When he was going through his free agency process and identifying teams that might be a fit for him, new Twins player Carlos Santana got a scouting report on the organization from one of the men who would know best.
That was Jorge Polanco, one of his training partners.
“He told me I would be a great fit for this team, especially because of my years in the league, the veteran I am,” Santana said Wednesday through interpreter Mauricio Ortiz. “He just talked greatly about this organization, coaches, the staff, and that’s why I decided to come here.”
But Santana, whose one-year deal with the Twins became official on Wednesday, and Polanco won’t get the chance to overlap in Minnesota.
Polanco was shipped to Seattle for four players last week, and with the savings the Twins recouped from that trade, they added both Santana and relief pitcher Jay Jackson, whose own one-year deal also became official Wednesday.
Santana, a veteran with 14 years of major league experience, has long tormented Twins pitchers, playing for two different division foes. Santana played nine of his seasons in Cleveland, where he met and developed a relationship with now-Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey.
“This is a guy who is a leader, a tremendous teammate who shows up every day to play,” Falvey said. “(He) is going to be a guy who will do anything you ask of him. That’s who he is and who he’s been as a guy on the baseball (field) and ultimately an incredibly productive player over those years.”
The 37-year-old is a switch hitter, a valuable trait that will give manager Rocco Baldelli options to mix and match. Notably, he has performed better from the right side of the plate, and his addition adds another power presence from that side. Santana should both platoon with lefty Alex Kirilloff at first base and take some at-bats as the team’s designated hitter.
Last season, Santana played in 146 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, posting a 2.7 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement per Baseball Reference). He hit .240 with a .747 OPS and 23 home runs.
“I’m very happy to be part of Twins Territory right now,” Santana said.
So, too, it seems is Jackson, who posted a day earlier on his X account how “incredibly blessed” he was.
Jackson, 36, has pitched in parts of five major-league seasons. Last year with the Toronto Blue Jays, he posted a 2.12 earned-run average across 29 2/3 innings after beginning the season as a minor-league free-agent signing.
Jackson, Falvey said, will be trusted upon to help bridge the gap in the middle innings.
“This is a guy who has kind of reinvented himself and stayed at it through the course of his career and now at a later stage of his career from an age standpoint,” Falvey said. “Certainly, someone who has found a way to utilize his mix in a different way and help out.”
Jackson was rewarded with a major-league deal from the Twins, who also added reliever Justin Topa to their bullpen in the Polanco trade and signed Josh Staumont to a deal to kick off their offseason spending back in December.
It’s a notable difference from last winter when the Twins did not make any major-league additions to their bullpen. Led by Jhoan Duran, FanGraphs currently projects the Twins to have the third best bullpen in the majors and the best in the American League.
The Twins also announced another move Wednesday, claiming right-handed pitcher Zack Weiss off waivers from the Boston Red Sox. Weiss appeared in 12 major-league games last season with the Los Angeles Angels and Red Sox, posting a 3.21 ERA. Weiss is likely to begin the season in Triple-A.
To add the trio to the 40-man roster, the Twins designated reliever Jordan Balazovic, once the organization’s top pitching prospect, for assignment. Recent waiver claims Daniel Duarte and Bubba Thompson were also DFA’d.
Reliever Ryan Jensen, who was DFA’d last week to make room for Duarte, went unclaimed on waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A St. Paul. He will be a non-roster invite when spring training kicks off next week.
Twins pitchers and catchers will report to Fort Myers, Fla., by Feb. 14, but it’s possible that the Twins keep making additions into spring training with Falvey noting that conversations have been centered around outfielders and some pitching.
“We’re still working to try to find ways to add to the roster if we can via trade or some different free-agent conversations we’ve been having,” Falvey said. “I would say the vast majority of the roster is set. That’s pretty normal given where we are at this stage, but could we find a way to add a piece along the way here, especially leading into next week and maybe even bleeding past next week, I think that’s possible.”