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.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.
Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”
Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.
Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.