The Twins and outfielder Jordan Schafer agreed on a one-year, $1.55 million contract that will keep the sides from heading to arbitration.
Schafer last week filed for $1.7 million while the Twins offered $1.4, so the settlement is at the midpoint of the two offers. Schafer, who will be in the mix for the starting center field spot with Aaron Hicks, batted .238 with 30 stolen bases between the Braves and Twins last season. Claimed off waivers in August, Schafer batted .285 with 15 stolen bases in 41 games with the Twins.
“I’m really excited to be part of this organization,” Schafer said. “They gave me an unbelievable opportunity last year, and I’m grateful they want me to come back.”
That leaves Brian Duensing as the only unsigned and arbitration eligible Twin.
Duensing is seeking $3.1 million in 2015 while the Twins have countered with a $2.4 million offer. He was 3-3 with a 3.31 ERA in 62 games last season and earned $2 million.
Duensing was at the Diamond Awards banquet Thursday to accept the Carl R. Pohlad Award for outstanding community service. It just so happened that Twins owner Jim Pohlad presented the award.
“We have an arbitration case with Brian, so I can’t say anything nice about him,” Pohlad joked as the audience laughed.
After accepting his award, Duensing said: “Thanks for addressing the elephant in the room.”
For the second consecutive season, nobody will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Voting among 66 Twins executives and media members produced no consensus about former players, and a special biannual veterans committee also failed to elect a new member, leaving this year’s class empty.
Former Twins Dan Gladden, Cesar Tovar and Mudcat Grant were the leading vote-getters, team president Dave St. Peter announced, but none reached the 60 percent threshold necessary for election.
On the non-player ballot, the 19-member veterans committee spread its votes among former broadcaster John Gordon, retired team president Jerry Bell and ex-general manager Andy MacPhail, among others, St. Peter said.
The failure to elect a Hall of Famer “is disappointing,” St. Peter said, “but at the same time, I’m proud that our Hall of Fame has high standards. ... I’m confident that eventually a number of candidates, especially on the non-playing ballot, will find their way into the Hall.”
Former second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was elected in 2014, but the team canceled his induction ceremony after the four-time All-Star was charged with domestic assault.
The increasingly Hispanic presence on the Twins’ roster is causing the team to examine how it deals with non-English speakers, St. Peter said, including how it markets them. To help bridge the language barrier, the team has made fluency in Spanish a factor to consider in new hires. In addition, St. Peter said, the team will pay to provide Spanish instruction to about two dozen current front-office employees this spring.
“We’re doing everything we can to help speed that transition for our Hispanic players, to make them more comfortable,” the team president said. “We need to be engaged with them, so we can help those players adjust. Dealing with the media, [acquiring] sponsorships and endorsements, and marketing those players to our fans, it’s up to us as an organization to better facilitate that.”
Rotation not set
General Manager Terry Ryan expects his team’s starting pitchers, even the highest-paid ones, to earn their jobs this spring.
“I don’t have anyone penciled in” the starting rotation, Ryan said, “and I’m not sure how many I’ve got inked in. ... Obviously, Phil Hughes and [Ervin] Santana have a pretty good track record over the past couple of years. And Kyle Gibson — I’ve got high hopes that Kyle is going to separate himself from the ranks, but he’s going to have to prove it.”
Ryan mentioned Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and newly signed Tim Stauffer as candidates as well, and added “[Ricky] Nolasco’s got a lot to prove. ... We have numbers, that’s a good thing.”
Ticket sales down
The Twins have sold nearly 14,000 season tickets for 2015, St. Peter said, but that’s a drop of about 23 percent from the roughly 18,000 they sold last season, when they drew an average of 27,785 fans per game. That ranked eighth in the American League, and 19th in the majors, a clear result of four consecutive losing seasons.
“We live that reality every day, and it’s painful,” St. Peter said. “But we’ve worked hard. Getting 75 percent renewal was not easy.”