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Twins aim to be open-minded, flexible at WM

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey described the first day of the Winter Meetings on Monday, he categorized it as busy before quickly correcting himself with a smile and calling it just a normal day at the annual four-day event.

The Twins mostly met with agents on Monday, and a few clubs as well, as they try to acquire pitching help for both the rotation and bullpen. Minnesota remains interested in the top tier of starting pitchers, including Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, but the Twins have checked in with almost every pitcher available.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey described the first day of the Winter Meetings on Monday, he categorized it as busy before quickly correcting himself with a smile and calling it just a normal day at the annual four-day event.

The Twins mostly met with agents on Monday, and a few clubs as well, as they try to acquire pitching help for both the rotation and bullpen. Minnesota remains interested in the top tier of starting pitchers, including Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, but the Twins have checked in with almost every pitcher available.

"If there's a free-agent pitcher on the list right now, we've had at least one conversation and probably multiple," Falvey said. "We anticipate we'll continue to do that."

Video: Twins have sights set on Darvish, possibly Arrieta

One player they've monitored recently is former Twins closer Brandon Kintzler, who was traded to the Nationals at the Trade Deadline and is currently a free agent. A reunion would make sense, as Kintzler enjoyed his time in Minnesota and was universally liked in the clubhouse. The 33-year-old Las Vegas native also likely wouldn't command a huge deal, given his below-average strikeout rate.

Hot Stove Tracker

With Matt Belisle also a free agent, the Twins don't have a closer, and general manager Thad Levine said the team would prefer to have a veteran in that role. They have young arms they like, such as Trevor Hildenberger, Alan Busenitz, Gabriel Moya and John Curtiss, as well as Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers, but they'd rather have them in setup roles to open the year.

"We're open-minded we may have our future closer on our current roster, but do we want to thrust that person into that role come Opening Day? Ideally, probably not," Levine said. "But if someone by the end of the year becomes our closer, we're very open-minded [about] that. But we'd prefer not to force that early in the season."

Relief help is certainly a priority for the Twins, but finding a front-line starter remains the ultimate goal. It's been a slow-moving market to this point, however, as Tyler Chatwood and Miles Mikolas are the only two starters to sign multiyear deals so far this offseason. Chatwood received three years and $38 million from the Cubs, while Mikolas, coming over from Japan, signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals worth $15.5 million.

Levine, though, said the market usually starts to pick up during the Winter Meetings and in the time leading up the holidays.

"It feels like to me there are distinct tiers to this market," Levine said. "I don't think one domino will start to make everything cascade. I think it'll be in tiers. But there's been a paucity of movement. We haven't seen much decongest from the top tier, the second tier or the middle tier yet. But I think the window between the Winter Meetings and the holidays, there's more movement. Teams want to have their most pressing holes filled. Players and their families want to know where to look for housing and where they'll be for Spring Training."

Of course, the Twins could also go the trade route to acquire pitching, but it appears they're reluctant to give up top prospects, as they're mindful of the future despite making their surprise run to the Wild Card Game last year. The Twins are listening to offers, but they don't seem to be the aggressors on the trade market.

"No one likes to trade away their young players and talent that could impact you at the Major League level," Falvey said. "But we feel like we have a better handle on what the system has, and would be ready if the opportunity presents itself to make a deal that would help our Major League team. We haven't had that, but we'd be nimble and flexible if someone comes to us."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Twins ready for pitching market to heat up

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Twins have made it loud and clear that acquiring pitching is their top objective this offseason, and now that the Winter Meetings are here, the front office is hoping to accelerate that process.

The Twins' contingent arrived Sunday for the Meetings, which will be held from Monday to Thursday and concludes with the Rule 5 Draft. It has been a slow-moving market for pitching, but with all 30 clubs in attendance and countless agents on hand, things can change in a hurry.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Twins have made it loud and clear that acquiring pitching is their top objective this offseason, and now that the Winter Meetings are here, the front office is hoping to accelerate that process.

The Twins' contingent arrived Sunday for the Meetings, which will be held from Monday to Thursday and concludes with the Rule 5 Draft. It has been a slow-moving market for pitching, but with all 30 clubs in attendance and countless agents on hand, things can change in a hurry.

Minnesota's first priority remains finding a frontline starting pitcher, and it has been linked to the top available starters like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, even though all but Darvish were extended qualifying offers and the Twins would lose their second pick in next June's Draft.

Winter Meetings preview | Twins hit jackpot with JohanHot Stove Tracker

Video: Molitor wants to add pitching this offseason

"The way we're looking at free agency is we're not ruling anything out," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said on MLB Network. "We're admittedly focused on the pitching side. It's been a little slow in the early going, but it's my expectation that we'll be in the game in a lot of these different conversations."

