Going into the offseason, the Minnesota Twins had plenty of opportunity to make waves. Playing in a bad AL Central division with a strong farm system on the rise, jump starting a competitive window seemingly was the obvious play for the front office. At this point, they’ve upgraded the offense while ignoring their pitching staff. In the bullpen, the most central name in all of this is none other than Matt Magill.
The 29-year-old returned to the majors in 2018 after having big league stints during 2013 and 2016. He logged 56.2 IP under the tutelage of Paul Molitor, and his 3.81 ERA was plenty shiny. That’s where the luster wears off. Under the hood is an ugly 5.08 FIP, 1.7 HR/9, and a 1.429 WHIP. He did average 95 mph on his fastball last season, and the 75% contact rate was plenty workable, but in the big leagues, there needs to be more.
Magill needed just 8.2 IP in Rochester prior to getting the call for Minnesota. His minor league track record has been relatively spotty though, and there’s the tale of a guy who owns middle-of-the-road numbers in just about every stop he makes. Knowing that Rocco Baldelli could use a significantly upgraded bullpen, it’s curious as to why such a smart front office would go down this path.
Currently Minnesota is all but accepting the idea that Magill and Fernando Romero will round out the final two spots in relief. The former is a regression candidate waiting to happen, while the latter is a starter being pushed into this position. There’s nothing to suggest that Romero couldn’t move back to the rotation in the future, but this duo has become plan A as opposed to being the fallback for what could have been better executed.
As big-league talent signs on minor league deals, and quality options remain free agents despite the Twins having an abundance of unused funds, the blueprint seems sketchy at best. Spending on relievers is hardly a winning strategy in a vacuum, but right now Minnesota has a need along with a position in which cash considerations aren’t a factor now or the future.
There’s zero argument to be made against the substantial upgrade that Craig Kimbrel would provide in relief for the Twins. Baldelli is tasked with a dart throw or committee approach at present, and while saves aren’t a worthy chase, that level of reliever takes the collective whole up another notch. Shying away from relief, Dallas Keuchel would improve the rotation, and in turn allow Martin Perez to bolster the pen. Something like $20 million per year for either of these guys does nothing to the Twins bottom line and would undoubtedly be a more realistic process to drive results.
At the end of the day, Minnesota isn’t doing anything with the bullpen or the rotation. Matt Magill and his shiny ERA are somewhat of a defining principle for how this offseason has been handled. Sure, there’s plenty of reason to look for more, but why not see what regression we can hope to stave off? In relief, the Twins start with a low bar, and they’ll need to bet on the bottom not falling out.