Re-signed Koji Uehara to a two-year extension worth $18 million. [10/30]
A nifty deal. The easiest way to judge this contract is to write down what you would've paid Uehara for one year of his services. Then take that number and subtract it from $18 million. Odds are, you're left with $6 million at most. A lot can happen to a pitcher within a year, particularly one who turns 40 in a few months and has a history of durability woes. But Uehara is good enough that you can take the risk on the second year and feel good about it, especially if in doing so you get a discount on the first. —R.J. Anderson
Named Paul Molitor manager. [11/3]
That the Twins a) stayed within the Minnesota family and b) hired a first-time manager should surprise no one. They haven't hired someone with big-league managerial experience elsewhere since Gene Mauch in 1976. Molitor, the sixth Twins manager since Mauch, is also the fifth to have played for the organization in some form or another. The Twins love old faces on their new managers.
It helps that Molitor is seemingly adored by any and everyone who works around him, from Twins players on up, and that he's familiar with the organization's processes. While Minnesota fans will pause about another internal candidate, Molitor feels like a departure from the norm. For instance, last year Molitor supervised the Twins' infield play, baserunning, bunting, and defensive positioning—important, because it appears the 58-year-old is open to new ideas and analytics.
Based on all the information available, Molitor's appointment seems like more than a PR ploy. Yes, he grew up in Minnesota, attended the University of Minnesota, spent the final three years of his playing career with the Twins, and lacks previous managerial experience. But he's a defensible choice. He might even look like a good choice if the roster improves within the next few seasons. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired RHP Marco Estrada from the Brewers in exchange for 1B-L Adam Lind. [11/1]
Not as bad of a return as it looks—especially given Alex Anthopoulos' comments that only one other team was interested in Lind.
Estrada had worked his way up from dogsbody status in Milwaukee to averaging more than 20 starts in each of the past three seasons. He's short and doesn't throw hard, but he atoned for those flaws by having a high release point and a beautiful circle-change, which comes in about 10 paces slower than his fastball does. Estrada's equalizer keeps him free of a platoon split, yet hasn't been enough for him to avoid the long ball with regularity. Blame it on Miller Park if you'd like, but misplaced and elevated fastballs tend to get hit hard no matter the ballpark.
Still, Estrada does enough right—throw strikes, miss bats, change speeds—to sit at the tail-end of a rotation. Even that understates his statistics, as he's even finished two of the past three seasons with an ERA+ exceeding 100 and strikeout-to-walk ratios better than 4.00. The worst-case scenario is Estrada has another year like last, where he runs into too many barrels and plays out the string as a swingman. That would be a rotten development for Toronto in more ways than one, because he'll qualify for free agency following next season.
With Lind elsewhere, the Blue Jays are expected to pursue one of the free-agent DH types. Should they fall short in those pursuits, they could always turn to Justin Smoak or Andy Dirks, two recent waiver-wire claims. Neither is an ideal Plan A, but Estrada is proof that useful parts can be found cheap; after all, he was plucked off waivers from the Nationals back in 2010. —R.J. Anderson
Smoak is a questionable fantasy proposition, but the Lind trade confirms that the Blue Jays are going to commit to giving him a shot—possibly his last one—to morph into a viable major leaguer. The park shift from Seattle to Toronto could help a great deal; Smoak hit an abysmal .148 in 115 at bats in Safeco in 2014 (yes, small sample size alert). Smoak is going to need to regain the power stroke that allowed him to swat 20 home runs in 2013. If this happens, he would be fantasy viable in deeper formats even with a .240 batting average. He is a guy to take at the back end or in the reserve phase in 16-team mixed league or as a $4-$6 flier in AL-only. While there could be profit in Smoak, he might crater and disappear entirely. Better to let someone else win an unlikely jackpot than to chase and crash and burn on another Smoak failure. —Mike Gianella
Poor Marco Estrada. A move to San Diego or San Francisco might have turned him into an $8-$10 NL-only pitcher with some deep-league streaming possibilities; instead he goes to Toronto where at best he will see a lateral park move. J.A. Happ certainly isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but it is likely that Estrada reprises the role he had for the Brewers in the second half as long man/swingman for the 2015 Blue Jays. Estrada probably isn’t even worth one dollar in AL-only to start the season and can safely be left on the wire in all other formats. —Mike Gianella
Acquired 1B-L Adam Lind from the Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Marco Estrada. [11/1]
We knew Doug Melvin needed a first baseman. We also knew Melvin wouldn't want a repeat of last winter, when he missed on James Loney and resorted to a Mark Reynolds-Lyle Overbay concoction that resulted in the majors' worst first-base production outside of Texas. Lind though? Bit of a surprise.
