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Potential Twins Bullpen Target: Felipe Vázquez, LHP, Pirates

It's no secret, the Twins will be seeking bullpen help as the trade deadline approaches. The current group of relievers have helped get the Twins where they are, but let's face it, there is plenty of evidence upgrades are required. Today, we'll take a look at Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez.
Image courtesy of © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Felipe Vázquez, LHP, 27-years-old
Pittsburgh Pirates (36-41, 5th in NL Central)
Signed through 2021, 4 yrs/$22M (18-21) & 22-23 team option.

2019: 1.91 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 13.9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in 33.0 IP
2018: 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 in 70.0 IP

Felipe Vázquez might be the best option for the Twins to pursue. That is, of course, if the Pirates even make him available. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Pittsburgh is going to set his price through the roof to whoever wants to get him. But, as Steve Adams writes at MLB Trade Rumors, the Bucs are also in great need of new arms to their rotation, which makes the Twins a strong contender. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Joe Starkey writes that the Pirates’ only untouchable is Josh Bell, which can bring our hopes up. But, is Vázquez really worth all the effort?

What’s to Like?
He is young, solves some of the Twins major bullpen problems and is under team control for the next four years, for a very reasonable price. Beyond that, his resumé becomes even more interesting when you notice that he averages 98.1 mph in his four seamer, 88.3 mph in his changeup and 86.4 mph in his slider. He was an All-Star last year, having worse numbers than the ones he’s having right now. That’s a hell of a good candidate.

Before the All-Star Game last year, the Venezuelan was posting a 3.05 ERA in 41 1/3 innings of work, with 23 saves in 27 opportunities (85.1%). So far this year, he’s got a 1.91 ERA, with 19 saves in 20 opportunities (95%) in 33 innings. If the Twins were to go after him, they would be getting an improved All-Star closer, who possibly hasn’t reached his prime yet.

The Twins have some of the worst numbers in the league when it comes to late in the game situations. In the eighth and ninth innings, Minnesota has the 18th ERA (4.59), the 20th FIP (4.57) and is has the tenth highest hard hit rate, with 39%. When you narrow it down to right handed hitters, those numbers are even worse: 5.29 ERA (27th), 5.07 FIP (24th) and 42.3 hard hit rate (27th).

Vázquez represents an improvement in basically all of those metrics. Currently, against righties, he holds a 1.65 ERA and 2.20 FIP, with 31.3% hard hit rate. While the Twins have a .824 OPS against righties late in the game, Vázquez has been posting .558 in the same situation. And the most drastic improvement he could bring to Minnesota’s bullpen lies on the high leverage situations. So far, Twins relievers have posted a 4.57 ERA with .259 AVG and .726 OPS, while Vázquez has, respectively, 1.17 ERA, .130 AVG and .416 OPS.

Concerns
You will always have to be concerned about the shift between the NL and AL for pitchers. Technically, most of his numbers against AL teams are better than both his numbers against the NL and his career numbers, but that’s based on a very small sample (43 1/3 innings). Perhaps he won’t be the same lights-out pitcher, who had 26 scoreless outings in 31 games so far this year, when pitching to AL lineups on a daily basis.

Another reason to be a bit worried is the fact that Vázquez hasn’t had a single postseason appearance, so we can’t know for sure how well he would perform closing games in the playoffs. But, if even superstar closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch well during the Red Sox World Series run last year (5.91 ERA), I think Vázquez could be given the benefit of the doubt.

Here’s a look at some highlights from Vázquez’ 2018 season:


See Also
Will Smith, LHP, Giants
Liam Hendriks, RHP, Athletics
Ty Buttrey, RHP, Angels
Ken Giles, RHP, Blue Jays
Sam Dyson, RHP, Giants
Brad Hand, LHP, Indians
Oliver Perez, LHP Cleveland
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds
John Gant, RHP, Cardinals
Alex Colome, RHP, White Sox
Seth Lugo, RHP, Mets
Greg Holland, RHP, Diamondbacks
Sean Doolittle, LHP, Nationals
Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres
10 Relievers Minnesota Could Target


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10 Comments

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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 27 2019 05:26 AM

I wonder what he'd cost. That 4 years of team control makes him expensive. Definitely an option if he's available. But I've got to think the asking price will be higher than most of us would like to pay. 

Nitpick: there is no reason to be concerned about the move from NL to AL for a reliever.

