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Bullpen Options should start with Rochester not free agents

Posted by Supfin99 , 14 December 2018 · 1,405 views

I will start this by admitting I have changed my tune on this topic a little bit. At the start of the offseason I really wanted the Twins to sign 2 arms for the bullpen. My top 2 choices were Joe Kelly and Joakim Soria. I thought Kelly looked about as dominant as could be in playoffs last year. So yesterday when Kelly signed with the Dodgers for 3/25 at first I was extremely disappointed. To me that didn't seem like outrageous money. Than I started reading more and the reviews weren't that positive of the deal. Plus Kelly is a SoCal boy and wee would have had to over pay the Dodgers by a good amount to get him. Once I got over my initial disappointment I looked at remaining options, both free agents and internal. The way the top off the bullpen sets up now is Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Addison Reed and Trevor Hildenberger as the top 4. May showed dynamic stuff pitching at the end of last year and is now 2 years removed from Tommy John surgery. I believe he is primed for a big year. Rogers was about as good as can be last year and am hopeful he can replicate it this year. Reed hopefully was injured for large part of the season and is now healthy. If he can back to his career averages before last year it would be a huge upgrade. Hildenberger struggled for really the first time in his career after the all star break. He needs to get back to where he was. This leaves 3 to 4 spots in the bullpen. The Star Tribune wrote an interesting article about moving Fernando Romero to the bullpen. If Romero really can't develop a 3rd pitch, his fastball slider combo would be devastating as either a closer or a setup man. If you pencil Romero in the pen you now are down to 2 or 3 spots.

If you look at internal options for these spots there you have Gabriel Moya, Tyler Duffy and Chase Dejong who pitched with the team last year. You have the Rochester guys including John Curtis and Jake Reed. Lastly you have the starters who lose the battle for the 5th position among Kohl Stewart, Adalberto Mejia and Zach Littrell.

Moya seemed to figure things out at the major league level as the season went along. Duffy and DeJong both had their moments. I really believe it is time for the Twins to find out what they have in Curtiss and Reed. They both have accomplished all they can at Rochester. They need a shot to see if their numbers can translate to Minneapolis. The starters who miss out on 5th spot are a really interesting area. Stewart actually had more success than I thought he would as a starter at the end of last season. For several years I have wondered how his stuff would play if he only had to pitch an inning or 2 at a time out of the pen. If he gets the usual 2 to 3 mile velocity bump he is now looking at a FB that could consistently reach 97 as well as his 1 seamer that can sink and a potential wipe out slider. That is a repertoire that could be dynamic out of the pen. Mejia is another option who could be outstanding out of the pen in smaller outings.

So you have the 4 guys at the top who are pretty much written in ink. To fill the other 3 to 4 spots you have 8 options. All 8 of these options have major league experience. Some such as Romero and Stewart could have tremendous upside.

Derek Falvey has already stated that he wants to look at internal options. He didn't specifically mention the bullpen for this strategy but I really hope they do. I want to see what some of these guys can do before we lose them.

  • tarheeltwinsfan, Platoon and howieramone2 like this

I think that's still too many openings for internal solutions.Plus I would rather Romero start as he does have top of the rotation potential.So signing 1 legit bullpen piece like Soria and another to add to the competition is not a bad way to go.That would give our pen 5 reliable arms and three competing for spots with a number of players.I do think a few of them can make it like Moya and Magill so I am OK with 3 spots especially if we have a minor league signing or two to compete as well.  


Moya, Vasquez, and Mejia are three lefties I think will get lots of looks.I think Mejia still has a solid shot at the 5th starter though.  


Curtis, Reed, and Duffy are three guys who have either not been given a chance or have control issues or haven,t been effective so far.I don't want to guarantee a spot to any of these three as they need to force their way back into the equation.  


Magill is in line for a bullpen spot too.Or at least should have a leg up on a spot.  


But like you say the key is if you plan on using Romero out of the pen.That would be the key to your argument that we don't need to go outside for bullpen arms.And that is a valid one though i hope the Twins do not commit to keeping him in the pen for a full season.I want him ready to take over for Odorizzi by the end of next season in the rotation.  

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
South Dakota Tom
Dec 14 2018 12:43 PM

It is difficult to distinguish this issue from the "we have money to spend" issue.  I think that Mejia and Romero are the most-likely 5th starters right now, leaving the other of them to join the bullpen as a long man (or in some sort of opener role that has been discussed).If the top 4 of the o.p.'s post are likely bullpen locks, and you add Mejia/Romero to it, we are still 2-3 arms short.


Moya and Vasquez, Stewart and Gonsalves, Curtiss, Magill and Duffy (not to mention Jay or Littrell or Jake Reed or DeJong) are all possibilities for those spots. I would feel comfortable suggesting there are 2-3 out of the first four listed above, at least to roll with early on (knowing that the list doesn't end there).


Again, dollars aside, I think (somewhere, to varying degrees of dependability) there are 2-3 capable bullpen arms in that list, and if there are not, many of the above names would need to be jettisoned to make room for the outside help that would fill those spots.We are just not in a position to demand outside help and also have a reasonable tryout for young arms trying to move up.  I am not optimistic that spring training would even shake this out in a fair and level competition given the number of names, muddied further if other names are added.


It strikes me, however, that the team is going to get at least one additional bullpen arm this offseason, and the above group is going to compete for the 7th and 8th spots in the pen. I wish we would have seen more of this competition in a lost September, (and believe that we are more likely to find lightning in a bottle among that group than fishing in the free agent marketplace). It seems the front office strategy is to wait this out and supplement the core in any area of weakness, depending solely on how far the position players, starting staff, and existing bullpen options can keep us competitive.  


