Twins Sending Relief Messages
Image courtesy of © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsLooking at what we know thus far, the Twins have been connected to relievers like Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, Fernando Rodney and Matt Belisle. Of that foursome, only Rodney has landed with the Twins. In 2018, he’ll be 41 years old, and the lone leftover (Belisle) will be 38. Other names they’ve been linked to include Tony Watson (32) and Addison Reed (28). Looking at the aforementioned names only Reed is under the age of 30. I think we can begin to glean something from this information.
As the Twins attack free agency, the bullpen from 2017 remains a concern. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine know that relief help needs to be brought in for this club to take the next step. With regard to relievers though, you generally want to be creative or good. Going the route of “good” can be a mistake waiting to happen. Handing out big contracts to names like Wade Davis or Greg Holland could end up preventing money being spent elsewhere, and is a situation that could blow up with a small case of the yips.
When it comes to relief pitching, finding outliers seems to be, in general, a much more fruitful endeavor. As Twins Daily’s Tom Froemming pointed out, Brandon Morrow and Tommy Hunter bother signed one year deals last offseason for less than $1.5m each. During the current offseason, both agreed to multi-year deals for multiple millions of dollars. Seth Stohs also pointed out the desire to sign the likes of Tony Sipp or Antonio Bastardo to multi-year deals for big money back in 2015. All across baseball, you can pick out relief contracts that resemble a pitcher being paid too much for too long.
Then, you have to take a look at what the Twins may be looking at from within. As things stand currently, Minnesota has more than a few promising arms on the horizon. Tyler Jay remains the top relief arm and should have a shot to get to the big leagues quickly. Felix Jorge could find himself factoring into the bullpen mix, and there are more than a few holdovers including John Curtiss, Alan Busenitz, J.T. Chargois, and even Jake Reed. Each of those guys has a relative amount of upside, and presents an ability to strike out big league hitters.
In signing Rodney, the Twins only continue to play into this perception. A one-year deal worth up to $6 million guarantees few things, but tells us plenty. Entering the 2018 season, the expectation should be that he’ll be the club’s closer. He posted a 10.6 K/9 and picked up 39 saves a year ago for the Diamondbacks. As a veteran presence, that should be welcomed out of the gate for Minnesota. As the season draws on though, nothing about his age or his contract cements him into that role over any of the previously noted youth.
What the Twins seem to be suggesting is that there’s a level of awareness regarding the deficiencies currently present on the big league roster. Relief help is obviously something Paul Molitor could use, but Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are also sending the message that they believe in what they have. Rodney, even with a good season, probably won’t be back in 2019 and another similar deal could be granted to the likes of Watson or Belisle.
As the season wears on, the front office would love nothing more than to watch Jay or Chargois develop into the next man up. Curtiss, Busenitz and Reed all have the profiles of effective setup men, and seeing them blossom into that would be a welcomed reality. By addressing current issues while also allowing future solutions to present themselves, the Twins have the best of both worlds.
Entering the 2018 season, the Minnesota Twins will try to take advantage of a potentially unique opportunity. With only the Cleveland Indians being competitive in the AL Central, they should find themselves no worse than the second best team in their division. With the rise of youth, they could soon overtake Cleveland at the top of the ladder. Rather than throwing all the chips in the basket right now, it appears the plan is to build consistently, using 2017 as a building block for the upcoming year and beyond.
Ideally, the Twins should sign another reliever to a contract similar to what Rodney just agreed to. Then, getting an impact starting pitcher could set them up nicely to make some noise. While not going all in on 2018, they’d have taken steps forward without sacrificing the long term viability of an extended run of competitiveness. To summarize, short term/high upside solutions in the pen, and a long term/high ceiling starter would make for one successful offseason.
- Cory Engelhardt and MN_ExPat like this