Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Calm Before the Storm

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


The week between Christmas and New Years is almost always the quietest of the MLB offseason. Most front offices are essentially shut down so employees can spend holiday time with their families, and it's not exactly an optimal time to announce big news.


True to form, the past few days haven't brought a ton of big splashes in the baseball world. However, there were some moves announced, and as the rumor mill continues to churn, everyone is gearing up for what promises to be an action-packed month of January. We're only about six weeks from spring camps getting underway, and there are still dozens of big-name free agents on the market, plus trade discussions yet to reach fruition.


As we wait for those dominoes to start falling in rapid-fire fashion, here's a rundown of this week's developments worth knowing about.


Twins Sign Duke, But Not Close with Napoli


The Minnesota Twins bolstered their bullpen with the signing of left-hander Zach Duke. He gets a one-year deal worth around $2 million, per Darren Wolfson of KSTP. Duke missed much of 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and wasn't at his best after returning, but he came back extremely fast and had posted a 2.74 ERA and 10.4 K/9 from 2014 through 2016. The 34-year-old figures to slot as one of Paul Molitor's top lefty relief options alongside Taylor Rogers.

 

Meanwhile, although it sounds like the Twins are indeed interested in free agent slugger Mike Napoli, those discussions may not be as far along as Jon Heyman's Christmas Day report indicated. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand relayed on Tuesday that "nothing [is] even close to imminent" between the two sides.


Napoli makes some sense for Minnesota as a part-time DH and platoon-friendly backup to Joe Mauer at first, but it's hard to understand why he'd be a priority for a team that has much bigger needs. That said, if the Twins are indeed floating Miguel Sano in trade talks (another nugget via Wolfson), then the addition of another strikeout-prone home run hitter would be a bit more practical.


Hughes Heads to Cincy


Righty reliever Jared Hughes inked a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Reds. He figures to be a frequently deployed setup man for Cincinnati, and could potentially be in line for some save chances if the Reds decide to move Raisel Iglesias. As things stand, Hughes will likely see most of his appearances in the seventh and eighth innings.


He's never been a strikeout machine by any stretch, but the 32-year-old has consistently been very effective over the past four years with Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, registering a 2.55 ERA and 1.26 WHIP while averaging 68 appearances. Hughes makes up for his lack of whiffs with a heavy dosage of grounders, and that formula figures to continue working well for him as he joins yet another NL Central bullpen. But unless he can find his way into closer duties, he offers little fantasy intrigue.


Giants and Reds Still Discussing Hamilton?


First, back in mid-November, we learned that the Giants were interested in trading for Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Then, during the Winter Meetings, we heard the two sides weren't matching up. But apparently, many weeks after these talks initiated, we find out that they are still ongoing.


It's been a dizzying process that even the speedy Hamilton would have trouble keeping up with, but the bottom line is that San Francisco and Cincinnati truly do seem motivated to get a deal done here. That's no shock; Hamilton would be an impactful spark plug for a Giants lineup that often struggled to get anything going in 2017.


Quantifying his considerable value on the base paths and in the outfield against his substandard offensive production presents a tricky challenge, and is probably a driving force in these stalling negotiations. However, the fact that neither club has walked away from the table makes it feel likely that a deal is eventually struck.


Quick Hits: The Yankees finalized their one-year, $10 million deal with starter CC Sabathia ... Mike Olt rejoined the Red Sox on a minor-league contract, and will try to work his way back into the majors for the first time since 2015 ... Former big-leaguer David Huff is moving from Korea to Japan after signing a one-year deal with the Yakult Swallows of NPB ... Righty relievers Jake Buchanan and Daniel Wright inked minor-league deals with the Diamondbacks and Reds, respectively.



Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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