La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.
The Twins have officially announced the signing of righthander Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract. The deal was reached late last week but the club spent recent days going over details and checking Hughes' medical records before announcing the deal.
Hughes will meet with the Twin Cities media at 4 p.m. at Target Field.
Hughes is just 27 and once was considered one of the best starting pitching prospects in the game. But after going 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA in 2012 with the Yankees he skidded to 4-14, 5.19 in 2013. But he was 1-10, 6.32 at home, so the belief could be that Hughes could rediscover himself - he was 18-8 in 2010 - if he's out of Yankee Stadium.
It will be up to pitching coach Rick Anderson to help Hughes find his old form.
The Twins announced two signings on Wednesday - none of them Phil Hughes.
The club has signed third baseman Brandon Waring and lefthander Matthew Hoffman to Triple-A contracts with invites to spring training.
Waring was drafted in 2007 by the Reds and moved on to the Orioles organization. He spent most of last season at Class AA Bowie where he batted .213 with 23 homers and 61 RBI in 99 games. Warning, 27, has hit 159 homers in seven minor league seasons,
Hoffman, 25, was drafted by the Tigers in 2007 and spent recent seasons as a reliever. He was 4-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 40 games at Class AAA Toledo last season.
As for Hughes, I've been told that a few details are being hammered out. We still expect this to be announced by Friday.
It will be interesting to see what they do for catching, if anything. The catching market dried up quickly this week when Dionner Navarro. A.J. Pierzynski and Salty all signed. Will the Twins go with what they have or continue to look for help?
The Twins have added first baseman Kennys Vargas, infielder Jorge Polanco, outfielder Max Kepler and lefthander Logan Darnell to their 40-man roster, which had to be submitted to the league today.
They also outrighted righthander B.J. Hermsen off the 40-man, giving the Twins 39 players on the roster. This gives them flexibility to add a player through a trade, free agency or the Rule 5 draft. The Twins like being active on Rule 5 draft day, having selected Ryan Pressly last year and Scott Diamond a few years ago.
Players who are eligible to be placed on the 40-man roster - but are not - are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings next month. Righthanders A.J. Achter and Alex Wimmers are among the players who fall in this category.
Vargas, Polanco, Kepler and Darnell will report to the major league camp in February. Twins pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Sunday, Feb. 16, with their first workout slated for Monday, Feb. 17. The balance of the squad is scheduled to report on Friday, Feb. 21, with full-squad workouts beginning on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Also, the Twins signed several players to minor league contracts with an invite to spring training: Right-handed pitchers Deolis Guerra and Lester Oliveros; left-handed pitcher Aaron Thompson; outfielders Jermaine Mitchell, Chris Rahl and Wilkin Ramirez; infielders Jason Bartlett, James Beresford, Doug Bernier and Deibinson Romero; and catcher Dan Rohlfing. Right-handed pitcher Virgil Vazquez was also signed to a minor league contract.
WHY NOT SANO?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Some fans might wonder why uberprospect Miguel Sano was left off the roster. The answer is simple. He's not eligible to be added, so it doesn't make sense to.
Fans might come back with: ``But didn't he sign the same year as Kepler and Polanco? Why are they on the 40-man and he's not. Huh? huh? Riddle me that!!!!''
Well, Polanco and Kepler were signed as 16 year olds in July of 2009, making them eligible. Sano didn't sign until October because of questions about his age - after the season. So he's wasn't eligible to be added. He could come to camp as a spring training invite and play well enough to force the Twins to add him to the roster and take him north.
ABOUT THE ADDITIONS
Darnell: Went 6-6, 2.61 at New Britain then went 4-4, 4.26 at Rochester. Throws in the low 90's with a solid slider. Part of the U of Kentucky gang with Alex Meyer and Andrew Albers.
Vargas: I've watched him lose weight and add strength in recent years as he's on the project's path to the majors. The switch hitter batted .267 with 19 homers and 93 RBI at Class A Fort Myers last season.
Polanco: Hit .308 at Class A Cedar Rapids last season as the Twins have been pleasantly surprised by the development with the bat. Will start at shortstop this season, getting a chance to prove he can stick at the position. Signed for $750,000 the same year Kepler and Sano got all the headlines.
Kepler: Twins signed him for $775,000 out of Germany and have watched him fill out nicely. Got a late start this season because of a strained elbow and struggled some at Cedar Rapids, batting .237 with 9 homers and 40 RBI in 61 games. Then he hit .234 in 18 games during the Arizona Fall League. He needs a big season but remains one of the better prospects in the system. Still an outfielder but will work at first base some in 2014.
