We learned yesterday that the Rangers were close to trading right-handed reliever Koji Uehara to the Athletics. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported last night that the Rangers were also talking to another team, but indicated that progress on a deal could be made this weekend.
Trading Uehara would clear his $4 million salary from the Rangers’ payroll, but the motivation to move him isn’t yet clear. However, it appears there are three likely scenarios.
Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth-Star Telegram was told by one source yesterday afternoon that moving Uehara could free up the proper cash to make a run at free agent right-hander Roy Oswalt. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com later speculated that the next logical move would be to bring back Mike Gonzalez, which actually makes more sense when you consider that the club is without an experienced left-hander in their bullpen at the moment. However, another source later told Wilson that any money saved in a Uehara deal would be used to help trim their payroll and not directed toward another player.
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.