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Week 11: Vikings at Bears

Minnesota Vikings Talk Yesterday, 11:17 PM
This is pretty much a must win in my opinion. We need to go to Soldier Field and take them... which means we won't. 
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Twins Minor League Coaches/Coordinators

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:05 PM
The Twins made some changes this offseason already in their minor league system. Pitching coaches Ivan Arteaga and Henry Bonilla were let...
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Article: Welcome to the New School

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:05 PM
Major League Baseball is changing before our eyes, with its fabric being rewoven in the age of analytics and forward thinking. Against al...
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NBA 2018-19 Thread

Minnesota Timberwolves Talk Yesterday, 09:45 PM
You all probably know I’m a Lakers guy by now. But, I like you guys, so I want to keep talking hoops on TD. This season is going to be F...
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Article: Rundown: Target Field Security, Offseason Expect...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:21 PM
Target Field is undergoing yet another fairly major update this offseason, the focus being around Gate 34. Rochelle Olson of the Star Tri...
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Twins Sign Belisle: What Does This Mean?

On Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins announced that reliever Matt Belisle had signed with the Twins after being released a day earlier by Cleveland. Infielder Gregorio Petit was Designated for Assignment to make room on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. It was a minor transaction, in the big picture, but it certainly created a ton of discussion. What does this signing mean for the Twins? Let’s try to figure it out.
Image courtesy of RIck Osentoski, USA Today
When the news came out that the Twins had signed Matt Belisle, my level of surprise was fairly low. I don’t know why. It just seems like what we would have always deemed a “Twins” type of move. The DFAing of Petit was also not a surprise.

But as I gave it more thought, my mind raced in several different directions, and at the end of the day, I’m much calmer, but I can’t say that the move makes any more sense than it did eight hours ago. It still begs several questions.


1.) What Does Matt Belisle Have Left?

Matt Belisle got off to a very slow start last year with the Minnesota Twins, but he turned it on in the second half. He pitched well and did a nice job as the Twins closer after the Brandon Kintzler trade at the deadline.

Late in the offseason, he signed a one year, $1.5 million deal with Cleveland. He made the Opening Day roster. He began the season with three scoreless outings before giving up runs in his next three outings. He responded with two scoreless outings. Cleveland DFAd him. Belisle became a free agent, but soon re-signed with the team. He was released on Sunday and signed with the Twins on Tuesday.

In his 10 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.06 ERA. He walked one and struck out just four. In nine outings (and also 10 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Columbus, Belisle posted a 4.22 ERA with one walk and 11 strikeouts.

In other words, he shouldn’t be a late-inning reliever, but the 38-year-old can probably be a solid big league pitcher still.


2.) What Does It Say About The Front Office’s Opinion of the AAA Relievers?

This was my first thought, and I know it was the thought of many others. First and foremost, it is inexplicable to me that Alan Busenitz isn’t pitching in the big leagues. Of course, that was my opinion before the Belisle signing. He pitched well late in the 2017 season for the Twins and became a reliable arm for Paul Molitor.

While Busenitz didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was promoted in mid-April. He then pitched in four of the next six games. The Twins were struggling and needed arms, so Busenitz was sent back to Rochester. In 14 games for the Red Wings, He has posted a 0.38 ERA. In 24 innings, he has given up 15 hits, walked five and struck out 28. The 27-year-old has nothing to prove in AAA, and he still have some upside.

But Busenitiz isn’t the only reliever in Rochester who has to be wondering what the Twins front office is thinking.
  • Tyler Duffey was just sent down over the weekend to make room for outfielder Jake Cave. Duffey had pitched well in limited duty since being called back up. That said, it did make sense to want a fourth bench bat. So, three days later, adding a bullpen arm and going back to three bench bats has to make him think. In 26 innings over 11 outings for the Red Wings, Duffey has posted a 1.38 ERA. He’s walked seven and struck out 26 batters.
  • John Curtiss has the pitches to be a dominant reliever. While his short stay with the Twins earlier this season wasn’t pretty, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) limit anyone’s idea of his potential. Coming into Tuesday, he had a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. In that time, he had 31 strikeouts, but ten walks.
  • Luke Bard has 19 strikeouts and six walks in his 17 innings (11 games) since his return to the Red Wings after his stint with the Los Angeles Angels. His big fastball, slider and spin rates are pretty much big league ready.
  • Nick Anderson has given up nine earned runs in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings) which raised his season ERA from 1.16 to 4.15. So, as rough as this current “slump” is, it’s important to think about the first 14 games and 23 1/3 innings. In his 26 innings, he has walked 12 and struck out 39.
  • Jake Reed remains in the organization. He missed time earlier in the year and has struggled somewhat in his return. In his 15 2/3 innings over ten outings, he has walked seven and struck out 14 batters.
  • While he’s left-handed, Gabriel Moya has also pitched well in his five weeks with the Red Wings after being optioned at the end of April. He’s posted a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. In that time, he has walked eight and struck out 29 batters.
  • Trevor May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As his rehab stint ended, the Twins optioned him to Rochester and he has worked out of the bullpen since. At some point, he’ll be ready as well.
That is a lot of quality options who all were just told that they have been pushed down the line another spot with the Belisle signing.

