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Kent Hrbek inside the park homer at the Metrodome in 1984

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This was Sept. 11, 1984. The Twins and Royals entered this game tied for first place in the AL West. Twins won 5-1, Tom Brunansky hit his...
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Zulgad: Is MLB really making return about dollars and cents?

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Twins Have to Do Something About the Bullpen

Building a bullpen is simple, you can just convert any of your excess starting pitchers into relievers, right? The Twins had better hope so. It’s already been confirmed Fernando Romero won’t be preparing as a starter, and if everyone stays healthy, one of Martin Perez or Adalberto Mejia will likely be joining him in the bullpen.
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s hoping anyone who ends up converting takes quickly to the role. They won’t exactly be joining the most experienced bullpen out there. Take a look at the 40-man roster, there’s an alarming lack of arms with prior MLB experience pitching out of the bullpen. Here’s the entire list of pitchers with 10 or more career relief appearances in the majors:

Addison Reed (465 games in relief)
Blake Parker (229)
Taylor Rogers (198)
Trevor Hildenberger (110)
Trevor May (100)
Tyler Duffey (74)
Matt Magill (45)
Gabriel Moya (36)

Also, bullpen coach Jeremy Hefner is in his first season. As is pitching coach Wes Johnson. And manager Rocco Baldelli too.

What could go wrong?

I’m not saying this current bullpen is completely doomed, but the floor is very low. If guys like Reed and Hildy can bounce back, as John wrote about earlier today, and Romero can take to his new role, this could be a pretty strong unit. On the other hand, just imagine the impact a Taylor Rogers injury would have. You can’t expect everything to go your way.

If there was ever a team where some Fernando Rodney or Zach Duke types made sense, this would be it. There was a time when giving some fresh faces looks in relief would have made sense, but that seems like a poor plan to open a season in which you hope to compete.

The perfect opportunity for guys to get their feet wet would have been at the end of last season. Andrew Vasquez got in there for a whopping five innings, that was nice, but this was also a team that dumped 23 2/3 innings into Matt Belisle. But here we are, it is what it is.

That lack of established relievers also means even the bullpen reinforcements appear to be guys who are going to have to adjust to a new role. Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves or even Lewis Thorpe represent the next in line, but some of those guys will need to stay stretched out in order to serve as rotation depth. Of course, they can always make changes to the 40-man roster, but the guys next in line either have never pitched in the majors (Jake Reed, Ryan Eades) or haven’t been effective for some time (Tim Collins, Mike Morin).

Just a quick note on the opener, I don’t think we see the Twins do much with it in 2019 unless things go very poorly. Even if it’s something they implement on a regular basis, you still need a lot of traditional relievers in your bullpen anyway.

I take a look at the current construction of this pitching staff and see far from an ideal situation to expect a rookie coaching staff to successfully navigate. My original intention of this article was going to try to make sense of what the front office is thinking in terms of the bullpen, similar to the article I wrote about their additions to the lineup, but I can't do it. There’s no way we’re looking at the final picture. No way.

I don’t have any inside information, this is all just a hunch, but I cannot imagine the Twins enter the regular season with the bullpen as it’s currently constructed. Among the top free agents still available (STILL!?!?!?) are Craig Kimbrel, Bud Norris, Ryan Madson, Adam Warren and Nick Vincent. Kimbrel is obviously the marquee name of that bunch, but I believe any one of those five guys could help serve as a stabilizing influence for this Twins pen.

There are also always trades. The Twins have the prospects to give up, but I’m not sure if most non-contending teams would be motivated to make a move now or rather hold on until the trade deadline. I’ve been drooling over the idea of the Twins nabbing Mychal Givens from the hapless Orioles, though I’m not sure if there’d be any interest from either side.

But the Twins will do something. I mean, they have to ... right?


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The Twins should get Kimbrel if they can, but I'm guessing he doesn't want to be here. I'm guessing that was the same situation with all the other top free agent relievers. Those top relievers want to see a team committed to being a playoff contender, not the wait-and-see strategy from the Twins.


We better hope for a bounceback from Reed, top form from Parker (which I'm optimistic for), health from May, and excellence/health from Romero (which unfortunately he'll probably be in the bullpen).


Like you said, a very low floor here (like near-worst in MLB floor). But, I think above average ceiling is possible here.


Honestly I think the only way of raising the Twins floor for the bullpen is to successfully implement the opener more frequently. The roster is full of average to above-average reliever-types who can go several innings.

I know the Twins were interested in Madson, but he wants to be paid nire ir he is willing to retire. Adam Warren or Nick Vincent are probably our next targets.
It's a drum a lot of us have been taking turns beating all winter. It's inexcusable not to address this unit. And no, I don't count signing Blake Parker as addressing the bullpen. Reminds me of the Vikings and their continued lack of addressing their O-Line.
    • Mike Sixel, gil4, beckmt and 4 others like this

Falvine obviously thinks Duda and Cron will allow us to survive with mediocrity in the pen?

