Twins exercise Jason Kubel’s option, decline Nick Punto’s

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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.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.