Minnesota didn't make any splashes at the Winter Meetings last year, but the club had already signed catcher Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5 million deal by then. Their most notable move was meeting with second baseman Brian Dozier and opting not to trade him with two years left on his deal. It turned out to be a prudent decision, with Dozier helping lead the Twins to a surprising postseason berth as the second American League Wild Card team.

Historically, the Twins haven't made many huge moves at the Winter Meetings, but they did sign Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55 million deal in 2014. And with Falvey and general manager Thad Levine running the show, the Twins could blow past that deal, which remains the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

Video: Twins looking to improve after playoff berth in '17

But even if the Twins don't make a move at the Winter Meetings, they can still lay the groundwork for future free-agent signings or trades. Improving the bullpen and finding a closer is still a goal for Minnesota, while finding a veteran right-handed bat would help balance the lineup.

Falvey and Levine will have daily meetings with the press to recap the action, while Twins manager Paul Molitor is set to meet with the media at 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

That coverage will appear on twinsbaseball.com and on Twitter (@RhettBollinger) throughout the week. Be sure to use the comment section at the end of each story to sound off with your own opinions on potential moves or anything else.

It could be a busy week for the Twins, so stayed tuned to twinsbaseball.com.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Unique Twins experiences up for bid

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As part of the sixth annual Winter Meetings charity auction, the Twins created three different baseball-related experiences fans can bid on as part of the auction that runs through Thursday at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction.

Each year, the auctions support a different cause, and this year, the auction will support the "Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund," which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As part of the sixth annual Winter Meetings charity auction, the Twins created three different baseball-related experiences fans can bid on as part of the auction that runs through Thursday at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction.

Each year, the auctions support a different cause, and this year, the auction will support the "Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund," which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years.

Winter Meetings Auction

The first experience is taking infield drills with All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier before a Twins game at Target Field. Twins third-base coach and infield instructor Gene Glynn will also take part. It includes four field passes to watch batting practice and four tickets to the game on a mutually agreed upon date.

The second allows the winning bidder and a guest the chance to get a 30-minute private hitting lesson with hitting coach James Rowson in the batting cages at Target Field. It also includes a tour of the clubhouse, four field passes and four tickets to a mutually agreed upon game.

The last experience is the chance to be a Twins team photographer for the day. It includes the chance to learn from a professional while obtaining an all-access pass at Target Field, including photo positions at field level.

The proceeds will help endow an annual scholarship to a female student at the University of San Francisco who most exemplifies her character and intelligence as well as someone who possesses the ability to succeed and the willingness to mentor others. The recipient would be an individual pursuing a career in sports management who demonstrates a financial need to attain an advanced degree.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins, Brian Dozier

Morris gets long-awaited call to Hall

Former teammates elected to class of 2018 by Modern Era Committee
MLB.com @castrovince

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- What could wind up becoming a loaded 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class begins with a 1984 Tigers two-fer that ends two long and agonizing waits for Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

Morris, the hero of the Twins' Game 7 triumph in the 1991 World Series and winner of 254 regular-season games in his 18 seasons, and Trammell, the four-time Gold Glove winner and MVP of the '84 Fall Classic, were teammates on the last Tigers team to win it all, and they will be joyously joined again in Cooperstown next summer. In the first big news from baseball's Winter Meetings this week, Morris was named on 14 and Trammell on 13 of the 16 ballots cast by the Hall's Modern Baseball Era Committee on Sunday. A candidate had to appear on at least 75 percent of ballots to gain entry.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- What could wind up becoming a loaded 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class begins with a 1984 Tigers two-fer that ends two long and agonizing waits for Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

Morris, the hero of the Twins' Game 7 triumph in the 1991 World Series and winner of 254 regular-season games in his 18 seasons, and Trammell, the four-time Gold Glove winner and MVP of the '84 Fall Classic, were teammates on the last Tigers team to win it all, and they will be joyously joined again in Cooperstown next summer. In the first big news from baseball's Winter Meetings this week, Morris was named on 14 and Trammell on 13 of the 16 ballots cast by the Hall's Modern Baseball Era Committee on Sunday. A candidate had to appear on at least 75 percent of ballots to gain entry.

"I've got to believe, in a crazy sort of way, that this is the sweetest way to go in," Morris said. "To go in with a guy who meant so much to me and, in my opinion, was overlooked."

Video: Morris, Trammell elected to the Hall of Fame

Trammell and Morris were among 10 candidates on the Modern Era ballot, which includes those whose most significant career impact was realized between 1970-87. They became the first living players to be elected into the Hall by a small committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001.