Feb 20 2019 11:01 AM

They moved Romero to the pen and picked up Blake Parker. They have a number of extra arms ready to come to MLB if needed and worthy (Gonsalves, Stewart for example).This is NOT the year to go get a Fernando Rodney or Matt Belisle - type..Let's see what this staff can do.We can bolster the pen and other parts of the team if the team proves itself worthy during the season.Add at the deadline if appropriate; otherwise run with what we have!

    • SwainZag, Old Twins Cap, Dman and 7 others like this

Meh. Signing the "veteran presence" does nothing for me. If the Twins are going to add to the bullpen, it needs to be at the top end.


There's 5 guys on this squad that have at least 2 years experience in the bullpen, Parker has been a closer, Reed has loads of experience...I think I'd prefer to go with this approach where we can actually move guys up and down from the minors as needed as opposed to adding a veteran who we might be stuck with regardless of performance. We're already looking at a tiny bench for position players and I don't want to waste one on a garbage bullpen guy.


Now, if we can get a deal with someone like Kimbrel? I'm interested, because that's an elite track record. But I can understand going, "oh hell, he's going to break down faster than addison reed did to us last year".


(I do think Reed is likely to bounce back very nicely for us, though.)

    • twinkiesfan11, mikelink45, Dman and 7 others like this
Feb 20 2019 11:28 AM

"There was a time when giving some fresh faces looks in relief would have made sense, but that seems like a poor plan to open a season in which you hope to compete."


I might entertain some glimmer of hope that they add another arm if this team had acted in way that signaled their intention was to compete this season. Honestly, there was ample time, money, and opportunity to improve the roster, and they passed.


We're a couple days away from the start of ST games, at this point I think we have to accept that this is very likely the roster moving forward. Hopefully I'm wrong, but if there's serious interest in Madsen, Warren, or Vincent I'm not sure how a deal isn't done at this point. Not that I'm particularly high on any of that trio, but what's the hold up? They found 4M for a bad back end starter in Perez.... 


    • Sconnie and adorduan like this

It makes way, way too much sense to sign Kimbrel. The money and need line up perfectly and I find it frustrating that there hasn't even been a connection between the team and him. Hopefully they're meeting in a parking ramp late at night and no one knows.

    • whatyouknowtwinsfan likes this
Feb 20 2019 11:51 AM
I wonder if Jose Leclerc is available?? I mean, it’s not like the Rangers are contending anytime soon. Whichever route we take, one thing is for sure. We cannot depend on Reed or Hildy bouncing back from last season.
    • Otwins likes this

I will never understand supplementing the bullpen "if the team proves themselves worthy" or can always add at the deadline. What if the putrid bullpen has them 10 games back at the break. Then it is sell sell sell which truth be told is the only strategy that we have seen this FO employ. We have yet to see them supplement unless you want to count Garcia's weeklong stint.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is strong with this team, isn't it?
    • Highabove, woolywoolhouse, Sconnie and 3 others like this

In answer to your question, why?


We have no idea how the coaching staff intends to use this bullpen.Will they be using Romero and Mejia in extended outings every 3-4 days, pitching 2, 3 or even 4 innings?If they do, that changes the work load on the other 5-6 guys in the pen.It also means that the other top relievers will not be overworked like the past few years, thus, more effective throughout the season.


Lets get into spring training and see how these guys are used and how they are doing before raising the surrender flag.Maybe Reed and Parker will be exactly what they expect them to be and the bullpen will be a strength. 



    • nater79a, djvang, howieramone2 and 4 others like this
Feb 20 2019 12:20 PM

It seems like it would be more productive to add talent in the offseason and subtract it at the deadline in exchange for future assets if it doesn't work out, rather than sit idle in the offseason and try to add at the deadline when teams have you over a barrel and you've put yourself a few games behind where you could otherwise be.

    • USAFChief, Highabove, adorduan and 3 others like this
Tom Froemming
Feb 20 2019 12:25 PM

MLB Trade Rumors recently published a 10 Forgotten Free Agents article. Sure enough, I forgot about Tyler Clippard! He had a 3.67 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 for Toronto last year and has some closing experience. He'd be another name to add to that potential upgrades pile.


UPDATE Nevermind, he literally just signed with Cleveland per Jon Heyman :(

    • Danchat, blindeke and Minny505 like this
Feb 20 2019 12:31 PM

We added Romero and Parker. May and Mejia only gave us 25 innings each last season. Looks to me like we have added a lot already.


Too many members confuse free agency with Christmas. Also, Reed being comeback player of the year is a lock.

