The Minnesota Twins were all about upgrading their pitching this winter, giving both their bullpen and their rotation with a series of acquisitions.
With the market moving slowly, though, there were position players still available for sensible investments.
That included Logan Morrison and his 38 home runs.
Morrison and the Twins finalized a $6.5 million, one-year contract Wednesday, a deal that includes a $5.5 million salary this year and an $8 million club option for 2019 with a $1 million buyout.
“In the free agent market, you are trying to buy wins. You are trying to buy production,” Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. “Ultimately we felt we could buy it at a reasonable cost on the bat side.”
Morrison could earn $1.5 million in performance bonuses this year: $500,000 each for 450, 500 and 550 plate appearances. The 2019 option price would increase to $8.5 million if he has 500 plate appearances this year and would go up to $9 million with a $1.5 million buyout if he has 550. The 2019 salary would become guaranteed at $9.5 million if he has 600.
Morrison agreed to terms last weekend subject to a successful physical and was introduced during a news conference at Twins spring training headquarters in Fort Myers, Florida. The 30-year-old drove in 85 runs for the Tampa Rays last season to go with his career-best 38 homers. His .868 OPS was higher than that of any Twins player last year.
“We’re hopeful that’s the player we’re getting moving forward,” Falvey said.
His patience tested by the lack of action in free agency, Morrison, said he turned down offers from a couple of other teams before he found a fit with the Twins. The potential for postseason success on a team that reached the AL wild card game last year was one selling point. The way Falvey and the rest of the organization made him feel wanted was another one.
The Twins made clear to Morrison that they sought him to be their primary designated hitter, though he’ll certainly give Joe Mauer a break from time to time at first base. He could also in a pinch play either of the corner outfield spots, since he began his major league career as a left fielder for the Florida Marlins in 2010.
“I’m just going to be me. And I think if I’m me, we’re going to have a lot of fun, we’re going to win a lot of games, and if I’m DH-ing or playing first, whatever,” Morrison said. “If I’m DH-ing that day, help the team get some hits. If I’m playing first, I’m going to get some hits, hit some homers and save some runs.”
Morrison had his lively personality on display Wednesday, casually referring to manager Paul Molitor as “Pauly 3K” to reference his membership in the 3,000-hit club and making an open call to Minnesotans to rent him a lake house for the season.
“The closer to the field, the better, but whatever,” Morrison said.
Now married with a 2½-year-old daughter, Morrison has matured beyond his early seasons when he was more of a loose cannon, particularly when using his Twitter account. An adjustment to his swing helped unlock more of his power last year, but he also credited the grounding provided by the presence of his young family.
“I stopped thinking so much about myself,” Morrison said. “Listen, anybody that tells you they’re a team guy first, there is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘me.’ You have to take care of yourself first, before you can help other players. Being able to learn that has helped me. I’m here for those guys if they need me to help them with their swing or their approach, fielding ground balls. The experience of moving to a new position. Going back to your old position. I’ve done a lot in a short time.”
Falvey said there’s a “high likelihood” the Twins are finished adding players, after signing relievers Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke and trading for starter Jake Odorizzi. Morrison pushed their payroll past the team’s previous opening-day high of more than $112 million in 2011. They have also added two veterans on no-guarantee contracts, starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and shortstop Erick Aybar.
“I feel like we have a really good thing going here from top to bottom,” Morrison said. “They’ve made it real easy for me to come in and feel welcome.”
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