A handful of midweek Twins notes:
— Negotiations with Byung-ho Park “are ongoing,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Wednesday, “and we’re hopeful of coming to an agreement.” It’s been almost 10 days since the Twins were awarded the right to sign the South Korean slugger to a contract, so they still have three weeks to work out a deal.
The Twins are trying to keep the negotiations quiet, but it’s becoming clear that after their first few discussions with agent Alan Nero, they are optimistic about getting a deal done. If no contract is agreed to by Dec. 8, Park would return to the Nexen Heroes in the Korean league, and the team would refund the Twins’ $12.8 million posting fee.
Park’s contract will be interesting, considering the Twins will have already invested $12.8 million in him. Nero told the the Boston Herald earlier this month that if Park was Cuban, and able to negotiate with all 30 teams and not just the Twins, he would receive a contract worth $100 million. Park, who hit 105 home runs over the past two seasons in South Korea, doesn’t figure to receive anywhere close to that, but it’s likely that he will be one of the Twins’ 10 highest paid players next year.
Park’s Nexen teammate, Jung-ho Kang, received a four-year, $11 million contract from the Pirates a year ago, a bargain after batting .277 with 15 home runs and finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. Park will earn more than that, but reaching a final figure could be difficult considering the uncertainty over how well he will hit against better pitchers in bigger ballparks.
Park has been playing for South Korea’s national team in the Premier 12 international tournament in Taiwan and Japan this month. The Koreans beat Cuba on Monday, with Park contributing two hits including a triple, to reach Thursday’s semifinals in Tokyo against Japan. Park is 5-for-22 (.227) in the tournament, with a home run accounting for his only RBI, and seven strikeouts.
— Friday is the deadline for adding players to the 40-man roster to keep them from becoming eligible for next month’s Rule 5 draft, and with only seven spots available, the Twins will have a few difficult choices to make.
Adam Brett Walker, who has led four different leagues in home runs in his four-year minor-league career, is certain to be added to the roster, as are Pat Dean and Taylor Rogers, who formed, along with Tyler Duffey, the top of the Rochester pitching rotation last season. (Jose Berrios, the Twins’ top pitching prospect, is not eligible for the Rule 5 draft until next winter, so he’s unlikely to be added.) Beyond that, the Twins have roughly a dozen eligible prospects, including former first-round picks Alex Wimmers and Levi Michael, who carry at least some risk of being lost in the draft if they are not added to the roster this week.
Players with four or five years of minor-league experience (depending upon their age upon signing) who are not on major-league rosters can be drafted by any team at the draft, but must remain on that team’s roster for a full year. The Twins acquired right-handed reliever J.R. Graham through last year’s draft, but lost left-hander Sean Gilmartin.
— The Arizona Fall League concludes its six-week schedule on Thursday, but the half-dozen Twins players will probably get to play one more game: the championship game. The Scottsdale Scorpions, which includes four Minnesota pitchers, two catchers and Walker in the outfield, can clinch the East Division with one more victory, and they would meet the Surprise Saguaros in Saturday’s finale.
Champions or not, the Twins’ players have been among the most successful in the AFL this year, with one exception. Catcher Stuart Turner, who spent 2015 with Class AA Chattanooga, has had trouble adjusting to the high level of pitching; he’s 7-for-38 (.184) with 13 strikeouts in 11 games.
But Class A catcher Mitch Garver is batting .316 with a home run, and he’s drawn six walks to boost his on-base percentage to .409. Walker has five home runs and 18 RBIs, which is just one behind league leader Gary Sanchez, the Yankees catching prospect whose success convinced New York to deal John Ryan Murphy to the Twins last week.
And the Twins’ pitchers have been almost uniformly impressive, particularly fire-balling reliever Nick Burdi. The right-hander, drafted in the second round in 2014 out of Louisville, where his fastball had been clocked at more than 100 mph, has pitched eight innings in the Fall League, and has allowed only two singles in that span, neither of which reached the outfield. Burdi has struck out 11, walked only one, and has probably guaranteed himself an invitation to major-league camp next spring.
Burdi’s not the only success story, though. Rogers, the left-hander who won 11 games at Rochester last season, has given up just 17 hits and eight runs over 25 innings. He’s walked 11 batters, but struck out 21. Right-handed reliever Jake Reed has rebounded from a disappointing season at Chattanooga to pitch 9 2/3 innings in Arizona without allowing a run. And sidearmed reliever Trevor Hildenberger has posted a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings and has yet to walk a batter.
— After Miguel Sano and Paul Molitor each finished third (and Eddie Rosario sixth) in BBWAA award voting, the Twins won't be mentioned in either of the remaining awards: Cy Young awards, which are revealed today, and MVP awards, which are handed out tomorrow. Oh, perhaps Sano or Brian Dozier will receive a stray 10th-place vote on someone’s ballot, but Houston’s Dallas Keuchel and Toronto’s Josh Donaldson are the favorites for the AL honors.
For the record, I had a Cy Young ballot this season, which I turned in like this: 1) Keuchel; 2) David Price; 3) Sonny Gray; 4) Chris Archer; 5) Wade Davis. I think it’s the first time I’ve had a Cy Young ballot that didn’t include King Felix somewhere on it, and he was difficult to leave off this year, too. So was Chris Sale, though he was terrible every time I covered a game he pitched this year; the White Sox lefthander posted a 7.36 ERA in six starts against the Twins in 2015.