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The Twins and the agents for Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Wade Miley, Chris Tillman and Mike Napoli are “maintaining regular dialogue,” according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). Minnesota’s interest in nearly all of those names was already known before Saturday, though this is the first reported connection between the team and Miley.

While the Twins are seeking a front-end starter to complement their only reliable options – Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios – chief baseball officer Derek Falvey revealed this week that they’re also pursuing “value adds” for their rotation. The 31-year-old Miley would qualify as the latter, considering the struggles the left-hander has endured lately.

As a member of the Orioles in 2017, Miley made 32 starts to reach the 30 mark for the fifth straight year, but he averaged fewer than five innings per appearance and finished with 157 1/3 frames – the lowest full-season total of his career. He also notched personal worsts in ERA (5.61), FIP (5.27) and walks per nine (5.32). As a result, the Orioles decided after the season to decline Miley’s $12MM option for 2018 in favor of a $500K buyout, thus sending him to the open market.

Despite his impressive track record of durability, run prevention hasn’t been a strong suit for Miley for the majority of his career, which began in 2011. At his best, Miley combined for an outstanding 3.44 ERA/3.57 FIP across 397 1/3 innings as a Diamondback from 2012-13. Since then, he has pitched to a 4.89 ERA/4.32 FIP over 718 1/3 frames in Arizona, Boston, Seattle and Baltimore.

Miley, to his credit, isn’t that far removed from serving as a competent innings eater with the Red Sox in 2015. And while last season was mostly disastrous, he did manage an 8.12 K/9 – the second-highest figure of his career – along with a quality groundball percentage (50.3). Maintaining those numbers and cutting walks closer to his career mark (3.13 BB/9) would help make Miley a useful back-end option for the Twins or another club in 2018. He’ll also need positive regression in the home run department after last year saw him record a 19.4 percent HR-to-fly ball rate (compared to a lifetime 12.5 percent).

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Injuries to his neck, spine, shoulder and back have limited Mets third baseman David Wright to 75 games since the start of 2015, derailing a potential Hall of Fame career. Now, having not played in a game since May 2016 and having undergone back surgery in October, Wright realizes the Mets can’t count on him heading into the new season. “It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can’t be relied on to go out there and do what I’ve done throughout my career,” the 35-year-old told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. “That is a tough thing to say.” Wright added that he hasn’t made enough progress since his latest surgery to know if his back is going to hold up in 2018, though he expects to find out “closer to spring.” Unfortunately, Wright’s injuries have made the eight-year, $138MM extension he signed in 2012 a poor investment for the Mets. He’s still in line to collect $47MM over the next three years.

More from New York and two other East Coast cities:

  • The Blue Jays have addressed their position player group in recent weeks with the additions of Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. The club still has around $10MM left to spend, and it’s primarily focused on finding a fifth starter and bolstering its bullpen, per Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. The Jays also “remain in the mix for backup catching depth,” Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet writes. For now, Joe Biagini is penciled in as Toronto’s No. 5 starter behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Biagini has spent the majority of his two-year career in the bullpen, however, and could shift back there in the event of an outside acquisition. In doing so, he’d presumably help a unit that lost reliever Dominic Leone in the Grichuk trade.
  • The Mets have shown offseason interest in free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon, former Twins teammate Ervin Santana told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “He just wants to win six more games and then he will retire,” Santana said of the soon-to-be 45-year-old Colon, who’s six victories away from passing Dennis Martinez’s 245 and becoming the winningest Latin American-born pitcher ever. Colon spent 2014-16 as a Met, with whom he was a reliable fan favorite. After a subpar 2017 divided between Atlanta and Minnesota, Colon was reportedly willing to consider a minor league deal to rejoin the Mets earlier this offseason, though indications were that they weren’t all that interested.
  • Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale wasn’t as effective in the second half of last season as he was during the first, which has led to a change in routine this winter for the 28-year-old ace, as he explained to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “I’ve made a couple tweaks to my throwing this year,” Sale said. “Started a bit later trying to ease into it a little more. In terms of working out, started working out earlier, doing pilates. The same things I’ve been doing conditioning and strength wise, just kind of dialing back my throwing program.” Manager Alex Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and the Red Sox trainers are all on board with the changes, per Sale, who insists it won’t mean a lighter workload in 2018. Rather, after leading the American League with 214 1/3 innings last season, he expects to be similarly durable this year.

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In updating the Rangers’ pursuit of starters, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that there has recently been “more activity between” other teams and free agent right-hander Yu Darvish. However, having spent nearly all of his career in Texas, Darvish is waiting for the Rangers to court him more aggressively, Wilson suggests. The Rangers expect him to land better offers elsewhere, though, per two club officials who spoke with Wilson, who adds that they continue to view Alex Cobb more favorably than Lance Lynn when it comes to available second-tier starters. Regardless, a significant free agent investment doesn’t seem likely for the Rangers, general manager Jon Daniels indicated.