"Overwhelmed," Trammell said. "My mind is a whirlwind. I thought that Jack was well-deserving and in my opinion should've been in a few years ago. But nevertheless, it's an honor to go in with Jack and whoever is inducted from the writers' ballot. It's going to be a great class. I'm honored to be a part of it."

Tweet from @beckjason: Tigers statement from Chris Ilitch says they'll retire 3 and 47 in August. https://t.co/2YUiWFeJl0

The Baseball Writers' Association of America is in the process of compiling ballots for its 2018 class, which will be announced at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 24 on MLB Network. With both Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero having appeared on north of 70 percent of ballots last year, and with first-time candidates Chipper Jones and Jim Thome among those with particularly compelling Cooperstown cases, this could be a grand group going in together July 29.

Hall of Fame inductees, year by year

It is the inherent goal of the smaller Hall voting committees, which were revamped from the former Veterans Committee process in 2016, to give added consideration to those whose careers and impact might not have been given their just due on the BBWAA ballot. Both Morris and Trammell spent a full 15 years on the BBWAA ballot (the cutoff has since been amended to 10 years) without getting in. Trammell's highest vote percentage had been 40.9 in his final year of eligibility in 2016, while Morris maxed out at 67.7 percent in his second-to-last year of eligibility in 2013.

The reward for both men finally arrived in their first year of consideration by a smaller committee.

Video: Morris selected to HOF by Modern Era Committee

"You appreciate it so much," Morris said. "I think I have a better understanding of what it all means now than I ever would have on the first ballot. I know the emotions some of those guys are going through who didn't make it. I thought every guy had a legitimate chance. They had reasons to be considered, for sure. I hope there's no animosity because I made it, because I certainly was pulling for them."

With 12 votes required for entry, former catcher Ted Simmons received 11 votes, former MLB Players Association leader Marvin Miller received seven and Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Luis Tiant each received fewer than seven votes (the Hall did not reveal their exact tallies).

The 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee was comprised of Hall of Fame members George Brett, Rod Carew, Bobby Cox, Dennis Eckersley, John Schuerholz, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount; Major League executives Sandy Alderson, Paul Beeston, Bob Castellini, Bill DeWitt and David Glass; and veteran historians Bob Elliott, Steve Hirdt and Jayson Stark.

Video: Trammell selected to HOF by Modern Era Committee

"To have the Hall of Famers during our era vote for us is very meaningful," Trammell said. "It means a lot. It's very humbling."

Trammell played all 20 of his MLB seasons with the Tigers, from 1977-96, including the first 14 seasons of his career as a teammate of Morris. In the '84 World Series against the Padres, he hit .450 (9-for-20) with a double and two home runs to earn MVP honors. He also hit .364 and homered in that year's American League Championship Series against the Royals.

Video: Trammell excited to be elected to the Hall of Fame

"[A scout once told me] if you play good defense and you hit .250," Trammell said, "you'll play in the big leagues for a long time."

Morris pitched for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians from 1977-94. He threw a no-hitter during that aforementioned '84 season, shutting down the White Sox on April 7 at Comiskey Park. In his epic Game 7 performance in 1991, he outdueled the Braves' John Smoltz, a 2015 Hall of Fame entrant, over 10 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win that clinched the Twins' second World Series title in four years.

"There's no question it's one of my defining moments in baseball, because it was the only Game 7 that I pitched," Morris said. "I knew the importance of it, but I was also at the apex of my career both mentally and physically. I've never pitched a game where I had better focus, and I don't know why. I had the best mindset I've had in my entire career."

Video: Morris on his initial reaction to HOF selection

The Hall cases for both Morris and Trammell have generated plenty of discussion over the years. Interestingly, Trammell was a darling of the advanced analytical community, while Morris' credentials were often touted by those with more of an "old school" bent. Trammell had a career Wins Above Replacement mark of 70.4 (as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com), just behind that of likely Hall of Famer Derek Jeter (71.8) and just ahead of that of Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Bobby Wallace (70.2). Morris' 44.1 career WAR pales in comparison to that of the average Hall of Famer, but his lofty win total, 175 career complete games and Game 7 gem were his strongest selling points.

After all the debates and deliberations, Morris and Trammell go in together. Teammates then and classmates now.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins hit jackpot with Johan pick at '99 Meetings

Team acquired future two-time Cy Young Award winner in Rule 5 Draft
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rule 5 Draft is an afterthought for many teams at the Winter Meetings, but to former general manager Terry Ryan, it was seen as a way for the budget-conscious Twins to cheaply acquire young talent.

