Taking over as the Twins’ starting shortstop each of the past two seasons has allowed Eduardo Escobar to quadruple his salary this winter.
Escobar will earn $2.15 million in 2016 after he and the Twins agreed to a contract Friday, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said. Escobar, who was paid $532,500 for a 2015 season in which he batted .262/.309/.445 with a career-high 12 home runs and 58 RBIs, is one of six arbitration-eligible players negotiating with the Twins this week.
Reliever Casey Fien agreed to a $2.275 million contract Friday morning, and utility infielder Eduardo Nunez settled on a $1.475 million salary. Tommy Milone received a raise to $4.5 million on Thursday.
But the two biggest contracts, in all likelihood, remain unsettled. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe and reliever Kevin Jepsen have yet to strike a deal with the Twins.
The players swapped formal salary proposals with the Twins on Friday, and in Jepsen’s case, the two sides are only $350,000 apart, according to major-league sources. Jepsen, who saved 10 games in his two months with the Twins, is seeking $5.4 million, while the Twins countered with $5.05 million, creating a midpoint of $5.225 million.
Plouffe, coming off a season in which he hit 22 home runs, seeks $7.95 million, or $3.15 million more than the $4.8 million he earned in 2015, while the Twins have offered $7 million. The midpoint of that range is $7.475 million, though even the Twins’ offer would make Plouffe the team’s second-highest paid position player, behind Joe Mauer.
If no agreement can be reached, arbitration hearings will be held in February to choose one figure or the other.
Escobar, 27, enters spring training as the Twins’ starting shortstop for the first time. In 2014, he took over the job in midseason from Pedro Florimon, and last season, he returned to the starting lineup after Danny Santana was sent to the minors in June. His 66 doubles the past two seasons are third on the team, behind only Plouffe (75) and Brian Dozier (72), despite having 300-500 fewer plate appearances.
Fien, a 32-year-old righthander, receives a 65 percent raise over his $1.375 million contract of a year ago. He posted a 3.55 ERA in 63 1/3 innings out of the Twins’ bullpen. Nunez, 28, earned $1,025,000 last year, and batted .282/..327/.431 while appearing at four different positions.