- The Twins welcomed utilityman Marwin Gonzalez back from injury Monday in their win over the White Sox. Gonzalez hadn’t played since Aug. 27 because of an abdominal issue. His presence should help make up for the absence of fellow utilityman Ehire Adrianza (down with an oblique strain) and give the Twins the ability to rest first baseman C.J. Cron – who’s dealing with a bruised thumb, per Brian Hall of MLB.com. Gonzalez, the Twins’ highest-paid acquisition of last winter (two years, $21MM), has gotten past a sluggish start to post a useful .262/.322/.418 line with 15 home runs in 441 plate appearances this season.
The Tigers announced Monday that they’ve claimed right-hander Marcos Diplan off waivers from the Twins. In order to make room on the 40-man roster, Detroit placed left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf on the 60-day injured list due to a left elbow strain.
Minnesota picked up Diplan in a minor July swap with the Brewers, sending cash to Milwaukee after Diplan had been designated for assignment. The 22-year-old righty never pitched in a big league game with the Twins before being designated for assignment himself this past weekend when Minnesota added hard-throwing prospect Jorge Alcala to its MLB roster.
Diplan, in fact, has never pitched at the big league level or even progressed beyond Double-A. He appeared in 38 games between the Double-A affiliates for the Twins and Brewers, totaling 68 2/3 innings of 4.85 ERA ball with 9.6 K/9 against 5.8 BB/9. Diplan was ranked among the Brewers’ 10 to 20 best prospects back in 2017 but has seen his stock dip in recent seasons. As Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote back in ’17, he has an above-average fastball that runs up to 95 mph and a pair of inconsistent but at-times above-average secondary pitches in his changeup and slider.
Control has clearly been an ongoing issue for Diplan, who has averaged nearly five walks per nine innings pitched in his professional career. He has a minor league option remaining beyond the current season, however, and given the total lack of certainty in the Detroit bullpen, there’ll be ample opportunities for him in 2020 if he sticks on the 40-man roster over the course of the offseason.
4:10pm: Indeed, Miller reported that season-ending shoulder surgery is on the table for Dyson, who felt pain in his shoulder just two pitches into a bullpen session on Friday. Per Miller, the Twins’ midseason acquisition underwent a procedure that pointed to a joint capsule sprain in Dyson’s right shoulder, which may call for Dyson to go under the knife.
11:20am: More bad news today from the suddenly snakebitten Minnesota Twins. Trade deadline acquisition Sam Dyson is unavailable this weekend, and he may not return at all this season, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (via Twitter).
Dyson spent a short stint on the injured list at the beginning of August with right bicep tendinitis. He cut a throwing session short yesterday after feeling discomfort early in the session. He has scheduled a visit with Dr. Neal ElAttrache next week, tweets MLB.com’s Dan Hayes.
It certainly doesn’t look good for Dyson, who has struggled since joining the Twins. After notching a 2.47 ERA/2.72 FIP across 49 appearances in San Francisco, Dyson’s Minnesota tenure began with a thud as he surrendered 6 earned runs while recording just two outs across his first two appearances. His overall numbers as a Twin remain ugly, but he’s straightened out since making an early impression. Dyson penned a 2.53 ERA over his next ten appearances, last pitching on September 3rd in Boston.
The Minnesota Twins designated Marcos Diplan for assignment, per MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park (via Twitter). Diplan’s designation paves the way for Jorge Alcala to join the big league club at Progressive Field for today’s doubleheader against the Indians. Alcala was not on the 40-man roster prior to today’s call-up.
Alcala, 24, came to the Twins from Houston as part of the Ryan Pressly trade. He is their 23rd ranked prospect, per MLB.com. Baseball America put him at #19 in their midseason report, while Fangraphs was less bullish, ranking him 26th at the outset of the season with a future value score of 40. The 6’3″ right-hander began the year in Double-A, where he made 16 starts and 26 total appearances for a 5.87 ERA and 2.84 K:BB. While those numbers won’t make you jump out of your seat, he did throw 7 2/3 scoreless innings in relief since a promotion to Triple-A.
Diplan, 22, was acquired from the Brewers at the trade deadline. He made 8 appearances for Double-A Pensacola since his acquisition with a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings.
The team also announced Devin Smeltzer as the starter for game one of today’s twin bill. Smeltzer is 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA/4.96 FIP across 40 innings (4 starts) on the year. The Twins acquired Smeltzer from the Dodgers at last year’s deadline as part of the Brian Dozier deal.
