The usual intrigue with the New York Yankees will likely fill seats at Target Field this weekend, but the club’s on-field effort hasn't done much to help raise interest.
The Yankees are in last place in the American League East Division, three games under .500 (31-34), though just 6.5 games behind the division’s first-place Baltimore Orioles.
The Twins (20-45) are the worst team in the American League with only 20 wins. They sit 15 games behind the Central Division’s first-place Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees haven’t finished below third in the East Division since 1992, but haven’t won the division since 2012. Their talent isn’t the problem. They have the second-highest paid roster ($214 million) in Major League Baseball. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yankees have team salaries north of $200 million.
The Twins’ team salary, No. 19 in the major leagues, is $102 million.
Twins fans will get to see two of the Yankees' highest-paid players in action in the first two games of the series. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia and his $24 million arm is scheduled to start Thursday night. Masahiro Tanaka and his $22 million arm will start Friday.
Among the Yankees’ least-paid players are a pair of former Twins, Aaron Hicks and Anthony Swarzak. Hicks, who is on a one-year contract worth $574,000, has earned regular playing time in the outfield after the Twins traded him away this past offseason.
Hicks has a batting average of .221, has 13 RBI, two home runs, 11 walks and has struck out 24 times in 131 at-bats. He struggled at the plate in late May and manager Joe Girardi said “Hicks needs to relax, too, I think, to get going. … He’s a kid that’s used to playing every day. He’s played a lot [this season] but he hasn’t played every day.”
Hicks was the Twins starting center fielder most of last season, and was traded to the Yankees over the winter for catcher John Ryan Murphy, who has been sent to the minors by the Twins. Hicks has played 54 of the Yankees' 65 games this season.
Swarzak is playing with his third team in the past three years. He signed a minor league contract with the Yankees this past offseason after pitching only 10 games with Cleveland in 2015. He spent five seasons with the Twins from 2009-2014.
Swarzak was called up by the Yankees earlier this month and has made four appearances out of the bullpen since June 8. He has four strikeouts, one walk, has given up four hits including a home run, and has a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings pitched.
Another Twins castoff, Chris Parmelee, briefly appeared with the Yankees this season. Parmelee also signed a minor league deal this offseason and was called up in early June. He hit two home runs and had three RBI in his first game, had another hit and RBI in his second game, but then strained his right hamstring and is expected to miss at least a month.