AL Central Notes: Lugo, Royals, Twins, Vazquez, Kelly

MLB Trade Rumors

Before Seth Lugo signed with the Padres last winter, the Royals were “reportedly” one of the other teams interested, the Kansas City Star’s Jaylon Thompson writes.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that K.C. has continued that interest now that Lugo is a free agent again, yet given the Royals’ need for starting pitching and the apparent fact that the majority of the league has at least checked in on Lugo’s services, it stands to reason that the Royals still have the right-hander on their radar.

The price tag will be significantly higher for Lugo this time around.  After inking a two-year, $15MM deal with San Diego last winter, Lugo re-established himself as a starting pitcher and posted a solid 3.57 ERA over 146 1/3 innings in 2023.  This puts Lugo in line for at least the three years and $42MM that MLB Trade Rumors has projected, and it seems entirely possible that he’ll land an even bigger payday given the broad interest in his services.  Kansas City might be hard pressed to land Lugo if it turns into a pure bidding war, yet as Thompson notes, the Royals already know they won’t be vying for the most expensive free agent pitchers.  Some teams might see Lugo as a bit more of a backup plan if they can’t land a top-tier starter, whereas the Royals are theoretically more able to focus all their attention on the 34-year-old early.

More from around the AL Central…

  • The Twins’ roster is broken down by The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman and Dan Hayes, including some talk of potential offseason moves and target areas.  With Christian Vazquez’s name recently surfacing in trade rumors, Gleeman and Hayes agree that a deal is possible, but Gleeman notes that Minnesota would likely have to eat a good portion of the $20MM remaining on Vazquez’s contract to facilitate a deal, and thus “trading him may not even save that much money, in which case there’s really no reason to do it.”  Hayes thinks a Vazquez trade might be more likely to come closer to midseason, theoretically after Vazquez has rebuilt some of his value with a solid performance in the first few months of the 2024 campaign.
  • Sticking with the Twins, their plan to cut payroll has been the big headline of the Minnesota offseason.  In a mailbag piece with readers, Bobby Nightengale of the Minneapolis Star Tribune hears from a player agent that the Twins will be much more likely to pursue upgrades via trades before they “seriously” look at free agent signings.  Offering backloaded contracts to free agents also doesn’t make much sense, either for the free agents themselves or for the Twins, as Nightengale notes that Minnesota will want to save future money for its own players (i.e. for arbitration raises or contractually-manded raises).
  • It has been a tough few years for Carson Kelly, as injuries and a lack of performance have sidetracked the career of the former top prospect and seeming breakout catcher during his days with the Cardinals and Diamondbacks.  Kelly signed with the Tigers after being released by the D’Backs in August, and the catcher will be staying in Motown as Jake Rogers’ backup after the Tigers exercised their $3.5MM club option on his services for 2024.  With his immediate future now secure, Kelly tells Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press that the next step is to spend the offseason fixing his swing mechanics, as well as working on catching from a one-knee stance as opposed to a traditional crouch.  “It’s for stealing strikes at the bottom of the zone, and I’m already in a better position to block….It just puts me in a better position to react to wherever the ball is,” Kelly said.

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