The Twins began restocking their bullpen — or perhaps made their starting rotation even more crowded — on Tuesday by signing their third free agent of the offseason. Tim Stauffer, a 32-year-old righthander who has spent his entire career with the Padres, agreed to a one-year, $2.2 million contract for 2015, the team announced.
Stauffer, 32, is a former starter who has spent the past two seasons in the bullpen after elbow surgery cost him an entire season in 2012. The fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft would like to be a starting pitcher again, and the Twins agreed to give him a chance to win a starting spot during spring training, with the understanding that he'll pitch out of the bullpen if he isn't one of the Twins' five best starters.
"He's had some success as a starter, so we've told him we will give him that opportunity and see where it lands," General Manager Terry Ryan said.
The Twins did the same for Anthony Swarzak last spring, with the righthander resuming his long-relief role after being beaten out for the rotation.
Does that mean Stauffer figures to inherit Swarzak's old role?
"We're going to sort it all out in Fort Myers," Ryan said. "He's been used in a lot of ways, so we can take a look at him just about anywhere."
That could also mean taking over Jared Burton's old role as a setup man in front of closer Glen Perkins. Stauffer's fastball registers in the low 90s, but he has struck out 131 batters in 135 innings the past two seasons, making him a late-inning candidate.
"He's got command, he can spin the ball and he has a good changeup," Ryan said. 'He can strike people out."
The Twins have pursued Stauffer before, Ryan said, and especially value his status as a veteran now.
"We've got a young staff, and he's been in the league for several years. The young man has good makeup, which will be good for our young guys," Ryan said. "We've liked him for a long time. He's a good fit."
Stauffer has a career record of 32-34, with a 3.87 ERA. He's made 73 career starts, three of them last year, and has a 21-30 record and 4.29 ERA as a starter. As a reliever, the ERA is a much more appealing 2.85.
The addition of Stauffer, along with outfielder Torii Hunter (one year, $10.5 million) and righthanded starter Ervin Santana (four years, $55 million), makes the Twins one of the busier shoppers in the free-agent market this winter, and raises the payroll to roughly $105 million for next season, a major increase over the $85 million they spent last year.
To make room for the veteran righthander, the Twins have outrighted catcher Eric Fryer to Class AAA Rochester. They also outrighted outfielder Chris Parmelee, who can elect free agency.
The Twins also signed four players to minor league contracts Tuesday, adding first baseman Brock Peterson, a former Twins prospect who has spent the past four seasons in the Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers systems; outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, who appeared in 35 games for the Twins in 2013, batting .272 in 81 at-bats; lefthanded reliever Wil Ledezma, who has appeared in 192 major league games, mostly with Detroit, over his nine-year major league career; and middle infielder Jose G. Martinez, who has played eight minor league seasons, most recently with the A's Class AAA team in Sacramento. Martinez's contract comes with an invitation to spring training with the Twins.