Minnesota Twins

Twins Sign E. Santana, Royals Ink Morales

esantana

Ervin Santana joined his 4th team in 4 years.

 

One former Royal is going to Minnesota and one former Twin is going to Kansas City. Starting pitcher Ervin Santana and 1st Baseman/DH Kendrys Morales have found new teams for the 2015 season.

Santana is coming off a one-year, $14.1MM deal he signed with the Atlanta Braves last March after injuries had depleted the Braves starting rotation. Santana, who turns 32 on Friday, won 14 games in 31 starts. Except for a rough patch in May, Santana kept the Braves in most of the games he started and was 3-0, 1.95 in four April starts. The Twins rewarded him with a four-year deal worth about $55MM. While the average is less than the pay he got from Atlanta, he gets the long term deal he sought prior to last season. This is Santana’s fourth team in four years.

Morales was just starting to become a star in the league when he broke his leg celebrating a game winning grand slam home run for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010. He missed the rest of the season (111 games) and all of the 2011 season as a result.

He hit well in his return in 2012 (.787 OPS, 22 HR 73 RBI in 134 games), but the Halos dealt him to Seattle in December for pitcher Jason Vargas. He was a player without a team in 2014 until early June when the Twins signed him to a deal for the remainder of the season. At the deadline, he was sent back to Seattle for pitcher Stephen Pryor.

Morales’ deal with the Royals is for two years and $17MM. The 31-year old will replace Billy Butler at DH and occasionally spell Eric Hosmer at first base.

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Signed: Torii Hunter Goes Home

hunter

Prior to leaving as a free agent after the 2007 season, Torii Hunter spent 15 years in the Minnesota Twins organization. He was the 20th overall pick in the 1st round of the 1993 MLB Amateur draft and made his Major League debut four years later. Hunter spent the 2008-2014 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit Tigers, but he’s coming home for 2015.

Hunter will spend his 17th full season in the Majors back where it all started. The Twins and Hunter agreed to a one year deal Tuesday that will reportedly pay him $10.5MM. According to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles were also interested in signing Hunter.

The nine-time Gold Glove winner averaged nearly 20 home runs and 85 RBI in his six years out of a Twins’ uniform. Best known for the spectacular defensive play that he made look routine, Hunter was a full-time centerfielder until the 2010 season. He then became the regular right fielder for the Angels and Tigers.

Hunter called the Metrodome home when he was with the Twins and will have to get used to playing full-time in the Target Field outfield. While the Twins don’t currently look competitive for the postseason, Hunter will also serve as a mentor to some of the younger players on the roster. He’ll also be playing in Minnesota for the first time without Tom Kelly or Ron Gardenhire as the manager. Gardenhire was fired after this past season and was replaced by Paul Molitor, who was a member of the 1997-1998 Twins when Hunter made his debut.

Hunter is 8th all-time on the Twins home runs list with 192, nine behind Gary Gaetti. He’s also 5th all-time in strikeouts with 870, seven in back of Gaetti. Hunter, who will turn 39 in July, has played in the postseason eight times but has never made it to the World Series.

Jeter’s Last All-Star Hurrah

Jeter14ASNow batting (for the last time) for the American League, number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

by Drew Sarver

It seems like it was only yesterday that Derek Jeter was in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. I was younger then, than he is now. It’s odd enough to not see Mariano Rivera in a Yankees uniform this season, but to not see Jeter in the home pinstripes or the road greys next season is incomprehensible. Life moves fast and so has Jeter’s final season as a Major League baseball player. Tuesday night, he’ll be introduced as the starting shortstop for the American League in the 85th MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota.

The fans voted in Jeter as the starter this season, as a tribute rather than because of his play this season. They recognize the special player they have witnessed on a nightly basis for nearly 20 seasons. (The anti-Yankees/anti-Jeter sentiment among some fans, specifically those criticizing his place on the team, is more about those fans and their lack of perception of the baseball world outside of their own team.)

Jeter made his first All-Star appearance in 1998, his third full season in the Major Leagues. In an interview with former teammate, and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, Jeter admitted to being “scared to death” in his first mid-Summer classic. It’s hard to believe, coming from a player with the confidence that Jeter has, but newbies are newbies. Things have changed since then. (See the entire ESPN interview by clicking here.)

Jeter enjoys chatting with players he doesn’t get to talk with too often. Even those (Dee Gordon) that are the son of a former teammate (Tom “Flash” Gordon). The Yankees’ captain would certainly like to leave a lasting impression for the fans, in attendance and those at home, during Tuesday night’s game. Of course, he would never admit to that.

In that first All-Star game 16 years ago, Jeter subbed for the starter, Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez, and struck out in his lone at-bat. A year later, Nomar Garciaparra got the start and Jeter’s one at-bat again resulted in a strikeout. (A-Rod was left off the team by Yankees manager Joe Torre after a knee injury limited him to a .316 batting average, 1.045 OPS, 18 HR and 48 RBI.)

Jeter was voted in as the starter for the first time in the 2000 season. It was one of the top all-around seasons for the then 26-year old. He was the game’s MVP in the American League’s 6-3 victory, going 3-3 with two RBI,  and a run scored. He then went on to capture the World Series MVP when the Yankees topped the Mets in the Subway Series that Fall.

