The Twins have agreed to terms with a veteran starter, the Wild made a trade on Tuesday and the Vikings are playing the waiting game. Let’s examine each of those topics.
- Item: The Twins have reached an agreement on a one-year contract with lefthanded starter J.A. Happ, pending a physical, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the deal is worth $8 million.
- Reaction: Twins fans, at least those on Twitter, seemed less than enthused about this move and considering what AL Central-rival Chicago has done this offseason, they can’t be blamed for not feeling as if a potential fourth or fifth starter moves the needle. This has been a dreadfully slow offseason for the majority of big-league clubs (the White Sox, Padres, Mets and Blue Jays have been active) and the Twins are no exception. The 38-year-old Happ will serve as the replacement for veteran Rich Hill. Happ brings 14 years of major league experience, having spent the past two-plus seasons with the Yankees. He was 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA in nine starts last season in New York and is 123-92 in his career with a 3.98 ERA in 324 games and 298 starts. Happ also has 15 postseason appearances (1-4, 5.86 ERA) and four starts to his credit. He made a relief appearance in the Yankees’ three-game sweep of the Twins in the 2019 playoffs. With Jake Odorizzi unlikely to return, Happ will get a chance to slot in behind Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda in the rotation. The Twins’ main priority at this point should be re-signing designated hitter Nelson Cruz. If Cruz signs elsewhere, the Twins will hear about it from many who are rightfully miffed by the team’s remarkable 18-game losing streak in the postseason.
- Item: The Wild acquired defenseman Ian Cole from the Colorado Avalanche for defenseman Greg Pateryn.
- Reaction: On the surface you might wonder why Wild general manager Bill Guerin would trade for a soon-to-be 32-year-old in exchange for a 30-year-old, especially when Cole’s salary-cap hit is $4.25 million and Pateryn’s is $2.25 million? (The Avalanche will retain $800,000 of Cole’s cap hit). But this move is likely as much about what Cole will bring off the ice as it is what he adds on it. Guerin was assistant GM in Pittsburgh when Cole played on the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championship teams in 2016 and 2017. Guerin has made several moves to alter the Wild locker room since last season. This included acquiring center Nick Bonino, also a member of those two championship teams in Pittsburgh, in a trade that sent winger Luke Kunin to Nashville in October. Guerin knows exactly what he’s getting in Cole, who was expandable in Colorado in part because of his salary and in part because the team is filled with talented young blue liners. My friend Patrick Reusse hates this term, but Cole’s presence is another sign that Guerin wants to continue to change the culture in the home locker room at Xcel Energy Center.
- Item: The Vikings continue to wait for Gary Kubiak to decide if he’s going to return as offensive coordinator next season.
- Reaction: It has been more than two weeks since reports surfaced that Kubiak was leaning toward retirement after two seasons with the Vikings and one calling the plays. Coach Mike Zimmer said during his end-of-the season press conference that Kubiak was taking some time to consider his options. It’s likely Zimmer encouraged Kubiak to do exactly that, considering how much he values having the former NFL quarterback and head coach around. You have to wonder if Zimmer and the Vikings have a Plan B in place Kubiak decides he has had enough? One option would be to promote Kubiak’s son and Vikings quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak to offensive coordinator. Klint, who will turn 34 on Feb. 17, was on the Vikings’ coaching staff in 2013 and 2014 and returned in 2019 when his father was hired as assistant head coach and senior offensive advisor. Gary Kubiak moved into the offensive coordinator’s role last offseason when Kevin Stefanski left to become the Browns’ coach. If Zimmer is going to promote Klint Kubiak, it’s possible that part of the plan would be having Gary return to being an advisor. There also is a chance the Vikings are considering outside options. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has had three offensive coordinators — John DeFilippo, Stefanski and Gary Kubiak — in his three seasons with the Vikings and at some point soon Zimmer is going to need to know if that number will grow to four.