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Something went wrong with Minnesota’s offseason blueprint in 2021. There is plenty of blame to be shared, but here are the Twins top three offseason mistakes.

3. Trusting the Bullpen Castoffs

Wes Johnson has done some amazing things with bullpen arms in the past and the Twins entered 2021 thinking that he would be able to replicate these results with a new group of bullpen castoffs. Now it’s the beginning of June and Minnesota has rotated through Shaun Anderson, Derek Law, Juan Minaya, and Brandon Waddell. There were some big shoes to fill in the bullpen (see below), but all these new additions faced struggles.

From season’s start, almost nothing seemed to work when it came to the bullpen. It’s also tough to adequately assess relievers when they have such a small sample size of work. It also didn’t help that Randy Dobnak was pushed from the rotation and didn’t really find success in a relief role. One light at the end of the tunnel might be Luke Farrell as he is the lone bullpen castoff that has found success. However, it might be too little, too late for Minnesota this year.

2. Signing Alex Colome

Minnesota lost multiple bullpen arms during the winter and there needed to be some replacements found for Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Matt Wisler. None of these players have shined with their new teams. Clippard is on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder issue. Both Romo and Wisler have ERAs north of 5.80. May’s strikeout numbers have dropped, and he has the highest WHIP since his rookie season. Needless to say, relief pitchers can be fickle especially on the heels of a shortened 2020 campaign.

Colome looked like a savvy signing at the time as he was coming off two tremendous seasons in Chicago. In 83 1/3 innings, he had a 2.27 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 42 saves. Overall, the results were certainly there since he moved to the bullpen fulltime in 2016. Maybe the White Sox knew a little bit more about Colome’s current situation as they let him go after two tremendous seasons.

Minnesota certainly hasn’t seen the previous version of Colome this season. He has a -2.24 win probability added (WPA), which means he’s cost the Twins over two wins so far this season. Also, he has the lowest WAR in baseball among relief pitchers. Things have gone better recently as he has posted a 3.09 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings since the start of May. During that stretch, he has still provided negative WPA and it’s not like the Twins have a lot of other bullpen options.

1. Signing Matt Shoemaker

The Matt Shoemaker experience has been a rough one and it seems likely that his time with the Twins will quickly be coming to an end. He leads the American League in losses and earned runs. Among AL starters with more than 50 innings pitched, he is the only pitcher with a negative WAR total for the year. Unfortunately, the Twins have six pitchers currently on the IL including starters like Kenta Maeda, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer so the club has to keep him around for depth.

Entering the season, he had a 3.86 career ERA, but he had been limited to 18 starts since the end of 2017. His list of injuries including multiple forearm injuries, a torn ACL, shoulder inflammation, and a fractured skull from a line drive off his head. Injuries haven’t been the issue this year as he already pitched more innings than his totals in each of the last three years.

It’s not as if a lot was expected from Shoemaker. He was signed for $2 million and was coming of a string of significant injury issues over the last several years. There were signs of hope as his fastball velocity increased last year and his sinker and splitter were improving. Obviously, those things haven’t worked out like the front office had planned.

How would you rank the Twins offseason mistakes? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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For a team that was supposed to be a legitimate contender, the FO didn't take the bullpen seriously.  It's one thing to supplement depth or even plan to use one or two cast offs, but to rely almost solely on them is foolhardy.  Relying on some voodoo magic to turn pumpkins into solid, shutdown relievers by the bunch is a serious gaffe for a team trying to break through in the playoffs.

I didn't mind the Shoemaker signing too much.  It definitely didn't excite me, but had some upside and Dobnak was there to take over should he falter.  I didn't think he'd be all that good, but I didn't think he'd be this bad either.  He was someone I could live with in the backend of a rotation.  

