'La Tortuga' says farewell to Minnesota

November 24th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- For four seasons, played wherever the Twins needed him, lost his helmet over and over again while giving his all at the plate and on the basepaths, brought joy and chaos to the Minnesota dugout and, yes, showed the world that "chubby people also run."

But now, the "La Tortuga" era in the Twin Cities has come to its end.

The 30-year-old fan favorite utility man was granted his release on Wednesday, days after he was designated for assignment as part of Minnesota's roster crunch ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, making him a free agent for the first time since he debuted with the Twins in 2018.

Left-hander Charlie Barnes, the other player designated for assignment last Friday, cleared outright waivers and was assigned to Triple-A St. Paul.

Astudillo didn't have the easiest path to the Majors, spending a decade in the Minors in the Philadelphia, Atlanta and Arizona organizations before he got his first crack at the big leagues with Minnesota, quickly establishing himself as a cult hero among baseball fans for his extreme contact-oriented hitting profile, versatility, stature and joy for the game.

On his way out, he thanked the Twins' organization for his first opportunity to play in the big leagues and expressed his hope that he'll be remembered for his energy and humor in a farewell post on his Instagram page.

"I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to wear the Twins uniform these past years," he wrote. "It was an honor. I take with me many wonderful memories and friendships. I hope that I was also able to give you guys moments of joy. Hope I was able to make you smile. So remember me, Minnesota."

Astudillo hit .236/.259/.375 with seven homers and eight doubles in 72 games last season and .270/.295/.406 across four seasons with the Twins. He appeared at every position but shortstop and even took the mound five times, highlighted by a 2.25 ERA in four appearances across the 2021 season that featured some pitches so slow they didn't register on the Statcast system and even a controversy when Yermín Mercedes took him deep in a blowout game.

"Gasolina, papá," he would say with a smile to describe his eephus pitches.

There simply wasn't room anymore on the Twins' roster for Astudillo considering his meager performance at the plate, the organization's gradual turn away from him as an option at catcher, and the continued emergence of possible multipositional options like Nick Gordon and No. 8 prospect Jose Miranda, who played at first, second and third base in the Minors last season.

But that doesn't take away from the fun that Astudillo and his fans had in those four seasons -- and that's what he'll take away as he says goodbye.

"Remember me with a smile," he finished. "Love you guys. Tortuga, out."