Sonny Gray is drawing interest as one of the top pitchers on the free agent market and he formally declined the Twins' one-year, $20.325 million qualifying offer Tuesday.
The move was expected after Gray was one of the seven free agents given a qualifying offer, a formality for the top free agents. Gray is testing free agency for the first time in his career and the expectation is he will command at least $20 million per year in a multiyear deal.
The Twins haven't ruled out pursuing Gray in free agency, but they're cutting payroll for the coming season and it's difficult to see them atop a bidding war. The Twins will receive draft pick compensation if Gray signs elsewhere. If Gray's contract totals more than $50 million, the Twins will receive a pick after the first round of the 2024 MLB Draft, likely around No. 33 overall.
"He's earned this right," Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations, said last week. "He's gotten here. I don't think there is anything specific we could say about where we're at with him. Just see how this shakes out."
Gray, 34, is one of the three finalists for the American League Cy Young award, which will be announced Wednesday, though New York's Gerrit Cole is a heavy favorite. Gray, who spent two seasons with the Twins, posted an 8-8 record and a 2.79 ERA over 184 innings this year.
Martin, Rodriguez added to roster
The Twins added prospects Austin Martin and Emmanuel Rodriguez to their 40-man roster Tuesday, protecting them from next month's Rule 5 Draft.
Martin, acquired from Toronto in the José Berríos trade, hit .263 with 11 doubles, six homers and 28 RBI in 59 games at Class AAA last season, adding 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts. The righthanded hitter missed the first half of the year recovering from a sprained ligament in his elbow.
The 24-year-old Martin was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt. He's expected to focus on playing center field in spring training after splitting time between second base, left field and center this year.
"What we saw in the second half of this past year was a really consistent offensive approach," Falvey said. "This guy has always had a knack for hitting. My personal opinion is I think he's a really good center fielder. It's a natural thing for him. I think we're probably going to focus our efforts a little more on that."
Rodriguez is rated as one of the top prospects in the Twins' farm system and No. 50 overall by Baseball America. A lefthanded hitter, Rodriguez batted .240 with 13 doubles, nine triples, 16 homers and 55 RBI in 99 games at Class A-Advanced last season with 20 stolen bases in 25 attempts.
Listed at 5-10, 210 pounds, Rodriguez needs to cut down on his number of strikeouts, but he's known as a patient hitter. He led the Midwest League with 92 walks, posting a .400 on-base percentage, and he was second in the league with 87 runs. He arguably possesses the most power among Twins minor league hitters.
The Twins have 38 players on their 40-man roster. They already added catcher Jair Camargo and first baseman Yunior Severino last week because they were eligible for minor league free agency. Camargo and Severino both drew some trade interest before the Twins added them.
"We had enough teams check with us on those players, ask some questions about where we might shake out," Falvey said. "Ultimately, as we were looking at it, we felt like they fit our roster in different ways."
Julien receives ROY votes
Twins second baseman Edouard Julien received two third-place votes for AL Rookie of the Year and he finished in seventh place in the voting. It's the first time the Twins had a player earn rookie of the year votes since Luis Arraez tied for sixth place in 2019.
Baltimore's Gunnar Henderson was the unanimous winner in the American League, as was Arizona's Corbin Carroll in the NL.