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  • Who Survives the Twins Pen Shakeup?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Looking forward to 2022, the Minnesota Twins need some serious roster turnover on the pitching side of things. Their rotation will be entirely new from how it started in 2021, and the bullpen will also have fresh faces. Who survives in relief?

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA TODAY Sports

    For much of the early part of 2021, the relief pitching let Rocco Baldelli’s club down. Alex Colome was no longer close to his career numbers, and Tyler Duffey had seen substantial regression. The guys expected to step up failed to do so, and the Twins were left searching for answers on a near-nightly basis.

    There are a few givens are going into 2022, but a couple of guys have made cases for themselves to stick around despite potentially being on the outs previously. Derek Falvey has his work cut out for him, but the more he can count on internally, the less turnover the roster will ultimately need to experience.

    Here’s how I see the group:

    The Veterans - Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey

    It looked like a near-certainty that Rogers would be dealt at the deadline. That was before injury put him on the shelf and ended his season. He’ll return in 2022, and Minnesota will undoubtedly be hoping that he returns to form as one of the best lefties in the game. Duffey’s 3.45 ERA is fine on its own, but it’s a far cry from the 1.88 mark he put up just a year ago. Strikeouts are down, and walks are way up. If the Twins have a better unit, they need his best during the final year of arbitration.

    The Surprises - Caleb Thielbar, Juan Minaya, Luke Farrell, Danny Coulombe

    Thielbar has been the best of this group. All but retired from baseball and moving onto coaching, he emerged as an option in 2020. This season hasn’t been quite as good, but the 11.2 K/9 is going to play. He’s given up too many dingers, but as a crafty lefty option, there’s plenty to like here. Minaya made his way back to the big leagues this season and has a career-best 2.70 ERA. He’s not dominant by any means, but as a middle-inning guy that’s gotten it done before, he certainly could stick. Both Farrell and Coulombe were depth types for the Twins. Each has seen stretches of effectiveness, and while their ceilings are admittedly limited, one could lay claim to a spot in 2022.

    The Youth - Jorge Alcala, Ralph Garza, Jovani Moran

    Minnesota counted on Alcala to take a step forward this season. As a whole, the results have been underwhelming given the 4.20 ERA. However, his last 15 games have resulted in a 1.00 ERA and .501 OPS against. He has a 21/3 K/BB in his last 18 innings pitched. That’s the arm the Twins need out of the gate. Garza was a nice get from the Astros, and he’s been effective with the organization. His strikeout numbers are down some, but he’s looked the part of a middle reliever that can get big leaguers out. Moran isn’t yet established as a future fixture, but he dominated on the farm again this year, and getting a taste going into the offseason should help him prepare to stick in the future.

    Minnesota used 22 different relievers in 2021, and the pen was often constructed with eight or nine arms. They’ll need better depth and higher ceilings if there’s any interest in being a better unit a year from now. Maybe Alex Colome is asked back as well, but they’ll need to be picky with who is counted upon from a group that severely underwhelmed out of the gate.

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    They have 4 relievers Rogers, Duffey, Thielbar and Alcala. They might exercise the option on Coloma if they anticipate a bad market. Gant may have to be a starter. The veterans they have on board now would be make good contracts or veteran minimum. There are a lot of free agent relievers looking for a bounce back year. They may want to get paid like 2021 did not happen. The choice might be two of them or a good starting pitcher. They probably should go to a starter

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    Should be interesting discussions in the FO, however, no where near as interesting as solving the starting pitching problems.

    I expect the Twins will/should begin the process by signing one top late inning guy.  Not picking up Colome's option (it is a team option, isn't it?) would give them a big part of the cost to bring in late inning pitcher X.  Combine X with Duffey and a healthy Rogers and you have a nice 8th and 9th inning trio.  Alcala and Thielbar make it a fivesome which stretches it back to the seventh inning.  Expect Gant will be in the pen as a long reliever, which he should be effective as.  Speaking of Rogers and Duff, I expect they will have discussions about extensions with each...or at least they should.

    Can see the remaining two spots manned by some combination of the guys they have in house along with a couple AAAA types picked up over the winter.  Who knows, maybe they can find lightening in a bottle like with Wistler two years ago.  Moran has options. What about Minaya, Garza, Farrell and Coloumbe?  If they do, expect several of this group could begin their seasons in St. Paul with one or two filling out the Twins pen.  They also expect Cody Stashak to be healthy next year, don't they?  Assuming he returns to pitch like 2019, he could be one of the leaders for the last two spots.     

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    Wasn’t there murmurs of Rogers being non-tendered last year? Is there any risk he will be non-tendered this winter? 

    I know Colomé has turned things around in the 2nd half, but I would have a hard time bringing him back for 2022. His performance in April torpedoed the season, frankly. 

    Thielbar’s proving to be the real deal. Good for him. Breathing left handed pitchers always have a place on an MLB team. 

    We also have a category of failed starters to sift through as well: Smeltzer, Thorpe (probably getting outright released), Gant, Jax. 