Ryan made it a point for the scouting staff to take the Rule 5 Draft seriously every year, and it paid off with one of the best acquisitions in Winter Meetings history when the Twins acquired future two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft from the Astros. MLB.com is identifying the best move made by each club at the Winter Meetings, and getting Santana in the Rule 5 Draft is easily the Twins' best.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rule 5 Draft is an afterthought for many teams at the Winter Meetings, but to former general manager Terry Ryan, it was seen as a way for the budget-conscious Twins to cheaply acquire young talent.

Ryan made it a point for the scouting staff to take the Rule 5 Draft seriously every year, and it paid off with one of the best acquisitions in Winter Meetings history when the Twins acquired future two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft from the Astros. MLB.com is identifying the best move made by each club at the Winter Meetings, and getting Santana in the Rule 5 Draft is easily the Twins' best.

"I'd really love to revise history and tell you we thought he was going to be the greatest pitcher in Twins history," said Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff, who played an important process in the decision as the scouting director at the time. "But it's still great scouting in our mind. We identified the best guy."

Twins' Winter Meetings preview

The Twins had the No. 1 overall Rule 5 selection that year, so it was a point of emphasis that summer to find the top candidates among players who might be left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. After countless hours of scouting and vetting candidates, the Twins headed to the Winter Meetings in Anaheim that year with a short list of names that included Santana and right-hander Jared Camp.

Video: TEX@MIN: Santana sets Twins record with 17 K's

Camp was considered the safer bet, having posted a 2.81 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings across three levels, including Triple-A. Santana, meanwhile, had posted a 4.66 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings at Class A Michigan and was considered less Major League-ready, which is a concern because Rule 5 picks must stay on the Major League roster the entire season.

But scouts Jose Marzan and Billy Milos campaigned for Santana, citing his higher potential, live left arm and youth. At 20, he was four years younger than Camp.

"Billy Milos, in particular, pounded the table and said this guy is going to be pretty good," Radcliff said. "At the time, people thought it was risky because he was in [Class A], and you want guys higher in the system who have been around longer and have a better chance to stick. But our guys liked him."

The Twins had found their guy, but the Marlins called shortly before the Draft, looking to trade up from the No. 2 spot for $50,000. The Twins agreed, but the two clubs didn't exchange names until right before the Draft, with the Twins taking Camp for the Marlins and the Marlins selecting Santana for Minnesota and paying half of the cost of the selection.

The rest is history. Camp never reached the big leagues, and Santana went on to become one of the best pitchers in the Majors. Santana had a 6.49 ERA as a 21-year-old rookie then spent time in the Minors the next season to refine his changeup under Bobby Cuellar before becoming an ace by 2003 and winning AL Cy Young Awards in '04 and '06. The 12-year-veteran and four-time All-Star is now on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

"We just went through our normal process," Radcliff said. "He was just a viable candidate. We didn't predict him to be a Hall of Fame candidate or a Cy Young Award winner. But we got our guy, and we got money."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Report: Twins nab ex-Braves prospect Severino

Minnesota expected to sign 18-year-old infielder for $2.5 million
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

The Twins have agreed to terms with Yunior Severino, an 18-year-old infielder granted free agency last month after Major League Baseball penalized the Braves for infractions committed on the international market.

Minnesota's deal with Severino is worth $2.5 million, pending a physical, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. The Twins, however, have not confirmed or announced the signing.

The Twins have agreed to terms with Yunior Severino, an 18-year-old infielder granted free agency last month after Major League Baseball penalized the Braves for infractions committed on the international market.

Minnesota's deal with Severino is worth $2.5 million, pending a physical, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. The Twins, however, have not confirmed or announced the signing.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: Infield prospect Yunior Severino signs his $2.5 million deal with the Twins. The former Braves prospect has officially found a new team. @MLBPipeline pic.twitter.com/C39CgvSF09

A switch-hitting second baseman, Severino worked out for nearly 200 scouts at the San Francisco Giants academy in the Dominican Republic on Friday morning. Originally signed during the 2016-17 international signing period, Severino was part of a vaunted group of prospects signed by Atlanta, 13 of which the club was forced to forfeit last month as part of penalties enforced by MLB.

Marte still in play for Twins after voided deal

After a two-month investigation, MLB concluded the club circumvented international signing rules during each of the past three signing periods.

Severino is the seventh former Braves prospect to sign with a new team over the past three weeks. He hit .270/.345/.420 with 25 extra-base hits across two rookie levels in 2017, his first season in professional baseball.

Severino, a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, originally signed with the Braves for $1.9 million in 2016, and doesn't have to forfeit his original bonus. He played in both the Gulf Coast League and the Dominican Summer League last year, and is likely to play at Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2018.

He's the third prospect to join the Twins this week, as they traded $1 million in international bonus pool money to the Mariners for catching prospect David Banuelos and $1 million to the Angels for outfield prospect Jacob Pearson on Wednesday.

