Twins Outright Kyle Garlick, Oliver Ortega

Twins outfielder Kyle Garlick and reliever Oliver Ortega each went unclaimed on waivers, according to an announcement from the club’s communications director Dustin Morse (Twitter link). Both players have been outrighted to Triple-A St. Paul and will receive non-roster invitations to MLB Spring Training.

Garlick was designated for assignment last Wednesday as the corresponding move to accommodate Carlos Correa’s return. It’s the second outright of his career, which would’ve given him the right to test minor league free agency. The club announcement that he’ll be in big league camp suggests he’s instead chosen to accept the assignment.

That’s not too surprising a call, as the righty-hitting outfielder had signed a $750K contract to avoid arbitration earlier in the offseason. That’s barely above the MLB minimum salary but quite likely locked in more money than he’d have received if he landed a minor league contract with another organization. Refusing the outright assignment to test free agency would’ve required Garlick to relinquish that agreed-upon salary, so he’ll instead try to work his way back onto the roster in Spring Training or during the regular season.

Garlick, 31 next week, is a platoon outfielder. He’s played for the Dodgers, Phillies and Twins over parts of four big league campaigns, the last two of which have been spent in Minnesota. He’s connected on 13 home runs while slugging .538 through 186 MLB plate appearances against left-handed pitching, with that power more than offsetting a modest .301 on-base percentage. Productive as he’s been with the platoon advantage, the California native owns just a .203/.258/.324 line in 159 trips against right-handed pitching.

Ortega has never pitched for the Twins. He just landed with the organization two weeks ago via waiver claim from the Angels. Minnesota DFA him a few days thereafter upon acquiring A.J. Alexy from the Nationals, and they succeeded in running him through waivers. Ortega has never before been outrighted and has less than three years of big league service time, meaning he did not have the ability to test free agency.

The right-hander has appeared at the MLB level in each of the past two seasons with the Halos. Ortega has thrown 43 1/3 innings over 35 career appearances, pitching to a 3.95 ERA. He’s paired that with a modest 19.8% strikeout rate and elevated 10.7% walk percentage, although he’s racked up grounders on nearly 56% of batted balls.

Ortega has also logged 37 2/3 Triple-A innings over the last couple years. He’s only managed a 5.37 ERA at the top minor league level, while his 24% strikeout rate is better than that of his MLB work. Ortega averages roughly 96 MPH on his fastball and still has a pair of option years remaining. If he reclaims his spot on the 40-man roster at any point during the season, the Twins can freely move him between Minneapolis and St. Paul as a depth reliever.

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