The next two seasons Jeter again found himself on the bench as Cal Ripken Jr. had his swan song at shortstop (Ripken was actually voted as the starter at third base, but Torre and A-Rod, the winner at shortstop, orchestrated a positional switch at the start of the game.) and a year later A-Rod once again topped the vote leaderboard among the league’s shortstops.

Jeter1998ASJeter’s 1998 All-Star debut in Colorado.

Number 2 in pinstripes missed the ’03 game after he missed a month and a half of the regular season with a shoulder injury. But with A-Rod’s move to the Yankees and third base, and Garciaparra’s declined play, beginnnig in 2004 Jeter was voted in as the starting shortstop for the next six seasons. He lost out to the Cleveland Indians’ Asdrubel Cabrera in 2010, but was back as a starter in 2012. Last season was just the second game he missed since 1998 when a broken ankle and other injuries limited him to just 17 regular season games.

Tonight, he will hit leadoff for the AL and receive a number of rousing ovations from the Minnesota crowd, his teammates and his opponents. At some point, AL manager John Farrell will send Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez out to replace Jeter in the middle of an inning so that the 20-year veteran can receive one more thunderous July ovation.

And then one more “the last one” will be in the books.

 

Derek Jeter’s All-Star statistics

H AB AVG OPS R RBI HR 2B
11 25 .440 1.061 5 3 1 1

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

Twins Hope To Stem The Tide in 2014

The Twins will need a healthy Joe Mauer to improve on last year’s 66 wins.

by Alli Baker

Key Offseason Acquisitions: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kurt Suzuki, Sean Gilmartin, Jason Kubel, Matt Garza, Matt Guerrier, Mike Pelfrey

Key Offseason Losses: Ryan Doumit

Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire is one of the best in the business, but a lack of talent and a rash of injuries over the past three seasons resulted in an average of 65 wins per year.  After finishing the 2013 season in fourth place in the AL Central Division, the Twins knew they had work to do this offseason.

Most importantly, the Twins needed to focus on building up their starting rotation. In 2013, the Twins had a league-worst ERA of 5.26 as well as the lowest number of strikeouts per nine innings pitched.1

Obviously Twins management realized this was a problem that needed to be fixed. The team filled in some holes by picking up free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and also resigned Mike Pelfrey. With more pitchers available, the Minnesota Twins have more options to work with for the upcoming season. However, the Twins have more problems to solve this offseason than just putting together a starting staff.

With Joe Mauer’s permanent move to first base and the departure of free agent Ryan Doumit, the Twins also had to find a replacement catcher, which they did when they signed free agent Kurt Suzuki. As for Mauer, the Twins hope that the defensive shift will keep the oft-injured Minnesota native healthy. He’s still in recovery mode from a 2013 concussion that ended his season prematurely on August 19 and may not be ready for the start of the regular season.

With a need to bolster their offense, the team brought back former Twin Jason Kubel. Kubel, although only signed to a minor league deal thus far, could provide much needed offensive spark and could fill the Twins’ need for a DH or left fielder. Kubel was a regular contributor to the Twins’ offense during the 2008-2010 seasons (averaging 23 HR and 91 RBI) and hit 30 home runs for the Diamondbacks in 2012.

Exec VP/GM Terry Ryan also needs youngsters like Oscar Arcia and Brian Dozier to continue to blossom as well as continued production from third baseman Trevor Plouffe.

All of the aforementioned moves were made with the goal of making an immediate impact for the 2014 season, as well as serving as a stopgap measure until the Twins top prospects are ready.  The team’s farm system is ranked within the top five minor league organizations in Major League Baseball and includes talented prospects like Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano.

Meyer, a 6’9″ hard-throwing pitcher, was acquired in a trade with the Nationals for Denard Span prior to the 2013 season. Meyers had a strong first season in his first year in the organization (84 Ks in 70 IP at Double-A), and is known for his hard breaking ball and a fastballs that tops out at 98-99 mph.3  However, with the Twins’ recent pickups, Meyer probably isn’t likely to see time in the major leagues this year, but is definitely a player to watch out for in 2015.

Rosario, who is incredibly quick and defensively talented, could fill the Twins need for another outfielder in the near future. Rosario also has offensive potential, which the Twins need desperately. The 22-year-old, however, was recently suspended for 50 games for his second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment program, which will surely slow down his development and may impact his chances to play in the Majors.

Sano, just 20 years old, is already proving that he can be an offensive force. The third baseman hit 28 home runs for Beloit (‘A’) and continued his home run prowess in 2013 with 35 home runs between advanced ‘A’ Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.2 The Twins see a future with Sano and he could potentially see playing time in the big leagues during the upcoming season.

Update 3/1 – Bad news for Miguel Sano; the #6 prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100, will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of the 2014 season and most of 2015.

Overall, the Twins have patched together a team that has some potential for this season, but the Twins’ real future lies with its minor league prospects.

1 – si.com
2 – startribune.com (2/13/2014)
3 – startribune.com (2/11/2014)

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23