In a pair of expected moves, the Twins have exercised their $5.25 million option on Jason Kubel and declined their $5 million option on Nick Punto.
Kubel had a disappointing season, but hitting .249/.323/.427 in 143 games for career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, but bringing back the 28-year-old career .271/.335/.463 hitter never seemed in doubt.
Kubel is essentially a league-average corner outfielder or designated hitter offensively and brings little to the table on defense, so $5.25 million may be a slight overpay, but the Twins will be happy with the investment if he can return to pre-2009 levels.
For most teams declining Punto’s option would have been a no-brainer, because $5 million for a 33-year-old career .247/.321/.322 hitter who can’t seem to stay healthy is crazy, but manager Ron Gardenhire absolutely adores Punto and the Twins paid him $4 million in each of the past two seasons. Utility infielders like Punto are typically available every offseason for $1 million or so, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Twins bring him back at a lesser salary.
Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has not had a good postseason. Entering Monday night’s NLCS Game 3, he was batting .111/.238/.278 in 21 trips to the plate across the NLDS and the first two games of the NLCS.
Defense has also been an issue for Grandal. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Grandal was on the hook for two passed balls. In the sixth inning of Game 3 Monday night, he couldn’t corral a curve in the dirt, which allowed Travis Shaw to score the Brewers’ second run of the night. Starter Walker Buehler was charged with a wild pitch. In the eighth, with Ryan Braun on first base and Shaw at the plate, Grandal again couldn’t corral a pitch in the dirt, allowing Braun to move to second base. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Alex Wood was able to escape the inning with no damage.
Manager Dave Roberts said that Austin Barnes, not Grandal, will start behind the plate for Game 4 on Tuesday night, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. That comes as no surprise at all. When Grandal struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Dodger fans regaled him with boos.
Barnes will be an upgrade defensively, but he’s lacking with the bat. He had an 0-for-3 performance in Game 2, though with an RBI, bringing his career slash line in the playoffs to .200/.281/.300 across 57 plate appearances. During the regular season, his career 100 adjusted OPS is a fair bit behind Grandal’s 115. Roberts is trading offense for defense in Game 4. Rich Hill will get the start opposite the Brewers’ Gio González.