Maybe the HR Derby isn't such a good idea

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Are we ready to blame the Home Run Derby for squashing Albert Pujols’ chance at the Triple Crown, or is that just an easy excuse? We remember players from the past flaming out after taking part in the Derby – David Wright hit only 6 HR after the break in 2006, and of course Bobby Abreu hit a mere 6 dingers in the second half after dominating the slugfest the year before – but such a thing couldn’t happen to Big Al, right?

Perhaps it’s because we’re looking at a small sample size or maybe a slight statistical decline was inevitable because no human being can keep up the absurd offensive pace that Pujols set from April through early July. But it’s worth peeking at the splits before and after the Derby:
Before: 90 G, .332/.456/.723, 32 HR, 87 RBI, 35 K
After:    31 G, .280/.401/.525, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 14 K
These aren’t bad numbers – I’ll take a .926 OPS, thank you. They’re just not what we were getting from Pujols a couple months ago. Did the HR Derby mess up his swing a bit? Probably the only person who might know is him. And it must be nice to be in a relative slump and still have 39 HR in late August.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.