Twins call up prospect Trevor Plouffe to fill in for injured J.J. Hardy

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Initially when the Twins placed J.J. Hardy on the disabled list they thought he’d return after the minimum 15 days and called up 28-year-old, light-hitting utility man Matt Tolbert rather than a legitimate prospect to replace him on the roster.
However, now Hardy’s wrist injury is proving more serious than originally thought and he’s not expected to return until at least next week, so the Twins have called up 24-year-old former first-round pick Trevor Plouffe and he’ll be in the starting lineup at shortstop tonight against the Brewers.
Plouffe was the 20th overall pick in the 2004 draft and the Twins pushed him very aggressively through the minors, but he never cracked even a .750 OPS at any level and hit just .256 with a .704 OPS in nearly 3,000 plate appearances prior to this year. He ranked just 27th on my annual list of the Twins’ top prospects this offseason, but Plouffe has finally shown some pop at the plate in his third crack at Triple-A, hitting .303 with 18 extra-base hits and an .860 OPS in 38 games prior to the call-up.
Obviously six weeks of solid hitting at Triple-A doesn’t cancel out six years of poor numbers at every level, but Plouffe is still just 24 and the Twins seem confident that the strides he’s made this season are legitimate. Minnesota has had trouble developing young middle infielders for basically Ron Gardenhire’s whole tenure, so with Hardy perpetually banged up and Orlando Hudson manning second base on a one-year contract Plouffe taking a step forward would be huge.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.