Sources: Twins still looking for (affordable) starting pitching

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Even with a club-record $118 million payroll projected for Opening Day, the Twins continue to prowl for pitching upgrades.

They recently offered a two-year, $20 million contract to free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, according to a person with direct knowledge. That idea proved a non-starter as Lynn, the 30-year-old former all-star and three-time 15-game winner, opted to keep waiting for a suitable deal.

Lynn has been working out in Jupiter, Fla., with noted trainer Eric Cressey, who also had recent Twins signee Logan Morrison and Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley in his camp last month. Fellow right-handers Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb also remain unsigned with Opening Day a little over three weeks away.

Cobb is a former Tampa Bay Rays teammate of new Twins Logan Morrison and Jake Odorizzi, but the Twins don’t appear to be aggressively pursuing his services.

“They’re still looking for another starter,” a rival scout said of the Twins.

Ideally, that would come on a short-term commitment as the Twins, aside from a nine-figure offer to free agent right-hander Yu Darvish before he signed with the Cubs, have managed to keep all their additions to one- or two-year terms.

They also made a run at veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia in December before the 37-year-old re-signed with the New York Yankees for one year at $10 million. Lower-cost free-agent starters still unsigned include Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Scott Feldman, Trevor Cahill, Jeff Locke and ex-Twins Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza and R.A. Dickey.

“You always want to balance cost and length and risk and everything associated with that,” Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said last week. “While everyone’s focused on the 2018 roster, I’ve got my sheet with ’19, ’20, ’21, ’22 built out. I think as we think about future flexibility, we feel really good about where our team is headed moving forward.”

The Twins have just $37.7 million committed to four players in 2019 — Phil Hughes, Addison Reed, Michael Pineda and Jason Castro — and no guaranteed money on the books for 2020.

“We’ve always been thoughtful about where the spots are and what the right investments are and making sure that we’re flexible and nimble, whether it’s at the (trade) deadline or otherwise,” Falvey said.

Cutdown coming

Tuesday, March 6, was the official report date for all Twins minor leaguers, although the vast majority of them have been in camp for weeks.

Intrasquad games on the back fields aren’t due to start until Sunday, which made Thursday’s first scheduled off day on the major league side trickier than usual. Rotation candidates Phil Hughes and Tyler Duffey were due to take their turns that day after both worked into a third inning on Saturday at Dunedin, but that will become a full day off for those in big-league camp.

Instead of facing minor-leaguers in a game-type setting, Hughes will skip his scheduled turn and throw live batting practice on Friday or Saturday. That will enable him to work on his slider and changeup without the “pressure of a game situation,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

The first round of cuts could take place by this weekend, although minor-league games against outside competition won’t begin until March 14. The Twins opened Sunday with 59 players still in camp, a smaller number than normal.

“We talked about syncing it up with the games over there in the minor leagues,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if there’s ever been this small of a window between when their games start and when our season starts. It kind of limits some of the options you might normally have a little bit longer.”

Briefly

Catcher Jason Castro, out recently with a migraine, played his first game in six days. Naturally, the first defensive play went to him on a foul pop. Castro, who walked and had a sacrifice fly in three at-bats, is expected to catch Wednesday as well for his first back-to-back games of the spring.

Adalberto Mejia gave up a long home run to Danny Valencia and a two-run single to Manny Machado, but otherwise was pleased with his third outing of the spring. Mejia said his weight is down to 262 pounds after losing 16 pounds with the help of his wife and personal chef, Alejandrina, who has cut greasy and fried foods from his diet.

Joe Mauer snapped out of a 1-for-9 start with a pair of doubles and three runs batted in.

Rookie lefty Gabriel Moya worked a spotless fifth on 11 pitches (nine strikes) to retire three dangerous right-handed batters: Machado, Valencia and Mark Trumbo.

Miguel Sano ripped a first-inning curve to left off Hunter Harvey for his first hit of the spring after an 0-for-8 start.

Jorge Polanco had two hits, including a long homer, to break a 2-for-15 slide.

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