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Twins Sign Belisle: What Does This Mean?

On Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins announced that reliever Matt Belisle had signed with the Twins after being released a day earlier by Cleveland. Infielder Gregorio Petit was Designated for Assignment to make room on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. It was a minor transaction, in the big picture, but it certainly created a ton of discussion. What does this signing mean for the Twins? Let’s try to figure it out.
Image courtesy of RIck Osentoski, USA Today
When the news came out that the Twins had signed Matt Belisle, my level of surprise was fairly low. I don’t know why. It just seems like what we would have always deemed a “Twins” type of move. The DFAing of Petit was also not a surprise.

But as I gave it more thought, my mind raced in several different directions, and at the end of the day, I’m much calmer, but I can’t say that the move makes any more sense than it did eight hours ago. It still begs several questions.


1.) What Does Matt Belisle Have Left?

Matt Belisle got off to a very slow start last year with the Minnesota Twins, but he turned it on in the second half. He pitched well and did a nice job as the Twins closer after the Brandon Kintzler trade at the deadline.

Late in the offseason, he signed a one year, $1.5 million deal with Cleveland. He made the Opening Day roster. He began the season with three scoreless outings before giving up runs in his next three outings. He responded with two scoreless outings. Cleveland DFAd him. Belisle became a free agent, but soon re-signed with the team. He was released on Sunday and signed with the Twins on Tuesday.

In his 10 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.06 ERA. He walked one and struck out just four. In nine outings (and also 10 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Columbus, Belisle posted a 4.22 ERA with one walk and 11 strikeouts.

In other words, he shouldn’t be a late-inning reliever, but the 38-year-old can probably be a solid big league pitcher still.


2.) What Does It Say About The Front Office’s Opinion of the AAA Relievers?

This was my first thought, and I know it was the thought of many others. First and foremost, it is inexplicable to me that Alan Busenitz isn’t pitching in the big leagues. Of course, that was my opinion before the Belisle signing. He pitched well late in the 2017 season for the Twins and became a reliable arm for Paul Molitor.

While Busenitz didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was promoted in mid-April. He then pitched in four of the next six games. The Twins were struggling and needed arms, so Busenitz was sent back to Rochester. In 14 games for the Red Wings, He has posted a 0.38 ERA. In 24 innings, he has given up 15 hits, walked five and struck out 28. The 27-year-old has nothing to prove in AAA, and he still have some upside.

But Busenitiz isn’t the only reliever in Rochester who has to be wondering what the Twins front office is thinking.
  • Tyler Duffey was just sent down over the weekend to make room for outfielder Jake Cave. Duffey had pitched well in limited duty since being called back up. That said, it did make sense to want a fourth bench bat. So, three days later, adding a bullpen arm and going back to three bench bats has to make him think. In 26 innings over 11 outings for the Red Wings, Duffey has posted a 1.38 ERA. He’s walked seven and struck out 26 batters.
  • John Curtiss has the pitches to be a dominant reliever. While his short stay with the Twins earlier this season wasn’t pretty, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) limit anyone’s idea of his potential. Coming into Tuesday, he had a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. In that time, he had 31 strikeouts, but ten walks.
  • Luke Bard has 19 strikeouts and six walks in his 17 innings (11 games) since his return to the Red Wings after his stint with the Los Angeles Angels. His big fastball, slider and spin rates are pretty much big league ready.
  • Nick Anderson has given up nine earned runs in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings) which raised his season ERA from 1.16 to 4.15. So, as rough as this current “slump” is, it’s important to think about the first 14 games and 23 1/3 innings. In his 26 innings, he has walked 12 and struck out 39.
  • Jake Reed remains in the organization. He missed time earlier in the year and has struggled somewhat in his return. In his 15 2/3 innings over ten outings, he has walked seven and struck out 14 batters.
  • While he’s left-handed, Gabriel Moya has also pitched well in his five weeks with the Red Wings after being optioned at the end of April. He’s posted a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. In that time, he has walked eight and struck out 29 batters.
  • Trevor May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As his rehab stint ended, the Twins optioned him to Rochester and he has worked out of the bullpen since. At some point, he’ll be ready as well.
That is a lot of quality options who all were just told that they have been pushed down the line another spot with the Belisle signing.