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Shoemaker – I did not think much of the Shoemaker signing either but IMO a $2M SP that was signed as back of the rotation or depth is not exactly a big miss. Signing Jake Arrieta for 3/75 to be a difference maker and getting 3.6 WAR total over 3 years is a big problem.  Signing Jordan Zimmerman for 5/110 and getting 5.2 WAR over 5 years is a costly mistake.  Kenley Jansen and Wade Davis were costly mistakes.  A 1 year deal for $2M SP is not a big deal unless you have plenty of payroll capacity and fail to use it.

Colome was a quality addition.  Like the majority of established / expensive RPs, he has not performed as hoped.  Given the option, I would definitely go back in time and sign May instead of Colome if May was willing.  He seems to like the big city. Robles has also been effective in the past too.  Let’s not forget the guy many wanted us to keep (Clippard) has been bad.  Rosenthal is out.  Several posters wanted Brad Hand.  He has negative Fwar.  Treinen has been OK.  His Fwar is .3.  The point is that RPs are a roll of the dice.

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I think some grace is warranted regarding the bullpen. As this article points out, none of the guys who left the Twins have subsequently made them look foolish. Finding consistent relief pitching is just about the hardest task in baseball, and the Twins signed a guy who was one of the few with such a track record, only for him to completely implode.

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Because of the Twins-Sox rivalry, my first thought was Colome was gonna tank.  I'm not saying he is tanking, and logically I doubt he is, but nonetheless that was my first thought.  

I did not like the Shoemaker signing, but I also did not realize how little depth this team has.  Still, I probably would have passed and leaned on the farm.

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For a FO that is supposedly pitcher savy they sure seemed to make a lot of mistakes with their off-season pitching moves Their approach seems to be to sign a slew of has-been's and hope that one or two turn out to be keepers. It is not easy making silk out of a sow's ears and you will fail more times than you succeed. Maybe a better approach is to spend some money and sign some proven talent and hope that works out better. But what do I know? I don't have a degree from one of those fancy eastern schools.

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I think it goes back to committing so much of the budget to the lineup with the signing of Donaldson. It put them in the position to roll the dice with Hill, Bailey, Happ and Shoemaker in the rotation as well as the bullpen pieces you cited.

They could have kept Sano at 3B and went with an inexpensive 1B in order to put more of the budget into a pitcher or two with a greater likelihood of success. Did they have too much confidence in their ability to identify pitching?

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9 minutes ago, jorgenswest said:

I think it goes back to committing so much of the budget to the lineup with the signing of Donaldson. It put them in the position to roll the dice with Hill, Bailey, Happ and Shoemaker in the rotation as well as the bullpen pieces you cited.

They could have kept Sano at 3B and went with an inexpensive 1B in order to put more of the budget into a pitcher or two with a greater likelihood of success. Did they have too much confidence in their ability to identify pitching?

They identified defense as being a major issue, which it was, particularly in the infield.  It has played out as a "one or the other" type scenario though.  I do wonder how the pandemic economic pinch plays into this, but how it's played out is pretty disappointing, to say the least.

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regarding the bullpen it seems like they felt they had an ample supply of arms that they could turn into something.  They had already done it with Harper and Wisler and they doubled\tripled down on it this year and the results have been horrible.  While they managed to get some of those guys to throw harder they also couldn't find the plate and walked way too many batters.  Even the guys they squeezed stuff out of in Harper and Wisler aren't doing well anymore so some of that was luck IMO.  I do think they were over confident that they could identify things that could make pitchers better and it didn't work out this year.  Still bullpens are fickle and they needed more than they have gotten out of the one they built this year.

Like many have said I didn't mind the Shoemaker signing.  I didn't expect him to be great but also didn't expect him to be one of the worst pitcher's in baseball either.

I sure hope some of the guys we have coming up are going to be good or we are going to be a bad team for a long time.

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I think a mistake was made in not redirecting some batting approaches  and I don't know if that means to jettison some players or a different hitting coach.  Also to not have a non-Jake Cave CF option for the impending Buxton injury has been an annual oversight.  

I thought the mistake was anointing Colome closer early on.  Having an option to spell Rogers was a solid plan but wasn't utilized as Rogers was throwing 7th innings and Colome started blowing games without any options left and Rogers potentially spent for the next day.

