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American League

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Signed C-R Chris Gimenez, RHP Nick Tepesch, and RHP Ryan Vogelsong to minor-league contracts. [1/11]

Gimenez has played the previous three seasons for the Rangers and the Indians, spending two stints with each team, so it’s no surprise to see him land with the Twins now that they’re being run by Cleveland’s former assistant general manager (Derek Falvey) and Texas’ former assistant general manager (Thad Levine). Perhaps their mutual love for the 34-year-old journeyman catcher was the icebreaker that led to Falvey and Levine teaming up in Minnesota. Or maybe they just needed some catching depth and figured why not.

Gimenez is a career .218/.297/.335 hitter in 776 plate appearances in the majors spread over four teams and eight seasons. He’s also logged 1,770 plate appearances at Triple-A, hitting .262/.350/.400 with a good walk rate and decent power. His defense has never graded out particularly well, but he’s decent behind the plate. All of which adds up to a replacement-level catcher and that’s exactly what the Twins were looking for after signing free agent Jason Castro a three-year, $24.5 million deal to take over as their starter. Gimenez will compete with John Ryan Murphy and Mitch Garver to be Castro’s backup, with the two losers likely serving as Triple-A Rochester’s catching duo.

Tepesch is another familiar name for the Twins’ new front office, as Levine and the Rangers drafted him in 2010 and the right-hander spent his first two big-league seasons in Texas’ rotation. It didn’t go very well, as Tepesch posted a 4.56 ERA and hideous secondary numbers in 219 innings before thoracic outlet syndrome surgery knocked him out for all of 2015. He returned last season at Triple-A and struggled enough that the Rangers released him in June. Most likely he’ll be stashed at Triple-A for depth and try to pitch his way back to the majors at age 28, but Tepesch is unlikely to be more than a passable fifth starter or low-leverage reliever.

Here at BP we have the Vogelsong Awards, given out monthly and annually to the best players who were absent from that season’s Baseball Prospectus Annual. We have individual comments and projections for more than 2,000 players each year, but some—like Ryan Vogelsong in 2011—simply slip through the cracks before later making us regret their absence. Vogelsong was an All-Star for the Giants in 2011, which was a helluva feat for a 33-year-old with a lifetime 10-22 record and 5.86 ERA who’d been out of the majors for four seasons at that point.

He followed that up with a solid 2012, but Vogelsong has struggled since and is now simply trying to hang on for one more season at age 39. Minnesota’s previous regime was fond of bringing in washed-up starters like Vogelsong and often seemed to go out of their way to hand them rotation spots. Vogelsong’s agent indicated that he specifically targeted the Twins, but barring a shockingly strong spring it’s hard to see Falvey and Levine wanting him to take the mound every fifth day. Vogelsong hasn’t posted a sub-5.00 DRA since 2011, and combined in 2015 and 2016 he walked 98 batters while totaling 169 strikeouts in 217 innings.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Signed 3B-R Trevor Plouffe to a one-year, $5 million contract. [1/11]

Dropped by the Twins in November with one season of arbitration—and a likely $9 million salary—remaining before free agency, Plouffe hit the open market an offseason early and found tepid interest. Plouffe is from California and Oakland is close enough to home, but it's a tough ballpark in which to rebuild your value as a hitter and he'll have to fight for playing time after being a fixture—and frequent cleanup hitter—in Minnesota's lineup.

Once a marginal shortstop prospect with a light bat and weak glove, Plouffe turned his career around at Triple-A in 2011 and came out the other side as a power-hitting third baseman. It was a remarkable transition, but Plouffe failed to take the next step and has been worth just 1.1 WARP per 150 games. Eventually his lack of improvement combined with an assortment of injuries and a rising price tag bumped him from the Twins’ plans at age 31.

Plouffe has 25-homer power and improved enough defensively to be average at third base, but he struggles to consistently handle right-handed pitching and his plate discipline comes and goes. As an everyday player those weaknesses become magnified, but if used mostly versus lefties he can make an impact in a part-time role. Oakland seems likely to slot him in as a regular at third base initially, but might move him around the diamond a bit more than Minnesota did. If he plays well the A’s could flip Plouffe for a prospect at the trade deadline, and if not he’s cheap enough to slide into a platoon role (or perhaps ditch altogether) in favor of younger options in the second half.