BALTIMORE – The Twins went to training camp with the intention of signing some of their young players to long-term contracts, in hopes of trading guaranteed millions for discount prices. It didn’t happen.
And now that the 2018 season is about to start, they won’t resume efforts until next winter, Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said Wednesday.
“Once you get to the regular season, you want guys to just be focused on the games,” Falvey said. “These are conversations that have to be right on both sides. We’ll continue to explore potential fits when we have them in the future.”
The Twins reached out to a handful of players, he said, but couldn’t find common ground on contracts that would buy out arbitration-eligible years. Presumably, Twins players who were approached chose the less certain but more lucrative route of going year-to-year, betting that their steady improvement will increase their earning power.
With no new deals on the horizon, the Twins will go into the 2018 season with a franchise-record payroll of $128.75 million, a whopping 19.1 percent increase over their 2017 level of $108 million, and $15 million more than the previous franchise record of $113 million, set in 2011. Yet without any long-term deals this spring, the Twins haven’t yet committed a dollar to their 2020 payroll, and they so far owe only $39 million for next year.
Twins manager Paul Molitor has settled on a lineup for Thursday’s opener with the Orioles, and it keeps many familiar elements in place. Brian Dozier will continue to lead off, with Joe Mauer batting behind him and Miguel Sano in the third slot. Against righthanded pitching, Eddie Rosario and newcomer Logan Morrison will bat 4-5, and Byron Buxton will start the season in the eight hole.
That’s the Opening Day lineup against Baltimore righthander Dylan Bundy, but “I don’t anticipate using five lefthanders against a lefthanded starter,” Molitor said.
Keep it movin’
Molitor noticed right away during Tuesday’s exhibition at Washington that the new pace-of-play rules are now in effect. On the scoreboard, right next to the lineups, was a small tally labeled “Mound Visits,” with each team starting with six.
“It’s a countdown, like timeouts left,” said Molitor, who sent pitching coach Garvin Alston to the mound only twice. “We’re getting everyone used to it.”
It’s an easy rule to forget, as Sano has discovered.
“He went [to the mound] the other day and said something to the pitcher, and I told him, ‘You can’t say anything if you go in there,’ ” Molitor said. “So he went in there [Tuesday] and cleaned his spikes and turned his back on the pitcher, then walked to third. And he looked over and smiled, like, ‘Is that OK?’ The umpires were staring him down. They were watching.”
• The Twins held a workout and batting practice at Camden Yards on Wednesday, but mostly escaped the light but steady rain that fell during the Orioles’ workout. Scattered showers are in the forecast for Thursday, too.
• Luke Bard, the righthanded reliever lost by the Twins in December’s Rule 5 draft, made the Angels’ Opening Day roster and will not, for the moment, be offered back to the Twins as he must be if he ever loses his roster spot this season. “We’re not surprised. I’m happy for him, that he potentially gets a chance to pitch in the major leagues,” Falvey said.