Rays sign Casey Kotchman to a minor league contract

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Earlier this week the Indians were said to be interested in Casey Kotchman, but today the veteran first baseman signed a minor-league contract with the Rays that includes an invitation to spring training.

Tampa Bay lost last year’s starting first baseman, Carlos Pena, as a free agent, but Dan Johnson is expected to replace him and the Rays also just added Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to the first base/designated hitter mix.

Kotchman is a very good defensive first baseman, but hit just .217 with a .616 OPS in 125 games for the Mariners last season and the 28-year-old is a career .259 hitter with a .326 on-base percentage and .392 slugging percentage. He might have some use as a bench player under the right circumstances, but his bat just isn’t good enough to be a regular option at the most offense-driven position.

Rays trade Jake Odorizzi to Twins

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The Rays have traded right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, per team announcements on Saturday evening. The Twins will receive minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios in the deal. Despite previous speculation, recently-DFA’d outfielder Corey Dickerson was not included in the trade.

With Odorizzi, the Twins finally have the front-end starter they’ve been seeking all winter. It’s a bargain deal as well, as the 27-year-old righty is under contract through 2019 and didn’t require the club to part with any of their top-shelf prospects in the trade. Odorizzi will be looking to stage a comeback in 2018 after a dismal performance with the Rays last year, during which he eked out a career-worst 4.14 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through 143 1/3 innings.

Palacios, 21, ranked no. 27 in the Twins’ system last season. He split his year between Single-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers, raking a combined .296/.333/.454 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 539 plate appearances. He’s expected to continue developing at shortstop, though he’s also seen limited time at second and third base during his four-year career in the minors.