The Angels can use that extra $1 million for Shohei Ohtani, who announced on Friday he's signing with the Angels.

The Twins likely aren't done acquiring prospects, as they have $1.25 million remaining in international bonus pool money. They're still interested in re-signing shortstop Jelfrey Marte, who had his $3 million contract with Minnesota voided on Nov. 15 because of vision issues.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Marte still in play for Twins after voided deal

Minnesota nullified contract with 16-year-old shortstop because of vision issues
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite voiding top prospect Jelfry Marte's $3 million deal because of vision issues, the Twins still have interest in signing the 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Marte, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 3 prospect in this year's international class, was considered the jewel of Minnesota's international signings, receiving the third-largest signing bonus among all international prospects.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite voiding top prospect Jelfry Marte's $3 million deal because of vision issues, the Twins still have interest in signing the 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Marte, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 3 prospect in this year's international class, was considered the jewel of Minnesota's international signings, receiving the third-largest signing bonus among all international prospects.

But complications with his vision caused the Twins to void his contract on Nov. 15, which led to the club having the third-most international bonus pool available to offer Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani. After the Twins were notified they weren't a finalist for Ohtani, they used that excess money to trade $1 million to the Mariners for catching prospect David Banuelos and $1 million to the Angels for outfield prospect Jacob Pearson on Wednesday.

The Twins still have $1.25 million left in their bonus pool, which is more than enough to sign Marte, who still has a good relationship with the organization. The 16-year-old is talking to other clubs, but his vision issues will preclude him from signing a large deal.

Minnesota could also still look to trade more international bonus pool money to clubs still in the Ohtani sweepstakes. The top international prospects mostly all signed on July 2, so trading excess money for prospects is a smart way to acquire legitimate talent.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Twins hire pitching analytics expert Kalk

Former Rays analyst was pioneer of Pitch F/X data
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins continue to reshape their front office with an analytical bent, as they hired highly regarded pitching analytics expert Josh Kalk from the Rays as senior analyst.

It's considered a big hire within the analytics industry, as Kalk was a pioneer with Pitch F/X data and worked for Tampa Bay for eight years.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins continue to reshape their front office with an analytical bent, as they hired highly regarded pitching analytics expert Josh Kalk from the Rays as senior analyst.

It's considered a big hire within the analytics industry, as Kalk was a pioneer with Pitch F/X data and worked for Tampa Bay for eight years.

Under Kalk's direction, the Rays became the first team in baseball to use Kinatrax, which is a markerless motion capture technology that was installed at Tropicana Field, utilizing eight high-speed cameras. With the technology, Tampa Bay analyzed biomechanical data such as the angles and velocities of bones and joints, which can be used to prevent injury.

Kalk was originally hired by the Rays in 2009 as a baseball research and development analyst before becoming promoted in 2015 to director of pitching research and development. His contract with Tampa Bay expired on Oct. 31 and he opted to look for other opportunities, deciding to join the Twins. He previously worked as a math professor at Bluefield State College in West Virginia.

Worth noting 

• Additionally, the Twins named Tony Leo as head trainer after the retirement of Dave Pruemer. It's a promotion for Leo, who was an assistant under Pruemer. The rest of the medical staff will be announced at a later date.

• The Twins hired Tommy Watkins as manager of Double-A Chattanooga, replacing Jake Mauer, who led the club to the best record in the Southern League at 91-49. Watkins managed at Class A Cedar Rapids last season. The Twins also need to hire a manager at Class A Advanced Fort Myers after Doug Mientkiewicz was fired after the season. Mauer managed Fort Myers from 2010-12 and Cedar Rapids from 2013-16.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Talented Buxton key to Twins' success in 2018

After breakout second half offensively, outfielder in line for big things
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- For as good as Byron Buxton was in his breakout season in 2017, the Twins believe it's just the start of something special for the budding star.

The 23-year-old led the surprising Twins in bWAR in 2017, per baseball-reference.com, and the center fielder was universally crowned as the best defensive player in baseball, winning both the Rawlings Platinum Glove and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards.

MINNEAPOLIS -- For as good as Byron Buxton was in his breakout season in 2017, the Twins believe it's just the start of something special for the budding star.

The 23-year-old led the surprising Twins in bWAR in 2017, per baseball-reference.com, and the center fielder was universally crowned as the best defensive player in baseball, winning both the Rawlings Platinum Glove and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards.

Buxton's offense also improved dramatically in the second half, and combined with his defense, it makes him the club's most indispensable player next season. MLB.com is taking a look at "VIPs" around the game, and there's nobody more important to the Twins than Buxton because he affects so many facets of the game.

"I think everyone understands that we're a different team when Byron's out there patrolling center field," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's not just his improved offense, it's his impact defensively."

