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Another team’s treasure: 9 intriguing new free agents emerged Monday for Twins to consider

With Monday’s non-tender deadline, players around the league suddenly — and in some cases unexpectedly — became free agents.

In Minnesota, it was C.J. Cron and Trevor Hildenberger who were not tendered contracts, and thus are free to sign with any club. Around MLB, there was a good deal of movement. And in several cases, it was down to a question of money or a down year.

That presents some interesting opportunities for an opportunistic club like the Twins. Here are 9 names that caught my attention:

RHP Blake Treinen

Treinen was a stud for the A’s in 2018. And then in 2019, he simply wasn’t.  A year ago at this team he seemed like a lock to get one of those reliever contracts covering multiple years and tens of millions of dollars. Now he’s a 31-year-old right-handed pitcher looking for a job.

What happened?

If the Twins (or any team) believe that they can unlock or unblock something that hindered Treinen’s success in 2019, this is a potential for steal of the winter. The allure of formerly great players who are still not old enough to believe they must be cooked … a siren’s song as tempting as any this time of year.

RHP Kevin Gausman

I covered Gausman in 2013 with the Orioles and the talk back then was how unfair it was to be Baltimore. In a good way. They had Chris Tillman and not to mention all the future no-doubt star pitchers — Dylan Bundy, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Jack Arrieta and Gausman.

It’s weird how those things tend to turn out, the winding roads of MLB careers. But anyway, Guasman has a big fastball and a strong changeup — I’ve seen it referred to as a split-change and as a foshball — and whatever you call that thing he relied on it 40% of his pitches last year. He’s bounced from the O’s to the Braves and was just non-tendered by the ‘pitching-rich’ Reds.

Mid-90s fastball velocity with a changeup and former top prospect billing is enough to get you on this list. College teammates with former Twins pitcher Ryan Eades.

2B César Hernández

I don’t know that the Twins need a second baseman and if they do, I don’t know if Hernández is that guy. I believe that he’s a good baseball player. And not too long ago he was considered a good runner, fielder and was posting .370 on-base percentages.

It’s just that he’s 29 years old now, and over the past 3 years he’s hit a combined .274/.353/.396. That batting line doesn’t seem all that special when considering  Twins’ 2019 rookie sensation Luis Arráez batted .334/.399/.439 with more pop and better ability to control the strike zone and get on base.

3B Maikel Franco

Franco was not good with the bat for the Phillies last year, and that’s probably why he’s out now. He’s 27 years old and one season removed from hitting a respectable .270/.314/.467 (.328 Weighted On-Base Average). He slugged nearly .500 as a 22-year-old third baseman back in the day for the Phillies, but that was back in 2015.

Frankly, I don’t see it for the Twins unless they have changed their mind on Miguel Sanó and just want to plug in an affordable third baseman to target more expensive upgrades elsewhere.

RHP Taijuan Walker

It feels like he’s been around in the big leagues for a while now and he’s still just 27 years old. He debuted in 2013 with the Mariners shortly after his 21st birthday. Now, he apparently was deemed too expensive to be worth the risk at roughly $5 million for Arizona. Shoulder injury, Tommy John surgery, UCL, sprained shoulder capsule — it’s been a long road to this point for Walker.

That’s the backdrop of being let go. The reason to look into him for his next club will be his mid-90’s fastball. And his 2017 season, in which he made 28 starts for the Diamondbacks with a 3.49 ERA.

OF Kevin Pillar

Well-regarded defensive outfielder who didn’t hit that much in San Francisco following a trade last year (career .261/.296/.405 hitter).  He doesn’t hit like Jake Cave. If you feel you need some Byron Buxton insurance in the outfield, though, Pillar is one of the few humans in the world who has reached that level defensively in the past. Others like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Kiermaier might not be as readily available.

RHP Aaron Sanchez

Shoulder surgery prevented him from factoring into the World Series run, and likely will keep him off the mound until mid-2020. He was a trade target for a reason, and in his first outing with Houston he went 6 no-hit innings. The Astros likely decided that they didn’t want to pay $5 million-$6 million for a half-season of a pitcher coming off a shoulder injury.

RHP Jimmy Nelson

Injuries, man. Jimmy Nelson was a revelation for the Brewers in 2017 (175 innings, 3.49 ERA, 199 strikeouts). Then he hurt his shoulder while running the bases, had a major surgery, and then we only saw him for 63 innings this year, the majority in the minor leagues.

LHP Danny Hultzen

Complete flier on my part. Former top prospect, drafted second overall in 2011 and has recorded just 10 outs in the big leagues. He was picked at the top of the draft years ago, sandwhiched between Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. The story of his career to date has been arm injuries – and a brief hiatus – but now he’s a 30-year-old lefty who pitched in the big leagues and once was very highly regarded. It’s a dangerous brew to get too enticed by past projections, but let’s note that we’re not looking here for Trevor Bauer. We’re looking for, say, Matt Magill.

Zack Wheeler has at least one offer for $100 million [Report]


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