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3 Realistic Free Agent Targets for the Minnesota Twins' Bullpen


Twins Daily Contributor

Much has been made about starting pitching and shortstop needs this offseason for the Minnesota Twins, however there are still holes in the bullpen that need to be filled. Here are some options for the Twins to target on the free agency market.

It’s no secret that the Minnesota Twins’ bullpen struggled in 2021. Over the course of the season, the group of relievers finished 12th in the American League in both ERA and fWAR. 

They did improve down the stretch, however, finishing 3rd in ERA from August 1st through the end of the season. Nevertheless, there are still holes to fill in the bullpen as Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Alcala are currently the only locks to make the opening day roster.

In identifying free agent targets for the bullpen, we want to be sure to look at targets that history has shown us are realistic options that the Falvine regime would consider signing. Since taking over the Minnesota Twins’ front office after the 2016 season, the Twins have only ever signed one reliever to a multi-year contract (Addison Reed, 2017) and have never spent more than $6M on a reliever on a one-year deal (Alexander Colomé, 2021).

For this exercise, we will be looking at free agent relief pitchers who figure to sign a one-year contract for around $7M or less.

Target #1: Collin McHugh

After opting out of the 2020 season, right hander, Collin McHugh just posted the best season of his career in 2021 with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 37 appearances last season, McHugh posted a 1.55 ERA and a sub-one WHIP. Additionally, McHugh bumped his K/9 up to double digits in 2021 for just the second time in his career. The key to McHugh’s success is his slider, which he threw on 53% of his pitches in 2021, allowing opponents to hit just .177 against the pitch. The Twins’ front office has shown an affinity for slider-tossing right handers, making McHugh a perfect fit for the 2022 Twins.

Target #2: Ryan Tepera

Although not a household name, Ryan Tepera has been a consistently solid reliever over his seven year career, owning a career 3.48 ERA and only posting an ERA over 4.00 in one of his seven seasons. 2021 was the best season of Tepera’s career, with an ERA of 2.79. Tepera is another slider-heavy right hander who has had success against righties and lefties. At 34-years-old, the Twins should be able to bring in Tepera on a one year deal, which would make a lot of sense for a bullpen that could use more right-handed depth.

 

Target #3: Brad Boxberger

After a rough 2019 season with Kansas City where he posted a 5.40 ERA, Brad Boxberger has put together back-to-back excellent seasons with Miami and Milwaukee, posting a combined ERA of 3.27 with an outstanding K/9 of 11. Boxberger relies on a mid-90s fastball with a devastating slider that generates a 35% whiff rate. When he limits walks, Boxberger can be a high leverage right handed arm, and figures to go for a salary that is in line with what the Falvey-regime has shown they are comfortable signing.

 

Which of the three reliever targets is most intriguing to you? Are there any other realistic reliever targets that weren’t noted here? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
 


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1 hour ago, terrydactyls said:

With as much money that the Twins haven't spent this offseason, why not sign all three?

Might as well!  We are going to need a lot of relievers with the starting rotation the way it currently sits.

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There is value when the back half of the bullpen has options. All teams run into a stretch where they need to call up arms and option out others. With the Twins rotation they may face more of these stretches.

I think they need to add to the bullpen but I would be hesitant to add anyone without options that is not a late inning option. Are these the best high leverage relievers remaining? If so, sign the best of the three. If not I want to sign the better reliever and leave the the back half to players with options.

 

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It's important to consider contract values for these proposals and whether or not they fit within the Twins plans. I have a tendency to agree with the idea the Twins could use some bullpen help, but a lot depends on Taylor Rogers and whether or not he's recovered from nasty middle finger knuckle sprain/tear. The damage to Rogers' pulley tendon was pretty severe. I expect he'd know by now if the surgery was inevitable so I'm assuming he recovered because we've heard nothing about a surgery. Then again, with the lockout, not sure how that works.

  • Colin McHugh 2 years $14MM
  • Ryan Tepara (does not really throw sliders) is probably 1yr $3MM
  • Brad Boxberger 1 year 3MM (similar to Duffey)

Fangraphs bullpen projection with theoretical 40 man roster if the CBA was intact in bold.

  1. Rogers
  2. Duffey
  3. Alcala
  4. Thielbar
  5. Garza, Jr.
  6. Stashak
  7. Moran
  8. Cotton

 It's not a bullpen which would be expected to excel, and we're certainly weak for depth, but it would probably be adequate for a mediocre team. I'd think picking up Tepera is the best option to give a little more stability without over-spending. McHugh will be too expensive to justify unless Rogers was out for the season. Boxberger generated 0.8 fWAR last season... but over his past 7 seasons it looks like this: 0.0, (0.3), 0.3, (0.4), 0.0, 0.0, 0.8. The track record is too long to ignore the likelihood he's just not going to add value and there will probably be waiver claims and trade targets better.

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6 hours ago, bean5302 said:

It's important to consider contract values for these proposals and whether or not they fit within the Twins plans. I have a tendency to agree with the idea the Twins could use some bullpen help, but a lot depends on Taylor Rogers and whether or not he's recovered from nasty middle finger knuckle sprain/tear. The damage to Rogers' pulley tendon was pretty severe. I expect he'd know by now if the surgery was inevitable so I'm assuming he recovered because we've heard nothing about a surgery. Then again, with the lockout, not sure how that works.

  • Colin McHugh 2 years $14MM
  • Ryan Tepara (does not really throw sliders) is probably 1yr $3MM
  • Brad Boxberger 1 year 3MM (similar to Duffey)

Fangraphs bullpen projection with theoretical 40 man roster if the CBA was intact in bold.

  1. Rogers
  2. Duffey
  3. Alcala
  4. Thielbar
  5. Garza, Jr.
  6. Stashak
  7. Moran
  8. Cotton

 It's not a bullpen which would be expected to excel, and we're certainly weak for depth, but it would probably be adequate for a mediocre team. I'd think picking up Tepera is the best option to give a little more stability without over-spending. McHugh will be too expensive to justify unless Rogers was out for the season. Boxberger generated 0.8 fWAR last season... but over his past 7 seasons it looks like this: 0.0, (0.3), 0.3, (0.4), 0.0, 0.0, 0.8. The track record is too long to ignore the likelihood he's just not going to add value and there will probably be waiver claims and trade targets better.

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/player-scroll?player_id=572193#pitchTypes

They say he does.

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Twins need a 15-man bullpen.  Every contract they sign with a 40-man guarantee is one less spot to rotate or test young starters in short stints.  They need to pick a path (and as much as we are skeptical I think they are).  No way to sign these guys plus run 5-7 arms up and down.

I like the selections here but deny that we can maximize our burgeoning corps and any hope for the future with every “win now” roster-block we add.

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