Relievers aren't facing the opponent's pitcher very often.
    • Danchat, adorduan, PDX Twin and 1 other like this
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stringer bell
Jun 27 2019 08:23 AM
I barely know who this guy is, but a BP ace with four years of team control is a huge asset. Go for it. TINSTAAP!
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Alex Schieferdecker
Jun 27 2019 08:45 AM

The Pirates seem to have fairly retrograde views on pitching and a track record of being fleeced (see: Archer, Chris), maybe the Twins could offer three prospects in the organization with the best sinkers and see if Pittsburgh can resist.

    • nicksaviking likes this
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SpicyGarvSauce
Jun 27 2019 11:32 AM

Graterol, Rooker, and Gordon too much? Too little?

 

I think I would do that trade if I am the Twins.

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nicksaviking
Jun 27 2019 11:56 AM

Pittsburgh has recently traded Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Daniel Hudson, the return for all of these players, was exclusively MLB ready types. Nearly everyone of the players they brought back were former prospects who had lost some luster but had already debuted at the MLB level. It was no secret that Cole and McCutchen were going to be traded, and while everyone was picking apart how many top 100 prospects Pittsburgh would be able to get for them, they actually opted to go in a different direction.

 

Only their Daniel Freese and Ivan Nova trades did they sell off a player for a (non)prospect, but those guys weren't going to fetch anything of value anyway. The Pirates have the history of a team that is valuing being able to place the players they get in a trade right on the 25-man. This is the team that may value the Romero/Gonsalves/Gordon types much more than anyone would expect. Those guys are fairly comparable to Joe Musgrove, Colin Morin and Kyle Crick.

    • DocBauer likes this

The 4 years of team control him make very intriguing.Prospects are prospects for a reason.Gotta give something to gain something.If you could somehow squeeze 6 out of your starters in the post-season you would now have your closer here in the 9th.Rogers is a viable/mainly reliable option.Two good lefties!Question is do you trust the rest of the pen enough to make this your only addition?Time will tell on that front.IMO it will come down to how much the FO believes this team can win it all.If they are all in this is a trade you probably should pull the trigger on both for the short/long term success in the bullpen.

This is th kind of deal you give up serious prospects for, not two months of Madbum

 

Pittsburgh has recently traded Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Daniel Hudson, the return for all of these players, was exclusively MLB ready types. Nearly everyone of the players they brought back were former prospects who had lost some luster but had already debuted at the MLB level. It was no secret that Cole and McCutchen were going to be traded, and while everyone was picking apart how many top 100 prospects Pittsburgh would be able to get for them, they actually opted to go in a different direction.

 

Only their Daniel Freese and Ivan Nova trades did they sell off a player for a (non)prospect, but those guys weren't going to fetch anything of value anyway. The Pirates have the history of a team that is valuing being able to place the players they get in a trade right on the 25-man. This is the team that may value the Romero/Gonsalves/Gordon types much more than anyone would expect. Those guys are fairly comparable to Joe Musgrove, Colin Morin and Kyle Crick.

Possibly, but: only Cole was a non-rental among this group. I don't think the other trade returns have too much bearing on a potential Vasquez package.

 

Additionally, Vasquez has much more team control remaining (4.5 years) than Cole did (2). He's also performing better -- remember, Cole was coming off 100 and 107 ERA+ seasons at the time. He had tons of talent, but was still seen as a bit of a project to fully unlock it (not unlike Chris Archer?).

 

Even so, Moran was coming off a 133 wRC+ at AAA, only had 37 MLB PA, and was still 50 FV at the time per Fangraphs. Feliz had a career 32.7% K% in MLB. And Musgrove had a 1.44 ERA in 31 innings out of the pen to make the Astros postseason bullpen, suggesting a good floor if his return to starting didn't work out.

 

They weren't great prospects anymore, but I think those 3, as much shine was off of them, could still be considered ahead of Romero (struggling in AAA pen), Gonsalves (injured), and Gordon (cumulative 61 wRC+ at AAA in 578 PA) at the moment.

 

Pittsburgh may also be learning from its mistakes, and may consider itself in a different position now too -- especially with the failure of the Archer trade, they may be moving beyond the point of trying to salvage their Marte/Polanco era.

 

By all means, if Pittsburgh wants a package of these types of players for Vasquez, we should pursue it aggressively. But I wouldn't count on it.

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ChrisKnutson
Jul 04 2019 08:40 PM
I get that Pittsburgh would probably expect atleast one of Lewis, Kirilloff, or Graterol, but I gotta believe a package of Larnach, Jeffers, and Alcala would move the needle a little bit.

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