Video: MIN@DET: Statcast™ Buxton's steal of second base

Buxton, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com prior to both the 2014 and '15 seasons, had struggled offensively in the Majors heading into last season and started off slow yet again.

But with the help of hitting coach James Rowson, Buxton muted his leg kick in early May and began to see results at the plate. He became more comfortable with the changes after the All-Star break and hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases over his final 57 games.

"My teammates and coaches still believed in me after a rough start," Buxton said. "When I started the season off that way, they had faith to leave me up here and let me battle through it. It shows how much they believe in me, and it pushed me to want to be better and contribute to the team."

Video: Must C Classic: Buxton hammers three home runs

If Buxton can reach anywhere near that kind of production offensively over the course of a season, he could become an MVP candidate. According to the Statcast™ sprint speed metric, he's already the fastest player in the Majors, and he has improved on the bases as well, going 29-for-30 on stolen base attempts in '17.

Given his skill set, the sky is the limit for Buxton, and 2018 could be the year he blossoms into an All-Star. Either way, his defense and speed already make him one of the Majors' more important players.

"It's awesome to see his strides offensively and on the basepaths. He's become a very good offensive player, but he changes the game defensively more than anybody I've ever seen," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. "It bugs me that he's even compared to other guys because when you play with him, you see the balls he gets to nobody else can get to."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton

Twins set dates for annual Winter Caravan

Molitor, Buxton, others to visit more than 40 locations
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins announced plans for their 58th annual Twins Winter Caravan, which includes stops in more than 40 communities throughout the Upper Midwest on Jan. 15-25 and features a few new wrinkles this year.

The Winter Caravan, presented by Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine, is set to include manager Paul Molitor, players such as Jorge Polanco, Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Alan Busenitz, Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Zack Granite, Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton and broadcasters Cory Provus, Jack Morris, Dan Gladden, Dick Bremer and Kris Atteberry.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins announced plans for their 58th annual Twins Winter Caravan, which includes stops in more than 40 communities throughout the Upper Midwest on Jan. 15-25 and features a few new wrinkles this year.

The Winter Caravan, presented by Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine, is set to include manager Paul Molitor, players such as Jorge Polanco, Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Alan Busenitz, Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Zack Granite, Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton and broadcasters Cory Provus, Jack Morris, Dan Gladden, Dick Bremer and Kris Atteberry.

"The Minnesota Twins are proud to have Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine as the presenting sponsor of Winter Caravan," said Twins executive vice president of business development Laura Day. "Twins Caravan offers both organizations a chance to connect with communities throughout the Midwest."

The caravan, which is one of the longest-running of its kind, features groups of current and former players visiting schools, hospitals, corporations and service clubs during the day with a traditional "hot stove" program each evening.

Video: 2017 Twins Winter Caravan

But one change this year is an emphasis on more fan engagement, including a "Play Ball" initiative that has hands-on baseball activities between players and students at select schools. The inaugural Twins Ice Fishing Classic also launches on Jan. 15 at Madison Lake with fans and Twins players competing for prizes on the ice.

The first week of the caravan has two legs, with Polanco, Grossman and Provus heading south and having night stops in New Ulm, Minn.; Spencer, Iowa; Mason City, Iowa; and Red Wing, Minn. The other leg features Molitor, Escobar, Busenitz, Gladden and Morris having night events in Mankato, Rochester and Winona in Minnesota and Menomonie, Wis. Morris leaves the second leg at one point to join the first one in Red Wing.

Additionally, Granite and Garver will be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Jan. 17 for the annual Class A Cedar Rapids banquet, while Buxton will be at Camp Ripley on Jan. 19 to meet with members of the National Guard.

The second week also has two legs, with Rosario, Berrios and Bremer set to visit the Minnesota cities of St. Cloud, Bemidji, Duluth and Ely on their night stops. The second group with Hildenberger, Rogers, Blyleven and Attebery has their night events in St. Paul, Marshall and Alexandria in Minnesota and in Fargo, N.D.

The routes are subject to change, and more information can be found at twinsbaseball.com/caravan.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Twins swap pool money for 2 top prospects

Minnesota acquires catcher from Mariners, outfielder from Angels
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- After losing out on Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, the Twins took advantage of having the third-most international pool money available, trading $1 million of that money to the Mariners for catching prospect David Banuelos and $1 million to the Angels for outfield prospect Jacob Pearson.

The Mariners and Angels remain firmly in the mix for Ohtani and acquired the pool money to be able to increase their offers to the two-way player. And if either one is not the team Ohtani picks, the additional money would serve the clubs in pursuit of other international free agents. While Ohtani is regarded as a grand prize, additional players are available and could very well be highly coveted in a uniquely deep market. (Prospects until recently controlled by the Braves, for example, were declared free agents as part of penalties handed down when their GM, since dismissed and banned, was found to have acquired them improperly. The Angels have already agreed to terms with two of them.)

