It’s hard to believe that with just two months to go before Opening Day of the major league baseball season March 28 that such top-tier free agents as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still on the market.
The Twins have made a number of moves this offseason to try to bolster their roster. They have signed designated hitter Nelson Cruz, infielder Ronald Torreyes, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, starter Martin Perez and reliever Blake Parker.
Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said the second straight season of slower-than-usual free-agent movement means the Twins are still looking at potential roster moves.
“I think naturally now the free-agency season has bled a little bit further and further into the year,” he said. “We’re expecting January and February will both have conversations for us, but we’re excited about what we’ve added so far.”
Is he surprised at the lack of movement on some of the biggest names on the market?
“I think that certainly there have been a lot of rumors around both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and I think that’s the focus of the industry, for good reason,” Falvey said. “Those are great players, no question. Once those guys maybe find homes you can typically see some follow-up after that, but realistically for us we’ve been able to target some of the guys we wanted early at key positions and then add as we went along. In our minds we have moved things along relatively normally.”
Arbitration deals done
The Twins’ current payroll stands at $94.4 million for 2019, far below their 2018 total of $115.5 million and trailing the current league average of about $119 million.
Falvey said one reason the Twins have a chance to add players is because all of their primary players who were eligible for arbitration have been signed.
That group included Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi.
“Fortunately going through the arbitration process last week we got the chance to come to an agreement on terms with every one of our players,” Falvey said. “That is a good thing. Part of the business is arbitration, and sometimes you have to go to a hearing to settle a salary and that is just part of it — players and teams know that — but it was good to get everyone confirmed and now we’re on to 2019.”
Preparing for spring training
Falvey’s biggest offseason decision was to fire Paul Molitor, who had completed just one year of a three-year deal, and bring in Rocco Baldelli as the new manager.
Falvey said Baldelli, who is a first-year manager in the majors, should bring a lot of excitement to his first spring training with the Twins, which will open with pitchers and catchers reporting Feb. 14.
“I think it will be a little unique relative to what we have done historically, but in a lot of good ways,” Falvey said. “[Bench coach] Derek Shelton, who ran it last year for us, will continue to run it. The bench coach is highly involved in the day-to-day schedule and planning.
“I think what Rocco really brings to the table is he really believes in those fundamentals and he is going to hammer those. He’s going to do them in a way where we feel like it’s not just a routine, it’s not just get the balls out there and go through the same thing every morning. I think it’s going to be more competitive, I think it’s going to be more short bursts of high activity because there is real information and research that would tell you that that’s how you build skills over time. I think it will be fun.”
Has Falvey had any additional conversations with Molitor about working with the club?
“I continue to be very hopeful about that in the future and continue to have good dialogue with him about his role going forward,” he said.
Finalizing the invites
While Falvey said that he expects such players as Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff to be invited to spring training, the Twins are still ironing out the details of who will get an invite and who will not.
“We feel good about the group and just trying to finalize,” he said. “It’s always a little bit of a balancing game because you have typically somewhere between 60 and 64 players that show up at spring training every year. You have your 40-man roster, that takes up 40 right away, and you think about your young players and who would benefit from exposure to the major league environment and who would learn just from being around major league players — even if they aren’t necessarily tracking to make the club to start the season in 2019.
“We’ll do that. There’s some external players who will come in. I think the reality is free agency pushing back further and further that there may be some players that take nonroster deals to come into camp. We want to stay flexible with that.”
• The Twins will be out of town, but you have to figure the Timberwolves will get an attendance boost by having home games on April 5 against Miami and April 7 against Oklahoma City while the Final Four semifinals are at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 6 and the championship game is played there April 8.
• Vikings veteran Marcus Sherels was named the 2018 Rochester Post Bulletin Sports Person of the Year after being named an alternate to the Pro Bowl.
• Former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards with the Redskins this season. Vikings running backs Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook combined for 1,193 yards. If Peterson, an unrestricted free agent, posts similar numbers next season he would move up to No. 5 on the all-time rushing list.
• Last year the Vikings drafted three players out of the Senior Bowl in Brian O’Neill, Jalyn Holmes and Tyler Conklin.
• Most draft experts see the Vikings taking Greg Little, an offensive tackle out of Ole Miss, with their first-round pick at No. 18 overall.
• 247 Sports listed its top 30 high school quarterback prospects since 2001, and No. 27 was Joe Mauer.
• The Twins have three names on Baseball Prospectus’ list of best prospects: shortstop Royce Lewis at No. 9, pitcher Brusdar Graterol at No. 33 and outfielder Alex Kirilloff at No. 39.
• Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill will be the featured speaker at the South Dakota Football Coaches Association clinic in March.
• Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald signing on for another year with the Cardinals means he will most likely finish second in NFL history in career receptions and receiving yards. He needs 22 receptions to pass Tony Gonzalez for second place.