If we don't have the core, as has often been suggested, there isn't any one or two bullpen arms that is going to move the needle sufficiently to take us from mediocre (or worse) to competitive.

    • Platoon likes this
Dec 14 2018 08:15 PM
I know this article is about our internal options at Rochester, but I’m going take it step further and look at our options in High A and AA.

Last year Cody Stashak made a near complete transition from starter to reliever, and it was a huge success as he posted 2.87 ERA/1.073 WHIP/11.2 SO/9. While he’s likely headed for AAA to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s first to get called up next season.

Velocity and stuff alone make Jorge Alcala the Twins best internal option, but does the FO see him as starter or a reliever?? He’s made relief appearances before, but with his kind of stuff, it’s likely that the FO will continue to develop him as a starter, but like Fernando Romero, he’s definitely someone who could thrive in 1-2 inning max effort role.

Starting the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids, LH reliever Jovani Moran eventually pitched his way to Fort Myers and could could possibly pitch his way into the Twins immediate plans if Moya/Vasquez faulter and he continues where he left off (2.25 ERA/1.053 WHIP/12.7 SO/9).

Making 10 appearances in the Arizona Fall League, Hector Lujan didn’t pitch as well as he would’ve liked, but after a very good year in Fort Myers (2.64 ERA/1.256 WHIP/8.5 SO/9), not only is he set to open the season in AA, he’s now put himself in a good position to be called up for a cup of coffee at some point during the 2019 season.

Romero in the rotation is my wish.Do not waste a dynamic arm like his by relegating him to the bullpen.I am still a believer in starters.

    • DocBauer, ChrisKnutson and Platoon like this
I too would want to see Romero show what he can do as a starter. Basically he would have to pitch his way off the rotation. Same of rthe internal options, regardless of what level they come from. If not now, when? This isn't a team where adding a dominant reliever will make you a solid contender. But I will say that being able to pick up a Kelly, ore someone else that is solid with a minimum of another year of control, preferably another two years, would make sense.
The OP referenced Joe Kelly and his LA contract and his roots in SoCal. It also opined on the matter of whether we could have or would have paid enough to Kelly to play in a colder climate. These are salient points often ignored by those of us who are content in the layered look. All one has to do to research the desire that humanity has, all things being equal, to live outside the borders of the frozen tundra, is to look at a population map of the US. Athletes are not immune to that feeling. Given age, income, and the ability to perform anywhere in North Amaerica they will naturally tend to migrate towards moderate climes, higher revenue teams, and bigger city social life. And since we can't, or won't spend enough to overcome the "livability" factor, we will never attract the big FA's. Pretending we could maybe, possibly, almost, we were in the running, do it, hasn't worked for almost 60 years. Maybe a new tack is in order.
    • Original Whizzinator likes this
Dec 15 2018 10:19 AM
My plan would be a 7 man bullpen with the last two spots dedicated to players on options that can shuttle if needed to AAA.

Looking at the roster resource https://www.rosterre...innesota-twins/

The Twins have Hildenberger, Moya, DeJong, Curtiss, Duffey, Vazquez and a bunch of AAA starters with options for those two spots. I was surprised by Duffey but maybe an option wasn’t used in 2016. He was recalled in April before that season was 20 days old.

The Twins need to fill the top 5 spots adding two free agent relievers to May, Rogers and Reed. I am not sure Magill has the upside to roster without the flexibility of options. He certainly could open the season at the back end of the pen and then get DFA’d when a reliever is needed.
Dec 15 2018 11:15 AM

Good job on a tough topic, but I don't agree with your conclusions. I see Rodgers and Reed being set, May did enough to pitch himself into the mix, and IMHO Hildenberger pitched himself out of the mix.


Stewart, Mejia, and Romero are all in our top 12-13 arms, and can return to being starters next season. Buy at least one and hopefully 2 bullpen arms.


    • DocBauer likes this

28 blown saves last year. Even winning a third of them would have made this team look a lot better. Maybe Romero to the bullpen for a while would not be a bad idea.

    • DocBauer likes this
Pitching is changing and the lines are blurring between SP and RP. There is nothing wrong with that. And I agree with the OP in theory but disagree in practice.

For now, Romero and Mejia would seem to be the favorites for the 5th rotation spot, followed by Gonsalves and the Stewart, IMO. Using a designated starter may be the optimum way to introduce a young SP. (Gonsalves and Stewart were very different performers when this was used last season).

May is a given, along with Rogers. Track history and a much better close the last few weeks of the season suggests Reed is also. Hildenberger is not a given, but his milb history, his 2017, and the first half of 2018 would have me betting on him. If Mejia isn't in the rotation, he is in the pen, followed by Moya and then Vaszquez. (Not saying they couldn't go with 3 LHRP).

You are correct that there are internal options, relievers and converted starters, to audition and roll through. But if the Twins really do like the positional players on hand, (And coming up), and are banking on a much different 2019, you owe it to your team to have a couple more quality options for the pen rather than just a series of auditions. And you always need depth over the course of the season.

With the vast number of options available, and the market slow, I would target one guy on a 2-3yr deal to be a part of this team. I would then target another arm for a 2yr or 1+1 deal. Whether I would consider a third arm on a 1yr alone is debatable.
    • ChrisKnutson likes this