December 29, 2008

Twins Notes: Dickey Redux and Other Minor Moves

  • Last offseason the Twins signed R.A. Dickey to a minor-league contract only to have him snatched up by the Mariners in the Rule 5 draft a week later, so this time around they waited until after the Rule 5 draft to ink Dickey to a minor-league deal. Dickey decided to become a free agent after being outrighted off Seattle's 40-man roster a few weeks ago and the 34-year-old knuckleballer chose to join the Twins rather than re-sign with the Mariners:

    They seemed to be the team that had the most interest in me. Not only that, they also seemed to have a real plan for how they want to use me. More than the other teams. I liked the things they were saying to me. In the end, the Twins seemed more interested. They were saying things about the quality of player they look for and how they like to have character guys on their team. It was nice to hear that they thought of me that way.

    Dickey explained that the Twins "haven't promised anything" regarding an Opening Day roster spot and realistically he's a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but he was apparently swayed by a phone call from assistant general manager Rob Antony that came just hours after he hit free agency. According to Dickey, the "plan" for him would involve bullpen work and the occasional spot start, which he prefers to simply competing for a rotation spot after having some success as a reliever this season.

    Dickey is an intriguing player and everyone loves a knuckleballer, but he had a 5.21 ERA and 58-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112.1 innings with the Mariners this year and the Twins already have a pair of out-of-options long-relief candidates in Boof Bonser and Philip Humber. Barring a trade, the Twins will probably end up sending Dickey to Triple-A near the end of spring training while telling him that he'll be the first pitcher called up for in-season reinforcements.

  • Along with Dickey, the Twins have also signed Luis Matos, Joe Gaetti, Sean Henn, and Bob Keppel to minor-league deals. All four are likely headed to Triple-A, but only Keppel is totally without potential. Matos is a solid defensive center fielder and has spent parts of seven seasons in the majors, batting .255/.312/.375 in 1,773 plate appearances. For comparison, Carlos Gomez hit .258/.290/.360 this year. Matos is 29 years old and played 2008 in Mexico, but still looks like a capable backup outfielder.

    Henn was once considered a solid starter prospect while coming up through the Yankees' system, but flopped during a few brief stints in New York and recently moved to the bullpen full time following arm problems. Henn has an ugly 7.56 ERA in 66.2 innings in the majors, but as a left-hander with a 3.74 ERA and 137-to-67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 175.2 innings at Triple-A he could be a decent southpaw specialist out of the bullpen.

    Gaetti actually finished this year with the Twins after they acquired him from the A's in mid-August and homered in his first plate appearance at Double-A, but ruptured his Achilles' tendon while rounding the bases and missed the remainder of the season. Gaetti is 27 years old and has yet to get a shot in the majors, but he's hit .284/.366/.511 during six seasons in the minors and could be a decent platoon bat against left-handed pitching. Oh, and he's also Gary Gaetti's son and does a nifty impression of dad.

  • After four seasons at Rochester and only 84 plate appearances in the majors to show for it, Garrett Jones has left the organization to sign a minor-league contract with the Pirates. Ron Gardenhire was oddly complimentary to Jones when the Twins called him up in 2007 and some local media members misguidedly talked him up as some sort of legitimate power hitter based on his 20-homer seasons in the minors, but with a .259/.317/.457 line at Triple-A my take has always been that he's a non-prospect.
  • At 31 years old Randy Ruiz is also a non-prospect, but unlike Jones he would have at least been a decent fit on the Twins' roster as a right-handed platoon partner for Jason Kubel. Ruiz was initially kept on the 40-man roster to begin the offseason, but the Twins decided to release him last week and the Blue Jays quickly signed him to a minor-league deal. Ruiz has batted .302/.369/.524 in a decade in the minors and went 17-for-62 (.274) with the Twins this year, but he's certainly a marginal major leaguer.

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