By Joe Christensen
A couple stories worth discussing here this morning: Ken Rosenthal, one of the best in our business, writes the Twins and Yankees are expected to pursue Shea Hillenbrand, who cleared waivers Wednesday.
Hillenbrand, who turns 32 on July 27, would come cheaply from a financial perspective; any team that signs him would be required to pay only a pro-rated portion of the minimum salary, with the Angels assuming the rest of his $6.5 million obligation.
Any team that signs Hillenbrand, however, must be prepared to play him regularly or risk getting stuck with an unhappy veteran. Hillenbrand’s questionable makeup led the Blue Jays to trade him to the Giants last season and the Angels released him rather than use him off the bench.
… Hillenbrand would fit for the Twins as a designated hitter; the team is next-to-last in the American League in on-base/slugging percentage at DH. The Twins, however, normally are conservative in their approach and might fear disrupting their tight-knit clubhouse.
We checked into this when Hillenbrand was designated for assignment, and the Twins were not interested. Terry Ryan said he was not interested in Hillenbrand when asked by a caller in a KFAN interview last week. Ron Gardenhire is good friends with Toronto manager John Gibbons, who had a well-publicized feud with Hillenbrand. However, the Twins were counting on having Rondell White healthy today, and it’s possible his latest setback could leave them desperate enough to reconsider some of their misgivings about Hillenbrand.
Scouts have checked out Piazza’s batting practices recently and it’s possible that some clubs, such as the Twins and the Yankees, who have been linked to Johnson might take a look at Piazza. Piazza, a right-handed hitter, actually might make more sense in the short term for a team such as Minnesota, than would Johnson, and the A’s certainly would ask for much less for Piazza. The Angels are another team that might look for a bat before the July 31 trade deadline.
Both Piazza and Johnson would be interesting fits. The Twins had interest in Piazza as a DH before he signed with Oakland. Now, he’s coming off a severe shoulder injury, so you wonder if his once-prolific swing will still produce. Johnson, of course, is a Coon Rapids native who played at Blaine High School. The A’s have Jack Cust thriving as a DH now, and Daric Barton is a first-base prospect on the rise at Class AAA Sacramento.