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Killebrew or Puckett?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:38 AM
Wondering what you all think about Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett. Which one meant more to the Twins franchise and which one was more...
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Front Page: Catching Up With Nick Gordon

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 09:37 AM
Quietly, Twins infield prospect Nick Gordon has put together some really strong numbers in 2019 for the Rochester Red Wings. Unfortunatel...
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Is Cruz the best Twins FA signing ever?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:35 AM
The old man has only been a Twin a short time and even shorter when you look at games played, but so far, is he the best FA signing in Tw...
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Front Page: 6 Potential Non-Roster September Call-ups Who...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:32 AM
For the last time under the current rules, teams will be able to add as many as 15 players to their active bench once the calendar turns...
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Front Page: Series Preview: Let's Get Down To Business

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:27 AM
As we continue through the “cupcake” part of the schedule, it’s good to re-evaluate the status of the team after each series as it feels...
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Shoring Up Twins Bullpen Will Be a Mighty Challenge

Are great relievers born? Made? Produced artificially in a laboratory somewhere deep in the Nevadan desert?

We don't know the answer. If you think you do, you're probably wrong. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's just the nature of relief pitching. The Twins are living proof of its caprice and volatility. Which is why, as Minnesota embarks on a quest to improve its needy bullpen, they face a mighty challenge.
Image courtesy of Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Let's review the facts as they stand. The most intriguing pieces currently in the Twins' bullpen are:
  • Taylor Rogers, formerly an 11th-round pick turned nondescript minor-league starter, who transitioned into relief duty immediately in the majors, and blossomed into a top-tier setup man over three short years.
  • Ryne Harper, a former 37th-round pick who toiled in the minors for nine years before making the Twins out of camp this spring on a minor-league deal. He debuted as a 30-year-old rookie.
  • Blake Parker, the team's biggest offseason bullpen splash. His smallish free agent contract as a castoff from the Angels was whittled down further after his physical. I hesitate to call him "intriguing" at this point, given his trendline, but overall he's gotten it done.
  • Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Zack Littell: All former middling prospects as starters, finding new gears as MLB relievers. Before you write off any of the three as flashes in the pan, or overachieving mediocrities, go back and read Rogers' blurb again. As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers.
With all due respect to Matt Magill and Mike Morin, I don't quite put either at the same level of faith as those above, but each one fits the narrative: discarded minor-league pitchers finding surprising success in the majors.

Meanwhile, here are the pitchers conspicuously NOT contributing to the current campaign:
  • Addison Reed, who signed the largest free agent reliever deal in franchise history 18 months ago. The Twins ate a good portion of it when they released him last month.
  • Trevor Hildenberger, who was the team's most reliable bullpen arm for about a year before falling apart at the seams midway through 2018. He's currently on the injured list at Triple-A.
  • Fernando Romero, the former top pitching prospect who's flamed out in multiple stints with the Twins this year, and hasn't looked a whole lot better in Triple-A.
I know the common refrain on Romero – especially with the benefit of hindsight: "Why mess with him? They shoulda left him as a starter." But that ignores two things: 1) he wasn't throwing or holding up all that well as a starter, and 2) I mean, look at the examples of Duffey/May/Littell. There are certainly downsides to waffling and delaying. With Romero, it's an unaffordable luxury because he'll be out of options next spring.

The malfunctions with all three of these players are largely driving the urgency to make improvements. But each of them, and Reed especially, epitomizes the reason that's a much taller order than many clamoring fans would like to believe. Anyone expressing certainty that Craig Kimbrel would've been a decisive upgrade is kidding themselves.

Reed, like Kimbrel, generated less free agent demand than expected, given his backend pedigree, but he still had all the makings of a bullpen stud. He was younger and less weathered than Kimbrel. And in the early portion of his contract, Reed looked the part. But his drop-off was both rapid and ruthless.

And the thing is, he's not alone. Reed is a somewhat extreme version of an all-too-common outcome. I just checked in on the top RP options listed in the latest Offseason Handbook, and there are vastly more busts than even moderately decent values. Kimbrel still hasn't pitched in the majors. David Robertson's thrown only seven innings due to injury issues. Andrew Miller's been mediocre. Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly have been terrible. Cody Allen was so bad he's already been cut by the Angels, and signed by Minnesota to a minors deal.

Allen now feels like a long shot to make any kind of meaningful impact; but, as you go through the names above, doesn't that feel true for almost anyone? Granted, some of these guys had their red flags, but all had strong track records, and signed for many millions of dollars. To a man, they've all floundered.

