPDATE – less than 3 minutes after I posted this, StarTribune’s LaVelle E. Neal informed us that the Twins announced that Dusty Hughes was being promoted to replace Perkins. No surprised at all, but definitely disappointing. You can still read the below to see what some of the other options were.

This of course brings about several questions.

1.)     Which Rochester reliever will come up, and

2.)     If that pitcher is not on the 40 man roster, who could be removed from the 40 man roster?

Let’s start with the first question: Which Rochester reliever will come up? Terry Ryan and Tom Kelly are actually in Rochester right now evaluating players. Bill Smith likely called them not long ago to ask who the right person to promote would be. Seemingly, these would be the options:

1.)     Chuck James – Why he wasn’t called up and added to the 40 man roster last week instead of Phil Dumatrait is unknown to me, but he has been terrific for the Red Wings. He threw two scoreless innings last night, but he is now 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 17 games. In 25.2 innings, the left-hander has allowed 17 hits, walked nine and struck out 35. Seems the most deserving, but again, he is not on the 40 man roster.

2.)     Dusty Hughes – If they want to replace the lefty Perkins with another lefty, Hughes is an option. He has posted a 5.06 ERA in 5.1 innings over five games with the Red Wings. However, he is on the 40 man roster so the paperwork would be easier.

3.)     Carlos Gutierrez – I said all winter I thought he could come up in July or August and really play a big role for the Twins bullpen. That timeline may be pushed ahead. Gutierrez is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 16 games. In 27 innings, he has given up 20 hits, walked 13 and struck out 18. He has been very good of late and may be an option. He throws hard, and has a big sinker and groundball rate. He is right-handed, and the Twins may feel that they need a second left-hander in the bullpen to go with Dumatrait.

4.)     Kyle Waldrop – Another right-hander, Waldrop’s season numbers don’t look too good. He is 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA. This would be a case of going with the hot hand. In his last two games, he has seven strikeouts in four innings. He came in to one game and struck out the International League’s best hitter to record the save. Two days later, he struckout six in 3.2 perfect innings. He had given up runs in five of his previous six outings. He admitted to me the other day that he finally found his proper release point and believes that will make a huge difference.

5.)     Others – Eric Hacker and Scott Diamond have struggled in their last 2-3 starts. Kyle Gibson has been struggling his last four starts. It wouldn’t make sense to bring up a starter, unless the plan would be to move Brian Duensing back to the bullpen, which would be a mistake. Anthony Slama is still working his way back to success since missing most of spring training and early April. Jeff Manship has moved back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation and it hasn’t gone well. Jim Hoey needs to stay down there to work on control and that split-finger pitch that has potential to be a great one for him.

Of those four options, only Dusty Hughes is on the 40 man roster, so if the Twins choose one of the other three, someone will need to be removed from the 40 man roster. Who could that be? Here are some options:

1.)     Deolis Guerra – still just 22 years old, Guerra is about two years younger than the average player in the Eastern League. However, in his seven starts for the Rock Cats this spring, he is 3-4 with a 9.85 ERA. In just 28.1 innings, he has given up 31 earned runs on 43 hits and eight walks while recording just 19 strikeouts. A year ago, he posted a 6.24 ERA in 19 starts and went 2-10. He was added to the Twins 40 man roster on November 20, 2009, which means he can stay in the minor leagues until the 2013 season. Despite the struggles and numbers, there is a lot of talent here, so it would be hard to remove him from the 40 man roster.

2.)     Dusty Hughes – With Jose Mijares and Glen Perkins now on the Disabled List, it is hard to imagine the Twins would take a lefty off the 40 man roster.  Hughes is likely better long-term than Dumatrait, so removing him would not make sense.

3.)     Phil Dumatrait – If they were going to call up James in Dumatrait’s place, they would have called up James last week instead of Dumatrait.

4.)     Alexi Casilla – This is an interesting option. When Jason Repko comes off the DL on Monday, Ben Revere likely goes back to Rochester. Jim Thome will also come off of the DL on Monday. The Twins could option Matt Tolbert or Luke Hughes, or they could designate Casilla for assignment. If DFAing Casilla is an option on Monday, it should be an option on Sunday. Of course, then someone else would need to be optioned on Monday still (Burnett, Hughes or Tolbert probably).