Regarding free agents in general and Texas’ reported interest center fielder Lorenzo Cain, Daniels said: “We want to play Delino (DeShields) in center field. Obviously, Cain’s a very good player. I would figure that if we have another big expenditure it would be on the pitching side. I’ve said all along I think it’s unlikely either way.”

More on a couple other AL franchises:

  • The Twins, who have been among Darvish’s pursuers this offseason, don’t have a “budget limitation” when it comes to addressing their rotation, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Falvey was unwilling to comment on any single player, but he did note that he sees “5-10 pitchers out there who could impact us.” Beyond the top available options, the Twins are also looking at “value adds that could help us,” Falvey revealed.
  • Although Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is entering a contract year, he and the club have not discussed an extension. The 29-year-old Kimbrel is open to staying with the Sox for the long haul, though, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald relays. While Kimbrel has been an elite closer for most of his career, including during an otherworldly 2017 in which he logged a 1.43 ERA with 16.43 K/9 and 1.83 BB/9 over 69 innings, new manager Alex Cora may use him earlier in games this year if the situation calls for it. Kimbrel addressed that, saying: “There will definitely have to be a plan in place, and it’s going to come from both sides, mine and his side. I’m sure we’ll be able to talk something out and it’s going to be based off workload and things like that. It’s just the way the game is going.” Mastrodonato posits that fewer saves in 2018 could mean fewer dollars for Kimbrel on his next contract, though I’d argue that teams already know what he’s capable of in the ninth inning. Thriving in a slightly different role could make him all the more attractive as a free agent, then.
  • A reunion with free agent left-hander Francisco Liriano is not high on the Twins’ list of priorities, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Liriano began his career in Minnesota and flourished at times as a starter with the club from 2005-12, but he’s now coming off a pair of less-than-stellar seasons in which he pitched for a combined three times (Pittsburgh, Toronto and Houston). After finishing last year as a reliever with the World Series-winning Astros, it’s unclear whether the 34-year-old will continue in that role or move back to the rotation with his next employer – which apparently won’t be the Twins.

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There’s no official decision yet regarding where Manny Machado will play in 2018, but one could come as soon as this weekend. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com provides some insight into Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s thought process in determining the young star’s position. Showalter has spoken with both Machado and Tim Beckham in regards to Baltimore’s infield alignment, and though nothing is definite yet, Kubatko seems to have confidence that the O’s will grant Machado’s wishes to move him to shortstop this coming season, which would in turn push Beckham to third base or into a super utility role. Showalter also offers some very honest evaluations of Mike Moustakas as well as the price points of some of the high-end free agent pitchers on the market. In addition, he delves into Baltimore’s catcher situation.

A few other notes out of the AL East…

  • Josh Donaldson told reporters today that, to his knowledge, his agent has not been engaged with the Blue Jays regarding a potential contract extension (hat tip to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com). This doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possibility that extension talks have taken place, but it certainly casts doubt on it. Donaldson has been the third most valuable player in baseball by fWAR (21.4) since he was traded to Toronto prior to the 2015 season, Though he started off slowly last season, he still managed an excellent .270/.385/.559 batting line for the campaign while hitting 33 homers. He’d be one of the marquee free agents of an impressive 2018, though the fact that he’ll be nearly 33 by the beginning of November will detract from his value in comparison with players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times points out that the Rays are in a position to enter 2018 with both a higher payroll than last season and less talent on the roster overall. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for the team to make more moves. Topkin cites the lack of activity industry wide as a factor that has “paralyzed” the organization, but believes that once the “dam finally breaks,” they’ll have a lot of things to address. He quotes GM Erik Neander, who describes the team’s to do list as similar to what it was at the outset of the offseason. Topkin mentions a number of candidates who could possibly be traded in order to cut payroll for the team, including closer Alex Colome and the recently-acquired Denard Span. From my own standpoint, it’s not unfair to wonder whether Tampa Bay has any chance to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox as things stand now, let alone if the team continues to make cuts to a payroll that’s one of the lowest in baseball. That can only increase the trade speculation surrounding Chris Archer, Colome, and others on the roster.

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Recent comments from Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski hint that the front office would feel confident going into the 2017 season with the pieces they have in the fold right now. But Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston isn’t convinced at all. In a candid editorial, Drellich blasts Dombrowski for his supposed comfort with the current roster. “Who really believes this?” Drellich writes. “Who really believes the Red Sox could proceed into the season comfortably without some external improvement? You’re in a market competing with the Patriots, a division with the Yankees, and a league with the Astros, and this is what you’re bringing to the table?” He seems particularly miffed by a comment that the team “could stay with anybody”; Drellich rejects such logic by stating that the team’s goal should not be to “stay” with other teams, but rather to be outright better. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal agrees with Drellich’s stance in his own piece, pointing out the lack of a middle-of-the-order slugger in Boston’s lineup. Britton also exposes Dombrowski’s supposed level of comfort by pulling a quote of his from the day after the club’s ALDS loss to Houston. “I didn’t supply the players that would give us enough runs. We do need that,” Dombrowski said at that time. Indeed, it doesn’t seem as though he’s done anything to follow through on that so far this winter. The club is, of course, still engaged in discussions with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, and for his part, Drellich believes a deal will get done. But while Dombrowski seems comfortable taking his time in negotiations with Martinez (waiting for “the ice to melt,” in his own words), one has to wonder what kind of backlash he’ll face in the harsh Boston media if another team swoops in and inks the righty-hitter to a deal first.