Meanwhile, the Twins are finding their most credible help in a 30-year-old journeyman and a bunch of failed minor-league starters. And most of these guys are hitting their own skids at times.

What all of this suggests to me:

First, it's really hard to be a relief pitcher in the major leagues right now, with stacked lineups of aggressive upper-cut swingers just waiting to feast on premium heat. This is borne out by the numbers: MLB relievers, as a whole, have a 4.50 ERA this year, up from 4.08 last year and higher than their starting counterparts (!).

Second, and not unrelatedly: it's going to be very difficult for the Twins to solve this problem. Difficult, and stressful. They aren't short on resources by any means, but that's not the problem. Those onerous contracts plaguing other teams who splurged on the relief market last winter are one thing; when you start giving up valuable prospects, stakes are raised, especially for a team in Minnesota's position.

There are a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there on the trade market. We've been covering them in a series of profiles here on the site, so this might be a good time to get caught up:There are compelling cases to be made for several of the above, plus some others who haven't yet been covered. I myself am quite high on Raisel Iglesias. But no matter who I might favor, data shows there's an overwhelming chance I'll be wrong. The same is true for you. Again, I apologize for the bluntness.

But of course, it doesn't matter if we're right – only the guys leading the front office. What's most important is that they buy into what's to come, rather than what's already gone.

If only it were that easy.

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76 Comments

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notoriousgod71
Jun 25 2019 05:26 AM

What is mind boggling to me is they basically admitted their bullpen was garbage last year when they went out and signed Rodney, Reed, and Duke.

 

Then they turn around and get rid of all three of them AND Pressley and somehow think this year's bullpen is going to be good?

 

 

    • Steve Lein, Mike Sixel, Highabove and 5 others like this
Jhoan Duran, please. He can go back to starting next season.
    • bighat and Original Whizzinator like this

Does not look promising heading into the all-star break at first glance.Twins have signed Ian Krol, Drew Hutchison and Cody Allen to minor league deals with the hope that one of them will turn it around and help solidify the bullpen.Yikes!

    • lukeduke1980 likes this

Great Article Nick

 

I invite everyone to take a look at every bullpen in the Majors. Look at the names in each bullpen on each team. 

 

Spoiler Alert: There will be a bunch of players that you have either never heard of, or players that you've heard of but had no idea who they were before that. 

 

We've heard of Will Smith so we want him (I do to). However, before he was the Will Smith we've heard of, he was the Will Smith that Keith Law didn't talk about. 

 

Clearly, Bullpen arms are made in a Nevada lab. 

 

 

    • Nick Nelson, Han Joelo, birdwatcher and 9 others like this
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stringer bell
Jun 25 2019 06:32 AM

 

Does not look promising heading into the all-star break at first glance.Twins have signed Ian Krol, Drew Hutchison and Cody Allen to minor league deals with the hope that one of them will turn it around and help solidify the bullpen.Yikes!

Those were moves made in June, with each signed to a minor league contract. Low-risk, high reward stuff with players that had success at some point. I expect in the next five weeks that the Twins will trade actual prospects for guys who are doing well in mlb this year.

    • birdwatcher, Mike Frasier Law, Danchat and 4 others like this

What I take from the list of "a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there" is that there really isn't much likely to be out there.

 

It's going to be difficult to improve the bullpen.

 

 

 

    • Blake, Mike Frasier Law, beckmt and 2 others like this

 

Those were moves made in June, with each signed to a minor league contract. Low-risk, high reward stuff with players that had success at some point. I expect in the next five weeks that the Twins will trade actual prospects for guys who are doing well in mlb this year.

 

Maybe, maybe not. And the more games I watch the more I'm convinced this team needs another solid starter as well.

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this
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birdwatcher
Jun 25 2019 06:57 AM

Such a terrifically written article, Nick.

 

It's not just the uncertainty each prospective solution presents, although that's a massive challenge in and of itself. I mean, it's really mind-boggling to review that list of off-season of RP options. Still, I wanted them to take their chances on ONE of those options.

 

The larger problem for ALL teams is the extra performance volatility involved with bullpen guys. You point this out with our own examples: the quick fade for Reed, the injury to Hildy, and the mystery that is Romero. Are they going to get upside volatility from someone? Duffey perhaps? Who knows? Maybe they think they know.

 

These big splash disappointments and unexpected downfalls illustrate the need to play a numbers game, and in that regard, I thought Falvey did that fairly well coming into the season. Maybe not.