There are a couple of guys who could go to the 60 Day Disabled List to open up a spot:

1.)     Joe Mauer – if the Twins don’t believe that he will be able to play until late in June, then this is a possibility. If they think he could be back any sooner than that, it won’t happen.

2.)     David Bromberg – This has some gray ground for me. He is on the Disabled List right now, and could be out until mid-June already, he would be a possibility. However, he is on a minor league Disabled List, so would the Twins have to promote an injured player to the big leagues first?

3.)     Tsuyoshi Nishioka – This may make the most sense. Again, depending upon when it is realistic for him to return, Nishioka has not played since April 7, so if he is going to be out until about June 10th or so anyway, this could buy them some time.  

In my mind, those are the options (unless they have some sort of trade lined up, which is unlikely. What do you think will or should happen? Comment here.

The Final Spots

18 Mar

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For the most part, spring training is a formality. Of the 25 man roster, likely 21 or 22 of those positions were set. Joe Mauer doesn’t need to win a job in spring training. Neither does Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer. Joe Nathan had to prove that he was healthy, but if he did, he isn’t fighting for a roster spot. Who were the givens coming into spring training?

Hitters: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Jim Thome, Drew Butera (12)

Pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares (9)

Coming into spring training, the Twins’ brass talked about a bullpen spot or two being up for grabs and the utility infield spot, and based on the above, that is clearly true. The Twins need a utility infielder and three pitchers. There was no shortage of options coming into spring training for those spots either.

For the utility infielder spot: Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Chase Lambin

For the three bullpen spots: Jeff Manship, Pat Neshek, Jim Hoey, Glen Perkins, Scott Diamond, Dusty Hughes, Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait, Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Yorman Bazardo, Eric Hacker, Anthony Slama

Backup Infielder:

Going into spring training, most of us believed that the “competition” was more in name than in reality. Matt Tolbert is a “Gardy Guy.” He can play all three infield positions defensively. He has some speed. Not much of a hitter, but he has shown an ability to hit at times over the last few seasons. Trevor Plouffe has played shortstop and second base, and even logged some innings at first base, but he has struggled this spring with the bat and with the glove.

Meanwhile, Luke Hughes has again shown up to spring training and shown that he can flat-out hit. He is 14-40 (.350) with three doubles and five home runs. We will ignore the 12 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. He has played adequate defense at 3B, 2B, 1B and even a couple of innings at SS. In his minor league past, he has played all three outfield positions as well. Gardy has been making quotes about defense not being the only thing that matters in the utility infield spot which certainly bodes well for Hughes.

Remember that the utility infielder will hopefully play about once a week, although Hughes would also be a good right-handed bat off the bench to compliment lefty Jim Thome. He may have to play ten to twelve innings of defense a week. How will he adapt to a role position? Can he stay healthy?

Tolbert and Plouffe each are in their final option year. Hughes has two options left. So, options do not need to factor into this decision, which is good.

Gardy’s Decision: Will come down to defense versus offense. Will he want Hughes’ right-handed bat off the bench, or will he want Tolbert’s defense at the three positions?

If the season started today: Hughes would be the man, no question. I think that when spring training started, it was Matt Tolbert’s job to lose. Instead, Luke Hughes has come to spring training likely made such a strong impression that he may have pushed his way onto the Opening Day roster.


Anthony Swarzak, Yorman Bazardo and Eric Hacker have already been demoted to minor league camp. Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait haven’t done enough to put themselves into Opening Day consideration. Anthony Slama was my choice before camp started, but he has been unable to pitch due to an elbow injury. Alex Burnett will be a big part of the Twins bullpen for years to come, but I don’t think he’s in the competition for an opening day spot right now. Kyle Waldrop probably would be a strong candidate if he was on the 40 man roster. I believe he will be a Twins pitcher, but not by Opening Day. Same with Carlos Gutierrez. So that leaves six pitchers for three spots, and at least one of them (And maybe two) should be left-handed).

