We Can Rebuild It: Creative Bullpen Fixes
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA TodayThe Twins aren't in any position to make an Andrew Miller-type splash, and would be ill-advised to dangle any of their better prospects – even a Chih-Wei Hu type – for relief help (insofar as any high-impact relievers are being made available this far from the deadline).
In order to meaningfully improve their chances in the late innings, the front office might need to get creative. Sure, they can try someone like Alan Busenitz or Trevor Hildenberger, but you can't just count on green rookies with iffy scouting reports to come up and shut down the eighth inning. By the same token, newly promoted farmhands Alex Wimmers and Randy Rosario are more band aids than plugs.
The following suggestions are aimed at creating a more dramatic short-term impact, without forfeiting anything of import.
Move Phil Hughes to the Bullpen
Hughes is currently on the disabled list but there have been indications he won't stay there too terribly long. When he returns, the Twins might be wise to bring him back in a relief role. There are multiple beneficial outcomes this route could achieve.
His fastball has been humming in at the lowest velocity of his career, and getting pounded as a result. It's possible Hughes could add a few ticks in shorter stints. Of course, he's had tremendous success out of the bullpen before, serving as Mariano Rivera's top setup man when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Hughes' numbers that season: 86 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 96/28 K/BB.
He isn't likely to regain that level of superior efficacy, especially not right away, but maybe Hughes will surprise us. He has the command and poise that so many other Twins relievers are lacking, so even a slight uptick in heat – and perhaps a reduced reliance on his lesser offerings – could make a big difference.
Swap Tyler Duffey and Brandon Kintzler
This isn't so much a denouncement of what either right-hander has done in his current role – they've been the bullpen's two best weapons – as it is an assertion they may be best suited for a reversal.
Kintzler has done an admirable job in the ninth, but always struck me as a guy better equipped for the middle innings. His penchant for inducing ground balls on command would make him an excellent fireman, called upon in a tough spot with runners on base. He has also proven fairly durable, and could likely handle multiple innings on a frequent basis.
Meanwhile, Duffey is much more of a prototypical closer, with his bat-missing stuff, and has experience in the role from his collegiate days at Rice University.
Call up Fernando Romero
Minnesota's legit relief prospects can't seem to get healthy. Nick Burdi is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. JT Chargois went on the disabled list in April with an elbow impingement and still hasn't returned. Tyler Jay missed the first seven weeks with a shoulder injury, came back a week ago, made two appearances and then landed back on the DL. I'm starting to lose hope that any of these guys will be available to the Twins at any point this year.
That's a huge problem because they are THE minor-league arms that could actually bring game-changing shutdown ability to the table. If the Twins want to find that now, they may need to consider calling up Romero from Double-A. Twins Daily's No. 1 prospect has gotten on a roll in Chattanooga lately, firing 12 scoreless innings over his past two starts, and as someone who works in the mid-90s as a starter he could really dial it up in short stints.
The additional benefit is that this might help manage the 22-year-old's workload; he's already more than halfway to last season's total of 90 innings. The downside is that it would essentially remove him as a potential rotation reinforcement, unless the coaching staff wanted to stretch him out after he arrives. (Wouldn't be the first time.)
Mine for Spare Parts in Other Organizations
While we've ruled out giving up a prospect of Wilson Ramos' or even Hu's caliber, the Twins might be able to inherit a project that some other organization is ready to give up on. Maybe there is a fifth/sixth starter out there that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine view as a particularly good candidate for a role switch. Or perhaps there is a Michael Tonkin or Ryan Pressly type, with big stuff and disappointing results, who they believe they can turn around with a specific fix. The cost of such an acquisition would be negligible.
It would be a good opportunity for the new regime, especially Falvey with his reputation as an innovative pitching mind, to flex some muscle.
What are your creative fixes for Minnesota's wayward bullpen?
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