MINNEAPOLIS -- After losing out on Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, the Twins took advantage of having the third-most international pool money available, trading $1 million of that money to the Mariners for catching prospect David Banuelos and $1 million to the Angels for outfield prospect Jacob Pearson.

The Mariners and Angels remain firmly in the mix for Ohtani and acquired the pool money to be able to increase their offers to the two-way player. And if either one is not the team Ohtani picks, the additional money would serve the clubs in pursuit of other international free agents. While Ohtani is regarded as a grand prize, additional players are available and could very well be highly coveted in a uniquely deep market. (Prospects until recently controlled by the Braves, for example, were declared free agents as part of penalties handed down when their GM, since dismissed and banned, was found to have acquired them improperly. The Angels have already agreed to terms with two of them.)

MLB Pipeline: Top 30 International Prospects

The Twins took advantage of the Angels and Mariners looking for more resources, acquiring Seattle's 10th-best prospect and the Angels' fifth-ranked prospect per MLBPipeline.com. Minnesota had saved bonus-pool money to make a run at Ohtani but were notified last week they were not one of the seven finalists. With $3.245 million available, the Twins decided it was best to use $2 million of it for two prospects who were both drafted in 2017 and are closer to the Majors and easier to evaluate than the 16-year-olds that are usually signed with international bonus money.

Banuelos, known as a strong defender, was a fifth-round pick out of Cal State Long Beach. The 21-year-old hit .236/.331/.394 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 36 games at Class A Short-Season Everett. He also threw out 18 of 48 attempted basestealers (38 percent).

Video: Top Prospects: David Banuelos, C, Mariners

Banuelos, 21, is considered to be a leader and is projected to be above average behind the plate going forward. Offensively, he's more adept at getting on base than hitting for power. The 6-foot, 205-pounder was one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award as the best collegiate catcher last year and received a $300,000 bonus from Seattle.

Pearson, 19, was selected by the Angels in the third round out of West Monroe High School in Louisiana. He hit .226/.302/.284 with seven doubles and a triple in 40 games with the Rookie-level Angels.

Pearson was Louisiana's Gatorade state Player of the Year in 2017, and the Angels signed him for above slot value at $1 million. The left-handed hitter possesses both speed and power with the potential to be a 20-20 offensive player. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder's lone negative tool is a below-average arm after undergoing labrum surgery as a sophomore.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins, David Banuelos, Jacob Pearson

Twins will extend netting at Target Field in '18

Club to raise height, extend protection down foul lines
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins already had some of the most extensive protective netting in the Majors at Target Field, but they will extend it again for the 2018 season to further improve fan safety.

The original backstop netting at the ballpark met Major League Baseball's guidelines, but the Twins opted to extend their netting prior to the 2016 season, adding netting above each dugout that measured seven feet high. With the new netting, it'll be extended to nine feet high and it will also be extended beyond the dugouts down both foul lines covering the entire dugout box seating area from Sections 1-17.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins already had some of the most extensive protective netting in the Majors at Target Field, but they will extend it again for the 2018 season to further improve fan safety.

The original backstop netting at the ballpark met Major League Baseball's guidelines, but the Twins opted to extend their netting prior to the 2016 season, adding netting above each dugout that measured seven feet high. With the new netting, it'll be extended to nine feet high and it will also be extended beyond the dugouts down both foul lines covering the entire dugout box seating area from Sections 1-17.

"Since opening in 2010, Target Field has earned a reputation as one of the most intimate venues in all of sports, with lower level seats located closer to home plate than any other MLB venue," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "With that reality in mind, we feel extending the ballpark's netting is in the best interest of our fans. In addition to ensuring fan safety, we are also committed to installing the best available netting product aimed at minimizing obstructed views for our fans."

As St. Peter noted, the Twins have been proactive with netting because home plate is closer to the seats than any other Major League stadium. The club, though, is mindful of obstructed views, and all the netting will be new, using thin strands and knotless intersections. It'll also have a green hue to blend in better with the field.

The Twins will also continue to warn fans of the dangers of foul balls and bats entering the stands. It'll include warning messages via in-ballpark signage, messaging on tickets and other team-controlled platforms.

It's an issue that hits close to home for the Twins, as they were playing the Yankees in New York in late September when Todd Frazier hit a foul ball down the third-base line that struck a toddler in the face. It left Minnesota players such as Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier emotional during and after the game, and it's clear that players are in favor of extended netting at ballparks.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins

Twins seeking pitching at Winter Meetings

Club looking for starters as well as bullpen help for 2018
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have historically stayed quiet at the Winter Meetings, but with their emphasis on acquiring a frontline starting pitcher this offseason, it could be a different story this year.