The team likely calls it "depth." Hopefully the players will consider it a challenge. The other option is that they get overly upset and don't handle it well.

3.) What Kind of Leader is Belisle? (And What Kind of Leadership Does This Twins Team Need?)

Matt Belisle likely isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Twins bullpen (which, frankly, has been pretty solid most of the season). The Twins have pitchers at Rochester who are just as talented, if not more talented, and younger. What we keep hearing is that the Twins are bringing in Belisle for his leadership in the clubhouse.

Fair enough. There were plenty of good stories in 2017 about the role Belisle played for the team, particularly in a leadership role.

However, when the Twins signed Fernando Rodney, there was some conversation about him being brought in as a leader for the pitchers. Then Zack Duke was signed, and we heard about how great of a teammate he is. And, when they signed Addison Reed, his leadership was again mentioned.

I don’t mean to downplay the value of veteran leadership. It is important. But there are a lot of veterans, and there are a lot of veterans who are touted as leaders, and there are several indications that the clubhouse is not a happy place right now. There are issues. The team is five games under .500, not at all where they felt they would be at this point,

Can Matt Belisle’s leadership push the Twins to more wins? That is to be determined. Can he help the Twins offense score more runs? That would also be helpful. As would getting more of the regulars back on the field and healthy.


Summary

So at the end of the day, this is a minor move. Matt Belisle probably has a little left in the tank. Maybe he can help out. Maybe he can eat some of the innings that are currently constantly going to Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly so that they don’t reach 100 games pitched this year. Trevor Hildenberger is starting to take more and more of those opportunities, and Matt Magill has pitched well enough to earn those opportunities as well.

We have also seen what Paul Molitor likes from his bullpen. He trusts Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly. In the first half last year, he trusted Taylor Rogers and ran him into the ground by the second half. We saw that somewhat in the second half last year when he used Trevor Hildenberger most every day over the final couple of months. My guess is that Molitor will not be afraid to use Matt Belisle late in games because of how well he did in the role last year. Trust.

I also suspect that this is one move that the front office is giving Molitor and the team, a veteran, in an attempt to win this year. The trade deadline is about seven weeks away. By mid-July, the front office will have some big decisions to make. Most important, will they believe that the Twins could still make the playoffs this year? As Nick wrote yesterday, it’s not yet time to give up on this year.

What this signing appears to me to be, in the big picture, is a message to the team and its veterans that they have a little over a month to turn things around and put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot. If not, all bets are off and at that time, we can start discussing which veterans could be on the trading block and which players will come up to take their places.

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84 Comments

 

You can’t trade players no one wants. As I said, Reed and Rodney are likely at the top of teams want lists. Relievers usually are.

Every guy I mentioned would return something, sure that something is probably a mid tier prospect that as Twins fans we will over hype and claim to be the future and be unwilling to trade because we are still two years away from really contending. In a few years if will be questionable that they deserve a 40 man roster spot and again as Twins fans will be waiting for our next mid tier prospects to bring us to the promise land.

If we don't like any of our AAA relievers -- why do we have so many of them on our 40-man roster? Why didn't we sign Belisle this winter? I guess by waiting, I think Cleveland is on the hook for Belisle's modest salary above the league minimum... so, savings!

Although that still would have been the case had we signed him less than a month ago, when he was a free agent for 8 days after Cleveland let him go the first time...


This. The 40 man can't be a restraint to moving guys up if the front office refuses to promote guys in the 40 man because they aren't good enough.

I hate this move. So many teams are getting younger, this team just keeps getting older.

Leadership? Mentor? This team is filled with veterans.
    • rghrbek, Vanimal46, Tomj14 and 1 other like this

 

Speaking of: The raccoon on the bank building and Belisle on a MLB roster. What do they have in common?

