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Thad Levine: ‘Yu Darvish is a priority for us’

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The Twins are prepared to make a play for free agent right-hander Yu Darvish and two-way star Shohei Ohtani, according to comments made by general manager Thad Levine on Sunday. While the club isn’t the presumed frontrunner in the Ohtani sweepstakes, they still have a significant amount of bonus pool space remaining and could make a compelling case for the 23-year-old’s services when he’s posted next month.

“He’s a unique free agent, but we don’t know a lot about him personally yet,” Levine told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Duquette. “It’s exciting for us because we have a chance to sign a player like him […] He’s a top priority for us.”

Darvish, meanwhile, could easily command one of the biggest contracts this winter. The 31-year-old right-hander worked a collective 10-12 record in 31 starts for the 2017 Rangers and Dodgers, supplementing his efforts with a 3.86 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 10.1 SO/9 over 186 2/3 innings. Over five full seasons in the major leagues, the righty has amassed 19.0 fWAR, four All-Star nominations, three 200-strikeout campaigns and a strikeout rate that has never dipped below 10.0 SO/9. As the top starting pitcher currently on the market, he’s projected to attract a multiyear deal upwards of $150 million.

Of course, Darvish and Ohtani won’t be the Twins’ only targets this offseason. Levine said that he’s been in contact with the agents for free agent starters Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, as well as several back-end bullpen arms. Arrieta will also command a pretty penny in free agency, but Lynn and Cobb represent solid starters with much lower price tags and could easily boost a pitching staff that finished 22nd in the league in 2017.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.