    • IndianaTwin likes this
Omar Little
Feb 20 2019 12:34 PM

Is the ultimate goal to have Romero do some closer "on the job training" then make him full time closer by seasons end.He certainly has the stuff to be a great closer.

    • caninatl04 likes this
Tom Froemming
Feb 20 2019 12:57 PM


Like you said, a very low floor here (like near-worst in MLB floor). But, I think above average ceiling is possible here.

Well put. I agree that there's potential to be above average, and the silver lining is that bullpens are weird and often don't make a lot of sense. There's a lot of randomness, so really anything is possible. Parker is a nice addition, but he alone isn't going to do much.


Fernando Romero has a lot of upside, but I can't shake the fact that after his final appearance with the Twins last season he pitched to a 4.76 ERA and only averaged 6.0 K/9 over 51 innings for Rochester. I love May, but he's never made more than 48 appearances in a season. Reed and Hildy's downturns are well-documented, but Parker also struggled some late last year, giving up six homers in 22 innings during the second half.


That floor scares me.

    • adorduan and whatyouknowtwinsfan like this
Feb 20 2019 12:58 PM

Wow - the Ten Forgotten Free Agents says Carlos Gomez is available. Bring back Go go, but don't put him in the pen.

    • Minny505 likes this
Feb 20 2019 01:02 PM

I'm all for putting some of the starters in the pen, but looking back at the best starter-turned-reliever transitions, they almost all took a full season to get their footing and establish themselves.


I wanted Clippard. I'll still take Norris, Madson and Warren, Kimbrel too. I'm not too keen on Vincent, I don't trust relievers who throw 89 MPH.


I do like the Blake Parker signing, I think he would have been one of the higher under-the-radar guys I would have been in on had he been a free agent to open the year. But if he's not throwing a slider or changeup, he probably needs to throw that curve more. I'd think he'd need better diversity than running with a four seamer and splitter 90% of the time.


I would be pretty disappointed if the Twins traded for bullpen help considering this near historic class of free agent relievers; that would scream of choosing money over prospects.


They moved Romero to the pen and picked up Blake Parker. They have a number of extra arms ready to come to MLB if needed and worthy (Gonsalves, Stewart for example).This is NOT the year to go get a Fernando Rodney or Matt Belisle - type..Let's see what this staff can do.We can bolster the pen and other parts of the team if the team proves itself worthy during the season.Add at the deadline if appropriate; otherwise run with what we have!

I've got news for you: Blake Parker is probably a Fernando Rodney-type. :)


In addition to Rodney, we also lost Pressly from the 2018 pen, which is going to counteract some of the potential benefit from adding Romero and hopefully a full season of May.


I might understand waiting if the proposed price was a costly trade -- but the cost appears to be just money in free agency right now. Why wait? Even if we added the most expensive option in Kimbrel, we'd still have enough flexibility to add additional salary at the deadline if necessary (since we'd only have to pay a deadline acquisition for 2 months).


What exactly is the upside to "wait and see" besides money in Pohlad's pocket? Giving a nice long leash to Hildenberger or Magill?

    • birdwatcher, diehardtwinsfan, adorduan and 2 others like this

Kimbrel would be amazing. offer whatever it takes.


Worst case: we sell him off at the deadline because we are out of it. Multiple teams would give up excellent prospects for Kimbrel to enhance their post season push. Like, multiple top-100 guys. 


Best case...we finally have an elite closer and make our own post season push. 


Don't see it happening. But would be amazing. 

    • Einheri likes this

The ONLY one to get is Kimbrel. Sure, he could fall off the earth and become horrible. But at least we would have tried instead of just hoped and prayed. Plus, we really don't have a mountain man beard on the team yet - or did he shave to start the new year?


I am so tired of the crap that other teams don't even want anymore, but this FO sees as ready to fix. Until they get a couple of successful reclaimation projects under their belt, why does one think this staff can be the saviors? Last year, they did just the opposite. Took a consistent Reed, and he totally tanked. Same with Lynn. 


Kimbrel. Kimbrel. KIMBREL. KIMBREL!


And then get Marwin Gonzalez. I can't believe he is still available.

    • Einheri likes this

I agree that adding quality would be nice. I don't care how many career innings that quality has thrown, though.

    • Danchat likes this

This isn't a bullpen that will scare opposing teams, that's for sure.


c'est la vie.All of us would have done this differently during the offseason.

Feb 20 2019 02:32 PM

Mejia is out of options, so I'm guessing he's in the pen picture unless someone gets hurt (and I think he'd do well). Romero (as much as I don't like that) has a good shot of being there too, and I have to think he'd do quite well in the pen next season as well.


We should get Kimbrel, so at the very least we can keep Romero starting.

    • nicksaviking and TheLeviathan like this

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