The Minnesota Twins’ offseason has certainly been a bit quieter than fans hoped — at least so far — but the front office has been active on the fringes of late.
Last week, the Twins added utilityman Willi Castro on a minor-league deal with an invitation to training camp. As yours truly wrote at the time, Castro is a real option to make the team and shore up the bench.
This week, the Twins have added longtime Colorado Rockies catcher Tony Wolters on a minor-league deal and former Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Oliver Ortega.
Tony Wolters is a solid third catching option
Wolters was a mainstay in the Rockies’ catching rotation for several years, appearing in 391 games from 2016 to 2020. He spent most of 2021 at Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs organization before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City that August. He was in OKC for the majority of last season as well, save for a two-game stint with the big club.
Wolters has never been a strong hitter, slashing .238/.323/.319 across more than 1200 major-league plate appearances. His Triple-A numbers are only marginally better: .238/.331/.352 in 474 plate appearances, nearly half of which came last season in Oklahoma City.
He’s always been considered a fantastic defensive catcher, however, throwing out 31% of runners attempting to steal at the major league level and ranking positively in all defensive metrics, including pitch framing.
Wolters is pretty much the prototypical no-bat, great-glove backup catcher. The Twins first had Jose Godoy in that role last year, ultimately adding veteran Sandy Leon in the summer and giving at-bats to Caleb Hamilton later in the season. Godoy (Angels) and Hamilton (Red Sox) have already signed elsewhere, and while the Twins have upgraded the top of the catching depth chart by replacing Gary Sanchez with Christian Vazquez, Wolters was added to the roster to be next in line to fill in for any injuries at the big club.
Oliver Ortega could be an intriguing bullpen option
The Twins claimed Oliver Ortega off waivers from the Angels on Friday and designated former third-round pick Blayne Enlow for assignment to make room on the roster.
Ortega is an intriguing depth option that could have a shot at making an impact in the Twins’ big-league bullpen. He’ll be heading into his age-26 season having thrown 43 1⁄3 innings over the past two years with the Angels. Ortega turned in a strong 22.5% strikeout rate last season, and while the walk rate of 12.2% was certainly high, he also generated an impressive number of ground balls.
It’s a fairly common mix of pros and cons with reliever prospects, but what’s encouraging is that his Triple-A peripherals were eerily similar — and with a lower walk rate. The ERA is ugly, but there’s plenty of noise that goes into that number and combine the impressive strikeout/groundball rates with a mid-90s fastball, and the Twins may have something.;
Additionally, Ortega has two options years remaining, which was no doubt an attractive benefit of adding him to the fold at the expense of a former top prospect in Enlow.
As mentioned in regard to Castro last week, while this series of fringe moves is admittedly unsexy at the moment, additions like Castro, Wolters, and Ortega may very well play an important part in the Twins’ 2023 season. Castro is better than any true utility option the Twins have had over the last couple of years, Wolters should be better than the trio of depth catchers the Twins trotted out last year, and Ortega appears to be a superior signing than many of the fringe pitchers the Twins have added in recent years as well.
Of course, we’re all hoping that this part of the Twins’ depth chart isn’t needed too much next season. But if it is, the back end of the 40-man roster and beyond certainly seems to be better than it was 12 months ago.