A few other items out of Boston…

  • It’s evident that Blake Swihart has thus far been unable to live up to his top prospect billing; he’s been unable to stick at catcher due to poor defense, and his lifetime .270/.330/.380 batting line at the MLB level leaves plenty to be desired. But he’ll enter spring training without any minor league options remaining, and the Sox are intent on finding a spot for him on the roster, according to a tweet from Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Drellich adds in his own tweet that Swihart “finally feels healthy,” and is confident in his ability to play all nine positions on the diamond (though there’s obvious reason for skepticism about the latter point). Swihart was ranked as Boston’s consensus number one prospect following a 2014 season during which he hit .300/.353/.487 at the Double-A level, though it should be noted that he struggled to get on base following a promotion to Triple-A.
  • Drellich also tweets that although left-hander Drew Pomeranz is open to a long-term extension with the Red Sox, the two sides have not discussed one to date. The 29-year-old southpaw made 32 starts for Boston in 2017, pitching 173 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA baseball. He’s set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
  • The Red Sox have announced that they’ll be expanding their protective netting in 2018. The press release describes the expansion as follows: “The new netting system will extend from Field Box Section 79 to Field Box Section 9, expanded from an area previously covering Field Box Section 61 to Field Box Section 29. It will be positioned with the same consistent height as the existing system, which stands at 12 feet, 8 inches above the playing field.” As Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports notes, Boston will join the Yankees and Blue Jays as teams who have recently expanded their netting in order to improve fan safety.

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We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves in this post…

  • The Indians have inked a minors pact with lefty reliever Adam Wilk, who’ll receive an invite to spring training. Wilk stands to make $560K if he makes the opening day roster, and can opt out of his contract if he doesn’t. The 30-year-old pitched 14 MLB innings last season with the Mets and Twins; he’s also played for the Tigers and Angels during his big-league career. Wilk averages just 88 MPH on his fastball, but boasts a five-pitch repertoire. He throws a four-seamer, sinker, slider, curve and change up; each makes up at least 10% of his pitch selection. For his career, the southpaw has a 4.87 ERA. Right-handed batters have hit .331/.380/.664 against him.

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The Indians and Orioles were in contact last month about a trade that could have sent Manny Machado to Cleveland, Jon Morosi of MLB.com writes, although he adds that the two teams are no longer actively discussing a deal. The O’s have a notable dearth of viable starting pitchers, while Cleveland is said to be willing to trade right-hander Danny Salazar. For their part the Indians are one of the few teams who could afford to deal from their rotation in order to add a premium position player like Machado. Morosi describes 2018 as a “pivotal year” for the Orioles franchise, while Dave Cameron (formerly of Fangraphs) wrote a piece a month ago detailing the Tribe’s limited window of eliteness as a reason to splurge on Machado now. A Machado acquisition would likely push Jose Ramirez to second base and push Jason Kipnis back to positional limbo, which complicates a hypothetical deal from a logistics standpoint.

More news and rumors about the Indians…

  • Lefty fireman Andrew Miller is well-known as a force on the mound, but he’s also got a big voice in the MLBPA. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN discussed the subject of pitch clocks with the Indians reliever recently. One of four elected representatives of the association, Miller hopes that the pitch clock negotiations don’t lead to “some sort of ugly showdown.” He told ESPN that the players understand that they need to put out the best product possible from an entertainment standpoint, and that there’s certainly a need for an adjustment. However, he expresses that the lack of a ticking clock is “one of the things about the sport that makes us so appealing and so unique.” Miller’s viewpoint, while level-headed, reveals a polite distaste for the way MLB is going about the process.
  • Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal outlines his case for an Indians-Marlins trade involving outfielder Christian Yelich. Such a move, Lewis says, would help improve the Tribe’s competitive window through 2020, by which point they stand to lose the bulk of their core (Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Edwin Encarnacion and Jason Kipnis, to name a few). Lewis does take care to mention that the team already has a large surplus of left-handed-hitting outfielders, but also points out that Yelich would serve as an upgrade in 2018 regardless, and would fill what could be a potential hole in right field starting in 2019. From my own standpoint, it seems that while the Indians make sense as a potential fit (I mentioned them when I explored Yelich’s trade value last week), adding the 26-year-old Yelich to the fold would involve dealing heavily from their depth to add a player who seems more of a luxury than a necessity.

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