Before hiring Rocco Baldelli as the 31st manager in franchise history (just the fourth in the last 33 years), the Twins had him vetted by a pair of professional contemporaries currently serving Minnesota’s baseball ops department as special assistants: LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter, per The Athletic’s Andy McCullough. Not long after Baldelli’s hire, he faced a similar grilling from another pair of special assistants: Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. The quartet of Twins’ legends do more than serve as protective older brother types for Senior Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine – they’re active in a variety of capacities, from analytics, to hiring, to hands-on engagement with players at all levels of the Minnesota system. Levine said this of their veteran cabinet, “We haven’t acquired a single player at the major-league level without asking them to do makeup work on them.” Subscribers to The Athletic should read this piece in full for a fascinating peak into the machinations of the Twins organization. While you do that, we’ll see what else is happening in the Midwest…
Twins utilityman Ehire Adrianza left the team’s game against the Nationals on Thursday with a right oblique strain, Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com was among those to report. Considering oblique strains often lead to weeks-long absences, it’s possible this will end Adrianza’s season.
A lengthy absence for Adrianza would count as yet another unfortunate late-season development in a growing line of them for Minnesota. Even though the club’s 89-56 and seemingly on its way to an American League Central title, it has absorbed multiple blows in recent days. Right-hander Michael Pineda won’t pitch again this year as a result of a 60-game suspension, while center fielder Byron Buxton’s season is done thanks to shoulder surgery.
Adrianza probably isn’t as important to the Twins’ cause as Pineda or Buxton, but the 30-year-old has nonetheless been a solid contributor this season. The switch-hitting Adrianza has slashed a career-best .272/.349/.416 (102 wRC+) with five home runs in 236 trips to the plate. On the other side, Adrianza has amassed 20-plus appearances at three infield positions – first, third and short – and has also seen time at second and in the corner outfield. Fortunately for the Twins, they do have other prominent versatile options, which is among the reasons they’re in the catbird seat in the AL Central. Luis Arraez and Marwin Gonzalez, for instance, can each handle multiple spots with aplomb, though the latter’s dealing with an injury in his own right. The Twins subbed in the just-selected Ronald Torreyes for Adrianza at short on Thursday.
Even though the AL Central-leading Twins are well on their way to a playoff berth, the 2019 season is already in the rearview mirror for one of their top starters, Michael Pineda. Major League Baseball hit the right-hander with a 60-game suspension last weekend after he tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, which is on its list of banned substances. It’s a costly ban for Pineda, writes the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller, who explains that the 30-year-old will surrender a substantial amount of money. He’s out the rest of his $8MM salary this season ($984K), could lose as much as $1.5MM in bonuses and won’t collect any of his salary during the rest of his suspension in 2020 (39 games).
The question now is where Pineda, a pending free agent, will pitch next season. The former Mariner and Yankee joined the Twins on a two-year, $10MM contract in December 2017, at which point he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Pineda didn’t pitch in the majors at all last year as a result, but he made an impressive return this season before his misdeed sent him to the shelf. He concluded his campaign with 146 innings of 4.01 ERA/4.02 FIP pitching and 8.63 K/9 against 1.73 BB/9.
If not for his ban, Pineda would have been a strong bet to land a quality payday on the open market during the upcoming winter. It’s conceivable he’ll still get one, but regardless, Pineda’s hopeful he’ll stay in Minnesota, according to Miller. While Pineda wants to re-sign with the Twins, he noted he doesn’t “have control over that. We’ll let time decide that.”
For now, Pineda – who expressed contrition over his suspension – will continue to hang around the team as it tries to win its first World Series title since 1991. It’s going to be all the more difficult to accomplish that feat without Pineda, though, and it’s possible his ill-timed suspension will turn the Twins’ hierarchy off of the concept of re-signing him. On the other hand, however, starting pitching’s going to be an obvious need for the Twins in the offseason, which could steer them toward a Pineda reunion.
The lone full-time starter on the Twins who’s set to return next year is their No. 1 option, Jose Berrios. Pineda, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi – who have each been effective over a combined 81 starts – are all slated to reach free agency. Martin Perez could join them, though the Twins will first have to decide whether to exercise his $7.5MM club option or buy him out for $500K.
Torreyes will come up to help fill in for some missing pieces. He’ll take the 40-man spot vacated when outfielder Byron Buxton was placed on the 60-day injured list.
This’ll be the first time that Torreyes has appeared in the big leagues this season after seeing action in each of the past four campaigns. He’s a .281/.310/.375 lifetime hitter in the majors. In 330 plate appearances this year at Triple-A, he has turned in only a .256/.289/.406 batting line.