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I think the biggest mistakes the Twins made in the off-season was 1- Letting Rosario walk- The Twins have little offense and Eddie provided a spark. 2- Not keeping Rich Hill- Replacing Hill with Happ could be a wash except that Hill has always been a good pitcher while Happ has been up and down. 3- Not signing a solid middle reliever to take May's place. Ok, they signed Colombe and he has bombed to this time but will be better from here on out (though not as a closer). They also got Robles as a "project" and he has been ok. But they didn't sign an Archie Bradley or similar who has done the job successfully. and their relievers don't strike people out which is what you need in this day and age. Signing Shoemaker was a gamble that hasn't worked though I still insist that he can be a 2-3 inning long reliever when the starter just doesn't have it that day.

But injuries have hurt as well and replacements haven't been as good as advertised. So we look ahead to ????

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Trevor May was settling in. He should have been kept. Steady relievers are as rare as a rainy day in Southern California. 😉 Pressly should have been kept for the same reasoning. Keep them and pay them. Clippard would have been worth the wait as well [first time he has been on the DL...in a very consistent career].

Rogers is a keeper, Duffy is a keeper. They have more and longer good stretches than bad. Robles is a wait-n-see.

Keep these and bring in young fireballers around them to test their metal. They pitch half your innings!!!! All Pohlad does is pick BP pitchers out of the scrap heap. That will not work.....unless you hit 300+ HRs and have large leads.

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3 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

Shoemaker – I did not think much of the Shoemaker signing either but IMO a $2M SP that was signed as back of the rotation or depth is not exactly a big miss. Signing Jake Arrieta for 3/75 to be a difference maker and getting 3.6 WAR total over 3 years is a big problem.  Signing Jordan Zimmerman for 5/110 and getting 5.2 WAR over 5 years is a costly mistake.  Kenley Jansen and Wade Davis were costly mistakes.  A 1 year deal for $2M SP is not a big deal unless you have plenty of payroll capacity and fail to use it.

Colome was a quality addition.  Like the majority of established / expensive RPs, he has not performed as hoped.  Given the option, I would definitely go back in time and sign May instead of Colome if May was willing.  He seems to like the big city. Robles has also been effective in the past too.  Let’s not forget the guy many wanted us to keep (Clippard) has been bad.  Rosenthal is out.  Several posters wanted Brad Hand.  He has negative Fwar.  Treinen has been OK.  His Fwar is .3.  The point is that RPs are a roll of the dice.

The risk in signing $2m starters and depending on them is seen in the 2021 Twins results. 

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44 minutes ago, twinfan said:

I think the biggest mistakes the Twins made in the off-season was 1- Letting Rosario walk- The Twins have little offense and Eddie provided a spark. 2- Not keeping Rich Hill- Replacing Hill with Happ could be a wash except that Hill has always been a good pitcher while Happ has been up and down. 3- Not signing a solid middle reliever to take May's place. Ok, they signed Colombe and he has bombed to this time but will be better from here on out (though not as a closer). They also got Robles as a "project" and he has been ok. But they didn't sign an Archie Bradley or similar who has done the job successfully. and their relievers don't strike people out which is what you need in this day and age. Signing Shoemaker was a gamble that hasn't worked though I still insist that he can be a 2-3 inning long reliever when the starter just doesn't have it that day.

But injuries have hurt as well and replacements haven't been as good as advertised. So we look ahead to ????

Yeah, we're not missing Rosario's .635 OPS / 75 OPS+ / subpar OF defense, he's basically Astudillo at the plate (they both have 4 HRs!) but he gets plenty more RBI chances since he hits in the #4 spot. I am happy with Kirilloff and Larnach getting full reps in LF/RF.

Hill is old and always hurt, so I really can't blame them for letting him go. Of course, then they went out and signed Shoemaker, who is also old and always hurt...