Soon to be roadkill?

According to current board standards, the Indians haven't accomplished anything since 1948.


Nor our favorite team since 1991, amiright?
    • Mike Sixel, nicksaviking, adorduan and 1 other like this

Soon to be roadkill?

. That might be the winner...... :)

Nor our favorite team since 1991, amiright?

Normally I don't do math, but does this make us over twice as successful?
    • USAFChief and nicksaviking like this

Normally I don't do math, but does this make us over twice as successful?


You should go back to not doing math.
    • nicksaviking likes this

You should go back to not doing math.

You rose to the bait........ You never disappoint. :)
    • USAFChief likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Jun 13 2018 12:02 PM

 

So these guys can't beat out Matt Belisle for the 8th bullpen spot -- but Tampa's going to insist they are included in a major trade?

 

Also, those guys aren't in MLB now and don't require Belisle to replace them on the roster even if they were dealt. Except perhaps as "depth" but it's a really weird way to address depth by adding a 13th pitcher to your roster who doesn't have options.

Ahh, but isn't part of the siren song of prospects the projections they bring as compared to actual performance? Busenitz is looking good now based on last year and this year's AAA - he may not look so good to trade if we actually promote him and he stinks up the joint.Same with Curtiss, Bard, Slegers, etc... It may be easier to sell potential than reality.I know my previous dating track record would suggest that's the case. 

 

C'mon guys, they brought in Belisle because he pitched well in the second half of last year and it's a sign to the clubhouse that we're getting the band back together for a second half run. it probably won't work on the field very well (we'd all be thrilled if Belisle is sporting a sub 4.25 ERA in a month) but it may give the players a vote of FO confidence. If it doesn't work, ther's still plenty of time to bring up the AAA guys, although I would still put Pressley on the 10 day DL with a "tired arm" and bring up Busenitz. The rest of those guys can wait.  

    • howieramone2 likes this

I think we all sometimes make too much out of relatively common minor mid-season transactions. Maybe they're playing a hunch with the important Cleveland series coming up the weekend. Articles have been written recently about Molitor´s over-use of his bullpen stalwarts, four of the fifty MLB relievers with 30 or more appearances are Twins, plus Rogers with 27 and Rodney with 24. Maybe he hopes to use Belisle as a veteran crutch to help give the others a break if only for a short time. Who knows? There are so many nuances involved in a long season and a 40-man roster. 

    • howieramone2 and caninatl04 like this
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KirbyDome89
Jun 13 2018 12:32 PM

 

Falvine really hasn’t had the chance to select and develop potential relievers yet. They inherited all the players at A ball and above.

The only reliever that made his MLB debut during Falvine’s tenure that has done well is Hildenberger, and he had a rough start to this year. To the point that many were calling for him to be sent to AAA. No one else has done well enough to hold a spot. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the system’s supposed surplus of relievers.

Part of that is giving some of those minor league relief arms an actual chance, even if that chance results in failure. 

 

Busenitz has thrown all of 4 innings this year, and Curtiss has logged 2/3 of an inning. It's hard to earn anything with limited amount of work. 

    • adorduan and caninatl04 like this

Busenitz (1.9 BB/9 at Rochester) and Duffey (2.3) need to work on their control? Or we're just going to lump them in with other pitchers who do, for no apparent reason except to justify signing Belisle as our 13th pitcher?


Notice i said most. All the other pitchers mentioned in the article were around 4 walks per 9 innings.
    • caninatl04 likes this

Notice i said most. All the other pitchers mentioned in the article were around 4 walks per 9 innings.


So what's the reason for keeping those two down?
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jorgenswest
Jun 13 2018 04:06 PM
The only possible reason is that the front office doesn’t believe that Duffey and Busenitz will not perform well at the major league level.

It that is the case, they had last year to make that assessment and it is a critical failure that they did not find better alternatives this winter.

On the other hand if they believe either or both can be relievers on a competitive major league team it is a critical failure to keep them in AAA behind Belisle.

There is no way I can know whether Duffey or Busenitz have the talent to be a good piece in a bullpen. I do know that the Twins bullpen has cost them more games than reasonable and that responsibility is on the shoulders of the front office and coaching staff.
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launchingthrees
Jun 13 2018 04:19 PM

 

On the other hand if they believe either or both can be relievers on a competitive major league team it is a critical failure to keep them in AAA behind Belisle.

