Valentine’s Day

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Photo Credit – Call to the Pen

MAJOR NEWS

Max Kepler

A league source told ESPN that Kepler and the Twins have agreed on a five-year, $35 million deal with a sixth-year option that is worth $10 million and includes a $1 million buyout.

Kepler, 26, hit .224 last season with a career-high 20 home runs and 58 RBIs. Playing right field for the third straight season, Kepler won the team’s defensive player of the year award in 2018. Signed by the Twins as a 16-year-old out of Germany, Kepler agreed last month to a $3,125,000 salary for 2019 in his first year of arbitration eligibility. – Jeff Passan, ESPN

Jorge Polanco

Polanco, 25, has been a strong if not entirely steady presence in the middle of the Twins’ infield. Minnesota was discussing an extension with the switch-hitter last winter before he received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance that he said came from a tainted supplement. In 77 games after his return, Polanco, who has never played in more than 133 games in a season, hit .288/.345/.427 with 6 home runs and 42 RBIs. The Twins finalized a contract extension with Polanco for five years and $25.75 million that includes a pair of club options for 2024 and 2025, a league source with knowledge of the deal told ESPN. – Jeff Passan, ESPN

NEWEST RUMORS

Manny Machado

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune has reported today that “at some point this past week” the Padres met with Machado and his wife. While he talks about how no figures have yet been leaked, they should be close to $30MM annually.

Yangervis Solarte

The Giants have interest in veteran infielder Yangervis Solarte, according to Alex Palovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link). Solarte seems to be a readily achievable target. He is looking for a new opportunity after the Blue Jays declined a $5.5MM club option and then non-tendered him. A 31-year-old infielder, Solarte is capable of  lining up anywhere in the infield, though he has spent most of his time at third base and second base. Solarte has played some shortstop, though he has logged fewer innings there than he has at first. – MLBTR

STAT OF THE DAY

xFIP

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is a regressed version of Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), developed by Dave Studeman from The Hardball Times. It’s calculated in the same way as FIP, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed given the number of fly balls they surrendered while assuming a league average home run to fly ball percentage (between 9 and 10% depending on the year).

Home run rates are generally unstable over time and fluctuate around league-average, so by estimating a pitcher’s home run total, xFIP attempts to isolate a player’s ability level. A pitcher may allow home runs on 12% of their flyballs one year, then turn around and only allow 7% the next year. HR/FB ratios can be very difficult to predict because they contain a lot of noise, so xFIP attempts to correct for that and provide you with a sense of the pitcher’s underlying performance.

TLDR: xFIP is just FIP but it accounts for average HR rates, making it more stable over time.

MINOR NEWS

John Axford

Axford and the Jays have reached an agreement on a minor league contract that would pay him $1.65MM if he makes the roster, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports (via Twitter). Axford appeared in 45 games for the Blue Jays last season, pitching to a 4.41 ERA with a 50-to-20 K/BB ratio in 51 innings before being traded to the Dodgers prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Unfortunately for both Axford and the Dodgers, the right-hander, he was clobbered for six runs in his first appearance with his new team. Before he had time for his numbers to recover, Axford was struck on the leg by a comebacker, sustaining a fractured fibula that shelved him for more than a month. – MLBTR

For all the other minor news: MLBTR has a great roundup HERE

INTERESTING READS

Trevor Bauer says he suffered ‘character assassination’ but insists there’s no ill will with Indians by Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY 

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