PHILADELPHIA – Dallas Keuchel, one of the biggest names in free agency still on the market, might be lowering his demands — but indications are that the Twins will stick with the pitchers they have.
According to a Fox Sports television report, the 2015 AL Cy Young winner is willing to accept a one-year contract as long as it’s more than $17.9 million — the amount of the qualifying offer the lefthander rejected from the Astros that propelled him into free agency.
Any team that signs Keuchel would have to forfeit a draft pick. Even though most first-round picks are more protected, it could be one of a few factors why the Twins will not enter the market for the 31-year-old.
In addition, Keuchel has had injury issues in two of the past three seasons, and his strikeout rate last season was 6.7 per nine innings, down from 8.4 in 2015, when he went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA in 232 innings with Houston.
The Twins have not seen their entire rotation in action yet. Jose Berrios, on the wrong end of Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Philadelphia, has pitched at a high level. Michael Pineda has had two eye-opening outings in his first action since 2017 Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Jake Odorizzi had an excellent outing in his first start but was awful in rainy conditions Friday. Kyle Gibson made his season debut Wednesday after recovering from an offseason battle with E. coli, and Martin Perez is expected to enter the rotation on April 16.
The Twins appear to be more interested in seeing what they have than in contacting Keuchel about his modified contract demands. If he remains unsigned after the draft June 3-5, when there are no more penalties for signing top-tier free agents, they could change their minds. Then it would be a matter of what shape he is in and how soon he could pitch competitively.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli provided a few injury updates Sunday.
Third baseman Miguel Sano has moved beyond conditioning drills and is throwing, taking grounders and swinging the bat. No word on when he could play in an extended spring training game or start an official rehab assignment. Sano missed spring training because of an infected laceration on the back of his ankle near the Achilles’ tendon.
Relievers Matt Magill and Gabriel Moya, both out because of shoulder tendinitis, are throwing bullpen sessions and are getting close to appearing in games. But both will need to go through a spring-training type of progression before they are ready to return.
Class AAA Rochester lefthander Stephen Gonsalves is rehabbing in Fort Myers. He has been slowed by forearm soreness, and the Twins aren’t taking any chances with him.
Reliever Addison Reed continues to get treatment on his sore left thumb while working on his conditioning.
Rochester infielder Nick Gordon has been slowed by gastrointestinal issues.
Nelson Cruz made his first appearance of the Phillies series by making its final out. Cruz struck out against Hector Neris in the ninth inning Sunday.
Cruz brought two gloves with him so he could play defense, and said Friday that there was a plan for him to start sometime during the interleague road trip to Philadelphia and New York.
“I know I’ll play in the outfield at some point,” he said then, “but I don’t know where. So I’ll leave that to Rocco.”
The 38-year-old designated hitter played in only four games in right field last year and five in 2017 with Seattle. Putting him in right would affect either Max Kepler or Byron Buxton. And the right pinch-hitting opportunities failed to materialize during this series, as Baldelli had to bring in players who could play the infield.
“We’re not going to hesitate to use him,” Baldelli said. “… In an ideal spot we could definitely see Nelson come in and impacting these games.”