The team likely calls it "depth." Hopefully the players will consider it a challenge. The other option is that they get overly upset and don't handle it well.

3.) What Kind of Leader is Belisle? (And What Kind of Leadership Does This Twins Team Need?)

Matt Belisle likely isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Twins bullpen (which, frankly, has been pretty solid most of the season). The Twins have pitchers at Rochester who are just as talented, if not more talented, and younger. What we keep hearing is that the Twins are bringing in Belisle for his leadership in the clubhouse.

Fair enough. There were plenty of good stories in 2017 about the role Belisle played for the team, particularly in a leadership role.

However, when the Twins signed Fernando Rodney, there was some conversation about him being brought in as a leader for the pitchers. Then Zack Duke was signed, and we heard about how great of a teammate he is. And, when they signed Addison Reed, his leadership was again mentioned.

I don’t mean to downplay the value of veteran leadership. It is important. But there are a lot of veterans, and there are a lot of veterans who are touted as leaders, and there are several indications that the clubhouse is not a happy place right now. There are issues. The team is five games under .500, not at all where they felt they would be at this point,

Can Matt Belisle’s leadership push the Twins to more wins? That is to be determined. Can he help the Twins offense score more runs? That would also be helpful. As would getting more of the regulars back on the field and healthy.


Summary

So at the end of the day, this is a minor move. Matt Belisle probably has a little left in the tank. Maybe he can help out. Maybe he can eat some of the innings that are currently constantly going to Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly so that they don’t reach 100 games pitched this year. Trevor Hildenberger is starting to take more and more of those opportunities, and Matt Magill has pitched well enough to earn those opportunities as well.

We have also seen what Paul Molitor likes from his bullpen. He trusts Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly. In the first half last year, he trusted Taylor Rogers and ran him into the ground by the second half. We saw that somewhat in the second half last year when he used Trevor Hildenberger most every day over the final couple of months. My guess is that Molitor will not be afraid to use Matt Belisle late in games because of how well he did in the role last year. Trust.

I also suspect that this is one move that the front office is giving Molitor and the team, a veteran, in an attempt to win this year. The trade deadline is about seven weeks away. By mid-July, the front office will have some big decisions to make. Most important, will they believe that the Twins could still make the playoffs this year? As Nick wrote yesterday, it’s not yet time to give up on this year.

What this signing appears to me to be, in the big picture, is a message to the team and its veterans that they have a little over a month to turn things around and put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot. If not, all bets are off and at that time, we can start discussing which veterans could be on the trading block and which players will come up to take their places.

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84 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Jun 13 2018 01:21 AM

Sounds reasonable.

Belisle was the dirge of the Cleveland bullpen that is in shambles, the bottom of the heap, the chaff to get rid of, the pitcher to cull. If this is the "move that the front office is giving Molitor and the team, a veteran, in an attempt to win this year", then the FO has lost their mind. Seth listed the pitchers in AAA. I am one disgusted 58 year Twins fan.

    • Jerr, mikelink45, Platoon and 5 others like this
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KirbyDome89
Jun 13 2018 03:18 AM

"Matt Belisle likely isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Twins bullpen (which, frankly, has been pretty solid most of the season). The Twins have pitchers at Rochester who are just as talented, if not more talented, and younger. What we keep hearing is that the Twins are bringing in Belisle for his leadership in the clubhouse."

 

That's where it starts and stops for me. I'm not tuned in to the clubhouse atmosphere but if it truly is toxic to the point where change is necessary, maybe that change should be directed at the root of the issue rather than wasting a roster spot on Belisle. At this point "veteran," is just code for not good. 

    • Carole Keller, Jerr, mikelink45 and 12 others like this
And of course how long will they go with a 3 man bench? It must be extremely discouraging for the MiLB players to work their ass off and see the FO bring in a retread instead of them. One can be "challenged" only so often before the challenge becomes a discouragement.
    • Carole Keller, Jerr, nicksaviking and 7 others like this
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Carole Keller
Jun 13 2018 05:37 AM
It’s these decisione that makes less likely to watch the game. I’ll look at the video highlights (if there are any) afterwards.
    • rghrbek and gman like this
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Old Twins Cap
Jun 13 2018 05:49 AM

Seems like Twins will deal relievers here soon, and certainly at the deadline if they are not in it.