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48 minutes ago, twinfan said:

I think the biggest mistakes the Twins made in the off-season was 1- Letting Rosario walk- The Twins have little offense and Eddie provided a spark. 2- Not keeping Rich Hill- Replacing Hill with Happ could be a wash except that Hill has always been a good pitcher while Happ has been up and down. 3- Not signing a solid middle reliever to take May's place. Ok, they signed Colombe and he has bombed to this time but will be better from here on out (though not as a closer). They also got Robles as a "project" and he has been ok. But they didn't sign an Archie Bradley or similar who has done the job successfully. and their relievers don't strike people out which is what you need in this day and age. Signing Shoemaker was a gamble that hasn't worked though I still insist that he can be a 2-3 inning long reliever when the starter just doesn't have it that day.

But injuries have hurt as well and replacements haven't been as good as advertised. So we look ahead to ????

Eddie isn't doing all that much better than the crop of guys they've run through LF.  Definitely not enough to justify the price tag he would have come with.  And he was blocking Kirilloff.  

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I'm not sure what other options were realistic, but to me, the biggest mistake was signing two number 5 pitchers to be your starters on a team that was supposed to contend. ..... with no real immediate backup plan in place. Some of that is a bit out of their control due to the lost year last year. But it is their job not (IMO) to have two bad starters locked in place for 1/6 - 1/4 of the season. So, I think you can sign EITHER Happ or Shoemaker, but not both, to be starters on a contender.

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Two things that impacted the bullpen were not getting solid options to replace the guys who left (looking for more Matt Wislers) and getting a failure for a late-inning high-leverage guy (Columé). There aren't many relievers who are anywhere near 100% consistent and Columé looked like he would at least be acceptable in the late innings, but he has failed so far. This changes the load and the expectations for almost everyone in the bullpen and no one has stepped forward (Rogers and Robles already were in place as late-inning guys). 

There's a lot of season left and I would expect the bullpen to improve, but in most respects the damage has been done. 

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Concur that a mere $2M signing like Shoemaker can't be the problem.  You could sign an entire roster at that price and spend only about fifty million.  You could flush him the day after signing him and not feel a budgetary pinch.

The problem is how many innings he's been asked to pitch, given the poor results; said differently, the problem is they stopped after this $2M signing; said differently still, a $2M veteran stands a good chance of being merely a roster clogger since you have only 26 spots.

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14 hours ago, jorgenswest said:

I think it goes back to committing so much of the budget to the lineup with the signing of Donaldson. It put them in the position to roll the dice with Hill, Bailey, Happ and Shoemaker in the rotation as well as the bullpen pieces you cited.

They could have kept Sano at 3B and went with an inexpensive 1B in order to put more of the budget into a pitcher or two with a greater likelihood of success. Did they have too much confidence in their ability to identify pitching?

I have to agree about Donaldson. I wanted the Donaldson signing but I feel underwhelmed so far. He'll give you a good ab each pa & seems to square the ball up but the results just aren't there.

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This FO appears to have 2 thought processes when it comes to putting a roster together.  Sign free agents as stop gaps, and trade for and draft prospects, hoping to develop a major league roster in the future.   I have never understood why trading major league talent for major league talent is SO 20th century.  If the Graterol trade did nothing else, it reminds us of the days when a team would look to improve through trades (and I don't mean trading away salaries for prospects, improving the team someday).  Counting the players on the IL, we have 7 outfielders, 4 catchers (if you count the turtle). and at least 4 or 5 guys who have played first base at one time or another and DH'd at one time or another.  We can't find a single team in major league baseball that would be open to a multiplayer trade, filling potential needs on both sides?  Why is it always being buyers or sellers?  How about mutual winners in a trade?  Or is that showing my age?

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6 hours ago, Mahoning said:

The pitching would look a lot better if the lads were scoring five runs a game. When you leave 10 LOB every night, there is naturally more pressure on the relievers.

 

Then again, I like pitchers who respond well to pressure.

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Not only has MLB admitted to deadening the baseball, but now 10 teams have installed or will install humidors for their baseballs, which further deadens them.

The Twins knew these things were happening, but did not change their hitting approach.  Big mistake.

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