Twins center fielder Byron Buxton is undergoing surgery to fix his left (non-throwing) shoulder labrum, skipper Rocco Baldelli told reporters including Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter). That’ll obviously end his 2019 season.
It had emerged earlier today that some kind of surgical outcome was likely. But this still represents a major development in the situation. Precise details of Buxton’s procedure remain unknown — and will depend upon what’s found by surgeons — but the baseline expectation is of a five-to-six-month recovery process. (Via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, on Twitter.)
Spring Training will begin in mid-February of 2020. That’ll be right at the six-month mark from today’s procedure. Depending upon the severity of the damage, extent of the work, and course of rehab, it seems Buxton’s full availability at the outset of camp is possible but hardly assured.
The Twins will be gathering information on Buxton’s progress and outlook throughout the rehab process. But the club is going to have to account for the uncertainty in some manner. Just how it might impact the offseason decisionmaking remains to be seen.
As we examined further in the above-linked story, this news will force the Twins into a sub-optimal outfield alignment down the stretch and into the postseason. It takes a player out of the mix who had been playing at a 5 to 6 WAR full-season pace. Looking forward, Buxton’s limited playing time will limit his ability to secure a big raise on top of his current salary of $1.75MM, though his strong offensive numbers will certainly support a bump. A Super Two qualifier this year, Buxton remains eligible to go through the arb process three more times.
12:55pm: It “sounds like” Buxton is slated to undergo surgery this afternoon, tweets Darren Wolfson of SKOR North 1500 AM.
12:25pm: The Twins have been playing without Byron Buxton in a full-time capacity since Aug. 1 thanks to a shoulder injury, and manager Rocco Baldelli indicated today on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that the organization is “bracing” for the news that Buxton won’t return in 2019 (Twitter link, with audio).
“Surgery is an option here,” said Baldelli after relaying that Buxton saw a specialist in California this week. “We’re basically sitting down and bracing for the realization that this could be his season ending right now. We basically are going to see what it looks like going forward. ’Buck’ is an enormous part of what we do here. The contributions he makes on the field are fantastic, obviously — he’s one of the best defenders in the world. That being said, the energy he brings and the lift that he brings to the team is also huge.”
Buxton indeed ranks as one of the premier defenders in the sport, regardless of position. His 10 Defensive Runs Saved rank sixth among Major League center fielders despite having played fewer innings than anyone ahead of him, and his overall Ultimate Zone Rating (+8.8) ranks 10th among all fielders at any position. He also places fourth in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric (+12) despite fewer chances than the three players ahead of him: Victor Robles, Kevin Kiermaier and Lorenzo Cain. Of course, the reckless abandon with which Buxton plays the outfield both contributes to his penchant for rangy, highlight-reel plays and puts him at greater risk for injury; his current shoulder subluxation was sustained when crashing into the center field wall at Marlins Park more than a month ago.
Beyond his defensive prowess, Buxton has enjoyed some pronounced improvement at the plate. In 295 plate appearances, he’s turned in a .262/.313/.513 slash with 10 home runs, 30 doubles, four triples and 14 stolen bases (in 17 attempts). Buxton’s speed has allowed him to rack up more doubles than singles (27) on the season, and his 23.1 percent strikeout rate is down nearly seven percent from a season ago. In all, he’s been worth 2.7 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs, and 3.2 WAR, per Baseball-Reference, in less than a half season’s worth of plate appearances. Needless to say, his loss absence has been profoundly felt by the Twins.
If Buxton is indeed lost for the year, Baldelli suggests that Max Kepler will continue to man center field on a regular basis for Minnesota. That’s a drop-off from a defensive standpoint, but perhaps not to the extent one would think. Kepler has been strong in center himself this season (+4 DRS, +3.1 UZR in 452 innings), and he’s tied for 13th among 93 qualified outfielders with seven outs above average, per Statcast. Losing Buxton fotr the balance of the 2019 season and postseason would likely mean mixing and matching with Jake Cave, Marwin Gonzalez and LaMonte Wade Jr. in right field, with Eddie Rosario continuing as the primary left fielder.
Buxton’s bounceback season at the dish will surely benefit him in arbitration this winter, when he’ll be due for a raise on this year’s $1.75MM salary. However, his general lack of plate appearances and another season truncated by injury will also prevent him from maximizing his earnings in that process. The Twins control Buxton through the 2022 season.