 

But we shouldn't ignore how often solutions seemingly come out of nowhere, as the emergence of guys like Harper show, or the sudden greater effectiveness of an up and down guy like Liam Hendriks instruct us. 

 

I hope this FO feels urgency and desperation. I'm perfectly fine with them scrambling for options with Ian Krol, Cody Allen, Hutchinson, Cano, and the like. However, just as I wanted one big splash FA in the off-season, I want one acquisition of a guy who has a ton of performance inertia going on in 2019. They'll pay too much, but it is what it is.

    • Nick Nelson, DocBauer, Wizard11 and 3 others like this

Best article on the bullpen I've read. 

    • Nick Nelson, Wizard11, Original Whizzinator and 2 others like this

Giles.The Twins have plenty of prospects to trade without touching their top 5.

    • Wizard11 likes this

As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers.


Agreed on Littell and May, but hasn't Duffey been an exclusive reliever for 2.5 years now, almost as long as Rogers?

 

Agreed on Littell and May, but hasn't Duffey been an exclusive reliever for 2.5 years now, almost as long as Rogers?

Same for May. He hasn't been a starter since mid 2015.

 

BTW..."lethal flamethrowers??"

    • Tomj14 and Original Whizzinator like this

Complaining about this FO not making a splash on a FA reliever is legit, however their chances of a swing and miss were greater than Sano on a medium to high velocity fastball.Bullpens across baseball suck this year, with the exception of maybe the Yankees.Using hindsight, as we can now, it would seem that making a trade now for a known (as in this year and now) relief pitcher is the smart thing to do.

Put Sano and some 40 man or soon prospects up to Toronto or whoever to get a starter and 2 relievers and lets get this done.Let's roll with Marwin & Arraez at 3rd and move on from a guy that just seems to be needing a change.I know he hits the long ball, but his attitude just doesn't seem to fit this team and sometimes you got to give up something to get something.Adding some pitchers with a couple years control also helps address pitching for next couple years.

    • birdwatcher, tarheeltwinsfan, DannySD and 1 other like this
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yarnivek1972
Jun 25 2019 07:50 AM
All of which strongly suggests that

1) trading away a good reliever that still had a year of team control was foolish.

2) the organization should be doing more than it has been to develop it’s own relievers. Falvine have been at the helm for 3 years now. They were billed as pitching gurus. Where are the results? Of the 13 man pitching staff, only 5 are products of the Twins pipeline.
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Thebigalguy
Jun 25 2019 07:52 AM
Great piece. You reap what you sow. The Twins traded Pressley; I still think it was front office payback. How else explain trading away your future closer, and for what? My guess is front office has already identified the prospects they’re willing to trade. I think they’ve been caught by surprise. They thought they had another year to figure it out.

I like the article but question why CLE would even consider trading the likes of Hand or Perez to Minnesota at this point?Having now secured the #2 WC and 8-2 over their last 10 compared to the Twins pedestrian 5-5 (with TB next) they have to be thinking Division all the way.I'm scared.

    • Tomj14 and DannySD like this

Agree it will be difficult, and probably cost more than any of us expect.You have about 15 teams looking at the playoffs and 14 of them need bullpen help.That to me screams seller's market.Now many of these clubs do not have mid level prospects like the Twins, but many teams will want more from the Twins than other clubs.This leaves the problem at how much of the future do we want to sell.I expect Romoro and Gordon to be two of the prospects that could be sold.  

Great article, Nick.

    • Nick Nelson likes this

Same for May. He hasn't been a starter since mid 2015.

BTW..."lethal flamethrowers??"

To be fair, May did approach a couple spring trainings as a starter (Duffey may have too?), and even started his TJ rehab last year as a starter in the minors (maybe just to catch up in innings?).
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Nick Nelson
Jun 25 2019 08:26 AM

 

Agreed on Littell and May, but hasn't Duffey been an exclusive reliever for 2.5 years now, almost as long as Rogers?

Yes, but as mentioned, it took Rogers 3 years to develop into what he would eventually become. It takes some guys even longer. The earlier you can get a jump-start on these things the better. I'm just saying, what if Duffey came up and was immediately placed in full-time relief, preparing as such in spring training, etc? (He and May both were sort of in that weird ambiguous middle ground for a while.) 

 

 

Same for May. He hasn't been a starter since mid 2015.

 

BTW..."lethal flamethrowers??"

They're all throwing in the upper '90s out of the pen, with the ability to blow people away. I didn't mean to conflate with established all-around dominance. It's just a massive transformation from how they looked as starters (esp Littell and Duffey)

 

    • dbminn and Original Whizzinator like this
Presly might have been a mistake in Hindsight. But at least we got something back.

