In recent seasons the Winter Meetings seem to be backing a bit more punch. There are always rumors and rampant speculations, reports always seem to emerge about signings or trades that could be close which somehow don't' come to fruition. For some it's frustrating. For me, it's just a whole lot of fun.
This week's festivities technically kick off tonight, but most of the action will take place Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday we'll get to see the 2015 Rule 5 Draft, which Ted briefly covered a few days ago.
2014 Winter Meetings in brief
Last year the meetings were all about starting pitching for the Twins. The Blue Jays claimed Chris Colabello, but otherwise we heard Minnesota tied to Justin Masterson, Dillon Gee, and Kyle Kendrick before signing Ervin Santana to a franchise record free agent contract.
Confirmed needs for 2015
- One or possibly two quality bullpen arms
It's strange to think of the Twins' needs as being so few and so specific, but that's the story of Minnesota's off-season. Part of the log jam in the outfield was cleared at the same time that a decent team-controlled catcher was acquired. Offensive potential was added at a very reasonable price. Perhaps we could examine other areas of the team and determine areas that could be upgraded, but Minnesota's biggest weakness is the bullpen.
Glen Perkins will be the club's closer. Tendering Kevin Jepsen has secured his role as a late-inning right-handed bullpen option. Current favorites to fill out the relief crew include right-handers Casey Fien, J.R. Graham, Ryan Pressly, Michael Tonkin, and perhaps Trevor May if you're comfortable with the team's depth in the rotation. Logan Darnell and Ryan O'Rourke are the two left-handed relievers with Major League experience.
Other bullpen options on the 40-man roster include the wild but wicked Alex Meyer, plus roster newcomers J.T. Chargois, Pat Dean, Yorman Landa, Mason Melotakis, Taylor Rogers, and Randy Rosario. Meyer should be pushed into service sooner rather than later, but I'm unsure of how many innings the front office wants to put into those six pitchers who have been recently added.
Nick Burdi and Jake Reed are two of the most high-profile relievers in the system, but neither pitcher is currently on the 40-man roster and are unlikely to be available to help the Major League team until mid-summer at the earliest. Trevor Hildenberger, who pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, could also earn his way onto the roster this year.
- Top-line starting pitcher
- Fourth outfielder
These are areas the club may not address, yet are understandable areas of focus. Max Kepler is viewed as a high-level outfield prospect who should be ready to help the Twins in relatively short order, but Minnesota won't add him to the roster simply to see him serve as the fourth option. Joe Benson is another option, as he was recently brought back on a minor league contract. It's also worth noting that Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar have experience in the outfield.
Upgrading the rotation with a top-level starting pitcher will be more difficult. Rotation options currently include Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Milone, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, and possibly Jose Berrios. While to a man that's a group with enough talent, and there are no obvious Pedro Hernandezes or Cole De Vrieses, there's no denying that adding an ace would elevate the Twins from upstart contenders to legitimate threats for the division title and more. I'm not sure that adding a second-tier starter like Scott Kazmir is what Minnesota needs here. David Price and Zack Greinke were never realistic targets, but perhaps there could be options on the trade market.
Players tied to Minnesota
Joakim Soria, RHP - The 31-year old right-hander might prefer to be a closer, but it appears he'll be happy to be a set-up man provided he's pitching for a good team. Mike Berardino's report alludes to Soria as a potential fit for Minnesota provided the two sides could find a happy medium on value. Expectations are for a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $27 million. To add an arm like Soria's, even in a set-up role, that's a price that any contending team in baseball should be willing to pay.
Fernando Rodney, RHP - It sounds like Rodney is more set on being a closer than is Soria, which would be a problem in Minnesota. He has a number of things working against him in terms of whether or not he should be setting expectations (recent performance, age, declining swinging strike rates). Rodney is an intriguing option and, even with declining strikeout rates, would help the Twins bullpen miss more bats. But he might need to accept a set-up role if he wants to play for a contending team.
Recent non-tenders to consider
Neftali Feliz, RHP - Feliz is young enough and has good enough stuff and a solid enough track record to garner lots of interest. Which is happening. He's expected to make just north of $5 million through arbitration, but if he can pitch like he did down the stretch he'll make some team very happy.
Al Alburquerque, RHP - Alburquerque can make batter swing and miss. He struck out 21.4% of batters faced last season, down from 28.7% in his career, and he can suffer bouts of command problems, but in the right role he could excel. And the Twins need relievers who can strike people out.
Steve Cishek, RHP - After four years of great strikeout rates, Cishek lost his closer's job with Miami. He was actually demoted to Double-A, which tells you how bad it got. He'll be entering his age-30 season, but when Cishek is at his best he has an incredible slider. After a couple of seasons of improved command, that was one of the culprits of his dip in performance in 2015. Someone will take a chance on his history.
Greg Holland, RHP - The Royals non-tendered Holland rather than paying him millions of dollars to sit out all season. Someone might be willing to take a gamble and bring him on in hope that he'll become the reliever he was prior to his injury...hopefully in 2017.
Players in which the Twins allegedly have no interest
- Henderson Alvarez
- Rafael Soriano