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Jon Heyman: Twins are still serious about signing Mike Napoli

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports hears that the Twins are still seriously pursuing free agent first baseman Mike Napoli. The two sides don’t appear close to a deal at the moment, however, and Napoli has also attracted interest from both the Mets and Rays over the past month. Still, Heyman adds, the slugger would bring a much-needed boost to the club’s lineup and his connection to both president Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine could give them a welcome advantage in negotiations.

Napoli, 36, is coming off of one of the worst performances of his career. He took a one-year contract with the Rangers in 2017 and slashed a meager .193/.285/.428 in 485 plate appearances, despite an impressive 29 home runs and .713 OPS. Outside of his power surge, part of his overall decline in value can be attributed to injuries, from a lower back strain to a stress reaction in his right leg. In December, it was revealed that the veteran infielder had played the entire season with a torn ligament in his right hand, which was later corrected through surgery.

Warts and all, Napoli still looks like a good fit for the Twins, who could utilize him at DH or stash him behind Joe Mauer at first base. Earlier this week, both MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press said talks between the two weren’t “as intense as [was] being reported,” and Berardino pointed out that pitching remains the top priority for the club as they look toward the 2018 season.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.