The real organizational mistake was not providing opportunity for Anderson, Burdi and even Chargois and of course others.

Bullpens across the league are full of players who are getting opportunity after not getting opportunity elsewhere.

Identify your own guys before they are tossed aside. Getting better at this will fix your bullpen at a much lower cost.
    • Blake, Mike Frasier Law, beckmt and 7 others like this

Developing effective relievers is the current high value commodity in MLB.  Or maybe it has always been.  The Twins cashed in on Pressly, probably in error.  Now they are going to have to pay through the nose to acquire someone else's Pressly, or Edwin Diaz, or Ken Giles, or David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle (I'm talking about the first time these guys were traded.)

 

Judging from the list of options, I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility that somebody else's castoff can become something of value to the Twins, however.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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birdwatcher
Jun 25 2019 10:11 AM

 

All of which strongly suggests that

1) trading away a good reliever that still had a year of team control was foolish.

2) the organization should be doing more than it has been to develop it’s own relievers. Falvine have been at the helm for 3 years now. They were billed as pitching gurus. Where are the results? Of the 13 man pitching staff, only 5 are products of the Twins pipeline.

 

 

I agree 100% with your first point.

 

But how many drafts have taken place since Falvey took over? How many pitchers from those drafts in all of baseball are now successfully holding down a spot in any team's bullpen?

 

It's not realistic to think Falvey has some secret sauce regarding pitching. Other teams develop pitchers well too. And even if he IS some sort of guru, successful development is ultimately a function of extracting the best from real talent, and we know the raw pitching talent at the upper levels is a bit thin.

    • DocBauer and MN_ExPat like this

Duffey and Littell look more reliable than May.

There is still time to try out a few minor league starters and bring back a few guys like Hildy, Mejia and Moya before testing the FA market. Smeltzer looks crafty enough to go a couple innings, and Romero can just go with high heat for an inning. 

Morin and Parker I don't trust. Both seem shaky. 

Some days I'm glad I'm not Twins FO. Mediocrity abounds when it comes to relief pitching. 

    • birdwatcher likes this
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birdwatcher
Jun 25 2019 10:38 AM

 

Presly might have been a mistake in Hindsight. But at least we got something back.

The real organizational mistake was not providing opportunity for Anderson, Burdi and even Chargois and of course others.

Bullpens across the league are full of players who are getting opportunity after not getting opportunity elsewhere.

Identify your own guys before they are tossed aside. Getting better at this will fix your bullpen at a much lower cost.

 

 

This is just me, but like your adamant view on the flexibility and opportunity issue, I'm a rigid believer that there is not an acceptable prospect return for a MLB stalwart (Pressly) when losing him converts a pothole into a sinkhole. Not anticipating being in contention in 2019? I certainly HOPE this FO doesn't think like that, although they gave us reasons to be suspicious with their clumsy sell/buy antics at the deadline two years ago. So yeah, getting what we hope will be a good return will take some of the sting out of this lousy decision, it's far from consoling me in the present.

 

I have a bigger problem with letting all those relief prospects walk without some semblance of a return than I do with not giving them a chance. They may have simply concluded in some cases that they didn't have great futures, I don't know. And in one or two cases, the timing simply boxed them into a corner because of injury complications in particular.

 

In Hindsight, Bard might be the one who got away, although he sports a 0.1 YTD WAR (not the perfect metric, but good enough for this). None of the others, given opportunities with new teams, are lighting it up. Anderson, -0.1 WAR; Chargois, -0.1 WAR; Burdi, -0.5 WAR; Curtiss, 0.0 WAR and DFA'd; Derek Rodriguez, -0.5 WAR; Randy Rosario, -0.2 WAR.

 

My guess is that if this FO picked any of these guys up today as unfamiliar names to test them as bullpen options, we'd hear a lot of screaming about it.

 

    • jimbo92107, Mike Frasier Law, Riverbrian and 3 others like this

Great article, Nick.

 

Is it possible the biggest help will come from within the organization?Perhaps May or Duffey or Littell take that final step and becomes a shut down reliever the last 60 days of the season.They still have to go out and try to bring in some help, but maybe one of the three will step up.

 

One avenue you haven't mentioned is if a current starter would be converted to the pen.That could happen should their big move being a trade for a young starter who would be protected for a couple years.Not real certain if Pineda or Perez would be any better than what we have seen.But could be a partial fix.


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