Minnesota will be looking to acquire pitching, or at least lay the groundwork for future moves during at the Winter Meetings, which will be held from Dec. 11-14 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have historically stayed quiet at the Winter Meetings, but with their emphasis on acquiring a frontline starting pitcher this offseason, it could be a different story this year.

Minnesota will be looking to acquire pitching, or at least lay the groundwork for future moves during at the Winter Meetings, which will be held from Dec. 11-14 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Hot Stove Tracker

The biggest splash the Twins have made at the Winter Meetings came in 2014, when they signed right-hander Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55 million contract, which remains the largest free-agent deal in club history. That move has panned out -- Santana is the club's ace -- and now Minnesota is looking for a veteran to join him atop the rotation.

The Twins still remain interested in the top starting pitcher on the market in right-hander Yu Darvish, while also being linked to other starters such as Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Relief help remains an emphasis as well, but finding a starter is the top priority.

Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb each received qualifying offers, which means the Twins would lose their second selection in the 2018 Draft and $500,000 from their international bonus pool. But management has indicated it won't stop the club from going after any of those three starters.

Club needs
Starting pitching: The rotation is expected to include Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Santana, but the last two spots are up for grabs, and the Twins would like a top-of-the-rotation veteran to take one of those spots. They do have several internal options such as Adalberto Mejia, Phil Hughes, Trevor May and prospects such as Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero, but the club wants a more stable presence in its rotation. Darvish or Arrieta might prove to be too costly if the Twins are looking to improve the bullpen as well, but pitchers such as Lynn and Cobb are realistic targets.

Video: MIN@DET: Berrios tosses five strong innings

Bullpen: With Matt Belisle and the traded Brandon Kintzler both free agents, the Twins currently don't have a closer on their roster. Minnesota could look to bring one or both back but will be looking for high-strikeout type relievers to join the bullpen. Wade Davis is the only reliever likely out of the club's budget, so there will be plenty of options in free agency.

Right-handed bat: The Twins tendered a contract to Robbie Grossman, which means he could return to the same role as a part-time designated hitter and outfielder. He's an on-base machine, but he lacks the power that usually comes with being a DH and corner outfielder. Minnesota would like more right-handed power, and it could take a flier on a veteran on a one-year deal such as Mark Reynolds, Yonder Alonso or Mike Napoli.

Who they can trade if necessary
The Twins aren't actively looking to trade away Major League talent, but shortstop Jorge Polanco could be expendable if they believe Nick Gordon, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, is close to being Major League ready. But that move isn't likely to happen just yet. Polanco is coming off a strong second half and could move to second base after this season if Brian Dozier departs via free agency. Otherwise, the Twins could look to trade designated hitter Kennys Vargas to clear up roster space for a right-handed power hitter, but wouldn't get much of a return. Fourth outfielder Zack Granite, the club's Minor League Player of the Year in 2016, could also be traded if another club sees him as a future starter in the outfield.

Video: Gordon hoping to make it to Majors in 2018

Top prospects
Per MLBPipeline.com, the Twins' top 10 prospects are shortstop Royce Lewis, Gordon, Gonsalves, Romero, shortstop Wander Javier, outfielder Alex Kirilloff, right-hander Felix Jorge, left-hander Tyler Jay, right-hander Kohl Stewart and first baseman Lewin Diaz.

Gordon, Gonsalves, Romero and Jay could all make their Major League debuts this season, but Stewart and Diaz were left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. Lewis, Javier and Kirilloff remain a long way from the Majors. Jorge made his MLB debut in '17.

Rule 5 Draft
The Twins have a roster spot open if they want to make a selection, but given they have the No. 20 pick and are looking to compete this season, it's not as likely they make a pick. But they are expected to lose Stewart to another club, while Diaz is unlikely to be selected because he's too far from the Majors.

Video: Dozier dazzles defensively for the Twins in 2017

Big contracts they might unload
The Twins are fortunate that they have no large contracts; no one on the club is signed past the 2019 season and only Jason Castro and Hughes are signed through '18. There was talk last year of trading Dozier or Santana, but with Minnesota coming off a Wild Card berth and looking to compete this year, that's no longer the case.

Payroll summary
The Twins have roughly $85 million in payroll commitments for next season, including projected arbitration raises, so they have some flexibility considering their Opening Day payroll was $108 million last year. Minnesota is likely to try to extend some of its young core, but with no long-term contracts on the books, it shouldn't have much of an effect on free-agent spending this offseason.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Minnesota Twins