Plouffe outrighted, becomes free agent

Romero among six Twins protected from Rule 5 Draft; Walker claimed by Brewers

Plouffe outrighted, becomes free agent

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins made some surprising roster moves Friday, as third baseman Trevor Plouffe and catcher Juan Centeno were outrighted off the roster, while outfield prospect Adam Walker was claimed off waivers by the Brewers.

With a corner infield logjam that includes Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano, Byungho Park and Kennys Vargas, the Twins decided to part ways with Plouffe after not finding a trade partner early this offseason. Plouffe was eligible for arbitration for the final time, and was due for a raise on his $7.25 million salary from last season. Walker also found himself the odd-man out among a glut of outfielders, as he's struggled to get on base because of strikeouts in the Minor Leagues despite his prodigious power. Centeno had a solid year offensively as a backup catcher, but has had trouble defensively.

Hot Stove Tracker

It opened up three 40-man roster spots for the Twins, who added six players to their roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8. The Twins added right-handers Fernando Romero and Felix Jorge, outfielders Daniel Palka and Zack Granite, catcher Mitch Garver and shortstop Engelb Vielma to their 40-man roster. None rank among MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects, but Romero is considered the best prospect of the crop, ranking as the club's No. 6 prospect. Granite is the only one not among the organization's Top 30 Prospects, but was the club's Minor League Player of the Year.

MLB requires teams to add players who signed at age 18 or younger to 40-man rosters within five professional seasons, or those who signed at 19 or older within four seasons, or they will become eligible for other organizations to draft. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, slated for Dec. 8. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.

Plouffe, 30, was limited by injuries in 2016, hitting .260/.303/.420 with 12 homers, 13 doubles and 47 RBIs in 84 games. The third baseman is a career .247/.308/.420 hitter with 96 homers, 148 doubles and 357 RBIs in 723 games.

Plouffe's two-run smash

A first-round Draft pick in 2004, Plouffe made his Major League debut in '10 after coming up as a shortstop, but was switched to third base full-time in '12 after starting the year as a utility player.

Plouffe was considered one of the leaders in the clubhouse, but dealt with multiple oblique strains and a cracked rib last season, including a season-ending left oblique strain in early September. Plouffe said at the time that he hoped it wasn't the end of his Twins career.

"My No. 1 choice is to be back here and the last choice would be to not be back here," Plouffe said at the time.

But as a free agent, Plouffe can sign with any team. With Plouffe out of the mix, Miguel Sano is expected to take over as the regular third baseman.

Walker, meanwhile, hit .243/.305/.479 with 27 homers, 22 doubles and 75 RBIs in 132 games at Triple-A Rochester. The 25-year-old struck out 202 times in 531 plate appearances, and has had trouble defensively, especially with his throwing.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.