The popular resolution had Melvin signing Adam LaRoche in free agency. Lind, in all likelihood, wasn't on most radars. Why would he be? He felt like an American League fixture, someone who needed the DH in order to fit on a roster. Yet Melvin probably saw one advantage Lind had over LaRoche: money. Lind is due $7.5 million in 2015 and has an $8 million club option for the subsequent season. LaRoche, although facing uncertain prospects after the Nationals declined his $15 million club option, is almost certain to top those numbers with his upcoming deal.
But enough with the finances. How is it that Lind will help the Brewers on the field?
The most obvious answer is by providing Milwaukee with another quality bat. Lind has hit .314/.380/.515 against right-handed pitchers over the past three seasons. The Brewers' roster was stuffed with right-handed hitters last season, to the point where just four lefties received more than 100 plate appearances. Whether lefty-righty balance matters is unclear—the Brewers were better than average against right-handed pitching—but at minimum Lind is a massive offensive upgrade over Reynolds and Overbay. That doesn't mean Melvin can just drop Lind at first base and move on to other issues. As good as Lind is when he has the platoon advantage, he's been almost as poor without it, having posted a .512 OPS against southpaws the past three seasons.
Melvin could solve this issue by carrying Jason Rogers or some other right-handed first baseman on the bench as a safety net. If the Brewers want to get creative—or simply avoid using two roster spots to fill one position—then they could use Jonathan Lucroy at first base against lefties, thereby saving his body some wear and tear while allowing Martin Maldonado more time behind the plate. Alternatively, Melvin could seek out a Sean Rodriguez or Jeff Keppinger type: a non-first baseman who has played in timeshares there before and can help at other positions if needed.
One thing is for certain: Melvin will need a contingency plan; Lind has missed time in three of the past four seasons, and hasn't appeared at a defensive position in more than half his team's games since 2011. How Lind takes to first base over a full season could determine whether Melvin needs to find another replacement at the cold corner in 12 months' time. —R.J. Anderson
Lind was the ninth-best first baseman in AL-only in 2014, earning $12. Some of this was due to a thinner player pool than in years past; $12 was just 17th best in 2013. Lind is worse than a zero against left-handed pitching because of his batting average, but it is likely that the Brewers use him the way that the Blue Jays did and sit him almost entirely against southpaws. At the moment, Luis Jimenez seems like the most likely candidate for this role. Some are wondering if Milwaukee might go acquire another first baseman, but a Lind/Jimenez platoon seems like it could work quite well. Lind’s ceiling is probably the $19 he earned in 2013, which is pretty solid in today’s non-elite first base environment. In mixed leagues, if Lind can bounce back to 2013, he could be worth starting in standard mixed leagues; he would be a solid play with a useful platoon partner on your fantasy bench. He is moving from a hitter’s park to a hitter’s park, so there won’t be a significant shift there. The 2014 BABIP is a severe outlier, but Lind’s BABIP against righties has always been fairly solid, so a .290 batting average isn’t out of the question. The arrow moves up because the ambiguity in Toronto that existed with the addition of Justin Smoak disappears. —Mike Gianella