The Twins had followed the progress of 16-year-old shortstop Jelfry Marte for more than two years, and their scouts had established a strong enough relationship with him to entice the young Dominican to sign with them for a $3 million bonus last July.
So the team was shocked, according to a source with knowledge of the process, when Marte did not pass the required physical before signing his contract. According to a report in Baseball America, which had ranked Marte among the top five infielders available last summer, a problem with Marte’s vision was uncovered during the physical, and on Wednesday, the Twins confirmed they had voided Marte’s contract.
The Twins could still sign Marte, their highest-profile acquisition during this year’s international signing period, for a reduced bonus, but he is in Orlando this month working out for other interested suitors, too.
The termination of Marte’s contract is the reason the Twins, with $3.245 million remaining in their international budget under MLB rules, were identified last week as one of three teams with the ability to offer Japanese star Shohei Ohtani more than $3 million when he becomes available on the open market this winter. Ohtani, 23, has apparently decided to attempt the jump to MLB now, when contract offers are restricted by the bonus limits on foreign players, rather than wait until he turns 25 and could be an unrestricted free agent and sign a contract that many project would top $100 million.
Ohtani is a dominant righthanded starting pitcher in Japan, but also a prodigious hitter, and will trigger a scramble to sign him once MLB agrees to a posting system.
The Twins, particularly armed with their unexpected money, intend to be a part of the conversation, General Manager Thad Levine said last week. But Levine also sees an opportunity, if Ohtani prefers another franchise, to trade their bonus money to a team with a better chance to sign him.
Rodriguez to Giants
Dereck Rodriguez, the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, has signed as a minor league free agent with the San Francisco Giants after seven seasons in the Twins’ system, he announced Wednesday via Instagram.
Rodriguez, a 25-year-old righthanded pitcher, was a 19-year-old center fielder just out of high school in Miami Gardens, Fla., when the Twins drafted him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. The Twins liked his defense in the outfield, particularly his strong arm, but after hitting .222 with a .268 on-base percentage for rookie-level Elizabethton in 2013, his third pro season, Rodriguez and the Twins agreed his path to the major leagues seemed more realistic as a pitcher.
The transition has been a success, and after putting up a 2.51 ERA at Class A Fort Myers in April and May, Rodriguez reached Class AA and pitched 75⅓ innings with a 3.94 ERA.
Rodriguez chose free agency this winter, however, and agreed to terms with the Giants. He thanked the Twins in his Instagram post “for an amazing first 7 years of pro ball. You guys taught me how to play the game ‘the Twins’ way.’ Always playing smart and always hustle.”