 

Belisle is insurance.

 

You deal Rodney and Belisle becomes an experrienced late-inning guy. Reed or Pressly gets hurt, you still have Belisle.

 

No one has to like this move, but it is about getting through the season should the worst, or some kind of trade/injury happen.

    • brvama, LA VIkes Fan, Dman and 2 others like this

Maybe the Twins could bring in some guys like Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer to mentor these young players? EXCUSE me, Belisle? Brought in for Leadership? What a joke!

My first thought is...... Why is a move for pitching made when it is the offense that continues to stumble? If not for 1 mistake pitch that Adrianza got last night the offense would have mustered a whole 1 or 2 runs again. Watching these guys hit is painful. A high school pitcher that throws 75-80 MPH can beat these guys. Had Gardy not done the Twins a favor and left Hardy in to pitch longer.... well? Who Knows?

    • jun, birddog, gman and 1 other like this

Seems like Twins will deal relievers here soon, and certainly at the deadline if they are not in it.

Belisle is insurance.

You deal Rodney and Belisle becomes an experrienced late-inning guy. Reed or Pressly gets hurt, you still have Belisle.

No one has to like this move, but it is about getting through the season should the worst, or some kind of trade/injury happen.

If you're selling midseason, you don't need veteran replacements. You should be auditioning younger arms for 2019 at that point.
    • Jerr, Dantes929, mikelink45 and 11 others like this
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yarnivek1972
Jun 13 2018 06:10 AM

Seems like Twins will deal relievers here soon, and certainly at the deadline if they are not in it.

Belisle is insurance.

You deal Rodney and Belisle becomes an experrienced late-inning guy. Reed or Pressly gets hurt, you still have Belisle.

No one has to like this move, but it is about getting through the season should the worst, or some kind of trade/injury happen.


I concur. If the Twins are sellers (and I still think they should and will be), Reed and Rodney are the ones at the top of most teams’ want list. Don’t really want to put a green rookie in the closer role. Pressly would be next in line, but he could be dealt as well. With a few years of control remaining, he would command a higher return. Next in line would be Hildenberger, with barely a year at the MLB level.
Was there any indication that Belisle wouldn't have been available to us in July, if needed? The whole league passed on him just a month ago. Did his most recent AAA outing (5 hits and 4 runs in 2/3 of an inning) really attract new MLB suitors? Or did we have to give him a MLB spot to convince him not to retire?
    • rghrbek, Minny505 and jud6312 like this
Not a fan of this move at all. Especially so after Seth highlighted the success Busenitz, Moya, and Curtiss are having in Rochester.
    • Jerr, Mike Sixel, LA VIkes Fan and 5 others like this

I have had my FO ratings going down all year and this is another blow to my respect.I know he has been here before and we have, somewhere, all these former Twins to give us clubhouse charisma (where are they?), but I do not think the BP is where Veteran leadership really impacts the team - don't we already have a 40 year old closer? 

 

Belisle failed with Cleveland, but our minor leaguers continue to succeed.If you want leadership show the minor league players that they have a chance to make it to the big club. 

 

I do not buy this move for any reason.If we are preparing to sell when we should be making moves to succeed I am frustrated. 

    • Jerr, Minny505, jud6312 and 2 others like this

Is management telling us that their opinion of all those guys at AAA isn't as high as ours?Do they believe that none of them will ever be late inning relievers?

 

To win, this year or in the near future, the Twins will need a top shelf closer and a couple of shut down late inning guys.They aren't on this team today.Do any of these guys at AAA have that potential?I would hope so, but really have no way of knowing.Unfortunately, without them having a chance on the big stage...will the Twins ever know?

    • Minny505 likes this

What does it mean? 

 

tenor.gif

    • adorduan and Vanimal46 like this
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puckstopper1
Jun 13 2018 06:57 AM

Here is my opinion of the fact that we picked up a guy who was not good enough to stick with our main competitor.....

 

 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    • Jerr likes this
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lukeduke1980
Jun 13 2018 07:08 AM

Record since acquiring Belisle:1-0.

