Twins start a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians tonight at Target Field, with lots of news from a busy clubhouse ... and get to the end of this report for a few thoughts on some other Twins-related issues and tonight's lineups.
Mauer has setback: Joe Mauer worked out at Target Field and had a setback when his concussion-like symptoms returned. He will stay at the park tonight to watch the game.
Mauer is on the 10-day disabled list because of a cervical strain plus concussion symptoms, and had hoped to be activated sometime this weekend.
Mauer used the word "disappointed" -- or some variation of the word -- several times during his brief chat with reporters.
Buxton mess: Byron Buxton is now on the 10-day DL because of his broken toe. He said today that there was no change, according to x-rays. It didn't get better, it didn't get worse, he said.
Buxton said it was a three-week experiment that didn't go well. He wanted to play through pain, and the Twins were willing to let him do it. Manager Paul Molitor said there will be a five- to six-day period of reassessment.
A quick opinion on Buxton mess. I had no problem with him playing a couple games in Fort Myers once he recovered from his migraine. Who knew he would break his toe?
But any lower body injuries to Buxton should be treated with extreme caution. Where the Twins and Buxton erred was bringing him back so soon and trying to play through pain. He comes off as tough for trying to grind through it. But the big picture is that his legs are his most important tool. He needed more time off - and a rehab stint so he could find the swing he had during the second half of last season.
Santana grounded: Ervin Santana will see the doctor, Charles Melone, who performed his finger surgery on Monday in New York. This doesn't look like a situation that will solve itself anytime soon. The surgery on the knuckle of the middle finger of his right hand was in February, with the original hope he would be ready by June 1.
The Hughes move: A club official told me this week that the cash savings from trading Hughes to San Diego last week is closer to $8.5 million than $7.5 million - and it will come in handy during the offseason.
That got me thinking....
The Twins were willing to invest in top pitching talent last offseason, showing interest in Shohei Otani and Yu Darvish. When that didn't work out, the Twins traded for Jake Odorizzi, signed Logan Morrison, signed Lance Lynn and didn't mind that the payroll was headed toward $130 million.
At the same time, I kept hearing rumblings that they also wanted to position themselves for the offseason, one that could include significant roster turnover.
Mauer's $23 million will come off the books at the end of this season. So will the contracts of Lynn ($12 million), Brian Dozier ($9 million), Eduardo Escobar ($4.85 million) and a few others. Ervin Santana will not pitch enough to trigger his $13.5 million option for next season. Logan Morrison has a $9.5 million option kick in at 600 plate appearances, which doesn't appear likely.
Actually, the Twins only have about $31 million committed to the 2019 payroll.
Now, Kyle Gibson will earn a raise through arbitration, and looks like a keeper for next season. Odorizzi is up for arbitration.The entire outfield of Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler will reach arbitration for the first time. Michael Pineda will earn $8 million in the second year of his $10 million deal. That eats into their savings.
But the Twins still will be positioned well heading into the next free agent cycle - including the money they save from the Hughes deal.
Other payroll related bits:
1. I don't think the Twins will approach Brian Dozier about a contract during the season. Once a player enters his walk year without a deal, he's preparing to test the market. And the Twins weren't interested in an extension last offseason.
One player the Twins would be wise to approach about a deal is Escobar, who can play multiple positions and can swing the stick a little.
2. If the Twins continue to flounder, several players could be moved before the trade deadline. That would save them even more money for next season. We're two months into the season now. You use the first two months to see what you got. And what the Twins have right now is a team that is not clicking, has had some bad luck and has done a poor job dealing with bad luck. Good teams figure out ways to improvise when there are injuries and other setbacks, and the Twins haven't done that.
3. By the way If Mauer returns next season, it will be at a reduced salary. He's indicated that he wants to play. It will be interesting to see how the Twins handle this one. He's not a power-hitting first baseman, but he's one of the better OBP guys around, and Twins have a lot of feast or famine hitters around him. That makes him more valuable.
Polanco update: Jorge Polanco, serving an 80-game suspension for his PED violation, is playing in a couple extended spring training games a week while working out on the other days. Since he's in Fort Myers for awhile - he can return to the lineup July 2, barring any more rainouts - he's making the best of the situation.
The Twins designed a plan for him to improve his throwing from shortstop, which he's been working through. They hope his arm is a little stronger and more accurate once he returns to the lineup.
Monday's draft: All of the Twins scouts are in town this week for draft meetings. The Twins have the 20th overall pick in the draft, which takes place on Monday. And there is so much uncertainty about what teams will do that the Twins began the week going over 50 - FIFTY - names of players who could be worthy of the No. 20 pick.
Tonight's lineups (Bieber vs. Odorizzi):
Cleveland: Lindor SS, Brantley LF, J. Ramirez 3B, Encarnacion DH, Alonso 1B, Cabrera RF, Kipnis 2B, Gomes C, Allen CF.
Twins: Dozier 2B, Rosario LF, Sano 3B, Morrison 1B, Escobar SS, Kepler RF, Garver C, Grossman DH, LaMarre CF.