Oswaldo Arcia was once regarded as a cornerstone of the Twins outfield of the future. That future likely ended Thursday night.
Arcia, his role reduced this season to pinch-hitting and fill-in starts for injured teammates, was designated for assignment after the Twins’ 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees at Target Field. The Twins have 10 days to trade him, release him or allow him to be claimed by another team through the waiver process.
“He was the odd man out,” manager Paul Molitor said of the 25-year-old Venezuelan, whose limited defensive skill and command of the strike zone eventually sapped him of the value he built up as a 22-year-old slugger.
Danny Santana, 4-for-11 in three rehab starts at Class AAA Rochester, will be activated from the disabled list on Friday, his strained left hamstring healed. He will join Robbie Grossman, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler in the Twins outfield for the time being, giving Molitor the flexibility to spread out the workload based on hot streaks and good matchups.
The likely end to Arcia’s Twins career seems abrupt, but it has been growing inevitable as his 2015 slump — in which he hit .199 at Rochester after being demoted following an early injury — extended into 2016. Arcia made the Twins out of spring training, in part because he was out of minor league options, but he could never reclaim a starting spot despite much roster turnover. He batted .214 this season with four home runs and 46 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances.
“It’s been kind of an up-and-down adventure. He’s been around this organization for a long time,” Molitor said. “I remember [him] as a young kid in the minor leagues for many years, working his way up here. He’s had his moments.”
Arcia arrived in the major leagues four seasons ago as a power-hitting prodigy, smashing 14 home runs, third on the team, in only 97 games as a 22-year-old. He hit 20 more in 2014, second on the Twins behind Brian Dozier, and seemed to cement his place in the Twins’ plans.
But that promise faded the past two seasons, and with the Twins carrying eight relievers, Molitor could no longer use a roster spot on a pure pinch hitter with little defensive value.
As Aaron Hicks looked around his former home city on Thursday, his thoughts naturally drifted to … real estate. See, he lives in Manhattan now.
“I miss the rent,” he said with a laugh in the visitor’s clubhouse.
Hicks, rated as one of the Twins’ top prospects from the day he was drafted in 2008, said he is legitimately happy to be back in the ballpark where he spent the first three seasons of his major league career. He just wishes his adjustment to his new team had gone more smoothly.
Hicks went 2-for-30 in his first 18 games, and while he was always projected to be a fourth outfielder for the time being — the highly paid trio of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran currently occupy the outfield in New York — he would have liked to put a little more pressure on the veterans.
“It was a run of bad luck. I was hitting the ball solid, just right at guys. And having trouble getting used to not playing every day,” said Hicks, who is now batting .221 with two homers. “I’m still trying to figure out how to get ready for every game. Now I feel like I’ve found a pregame routine that helps me get ready for every game. I feel like every time I go to the plate, I have a chance to help the team win.”
And Hicks can still cover the outfield. “This is definitely not the way I wanted to start, but I feel like this past month, I’ve been making strides,” he said. He’s looking forward to seeing old friends and old haunts while in the Twin Cities.
Hicks was dealt to New York in November for catcher John Ryan Murphy, a swap of players whose early-season offensive shortcomings were nearly identical — with one exception. Hicks was given a chance to work through his slump while staying in the majors, while Murphy was sent to Class AAA Rochester in May.
But like Hicks, Murphy continues to have the support of his organization, General Manager Terry Ryan said. “We like Murphy. [His continued subpar season] doesn’t matter. We’re not looking at what’s going on immediately, we’re looking long term,” Ryan said, citing his catching, pitch-calling, strength, athleticism and makeup. “Don’t cut Murphy short. He can lead a pitching staff.”
“I grew up in this organization. I love this organization and the type of player they helped me become,” said Hicks, now 26. “I’m excited to compete against them.”