FORT MYERS, FLA. – As a veteran who has a growing thirst for playing in the World Series, Brian Dozier loves the fact that Lance Lynn signed a below-market-value contract to make his team’s starting rotation even deeper.
As a proud major league player and the Twins’ player representative — and yes, as a future free agent himself — Dozier sees Lynn’s disappointing deal and the similar deep discount Logan Morrison gave to join the Twins as a terrible sign for the sport he loves.
One reason free agents found few bidders and lowball contracts this winter, Dozier said he believes, is the latter-day reality that several teams are stripping themselves of veterans in order to embark on long-term rebuilding projects.
“The whole thing this winter was, you have teams that just don’t care about winning. When did that become acceptable?” Dozier lamented. “Man, what does that say to your fan base? I don’t ever want to disappoint Twins fans, but there are teams out there that apparently don’t care about their fans. We’ve got teams now that are OK with losing, and that’s not OK with [the players].”
The perception that the Cubs and Astros won the past two world championships by previously enduring 100-loss seasons in order to stockpile high draft picks has made the problem worse, Dozier said. “When you have half the league trying to dump their best players in trade and accept losing, that should never be OK. That’s what kills the market,” Dozier said. “The players want every team to try to win.”
Noncompetitive teams risk alienating young fans, he said. “Trying to win, that’s what draws younger people to the game. We hear all this about speeding up games, trying to do all these [side issues] — people just want to see you win. They want to know you’re trying,” Dozier said. “And if you aren’t, that drives people away from the game. We want baseball to keep growing, and if you make it acceptable not to try, you’re hurting the game.”
Five players cut
It’s no coincidence that on the same day Lynn made his Twins debut, four other starting pitchers — and one reliever — were optioned to the minors.
Righthander Fernando Romero was optioned to Class AA Chattanooga, while fellow righthander Aaron Slegers and lefties Stephen Gonsalves and Adalberto Mejia were sent to Class AAA Rochester. Righthanded reliever John Curtiss was optioned to Rochester as well.
Those moves clarify the Twins’ rotation. Only five starters remain in camp, plus the injured Ervin Santana. The competition for the fifth starter — who will only be needed twice in the first three weeks — boils down to Tyler Duffey vs. Phil Hughes.
Romero, who was never considered for the bullpen, wasn’t surprised by the demotion, according to Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey, even though he hadn’t allowed a hit in eight innings this spring. “Last year when we sent him down to the minors, he was particularly disappointed about not making the team. He’s a competitor,” Falvey said. “This year, with the maturity that comes a year later, he understands where things are. He hasn’t pitched in Triple-A yet, and he’s somebody we think has real impact and high ceiling.”
• Eddie Rosario, out a week because of tendinitis in his right arm, will begin a throwing program, manager Paul Molitor said, and could serve as designated hitter by Friday.
Duffey tries to make his case for a rotation spot in his first spring start against the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium, 12:05 p.m.