Jeff Manship: He has given up five runs on nine hits and three walks in nine innings. He has just two strikeouts. The organization compares his stuff to Matt Guerrier, and it’s hard to argue with that comparison. They both have good fastballs, though not overpowering. They have good control. They both have very good curveballs and changeups. The comparison is fair, but Manship has done little pitching out of the bullpen in his career. He has the stuff to do it well.

Pat Neshek: People talk about Neshek and his velocity. It is seemingly the biggest story. On Thursday, he hit 89. He also has a good changeup and slider. To me, it’s more about pitch movement and mixing up speeds. He has given up three runs on six hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. Of the six hits, three have been home runs. If Neshek makes the team and is given the opportunity to continue to gain strength by pitching in low-leverage situations, he can play a big role in the Twins bullpen as he has in the past.

Jim Hoey: Hoey came over from the Orioles in the JJ Hardy trade. He throws hard, touching 99 mph. As we know, it’s all about throwing strikes for him. If he can harn the velocity, he can be dominant. That is yet to be seen. He has given up five runs on seven hits and four walks in 6.2 innings.

Glen Perkins: Perkins is out of options. He’s left-handed and can’t get left-handed batters out. He really struggled last year. The year before, he got off to a great start and then was hurt most of the season. The year before that, he was a double-digit winner for the Twins. Clearly the Minnesota native has some stuff. He’s left-handed, throws hard, has a good slider and he is breathing. Did I mention that he is out of options? That may be the biggest factor at the end of the day. However, for what it is worth, this spring he has given up two runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings.

Scott Diamond: He was the Twins Rule 5 pick in December which means that he has to stay on the Twins roster throughout the 2011 season or be offered back to the Braves. Although he has given up just one run on six hits in six innings, he has also walked six batters. Twins brass talks about how slowly he has worked, which is something they have not seen in their years of scouting him.

Dusty Hughes: Inexplicably, the Royals designated the southpaw for assignment and the Twins happily claimed him and added him to the 40 man roster. They speak of his four-pitch mix. He has certainly made a strong impression during spring. In eight shutout innings, he has allowed just three hits. He has walked three also, but all three came in his Thursday outing.

Gardy’s Decision: The coaching staff seems quite high on Manship, and everyone is saying great things about Glen Perkins. Hughes has pitched great this spring, but the team needs to determine what happens with Perkins and Diamond before they determine what they will do with Hughes.

If the season started today: Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Dusty Hughes

The Big Picture:

How good can the Twins be if the roster decisions at this point are for the 12th hitter and 11th and 12th pitchers? That isn’t to minimize their roles at all. Each of the 25 players can help the team win games at any time. How large does a small sample need to be (good or bad) to be large enough to mean something? I mean, Dusty Hughes has been amazing through eight innings, but what if he gives up five runs without getting a batter out in his next outing? Luke Hughes has shown great power from the right-side, but what if he strikes out in his next 14 at bats against big league pitchers and commits two errors a day all around the field? The Twins have been disappointed with Scott Diamond and the pace he has shown on the mound this spring. In an interview on 1500espn on Sunday, assistant GM said that it was something they hadn’t seen in their years of scouting him. That scouting led them to love Diamond, so are they really going to let six innings in spring training completely negate what he had done for three minor league seasons before?

What if the Twins keep Dusty Hughes and let Glen Perkins and Scott Diamond go? If Hughes then struggles, two options are gone.

In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I included Luke Hughes on my 2011 roster blueprint, as a right-handed bench bat because of his power. He had a great spring last year and was the first non-catching hitter called up. If not for injuries last year, we would likely have seen much more of him. What he has done this spring with the bat is likely taken a job that going into spring training, he was third on the depth chart. Again, he’s crushed it in spring for a role on the Twins bench that may get him six or seven at bats a week, but I do like the bat.

Sprint Training is always fun and interesting, and there are always great stories. To this point in spring, the Hughes Brothers (who of course are not brothers) have both put together strong springs that probably put them on the big league roster. With two weeks to go, what are the other stories of spring to follow? Are any other jobs up for grabs? What are your thoughts?

Here are some other notes and blogs to peruse:

That’s it for today! Have a great weekend! If you like, please feel free to comment, ask questions.