The Twins have received lefthander Kris Johnson from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for righthander Duke Welker, who was with the Twins for less than two months.
Johnson, 29, was 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in four games (one start) with the Pirates. He spent the majority of the season at Class AAA Indianapolis, where he was 10-4, 2,39 in 26 games (21 starts).
The Twins received Welker on Oct. 5 as a player to be named later in the deal that sent Justin Morneau to the Pirates.
Twins prospect Eddie Rosario has been suspended for 50 games for violating the minor league drug policy, according to a report out of Puerto Rico, where he was playing winter ball.
According to the report on sportlivepr.com, Rosario contacted his winter league team in Mayaguez to inform it of the suspension. According to the report, Rosario said he the positive test came from some pills he took to help recover from an arm injury.
Twins director of minor leagues Brad Steil said he was unable to comment on the situation at this time.
We'll provide more details as soon as they become available.
UPDATE: A MLB spokesperson said nothing will be announced on their end today. Apparently, something needs to be resolved before the league can move foward. Not sure what that is.
It's a tough setback for Rosario, who had positioned himself to make his major league deut sometime during the regular season. A fourth-round pick in 2010. Rosario began his career as an outfielder but agreed to switch to second base in 2011. Last season, Rosario batted .329/.377/.527 in 52 games at Class A Fort Myers then .284/.330/.412 in 70 games at Class AA New Britain.
The Twins sent Rosario, 22, to the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .238 in 20 games. He did get selected for the Future Stars game. Rosario had played in one game for Mayaguez, going 0-for-4.
Rosario could have opened the season at Class AAA Rochester - and still can. He just won't be able to play until Game No. 51.
Righthander Bronson Arroyo - who has made at least 32 starts in nine consecutive seasons - spoke on MLB Network Radio on Monday about how his free agency is going so far.
And, yes, he mentioned the Twins.
"Yeah, it’s definitely in the early stages,'' he said. "Nobody’s really put a dollar bill in front of me, but I have, I think, the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Giants, the Twins, maybe even the Orioles, I think all those teams have called, you know, just to say that they are interested. I’m not really sure how interested, you know? I think the Giants called back a couple of times and so did the Twins. But nobody really wants to put any money down on the table yet.''The Giants made the first dip into the free agent starting pitching pool today when they signed veteran Tim Hudson to a reported two-year, $23 million deal. And San Francisco might not be done adding to its rotation.
The Twins have contacted pretty much every starting pitcher on the market. The names I've heard include Arroyo, Scott Kazmir, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana and Jason Vargas are in the group they have made calls on. What's not known is who they have the most interest in or who they have crossed off their list.
(Yes, there has been contact with Johan Santana's agents, but he must be treated as a separate entity at this point because he won't be ready for the start of the 2014 season and might not be ready until well into the season.)
Arroyo indicated that he's prepared for the process to play out.
"I figured it could take a while,'' he said during his interview with Casey Stern and former GM Jim Bowden. "And there’s other guys, I think, in the market. I might not be the first choice for some teams and I think there are some guys on the market that are going to affect how everybody else kind of plays out in the game. So I’m just sitting back and waiting to see who is interested in me. I’m 36. I’m going to pitch [at] 37 next year, but I’ve never missed a start, I feel like I’ve got as much energy as anybody at the ballpark on an everyday basis. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be interesting.''
Arroyo is 138-127 in his career. He was 14-12 last season with a 3.79 ERA with 34 walks and 124 strikeouts in 202 innings. He led the league with 32 home runs given up, which should come down some if he pitched in Target Field.
He's like most free agents in that he would like to pitch for a contender within the next year or two, which might not make the Twins the best fit. He also is seeking three years, something the Twins might not want to do for a pitcher turning 37 in February.
"I feel like I’ve proven myself in the game,'' Arroyo said. "I feel like I’ve given every team that I’ve ever played for their money’s worth. And so I really would like somebody to come further than two years and give me a three-year deal. I feel like I’ve got plenty left in the tank for that.
"All those factors are going to play a part and I’m just going to sit back and kind of evaluate each individual team. There’s probably going to be no place that’s absolutely perfect because if it were a perfect world I’d probably retire in a Reds uniform, but that’s not going to happen. So I’m going to take in all the details and see what fits best for me.''
The Twins are in a position where they desperately need to upgrade their roster. So they might have to part with more dollars and years for free agents than they have in the past. Arroyo is a durable workhorse who is getting up there in age. It will be interesting to see if the Twins make an offer for him.