David Price has signed with Boston. The Tigers have landed Jordan Zimmerman and, on Friday, agreed to terms with ex-Twin Mike Pelfrey. Zack Greinke made a surprising decision Friday and joined the Arizona Diamondbacks.
There has been notable player movement throughout the league, and the winter meetings haven’t even started. But it’s just about that time for reporters to begin staking out hotel lobbies to find out what the next transactions will be. It all goes down Monday through Thursday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville — a 600,000-square-foot facility that includes 17 restaurants.
Usually, when the top free agents sign, the rest of the market loosens up. So with some of the big names already off the table, there could be plenty of moving and shaking at this year’s meetings. Even the Twins have made pre-meeting moves, trading for catcher John Ryan Murphy and signing Korean slugger Byung Ho Park. They also have signed a few players to minor deals, including former Twins top prospect Joe Benson. General Manager Terry Ryan heads to Nashville with the comfort of knowing he’s already checked off a couple of items from his offseason shopping list.
“We were hoping to do a few things before the winter meetings,” Ryan said. “Some [moves] came to light during the GM meetings, like the trade for Murphy happened there. And we went through the bidding process with Park then, three weeks later, we had a deal. It gives us a lot more comfort so you can concentrate on the other things and not worry about the things that have been accomplished.”
With the catching position solidified, another bat added and several starting pitching candidates already in house to choose from, it appears there’s one area the Twins will spend a lot of time on in Nashville.
“I know that Terry, [assistant GM] Rob Antony and [vice president of player personnel] Mike Radcliff are focused on seeing what we can do to take a look at some opportunities, particularly the bullpen, to shore that up,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “I feel good about the direction of our offseason.”
The free-agent market for relievers isn’t terribly strong. Righthander Darren O’Day was one of the top relievers on the market, but he agreed to terms with Baltimore on Sunday. That leads to the mid-tier relievers getting nice deals. For instance, the Twins were interested in signing former Royals reliever Ryan Madson at the onset of free agency, but Madson, 35, also agreed to terms Sunday -- with Oakland. So the Twins are looking at other relievers, such as Shawn Kelley, who posted a 2.45 ERA with San Diego last season while striking out 11 per nine innings.
The Twins went through several late-inning combinations of relievers last season because of injuries or ineffectiveness. Closer Glen Perkins landed on the disabled list during the second half of the season, and Kevin Jepsen ended the season as the closer. Jepsen is back next season to pair with Perkins. Trevor May was told to report to spring training as a starter but could be returned to the bullpen, where he thrived in an emergency role last season. Still, the Twins could use another arm, one that can match up with dangerous hitters late in games.
The Twins know this. They also believe they have a wave of hard-throwing relief prospects ready to hit the majors. Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, Mason Melotakis and J.T. Chargois all have live arms, can throw in the mid-90s (Burdi touched 100 miles per hour during Arizona Fall League play) and could debut sometime in 2016. Although they will do what they can to upgrade the bullpen, they are confident they have help on the way.
Since the relief market isn’t strong, the best option for the Twins might be to explore deals for relievers.
“We’re going to have to look at both avenues,” Ryan said. “There might be some free agents we might be interested in, but there is a chance we might be a better [trade] fit with some clubs.’’