ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – It’s not a matter of the Twins choosing between lefthander Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel. At least for now. That’s because the Twins are interested in signing both, moves that would fortify a club with baseball’s best record. Two sources with knowledge of the Twins plans confirmed their interest on Sunday.
The market dried up for both pitchers because teams would have to forfeit a pick if they signed before draft day. Teams also would lose the slot money from their pool of bonus money that’s attached to each pick. But those concerns ended late Sunday night, and the Twins have been in discussions with agents for both pitchers.
Kimbrel, 31, was 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 42 saves for the Red Sox last season. There were reports during the offseason that Kimbrel wanted $100 million over six years, which teams refused to pay. Now reports have him amenable to a three-year deal.
He had a 4.57 ERA during the second half last season and gave up eight runs in 14 innings during the postseason. Still, he has 333 career saves, and the Twins could use a proven arm in the bullpen.
And the Twins are believed to have more interest in Kimbrel, at this point, than Keuchel. The Rays, Braves and Cubs are among teams in touch with Kimbrel as well.
But Keuchel, the 2015 Cy Young Award winner, would bring an experienced arm to the starting rotation while allowing the Twins to move a current member of the rotation, Michael Pineda perhaps, into the bullpen. Since he’s in his first year back following Tommy John surgery, Pineda’s innings should be monitored closely.
Keuchel sought a five-year deal during offseason free agency. He recently let it be known that he’s willing to sign a one-year deal as long as it’s not lower than the $17.9 million qualifying offer he turned down from Houston.
The red flags with Keuchel are that he’s been on the disabled list in two of the past three seasons and his strikeout rate dropped from 7.7 per nine innings in 2017 to 6.7 last season. His career average is 7.2. But the Twins might be willing to take a shot at Keuchel on a one-year deal.
Buxton highlight reel
Byron Buxton doubled to right in the bottom of third and likely would have a triple if not for Miguel Sano being ahead of him on the basepaths.
There was nothing to stop him in the bottom of the inning from making a signature defensive play.
With Austin Meadows on first, the Rays’ Yandy Diaz sent a drive a few feet to the right of dead center field. Buxton flashed his tremendous speed while running down the ball and making the catch while slamming his back against the wall. But the play wasn’t over.
“Marwin [Gonzalez] was yelling at me that [Meadows] was already past second base,” Buxton said. “Marwin was there to tell me what I needed to know, and I just let it go.”
Buxton threw a one-hop strike to first baseman C.J. Cron that, according to Statcast, traveled 303 feet at 97.1 miles per hour. Meadows was doubled off to end the inning.
“The play up against the wall,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, “He can do things that other people just can’t do.”
Buxton wasn’t finished. He scored the first run of the Twins’ four-run fifth inning on a safety squeeze by Jorge Polanco. Pitcher Ryan Yarbrough couldn’t have flipped the ball any faster to catcher Mike Zunino. Buxton simply outran the play.
“Being a lefty on the mound, I could get more down the third base line,” Buxton said. “So I cheated a little bit more. Polanco is an excellent bunter and he got the bunt down.”
Buxton was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a defensive play that took the air out of a rally.