Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter meetings, Day Four: The Twins act

Ervin Santana began his career with
the Angels. He was known as
Johan Santana while in the minors
but changed to Ervin to avoid
confusion with the then-Twins ace.
And on the fourth day, things happened.

The Twins had been bystanders for the first three days of the witner meetings, but on Thursday -- moving day as the annual confab broke up -- things fell into place.

The biggest news for the Twins was the reported agreement with pitcher Ervin Santana. Four years, $55 million guaranteed. The deal both supplants last winter's Rick Nolasco deal as the largest free-agent signing in Twins history and marks the first time the Twins have surrendered a draft pick to sign a free agent.

The Twins' first round pick in June's draft is protected, so they gave up their second-rounder.

Santana is a better pitcher than Nolasco, but he's not the kind of pitcher one wants to have starting Game One of a playoff series.

What I said yesterday stands. I believe the top priority should be opening a path to the rotation for Alex Meyer and (to a lesser extent) Trevor May. Meyer might be that elusive top-of-the-rotation arm, but the Twins seem determined to block his ascension with large barricades of cash.

Reshaping the rotation means moving some of the incumbents out. There has been no sign of that yet. Bu there's plenty of offseason ahead, and the Twins have to lop somebody from the 40 when the signing becomes official.


A secondary aspect to Thursday was the Rule 5 draft. The Twins plucked J.R. Graham, a short right-handed pitcher, from Atlanta. Graham was a high-velocity guy before suffering a shoulder injury; Baseball America once viewed him as Atlanta's second-best prospect, But last year he had a 5.55 ERA in Double A, mostly as a starter, and the Braves opted not to protect him.

The Twins see him as a potential bullpen piece. He either spends next season on the major league roster or is offered back to Atlanta. Graham fills the roster spot opened a few days ago when Chris Colabello was claimed on waivers by Toronto.

The Twins also lost left-handed pitcher Sean Gilmartin to the Mets. Gilmartin, a former first-round pick by the Braves, came to the Twins in the Ryan Doumit trade last December. He split 2014 between Double A and Triple A and didn't impress the Twins enough to get put on the 40-man roster.

The odds are always against Rule 5 draftees. Their original clubs didn't think highly enough of them to put them on the 40, and the new club has to commit to keeping them on the 25. That's a high standard. The Twins did make it work a couple years ago with Ryan Pressly, and of course Johan Santana is the gold standard of Rule 5 picks.

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