Re-Creating the Bullpen in the Aggregate
Image courtesy of © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY SportsGiambi was an incredible player who held an eye-popping .477 OBP in 2001. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that the A’s could get a similar player at their budget so they decided to reconcile his loss with the other two position players they lost in order to recreate him. Instead of having to find a player with an OBP of .477, they just had to find three players with an OBP of .364 to even out the losses.
Let’s apply this theory to the Twins and their bullpen.
The team is set to lose Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, and Sergio Romo. Romo technically has a team option for 5 million but I’m assuming that the team will decline that. We’re going to use FIP as our guideline stat (read about it here if you don’t understand it). A quick rule is that you read it like how you read ERA. May had a 3.62 FIP in 2020, Romo was at 4.34, and Clippard came in at 2.65. Add those up and divide by three and you get 3.54. That’s the number that we’re looking to either hit or get close to. Here are three relievers who fit this criteria:
Do you know who this is? Good. That just makes this an even better choice. Hunter is a reliever coming off three years in Philadelphia after bouncing around a number of teams. He was once on the Rays which should tell you everything you need to know. Hunter is mainly a sinker/cutter/curve guy who has been able to off-set the velocity loss that comes with old age by increasing the use of his breaking stuff.
But let’s get down to the stats. Hunter had a 3.31 FIP in 2020 and a 3.63 FIP in 2018 (he missed most of 2019 so we can ignore that year). The average of those numbers comes out to 3.47 which is perfectly in the vicinity of what we’re looking for. At the age of 34 he shouldn’t be a majorly sought-after commodity but he can be a useful arm in the Twins’ bullpen.
We all know who this guy is. As a part of the terrifying three-headed monster that was Kelvin Herrera/Wade Davis/Greg Holland, he crushed the hopes of Twins hitters with incredible ease. It’s been a bit more rough since those prime years, however. Four other teams employed Holland after he left KC to varying degrees of success before he re-joined the Royals in 2020 and found some of his old stuff.
His fastball is no longer the crisp 95-96 that it once was but he sat at 93 on average in 2020 which is still respectable. Instead of the heater, Holland has leaned more on his slider recently and better results have followed. Combining his 2019 FIP of 4.76 and his 2020 FIP of 2.52 gives you 3.64. Again, that’s right in the sweet spot we’re looking for.
We’re transitioning to a trade target for this one. Stephenson is a 27-year-old reliever on the Reds whose 2020 season was nothing but a disaster which is perfect for us. I actually also wrote about Stephenson when Twinsdaily profiled reliever trade targets in 2019 (man, my syntax really sucked back then.) My opinion on Stephenson hasn’t changed much since then.
Stephenson is a failed ex-top prospect who now must find his footing as a two-pitch reliever. He throws his fastball at 94.8 MPH on average but mostly chooses to rely on his devastating slider (thrown at 65.9% of the time in 2020). The pitch resulted in a swinging strike 15.6% of the time in 2019. As I said before, his 2020 was a disaster (12.19 FIP over 10 innings!) but I don’t see this as a fair reflection of his ability. His 2019 FIP was 3.63 and that, once again, is exactly the kind of number we’re looking for.
These three additions give us a FIP of 3.58; essentially the number we were aiming for (3.54). We’ve recreated the lost bullpen arms by finding value in veterans and potential cast-offs. Fangraphs hasn’t updated their crowd-sourced resource for predicting free agent contracts yet so I don’t have a great estimate of how much Hunter and Holland will cost. I can’t imagine it will be much, though. A 1-year deal for around 4 million for each feels about right relievers at their age. Stephenson on the other hand shouldn’t cost more than some low-level prospects. What do you know? Now the Twins have a bullpen again.
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