    • Dantes929, PseudoSABR, LA VIkes Fan and 4 others like this
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jorgenswest
Jun 13 2018 07:10 AM
Do they believe in the AAA relievers? I think it is clear that they don’t believe they can help. Belisle does not set a high bar for them to pass.

Partial season minor league stats aren’t very helpful in describing how a player will perform in the majors. They are even less helpful for relievers. Maybe the AAA relievers really aren’t going to be helpful.

Either the management fails to recognize a reliever in AAA who can truly make a difference or they have failed to develop a reliever in the minors who can truly make a difference. Whichever the case the Belisle signing shines a light on a critical failure that has crippled this season in close games.
    • rdehring likes this
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yarnivek1972
Jun 13 2018 07:19 AM
Falvine really hasn’t had the chance to select and develop potential relievers yet. They inherited all the players at A ball and above.

The only reliever that made his MLB debut during Falvine’s tenure that has done well is Hildenberger, and he had a rough start to this year. To the point that many were calling for him to be sent to AAA. No one else has done well enough to hold a spot. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the system’s supposed surplus of relievers.

 

Was there any indication that Belisle wouldn't have been available to us in July, if needed? The whole league passed on him just a month ago. Did his most recent AAA outing (5 hits and 4 runs in 2/3 of an inning) really attract new MLB suitors? Or did we have to give him a MLB spot to convince him not to retire?

 

I'm guessing, most likely, that Belisle had an opt-out date of June 11th that the Twins were aware of. If they had not signed him, he would have had other offers.

    • howieramone2 and gagu like this

I, too, am totally dumbfounded with this move. This is such a Terry Ryan move. Twins are loyal to a fault with players who do not deserve to be on a MLB roster, like the player we finally released, Pettit. And don't get me started on how we are keeping Grossman for no apparent reason. At some point the loyalty has to go to our minor league prospects who have proved at every level they deserve at least a shot.

 

Also agree with earlier poster who said it's the offense that needs major help. Once again we are totally baffled with 85 mph fastballs and 76 mph curves last night. Does the FO really believe Polanco and Buxton returning are going to transform us into a team that can consistently score runs? 

 

 

Trevor May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As his rehab stint ended, the Twins optioned him to Rochester and he has worked out of the bullpen since.

 

This is not correct.May is still doing rehab, but switched to the pen for some reason.  

 

Were he reinstated and optioned, he would had needed a spot on the 40-man roster.He is still on the 60-day DL.In other words Belisle (who is as relevant for the Twins as David Hale was) is just keeping May's spot warm, unless the Twins have seen enough of Duffey (and his attitude, btw, whining when demoted first time) to DFA him instead.

 

 

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Carole Keller
Jun 13 2018 07:34 AM

This is not correct. May is still doing rehab, but switched to the pen for some reason.

Were he reinstated and optioned, he would had needed a spot on the 40-man roster. He is still on the 60-day DL. In other words Belisle (who is as relevant for the Twins as David Hale was) is just keeping May's spot warm, unless the Twins have seen enough of Duffey (and his attitude, btw, whining when demoted first time) to DFA him instead.

He is off the DL and was optioned. Castro was moved to 60-day DL to make room. This happened several days ago now. Maybe a week?
    • USAFChief, Thrylos, Platoon and 2 others like this
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Thebigalguy
Jun 13 2018 07:34 AM
Maybe they want to pick his brain about the Cleveland pitchers and coaches. Once he’s debriefed, they’ll send him packing (unless he’s good) and bring up the AAA relievers.
    • Carole Keller and Doctor Wu like this

 

I'm guessing, most likely, that Belisle had an opt-out date of June 11th that the Twins were aware of. If they had not signed him, he would have had other offers.

How so? Nobody gave him a MLB offer a month ago. Or this past winter.

    • rghrbek likes this

 

I concur. If the Twins are sellers (and I still think they should and will be), Reed and Rodney are the ones at the top of most teams’ want list. Don’t really want to put a green rookie in the closer role. Pressly would be next in line, but he could be dealt as well. With a few years of control remaining, he would command a higher return. Next in line would be Hildenberger, with barely a year at the MLB level.

If the Twins are selling, they should go all in.

Rodney, Reed, Magil, Presley, Lynn, Ororizzi, Dozier, Escobar.

Why half arse it.

They have replacements for all of them.

 

    • caninatl04 likes this

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