TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Patiently monitoring baseball’s slow-moving market, the Minnesota Twins made several significant improvements to the team that made a surprise run last season to the AL wild card game.
Right-hander Lance Lynn became the latest addition when the Twins finalized a $12 million, one-year contract on Monday, another low-risk move to strengthen a pitching staff that ranked 19th in the major leagues last year with a 4.59 ERA.
“I think there was at least, my take on it, a real interest of the player to make this a marriage and I think that helped our cause,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Lynn, who joined his new teammates on the field for an afternoon workout in Fort Myers, will be introduced at a news conference on Tuesday before taking the mound for an exhibition against Baltimore.
Molitor thinks there’s a chance that Lynn could be ready to pitch the first time through the regular-season rotation.
“I told him this is different circumstances, if you’re not ready to throw 100 pitches when the season starts, let’s go slow and do it right rather than try to force the issue just because we’re in a little of a time box,” Molitor said. “We’ll probably get a feel for where he’s at.”
After missing the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Lynn went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA in 33 starts for St. Louis in 2017 last year. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Lynn was an All-Star in 2012, his first full season in the majors. He was the 39th overall draft pick in 2008 by the Cardinals out of Mississippi.
“Has a really good idea how to pitch,” Molitor said. “It’s asset for us. We talked all winter about how we can deepen our choices in the rotation.”
With the Twins, Lynn will join fellow newcomer Jake Odorizzi, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, in the rotation. Jose Berrios will likely take the mound on opening day on March 29 against the Orioles, and Ervin Santana will join the group in late April or early May once he’s recovered from surgery on his middle finger. Kyle Gibson will likely round out the starting five, putting 25-man roster spots in question for Adalberto Mejia, Phil Hughes and Tyler Duffey.
Odorizzi had his scheduled start Tuesday pushed back to a minor league game Sunday.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins released right-hander Anibal Sanchez on Sunday after a three-week stint with the club. Sanchez gets $403,226 in termination pay rather than his $2.5 million salary.
Minnesota signed veterans Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke and Addison Reed before reporting to spring training, bolstering their bullpen. Then after making the deal with the Rays for Odorizzi, they signed first baseman Logan Morrison to be the primary designated hitter.
“Probably made as many additions as any club in term of pitching,” Molitor said. “It puts us in a much better position to compete.”
Both Morrison and Lynn were among the dozens of accomplished free agents who found a cool market for their asking prices and were forced to work out privately and wait for shorter-term deals.
The Twins took full advantage, pushing their franchise-record payroll to around $130 million for opening day. They have only a handful of players signed for 2019, though, and no commitments for 2020 to give themselves the ultimate flexibility as they continue to try to build a contender under chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. The Twins have not won a postseason game since 2004, a postseason series since 2002 or a World Series since 1991.
By signing Lynn, who turned down a $17.4 million qualifying offer by the Cardinals, the Twins forfeited the 95th overall pick in the amateur draft in June. Lynn can make an additional $1 million for pitching 170 innings and another $1 million for reaching 180.
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