One of the first realizations that the Twins' new baseball leadership made about their team, General Manager Thad Levine said, was that "it seems as if there are a lot of corner players on the roster."
On Friday, they acted to clear some of that logjam.
Trevor Plouffe, who spent the past five seasons as the Twins third baseman, became a free agent Friday after clearing outright waivers, the team said, ending its 13-year association with the 2004 first-round draft pick.
"It's definitely not an easy thing to hear, but I understand it was a business move. There's just no hard feelings about it at all," said Plouffe, the third-most senior Twins player, behind only Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins. "Going into the offseason, [he and his wife, Olivia] tried to prepare ourselves for all the possible outcomes, especially with a new front office coming into play. They have a different vision, and I'm OK with that."
Plouffe's departure clears the way for Miguel Sano to become the everyday third baseman, solving the gridlock at the position that had forced Sano into right field to start 2016.
"These decisions are extremely difficult, because of what Trevor Plouffe has meant to the organization throughout his career," Levine said. "Through no fault of Trevor, we had a wealth of corner players. We are committed to Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer at the corners, and that left Trevor, Kennys Vargas and Byung Ho Park competing for at-bats in that realm. Ultimately, we decided it's best to give Trevor a more full-time opportunity with another club."
Levine and Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey shopped Plouffe to prospective trading partners at MLB's GM meetings earlier this month, but teams chose to wait for the 30-year-old to become available on the open market. "Some teams had genuine interest," Levine said, "and I fully expect if he so desires, Trevor will have an opportunity to sign in short order."
That's Plouffe's hope, too.
"There are other teams out there who may be looking for players like me," said Plouffe, who has hit 96 home runs over seven major league seasons. "I'm kind of curious to see what's out there. But at the same time, I'm sad, too. Olivia and I and [son] Teddy made a bunch of friends in Minnesota over the years, and that's going to be the hardest part."
Plouffe earned $7.5 million for his injury-filled 2016 season, which included disabled list stints for oblique strains on both sides of his ribcage and a fractured rib in July. He would have likely received a raise though arbitration for 2017 had the Twins kept him.
"I'm completely healthy again," Plouffe said.
His abrupt departure was the most notable subtraction from the Twins roster Friday, but not the only one. The team also sent catcher Juan Centeno outright to Class AAA Rochester and announced Red Wings outfielder Adam Brett Walker had been claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. That freed space for Levine and Falvey to add six minor leaguers to the 40-man roster, protecting them from next month's Rule 5 draft.
Added to the roster were:
• Outfielder Zack Granite, 24, the Twins Minor League Player of the Year after he stole a Southern League-leading 56 bases at Class AA Chattanooga.
• Outfielder Daniel Palka, 25, who blasted 34 home runs between Chattanooga and Class AAA Rochester, after being acquired from Arizona for catcher Chris Herrmann.
• Catcher Mitch Garver, 25, who hit .270 with 30 doubles and 12 home runs at Chattanooga and Rochester.
• Shortstop Engelb Vielma, 22, a defensive specialist from Venezuela who batted .265 with 12 steals at Class A Fort Myers and Chattanooga.
• Righthander Felix Jorge, 22, who posted a 2.69 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 23 walks in 167 innings at Fort Myers and Chattanooga.
• Righthander Fernando Romero, 21, who struck out 90 batters in 90 innings, with a 1.89 combined ERA at Class A Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers.
The additions bring the Twins roster to 39, with room to add a player via free agency, a trade or the Rule 5 draft.
Walker, 25, was a somewhat surprising subtraction, as he has hit 25 or more home runs in each of the past four minor league seasons. But the Milwaukee native and 2012 third-round pick has also piled up some prodigious strikeout totals — 202 last season at Rochester, the most in the minor leagues.
Centeno, 27, took over as the Twins' primary backup catcher in May after John Ryan Murphy was sent to Rochester, and batted .261 with three homers in 55 games.