Twins Put Unspent Pool Money To Good Use

Like every other team, the Twins dreamed of signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani last winter. Unlike other failed suitors, Minnesota walked away with a nice consolation prize.

Two of them, actually.

“It worked out really well for us,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said of the simultaneous Dec. 6 trades of international pool money to the Angels and Mariners, who each received $1 million to apply to their pursuit of Ohtani.

In return, the Twins received 21-year-old catcher David Banuelos from Seattle and 20-year-old outfielder Jacob Pearson from Los Angeles. “We turned a disappointing situation into a couple of legitimate prospects.”

The Twins unexpectedly wound up with $3 million in unspent international cash when Dominican shortstop Jelfry Marte, their top 2017 signee, failed his physical and had his deal voided. They offered the surplus pool money to Ohtani, but it became clear he preferred a West Coast destination

“We said, ‘OK, let’s go to work,’ ” Falvey said, and the Mariners and Angels immediately showed interest. “We told both teams, so nobody was blindsided.”

Banuelos, a 2017 fifth-rounder from Long Beach State, may already be the best defensive catcher in the system.

“He’s got good hands, quickness, and he can really throw. It’s a double-plus arm,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. “His junior year, that’s when his bat made a jump, too.”

Pearson was on the Twins’ draft board as a fourth- or fifth-rounder, but the Angels grabbed him in the third round in 2017 and signed him for an over-slot $1 million to keep the West Monroe, La., prep from enrolling at Louisiana State.

“He was only OK in the (Rookie-level) Arizona League (.226 with no homers), but all our guys say his bat rates,” Radcliff said. “He’s got an aggressive, level direct swing.”

Not a bad haul. “To get those two guys in our system for what we gave up?” Radcliff said. “Only in America.”

• Two days after losing first baseman Kennys Vargas to the Reds on waivers, the Twins claimed him back from Cincinnati. The reunion was short-lived: the Twins outrighted the out-of-options slugger to Triple-A Rochester after he cleared waivers.

• Looking for outfield depth, the Twins acquired outfielder Jake Cave from the Yankees for 19-year-old Dominican righthander Luis Gil. Cave was optioned to Rochester.

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