Twins owner Jim Pohlad gives front office free rein in spendy winter
FORT MYERS, Fla. — After making three major additions since the start of spring training and pushing their projected Opening Day payroll close to a club-record $128 million, it's fair to wonder whether the Twins already have spent whatever discretionary funds they might have had for the July 31 trade deadline.
"We'll evaluate that when we get a lot closer," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Tuesday, March 13. "I can tell you this: I know (club owner) Jim Pohlad is committed to this team and committed to winning because he just proved it."
Now $15 million beyond their previous high for an Opening Day payroll, set in 2011, the Twins have added six free agents since the winter meetings at a combined guaranteed outlay of $51.9 million. That doesn't include the $6.3 million this season they took on with the acquisition of likely Opening Day starter Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Did Pohlad ever say no to anything offseason?
"No," Falvey said. "When we brought a decision to him that we felt was right ... he has been nothing but supportive at every juncture. Jim trusts us. Jim puts his trust in us around the baseball decisions. So when we laid that out and talked to him with (team president Dave St. Peter), ultimately he said, 'OK, go forward.'"
While the Twins fell short in their bid for right-hander Yu Darvish, who received a six-year, $126 million deal from the Chicago Cubs, that doesn't appear to have been due to any vetoes from ownership.
"There were other opportunities we were pursuing that we tapped out ourselves," Falvey said. "We made the baseball decision that this wasn't the right fit at the right cost, years or otherwise. That was our decision."
Eight no-hit innings this spring weren't enough for Fernando Romero to make the jump from Double-A to the majors. Unlike a year ago, when he was deeply disappointed to be optioned back to the minors, the 23-year-old Dominican phenom took Tuesday's news well.
"He understands where things are," Falvey said. "He hasn't pitched in Triple-A yet. He's somebody we think has real impact, high ceiling (potential). We see him as a starter despite the one- or two-inning stints this spring that looked pretty good."
Also optioned were fellow starters Adalberto Mejia, Stephen Gonsalves and Aaron Slegers as well as reliever John Curtiss. Of those four, only Gonsalves has yet to reach the majors, but the 23-year-old lefty is rated as their top pitching prospect by Baseball America.
Mejia posted a 4.50 earned-run average in 10 spring innings, the same mark he posted in 21 starts and 98 innings as a rookie last season. After Tuesday's cuts, the Twins have 48 players left in camp, including rehabbing pitchers Michael Pineda, Trevor May and Michael Kohn.
Odorizzi, who will go 11 days between starts, said there was no injury reason for the decision to skip Tuesday's originally scheduled start against the Baltimore Orioles.
Instead, he will throw a bullpen session on Thursday and is scheduled to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday while Lance Lynn works on a back field against Twins minor leaguers. With the opening series in Baltimore a little over two weeks away, Odorizzi agreed with the plan to avoid the Orioles for now.
"I've seen them plenty over the years, so there's really no secrets between me and them," he said. "When I see them, I want to see them at my very best, not the build-up stage. It's spring training. I'm not in my full form, so any vote of confidence, be it lesser stuff or whatever, matters."
In 18 career outings against the Orioles, Odorizzi is 5-4 with a 4.71 ERA. That includes a 5.44 ERA in nine starts at Camden Yards, although he went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts there last year.
Former Twins minor league manager Jake Mauer and his players and coaches at Double-A Chattanooga received their 2017 Southern League championship rings in a ceremony at the minor-league facility Tuesday morning. Mauer then visited the big-league clubhouse, where he was greeted warmly by former pupils such as Jose Berrios and Max Kepler.
Left fielder Eddie Rosario, out since March 4 with triceps tendinitis, is scheduled to begin a throwing program on Wednesday and could see game action at DH by Friday's split-squad day.
Hitting coach James Rowson will run his annual spring hitters' meeting on Wednesday morning at Champions Hall in the minor-league complex. Manager Paul Molitor said he was looking forward to what Rowson might come up with. "It's more about trying to establish a good, positive mind-set," Molitor said. "He's pretty creative with some of the things he's used to translate some type of positive imagery."