If you read my article last week on the 2019 Minnesota Twins bullpen, then you already know my thoughts on how the season went. It was a roller coaster ride for the ages. For my article today, though, I will be moving past 2019 and looking ahead to the offseason. I will be looking at where things currently stand for the Twins bullpen, what decisions need to be made, and what potential arms could be acquired on the free agent market as I look to build what I believe should be the Twins bullpen on opening day of 2020. Let’s dive right in...
As we start our process for building the Twins 2020 Opening Day bullpen, we first need to establish how many arms will make up the group of relievers. In case you hadn’t heard, 2020 will be the first season where teams will employ a 26-man active roster (previously 25). With that in mind, I assume the opening day roster will shake out like this:
- 9 starting batters
- 4 bench players
- 5 starting pitchers
- 8 bullpen pitchers
Now that we have established how many spots we have for our bullpen we can begin assigning names to those spots.
- Taylor Rogers ( L )
- Trevor May ( R )
- Tyler Duffey ( R )
- Zack Littell ( R )
- Cody Stashak ( R )
None of these names should be a surprise at this point. They all did enough to prove that they are worthy of being in the bullpen on opening day of 2020. There’s a chance that Stashak or Littell could pitch themselves out of favor in 2020 if they regress, but given their ages and their progress as the season went on, I don’t expect that to happen. Of note regarding these five names: only Trevor May is not under team control for the next two seasons following 2020.
6. Sergio Romo ( R )
As an impending free agent, Romo is no sure thing to be back with the Minnesota Twins. With that being said, I do think that there is mutual interest for him to come back to Minnesota on another one year deal. From the Twins’ point of view, Romo was very effective in his 23 innings with the Twins, posting a 3.18 ERA and completely shutting down right handed hitters, holding them to a .205 batting average. From Romo’s point of view, Minnesota seems to be a good fit for him as well, he quickly became a fan favorite at Target Field this year, he figures to have a prominent role in the bullpen again next season and, well, there’s this…I’ve got Romo slotted as the 6th member of the 2020 bullpen.
The Long Man:
7. Randy Dobnak ( R )
There are four potential names that could fill the “long man” spot in the bullpen to start the 2020 season: Smeltzer, Thorpe, Gibson and Dobnak. I ended up going with Dobnak. First, I believe that the Twins will cut ties with Gibson. I do think that this spot would be Gibson’s if he was willing to reduce his role to a reliever, but I believe another team will offer Gibson a contract to be their starter and he will leave Minnesota. Lewis Thorpe is someone that I believe the organization has hopes of being their long term starter, with which I agree — he should start 2020 as a starting pitcher either with the Twins or at Rochester. That left me with deciding between Dobnak and Smeltzer. While Smeltzer got much of the long man work through the final months of the 2019 season, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see another “Rochester shuttle” situation, I think that Dobnak did enough in 2019 and has the minor league track record to prove that he’s worthy of getting the first look.
The Final Spot:
This spot was originally supposed to be Sam Dyson’s, but we all know how that turned out. As a result, we need to find an 8th reliever for the bullpen. I’m going to leave my selection until the end, after parsing out all of the various options. First we’ll take a look at the internal options, then take a look at the free agent market, and we’ll make a decision.
Of note: Up to this point our Twins bullpen has 6 right handers and 1 left hander. The preference will be to assign a lefty to our final bullpen spot.
- Devin Smeltzer ( L ) - See above. Smeltzer is a solid option for the 8th spot in our bullpen. He would provide a lefty arm and performed admirably for the Twins in 2019, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49 innings, although his 4.58 FIP and 7.0 K/9 suggest that he may not be as good as his numbers appear on the surface.
- Brusdar Graterol ( R ) - Brusdar showed that his stuff was legit in limited innings with the Twins in 2019. His velocity and strikeout rate certainly lived up to the billing. I do believe, though, that he will start the 2019 season in AAA as he builds up his arm strength to join the club as a starting pitcher in 2020. It’s possible that Graterol could be a reliever eventually, but not in 2020.
- Trevor Hildenberger ( R ) - Crazy how quickly things can change in the MLB, huh? Just two years ago at this time we were counting on Hildy to be the relief arm of the future for this team, but after injuries and poor performance have derailed his last two seasons, I find it hard to imagine him starting 2020 anywhere other than the minor leagues.
- Fernando Romero ( R ) - See Hildenberger, Trevor. Poor performance from 2019 doesn’t lend any confidence in putting a once promising bullpen prospect into the 2020 opening day plans for the Twins.
Free Agent Options
- Will Smith - SF Giants ( L ) - The 30 year old southpaw from San Francisco is the top left handed reliever option in free agency this year. Smith is coming off a great season in which he produced a 2.76 ERA and 13.2 K/9 in 65 innings of work. While he fills a need of another strong lefty reliever in the bullpen, I’m not sure that the Twins will pay the ~$8-10M/year premium that it will cost to sign him when they have a bigger need in the rotation.
- Jake Diekman - Oakland Athletics ( L ) - The flame throwing left hander, Diekman, is certainly another enticing free agent option for the Twins the offseason. The career 3.90 ERA and 11.2 K/9 numbers are very solid and would be a welcome addition to this Minnesota Twins bullpen. He should not be the final arm in this bullpen, though, as there is another lefty who will be a better fit for the 2020 Minnesota Twins. Which leads me to…
- Drew Pomeranz - Milwaukee Brewers ( L ) - Pomeranz was a longtime starter who was converted to a full time reliever this summer after being acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline. This change unlocked a dynamite arm who helped lead the Brewers to a wild card crown this season. Now an impendending free agent, I think he would be an excellent addition to this Minnesota Twins team, and shouldn’t be as costly as the Will Smith’s of the world. He is a left handed arm that destroys left handed hitters, which this team does not currently have outside of Taylor Rogers. In his career, Pomeranz has allowed left handed hitters to hit for a .626 OPS in 208 innings, including an outstanding .512 OPS against lefties as a relief pitcher. Drew Pomeranz is number 8 in my 2020 Twins bullpen.
What are your thoughts on the 2020 Opening Day bullpen that I built? Please let me know in the comments below.