There is no way I can know whether Duffey or Busenitz have the talent to be a good piece in a bullpen. I do know that the Twins bullpen has cost them more games than reasonable and that responsibility is on the shoulders of the front office and coaching staff.

 

Really? The bullpen has been good enough this year. The team has a bunch of issues but calling bullpen management by the FO a "critical failure" seems odd given how much they've improved. What would you consider a good bullpen ERA?

    • caninatl04 likes this

Really? The bullpen has been good enough this year. The team has a bunch of issues but calling bullpen management by the FO a "critical failure" seems odd given how much they've improved. What would you consider a good bullpen ERA?


Well it's currently 21st in baseball, by ERA.
Certainly a lot of room for improvement there, IMO.
    • jorgenswest and h2oface like this
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yarnivek1972
Jun 13 2018 04:30 PM

Really? The bullpen has been good enough this year. The team has a bunch of issues but calling bullpen management by the FO a "critical failure" seems odd given how much they've improved. What would you consider a good bullpen ERA?

The Twins have allowed MLB worst 42% of inherited runners to score. Only the Tigers (who have played 5 more games) have more blown saves than the Twins 13.

Then there is the Twins abysmal 3-13 record in one run games.

All of these are signs of a BAD bullpen - that you are calling “good enough”. Good enough for what?


Actually, I’ll answer my own question. Good enough to result in a 29-34 record.
    • jorgenswest, h2oface, adorduan and 1 other like this

 

Seems like Twins will deal relievers here soon, and certainly at the deadline if they are not in it.

 

Belisle is insurance.

 

You deal Rodney and Belisle becomes an experrienced late-inning guy. Reed or Pressly gets hurt, you still have Belisle.

 

No one has to like this move, but it is about getting through the season should the worst, or some kind of trade/injury happen.

I appreciate your point, but I think AAA provides better insurance.

We must be careful how much we criticize the front office. After all, they do know more than we do.

 

Let's also keep in mind that they have tried guys like Busenitz, Curtiss, and Duffey with suboptimal results to say the least.

 

I haven't been around the clubhouse, so I have no input on the kind of leadership he brings or the kind of person he is. However, if the front office thinks enough of him to bring him back, I'm sure there is a good reason. It's unlikely they would bring him back if they didn't have faith in him.

    • jorgenswest and howieramone2 like this

 

The Twins have allowed MLB worst 42% of inherited runners to score. Only the Tigers (who have played 5 more games) have more blown saves than the Twins 13.

Then there is the Twins abysmal 3-13 record in one run games.

All of these are signs of a BAD bullpen - that you are calling “good enough”. Good enough for what?


Actually, I’ll answer my own question. Good enough to result in a 29-34 record.

I am less willing to attribute the 1-run game record to the bullpen.I attribute it more to a GOOD pitching staff, but an offense that scores 1 or 2 runs quite frequently.

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yarnivek1972
Jun 13 2018 05:14 PM

I am less willing to attribute the 1-run game record to the bullpen. I attribute it more to a GOOD pitching staff, but an offense that scores 1 or 2 runs quite frequently.


Taken by itself, I would agree. Taken in conjunction with the other mentioned stats, it is an additional sign that the bullpen is bad.

 

Speaking of: The raccoon on the bank building and Belisle on a MLB roster. What do they have in common?

Neither belong where they are?

The pen in April was right there as the 2nd or 3rd worst in the league. Since then it has been much, much better.

Neither belong where they are?

Bingo...... But now the raccoon is in the woods, and Belisle was already on the mound.
    • Oldgoat_MN and Vanimal46 like this
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launchingthrees
Jun 13 2018 09:43 PM

 

The Twins have allowed MLB worst 42% of inherited runners to score. Only the Tigers (who have played 5 more games) have more blown saves than the Twins 13.

Then there is the Twins abysmal 3-13 record in one run games.

All of these are signs of a BAD bullpen - that you are calling “good enough”. Good enough for what?


Actually, I’ll answer my own question. Good enough to result in a 29-34 record.

 

What you are seeing as blowing 1 run leads I see as variance, statistical noise. This is a really good bullpen, overused, but really good. At least a lot better than the team we're chasing. If there's a problem with the bullpen moving forward it's because Molitor is about as advanced in his decision making as a 1980s college coach.

 

I would have already fired him for his bullpen management. Ask Addison Reed whether he regrets signing with the Twins. I guarantee Pressley wants out too.

    • Platoon likes this

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