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Rolling the Dice on Relief

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 07 January 2019 · 697 views

minnesota twins fernando romero addison reed blake parker
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that the Minnesota Twins are expected to reach a deal with Blake Parker in short order. The 33-year-old will turn 34 during the 2019 season and is looking to improve upon a 3.26 ERA posted during 2018. The former Angels reliver is Minnesota’s first pitching acquisition of the offseason, and for a bullpen needing some help, is hardly aiming to high. Given the internal options however, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine could certainly be rolling the dice on how some holdover names bounce back for 2019.

Relief pitching is one of the most unpredictable assets in baseball year over year. Unless you’ve got an arm among the elite upper echelon of the sport, expecting consistency on an annual basis is a crapshoot highlighting the desire for teams to acquire arms on one-year deals. For Parker, there’s reasons to believe he’ll be as effective out of the bullpen as the likes of Zach Britton, Cody Allen, or any other player cut from a similar cloth. He’s not going to require much of a commitment from the squad, and he’ll help to raise the water level over the Matt Magill and Tyler Duffey types.

It’s become apparent that Minnesota isn’t going to be a player on one of those elite talents at this point. Craig Kimbrel is really the only name left in that group, and even Adam Ottavino is a 33-year-old with a less than ideal track record. I wholeheartedly support the notion that Minnesota should be allocating funds to bring in another arm for the sake of talent, but the difference making presence certainly could come from within.

While not remembering if I’ve discussed it in this space, I’ve tweeted often about the prospects of Fernando Romero as a reliever. It’s more than fair to dream about him as a top of the rotation starter, but right now he may not be there. Utilized in short bursts out of the pen, his electric fastball could be paired with one other offering allowing him to be relied upon by Rocco Baldelli. Starting out in somewhat of a middle relief scenario and eventually transitioning to high leverage, expecting the ceiling to be anything but through the roof for Romero seems shortsighted.

There’s another guy that certainly could end up being the cream of the crop for the Twins in 2019 however, and he was worthy of a two-year pact just last offseason. Addison Reed is just 30 years old and signed a contract for $16.75 million over two years. He was coming off a two year stretch with a 2.40 ERA 9.8 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. Not tabbed to be the closer with Fernando Rodney in the fold, Reed brought high leverage and back-end experience to the pen. We know how his 2018 went and calling it suboptimal would be putting it nicely. He gave up far too much contract, lost velocity, and was batted around the park. Can 2019 be different though?

Dealing with triceps tightness Reed hit the disabled list for the first time in his career last season. The move took place in early July and was a precursor for a season that simply wouldn’t get back on track. Owning an average 93 mph fastball in 2017 the juice had dipped to just 91.3 mph last season. After generating swinging strikes a career high 13.7% of the time in 2017, Reed got them just 10.7% of the time last season. Batters weren’t chasing, and the 78% contract rating was among the highest of his tenure in the big leagues.

Going into the upcoming year there may be no more important player to the Twins eventual success than Reed. There’s no denying that having some stability around Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers is a must. Romero represents a nice upside play, and Parker will certainly help to support the group. As a new manager with a pen in flex Baldelli needs the best version of Reed for what lies ahead. Another opportunity at a payday is also in store for the California native, and slotting back into the late innings would do wonders for his future value. It remains to be seen if Reed is both health and effective, but a perfect mix would’ve made him among the most coveted arms on the open market in this circuit as well.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • mikelink45 and howieramone2 like this



Ted, if we are going into the year with "no more important player than Reed", that is a damning indictment of the FO. It is a must for a potential contender to start the season with a proven closer; otherwise, they can dig an early hole for themselves not only in the standings, but in the dugout.

 

Not signing a proven closer is an abdication of the FO's responsibilities to the fans and team, pure and simple, but right now that is the state of the Twins entering the second week of January with the top FA closers going elsewhere(assuming Kimbrel is out of reach).This inaction is simply unacceptable to a fan base that has been patiently waiting almost a decade for a return to relevance.

 

It is a must for a potential contender to start the season with a proven closer; otherwise, they can dig an early hole for themselves not only in the standings, but in the dugout.

Don't we still mockingly put the term "proven closer" in quotes around here? The Twins need good relief pitchers and I really don't care about "proven closers." We had one of those last year and he had three blown saves and two losses* in April before he got his third save of the year.   

 

 

* - Full disclosure - 3 BS + 2 L was in 4 games; he was charged with both in one game. Also, in one of the BS games he got the win, so it wasn't quite as bad as I made it sound, but it sure wasn't good.


 

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Ted Schwerzler
Jan 07 2019 09:13 PM

 

Ted, if we are going into the year with "no more important player than Reed", that is a damning indictment of the FO. It is a must for a potential contender to start the season with a proven closer; otherwise, they can dig an early hole for themselves not only in the standings, but in the dugout.

 

Not signing a proven closer is an abdication of the FO's responsibilities to the fans and team, pure and simple, but right now that is the state of the Twins entering the second week of January with the top FA closers going elsewhere(assuming Kimbrel is out of reach).This inaction is simply unacceptable to a fan base that has been patiently waiting almost a decade for a return to relevance.

Without being mean or rude, I couldn't disagree more. There's nothing a bullpen today needs less than a "proven closer." Also, Parker has 20 saves, Reed has plenty, and there's other guys who have filled that role. Give me a pen full of guys with setup capabilities over "9th inning arms" all day long.

