The Twins and Timberwolves have combined for four transactions in the past few days that upon first glance might not look like they merit more than a sentence in the small print section of a newspaper.
Craig Breslow and Drew Stubbs? (Minor league deals).
Ehire Adrianza? (Waiver pickup).
Lance Stephenson (10-day contract).
None of these guys are guaranteed to be here long.
But each of them is interesting in their skill sets and what they might potentially tell us about the thought processes of those making the decisions to bring them to Minnesota. Let’s go one-by-one:
Breslow: You look at the raw numbers and see a 36-year-old left-handed reliever with a combined 4.93 ERA in the past three seasons. You might even remember him from the 2008 and 2009 Twins. What could he possibly have to offer?
Well, a few things. First, he’s pitching out of a new arm slot (lower), meaning that a guy who used to pitch to both righthanded and lefthanded batters will likely be used more now primarily against lefties. In that specialized role, he could be effective. Second, he has playoff experience and helped Boston win a World Series in 2013.
Third, he’s at the stage of his career when he’s looking to make an impact with younger players. He told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal after signing the deal with the Twins, “The thing that resonated the most with me was the idea that I could impact the culture and impact the direction of the organization for longer than potentially my stay there might be.”
Breslow, who went to Yale, also sounded very impressed by fellow smart guy Derek Falvey. It’s unclear if Falvey and GM Thad Levine are targeting high-intellect players like Breslow (and Stanford product Jason Castro), but it’s interesting to see how they operate.
Stubbs: Here’s another guy on a minor-league deal. At age 32, he could be nothing more than spring training depth. But he’s a guy who can help a team even if he’s not hitting for a high average.
Stubbs has 161 career MLB stolen bases (while being caught just 34 times), he has 92 career major league home runs and he 596 career starts in centerfield. Even as a pinch runner/defensive replacement, he could have value on a roster. It’s OK to have players who are deficient in some areas (Stubbs struck out 205 times in one season, for crying out loud) as long as you can harness their strengths.
Adrianza: As noted by Nick Nelson, this recent waiver claim by the Twins underscores the premium they are putting on defensive improvement. He’s shown to be a gifted fielder and a light hitter during his time with the Giants, but given the Twins’ options at shortstop — Eduardo Escobar or Jorge Polanco — Adrianza could make a push for playing time. The Twins’ defensive deficiencies were an underrated part of their failure last year — and a very real way they could make up ground this year.
Stephenson: Switching sports here to basketball, this 10-day signing by the Wolves seems to be a good match between hungry player and needy team. Stephenson had a strong run with the Pacers from 2012-14 and played well for Memphis last season. But he has bounced from team to team and had some rough stops — including one with the Clippers. Here was Clippers coach Doc Rivers last year assessing what went wrong with Stephenson:
Defensively — that’s where I was more disappointed, and shocked. I look at that body, and that athleticism, and I think: That’s a prototypical great defender. And he’s not that. … The guys liked him. But Lance wants to score every time he touches the ball, and he’s not that type of guy.”
At his best, Stephenson is an athletic wing with a competitive streak and a willingness to distribute the ball. At his worst? Well, Doc said it. It will be interesting to see which version we see in Minnesota, and for how long.