The Minnesota Twins have made a move to bolster their rotation.
The club agreed to a one-year deal with starter J.A. Happ on Wednesday, Jan. 20, pending a physical, a source confirmed, adding the 38-year-old lefty to a rotation that already includes Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda.
Happ went 2-2 last season with a 3.47 earned-run average in 49.1 innings for the Yankees. His 1.054 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was near a career-low.
The veteran was traded to the Yankees in 2018 during his only All-Star season. After recording a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts with the Yankees, he was rewarded with a two-year, $34 million deal. He posted an ERA near 5.00 in the first year of the deal, before rebounding in 2020. The Yankees declined his $17 million club option for 2021 in October.
Along with Maeda, Berrios, Pineda and now Happ, the Twins have internal options with which they could fill the fifth spot internally, including Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer.
A month from reporting to spring training, the Twins have made only two offseason acquisitions since winning their second straight American League Central in last summer’s 60-game schedule. They signed reliever Hansel Robles to a one-year, $2 million deal in late December. The three offseasons leading up to this one have been an exercise in patience for the Twins, as well.
Some of the most active weeks heading into the Twins’ 2018 campaign came after the team had assembled as a group in Fort Myers, Fla. On Feb. 17, the Twins traded for starter Jake Odorizzi. At the end of the month, they signed first baseman/designated hitter Logan Morrison. And on March 12, they officially inked starter Lance Lynn to a one-year deal.
In 2019, the Twins added Marwin Gonzalez, signing him to two-year pact on Feb. 25, and last year capped their offseason work on Feb. 10 when they completed a deal for Maeda. With Happ in the fold, there’s still plenty of work left to be done. Again.
“I feel like I’ve been more comfortable with the reality that once you get to spring training, you might still have work to do with your major league roster, so I’ve gotten kind of more used to that,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said on Monday. “I shouldn’t say comfortable; I should say more used to it. And obviously this year is more of an extreme of that, certainly.”
That, it is.
The hot stove league has been chilly all winter. A few competitive teams have been active, among them the Padres, Mets and the division-rival White Sox. The Blue Jays reportedly struck a deal with outfielder George Springer, one of the top names on the market, on Tuesday night, but most teams haven’t been particularly active.
Most of this Falvey attributed to the many unknowns going into the offseason, with COVID-19 uncertainties necessitating a somewhat longer information-gathering period for teams, and players and their agents. While that has pushed things back later into the offseason, the timing isn’t a concern to Falvey.
“We’re much more attentive to the pace of individual negotiations or players going off the board or who’s in the mix, in the conversation,” he said, “And I would say that that’s really driving decision-making (more than) the calendar. We’re not focused individually on the date.
“Whether we sign a player on Dec. 5 or Jan. 20th, either way camp doesn’t start until February the 18th or 17th. So, in my mind, I feel like there’s certainly more work to be done. We’re having active conversations.”
The market has started to pick up in recent days. Springer was the biggest name to find a new home thus far, and the top reliever on the market, former Twin Liam Hendriks, signed with the Chicago White Sox last week. The top of the market moving at any given position usually helps speed along the process.
The Twins still have plenty of needs to fill. Among them, relief help, an infielder and a designated hitter. And there are plenty of options still available.
“I feel fans’ urgency. I feel it at times, too, to know exactly what our roster’s going to look like,” Falvey said. “I would ask everyone to kind of be patient through this and know that we’re continuing to try to find ways to add to it and we’ve done that over the last few years. We’ve demonstrated that later in the process, there are still options on the board for us to consider so that won’t change this year.”