 

I'm not saying that Rogers, Hildenberger, and May make it fair for the Twins to sign Parker and no one else, but they certainly don't need a guy solely for saves. In 2019 I'd expect Baldelli to have at least 3 guys who all record 10 saves.

    • howieramone2 likes this

Ted, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.Your strategy of throwing relatively untested "closers" like Reed, Parker, et.al. against the wall in the hope they become elite closers might be justifiable for rebuilding teams(although even the non-contending W. Sox have signed two players - Colome and Herrera - who would slot ahead of anyone currently in the Twins bullpen based on past records).  

 

But for a team with serious intentions to contend, they must at least start the season with a set closer - and better yet, a shutdown bullpen for innings 7, 8 and 9.You only need to look at recent WSeries contestants to see teams that have a fixed closer with at least one top setup man.LA, Houston, Boston, the Cubs.The Brewers surprising run last year was not due to the strength of the rotation, but to a shutdown bullpen.The yankees are going all in this offseason by now having a bullpen with 3-4 shutdown relievers.For teams with serious intentions, you don't start the year with a hope and a prayer.

 

So this argument revolves around the question : does this FO believe this team can be serious contenders in 2019?All evidence so far points to a loud no(or a weak maybe).Relying on three DFA pickups is not a bad strategy if they are just fill-ins, like Parker surely is.Maybe one of them will surprise and actually turn into a key contributor.But for now, this FO is more treading water than going for an eminently winnable AL Central Title.No, the offseson is not over, but based on activity to date, the Wonder Boys have given us fans little reason to think we are a contending team in 2019.If we go into the season with the bullpen as constituted, look out below!

I am nervous about the bullpen.When strong they can win games for you and when weak they lose games for you.Not that I am defending the FO but I think last year put them in a tough spot for this year.This team is pretty young with very little "proven" talent anywhere on the roster.This seems like a prove it year to determine who the team keeps or gets rid of for 2020.I think that includes the bullpen, starting pitching and position players.

 

IMO if a decent number of players improve this year we have a chance to compete with Cleveland.If they don't then no matter what proven guys you brought in they wouldn't make up for all the poor performances of the young guys. 

 

Once the FO gets a core in place I expect them spend for more proven talent to fill holes.I just think there are too many question marks this year and we are best off gaining development time for the guys we feel might be future stars on this team. To get there they need at bats and innings pitched.It looks like that is the FO strategy for this year.

You are absolutely right about the volatility of relievers.Because no one really knows the answer to how often and how long we see relievers have great years followed by terrible.So Reed could be the player this year we expected last year.

 

My disagreement is on the closer idea - I remember Hawkins who became a long term very good reliever.Unfortunately the pressure of closing brought out his worst.There is a different mentality in the great closer.As for Opener - I have nothing good to say so I will say nothing.

    • Platoon likes this
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ChrisKnutson
Jan 08 2019 03:23 PM

You are absolutely right about the volatility of relievers.Because no one really knows the answer to how often and how long we see relievers have great years followed by terrible.So Reed could be the player this year we expected last year.
 
My disagreement is on the closer idea - I remember Hawkins who became a long term very good reliever.Unfortunately the pressure of closing brought out his worst.There is a different mentality in the great closer.As for Opener - I have nothing good to say so I will say nothing.


I agree, any pitcher is capable of being a closer, but there should at least be some value in having success and familiarity with the role, and the pressure that comes with it.

As for the opener concept, I like the idea of it and the new conversations we’re having about pitcher usage. However, I don’t like the idea of a 1 inning “starter.” If the goal is to win the game by using the least amount of pitchers possible, along with making sure that no one gets overexposed by seeing the opposing lineup more than twice, than why not divide up the workload of 9 innings among 3 pitchers, 3 innings each? With the amount of “starting pitching” depth we have, I think this could be a real option for us.

I think May can close too.But I think Reed has over 100 career saves.He can handle it.The question is do we need one more arm for the pen and where will that arm come from?We could call Chicago and ask about our former closer Kintzler.Chicago may eat 1 or 2 million just so they can have the savings from his 5 million salary next year and he may not cost anything in terms of prospect capital to get.Not Elite but can do the job along with the other arms in our pen.  

 

Reed

May

Rogers

Hildenberger

Parker

Kintzler

 

with 2 spots for Romero, McGill, Vasquez, Moya, and a whole lot of others.  

Mike8791 has a valid point about closing, and that's the mentality of it. It's a singular role. It's not necessarily a more important role, but a blown save leaves a different taste in a teams mouth than a single against you in the 7th or 8th with guys on second and third. Walking off the field chewing on your sleeve sucks. Not all pitchers can deal with that feeling, and bounce back. Again, iam not contending that closing is more important, or more difficult, but I am positive that not all pitchers with shutdown talent have a closers mentally. There is a definite difference between losing a game in the 7th inning v the 9th.
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killertwinfan
Jan 13 2019 07:26 AM

I agree with your sentiment.However, Pretty small sample size to declare Rodney a failure.Look at his numbers during his time with the twins and the full season and its tough to argue you didn't get what you were expecting.  

 

Don't we still mockingly put the term "proven closer" in quotes around here? The Twins need good relief pitchers and I really don't care about "proven closers." We had one of those last year and he had three blown saves and two losses* in April before he got his third save of the year.   

 

 

* - Full disclosure - 3 BS + 2 L was in 4 games; he was charged with both in one game. Also, in one of the BS games he got the win, so it wasn't quite as bad as I made it sound, but it sure wasn't good.