The reorganization of Minor League Baseball is expected to be announced soon, with the Twins reaching deals to have their top affiliates in St. Paul and Wichita, Kan.
The St. Paul Saints will leave independent baseball to become the Class AAA team for the Twins. What’s unclear is if the Saints are paying the entire cost of entering affiliated ball — reports over the summer indicated a cost of as much as $20 million — or if the Twins will contribute.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli fueled speculation Saturday when posted a video on his Twitter feed thanking fans for their support while wearing a Saints cap. The Twins’ Class AAA site had been in Rochester, N.Y., which will now house the Nationals’ top farm team.
The Class AA affiliate will switch from Pensacola, Fla., to Wichita. According to the Wichita Eagle, the announcement will be met with disappointment in a city that raised taxes to help pay for $75 million Riverfront Stadium to try and lure a Class AAA team.
The Wind Surge would leave the Pacific Coast League without having played a AAA game — it was based in New Orleans before 2020, and the past minor league season was wiped out by the pandemic — for the Class AA Texas League.
Wichita hasn’t had a Class AAA team for nearly 40 years.
The Twins will benefit from having closer affiliates, reducing travel times and costs. A player on a rehabilitation stint in St. Paul will be able to drive himself across the Twin Cities.
Class A teams in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Fort Myers, Fla., are expected to stay with the Twins.
MLB’s reorganization calls for 120 affiliates, a reduction by more than 40 teams. According to Baseball America, teams will present professional development licenses to their affiliates to sign starting this week.
The Pioneer League, formerly a rookie league with teams in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Utah, will transition from affiliated to independent. The Appalachian League, where the Twins had a rookie team in Elizabethton, Tenn., will become a wood bat league for college players.
Affiliate announcements were expected to happen early this week, but a major league source said Tuesday they could be delayed by as much as two weeks.
Cruz talks slow down
The Twins made a one-year contract offer to Nelson Cruz in October an attempt to expedite negotiations with their 40-year-old designated hitter. Cruz remains a free agent, and that offer is no longer on the table.
That doesn’t mean negotiations are over. Both sides are interested in a reunion but, for now, other things have to play out.
With Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association expected to meet soon to discuss a few topics — including the continuation of the universal designated hitter — it’s likely that Cruz and his agent will wait to see the results of those talks before proceeding. If the National League keeps the DH for 2021, Cruz could have several more teams bidding for his services and raising his price.
The Twins would like to bring their star slugger back for a third season, but that could take a two-year deal.
The Twins also are considering life without Cruz. In fact, they were one of three teams in on righthander Charlie Morton, who helped Tampa Bay reach the World Series before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
Morton ended up signing with Atlanta for one year and $15 million, with reports suggesting the 37-year-old two-time All-Star preferred to stay on the East Coast. It was the second time the Twins made an unsuccessful run at Morton; the other came after the 2018 season when Morton signed with the Rays.
If Morton had signed with the Twins, it would have made adding another eight-figure salary less likely. Baseball was hit hard financially with empty stadiums in 2020, and it is expected payrolls will be tightened by almost every team as free agency creeps into winter.
Reliever Law signs
The Twins signed righthanded reliever Derek Law to a minor league contract. Law, 30, last pitched in the majors in 2019, when he posted a 4.90 ERA in 58 games for the Blue Jays.
In 167 major league games with San Francisco and Toronto, he is 10-5 with a 4.22 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 166⅓ innings.