Twins acquire veteran OF Michael A. Taylor from Royals

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MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Twins acquired veteran Michael A. Taylor from the Kansas City Royals, adding depth and defense to their outfield in exchange for two relief pitching prospects.

The 31-year-old Taylor batted .254 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 414 at-bats last season for the Royals, his second year with the club after spending his first seven major league seasons with the Washington Nationals.

The Twins sent 23-year-old right-hander Steven Cruz and 25-year-old left-hander Evan Sisk to the Royals.

Taylor’s best offensive season came in 2017 with the Nationals, when he hit .271 with 19 homers, 53 RBIs and an .806 OPS in 118 games. His greatest value is in the grass, though. Taylor was a Gold Glove winner in his Royals debut in 2021 and gives the Twins a third outfielder on their roster who has won the award, joining Byron Buxton (2017) and newcomer Joey Gallo (2020 and 2021).

Taylor is a natural center fielder who will give the Twins a solid backup plan behind Buxton, whose injuries have kept him from playing more than 92 games in a season all but once in eight years in the major leagues.

Gallo can play all three outfield spots, with most of his 2022 experience in left field where Trevor Larnach will also be in the mix. Gallo won his Gold Glove awards as a right fielder. Max Kepler, another strong defender, has been the regular right fielder for the last seven seasons. With the recent departure via trade of AL batting champion Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff is in line to take the lead at first base with Gallo also likely in the mix.

The Twins have had an aggressive start to the new year, highlighted by the surprise re-signing of shortstop Carlos Correa after deals fell through for him with two other teams. They sent Arraez to Miami for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez.

The middle initial “A” in Taylor’s name stands for Anthony. The native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who was drafted by the Nationals in the sixth round in 2009, had the initial added to his name to distinguish him from another Michael Taylor who played outfield in the major leagues from 2011-14.

Cruz, a 6-foot-6 native of the Dominican Republic, went 1-4 with a 5.14 ERA, 35 walks and 72 strikeouts in 56 innings last season for Double-A Wichita. In 120 career minor league appearances, Cruz has 259 strikeouts in 192 1/3 innings.

Sisk, who was originally drafted by St. Louis in the 16th round in 2018 out of the College of Charleston, split last season between Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. He went 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA, 29 walks and 76 strikeouts in 63 innings between the teams. Sisk was acquired by the Twins in a 2021 trade that sent starting pitcher J.A. Happ to the Cardinals.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.