January 15th, 2012

Zumaya agrees to deal with Twins

The Tigers could end up seeing a lot of Joel Zumaya this year after all. It’ll just be in a different uniform, albeit an awfully familiar one.

After throwing for teams in December and holding out for a roster spot and the right situation, Zumaya has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins, the reliever told MLB.com. The two sides spent Saturday putting together a deal that could pay him anywhere from $800,000 to $1.7 million if he reaches incentives.

Update: Not all of the base salary is guaranteed, a fact first reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. If the Twins decide to part in Spring Training, they’d owe him half of the $800,000 base salary. Thanks to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for pointing out the partial guarantee.

A Twins official would neither confirm nor deny the deal to MLB.com, but said they’ve been in negotiations since December.

Zumaya weighed what he called “good offers” from three other clubs,  but the Twins included guaranteed money rather than a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite. If he’s healthy, they’ll bring him to the same mound at Target Field where he last threw a Major League pitch. He fractured his elbow throwing for the Tigers against the Twins on June 28, 2010.

As it turns out, that was his last appearance as a Tiger. Though the Tigers had an offer out to him for a minor-league contract with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, they made it clear they weren’t going to guarantee him a spot. Zumaya told MLB.com in November he was most likely moving on, and in the end, the Tigers were not on his short list.

Zumaya joins a Twins bullpen in transition after Joe Nathan left for the Rangers earlier in the offseason. Minnesota re-signed Matt Capps at closer and returns Glen Perkins coming off an impressive season of middle and late-inning work, but while Perkins blossomed into a high-strikeout lefty last year, the Twins haven’t had a truly overpowering reliever in a while.

If Zumaya’s healthy, he has that potential. Though he hasn’t topped 32 games or 40 innings in a season since his impressive rookie season of 2006, he has been an effective reliever when he hasn’t been hurt. He was showing flashes of his old form in 2010 before he was hurt, striking out 34 batters over 38 1/3 innings while allowing 32 hits and posting a 2.58 ERA.

Zumaya underwent surgery after that July injury to repair a fractured bone at the tip of his elbow, a procedure that included inserting a screw to hold the elbow together. He had to undergo a follow-up surgery to replace the screw after complaining of elbow pain last Spring Training.

The surgery cost Zumaya the entire 2011 season. He threw for reportedly up to 20 interested teams last month and reportedly hit the mid-90s on the radar gun. Since then, Zumaya and his agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, have been negotiating with clubs, trying to land him a Major League contract in a situation where he could fit into a good bullpen role. The Red Sox made a hard push early on.

The Twins have a Spring Training game against the Tigers in Lakeland on March 21 before they meet for 18 regular-season matchups, beginning with a two-game series at Comerica Park May 16-17.

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