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    Going into the offseason, I'd plan on a bullpen of:

    Rogers
    Duffey
    Thielbar
    Alcala
    Moran
    Gant (iffy on this, could easily be Garza or Farrell in his place)
    Free Agent
    Free Agent

    I wouldn't hesitate to drop guys left and right in favor of younger pitchers with more upside and free agent signings. I don't expect the Twins to run out and give someone Hendriks money but at least one guy should be paid May money ($7-8m per) to stabilize the pen.

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    14 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

    Wasn’t there murmurs of Rogers being non-tendered last year? Is there any risk he will be non-tendered this winter? 

    Non-tender is unlikely but trading Taylor Rogers is a strong possibility. A closer who makes $8-9 million is a luxury on a team that doesn't have a #1 or #2 starter on the roster.

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    8 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

    Non-tender is unlikely but trading Taylor Rogers is a strong possibility. A closer who makes $8-9 million is a luxury on a team that doesn't have a #1 , #2, or #3 starter on the roster.

    FTFY, but not sure why they'd trade away $8mil of roster to free up cash. I could see them trading Rogers because they got blown away on return, but usually that's more of a trade deadline type of scenario.  

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    25 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    Going into the offseason, I'd plan on a bullpen of:

    Rogers
    Duffey
    Thielbar
    Alcala
    Moran
    Gant (iffy on this, could easily be Garza or Farrell in his place)
    Free Agent
    Free Agent

    I wouldn't hesitate to drop guys left and right in favor of younger pitchers with more upside and free agent signings. I don't expect the Twins to run out and give someone Hendriks money but at least one guy should be paid May money ($7-8m per) to stabilize the pen.

    Agreed or possibly

    Rogers
    Duffey
    Thielbar
    Alcala
    Gant
    Free Agent
    Free Agent
    Free Agent

    They are going to have to make some changes and keep Moran/Garza/Farrell in AAA for depth. Also doubtful that they spend big money on any reliever. 

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    10 minutes ago, RedneckRay said:

    I think Gant is a starter next year given his effectiveness before injury and the current starting rotation situation. So I think the bullpen goes like this:

    AAAA Long reliever

    Garza Jr

    Minaya

    Thielbar

    Alcala

    Duffey

    Rogers

    Quality FA set up/closer

     

    While that is a very good prediction with a high probability/accuracy… it would make me very sad

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    Gotta figure who stays on the 40-man roster. Going down the roster:

     

    Smeltzer - is he injury free? Can you get him back on a minor league contract or where he go elsewhere.

    Thorpe - out of options and really didn't get a chance to prove himself as a starter or bullpen arm. Perhaps he becomes the next Hendricks, because he is out of options and the Twins will move on. Perhaps not. Would you open the season with him or Barnes or Smeltzer as a lefty starter (or possible pen arm).

     

    Griffin Jax - Totally on the bubble. The Twins tried him briefly out of the pen in the beginning and have given him every opportunity to shine as a starter. Are there teams salivating to sign the guy, probably to a minor league pact?

     

    Jorge Alcala - showing great potential as he finishes the seson. WIll be back. Closer prospect?

     

    Taylor Rogers - Left-handed setup guy who can also close, but let's get a real closer. He stays,

     

    Tyler Duffey - Another good setup arm. I remember when he was a top starter prospect back in 2016. He stays.

     

    Cody Stashak - may have injured himself out of a roster spot. Would have to pas thru waivers. Of course, another team may not gamble. Or he would be the next Zach Littrell. Picture the Twins removing him.

     

    Caleb Thielbar - Age may be working against him for one of the beloved roster spots. That no one grabbed him from the Twins at the trade deadline means something (cheap and dependable). You can never have too many left-handed arms, but the Twins have two - Jovani Moran, who will stay, and Danny Coulombe, who is a tad younger and has shown his worth. He could be on the bubble if roster spots become precious.

     

    Luke Farrell - this year's Matt Wisler, but cheaper because he missed so much time. Like Thielbar, he could be a keeper as you need a couple of names to move about if you sign a free agent. Excited about him? Not in the least.

     

    Alex Colome - seems the team is giving him so many opportunities to up his value, but to whom - not to the Twins unless they pick up the option. Will Alex see a demand for his services? DO we want to see him back as a closer? Is he a decent setup man? Like many, would rather see the team move on.

     

    Juan Minaya - the guy ahs been a sweet surprise and has worked himself into an off-season job. He can pitch multiple innings. Nothing exciting, and will have to prove himself all over again in spring training, but is a solid bullpen keeper for now.

     

    Ian Gibaut - The Twins gave him a shot in 2021. Maybe enough to get him to come abck on a minor league contract for depth in St. Paul.

     

    Nick Vincent - Hasn't been given a lot of chances. Age works against him for the "new" Twins, but that doesn't mean he won't resign if offered a minor league contract.

     

    Edgar Garcia - along with Jason Garcia and Alex Schreff are outside organization pickups, None in dire need of a 40-man spot, but names to keep in the organization as depth. 

     

    Kyle Barraclough - The Twins are giving this unsigned draftee who shined for a few seasons elsewhere some opportunities as the season winds down. His 4-5 appearances in the final days will be a deciding factor if he is kept on the 40-man, or will become a minor league free agent. He is working himself into a temporary keeper spot right now.

     

    Ralph Garza Jr. - The guy has shined, in a middle of the bullpen way. He is young, a good strikeout arm, and seems to be a fine pickup. I picture the Twins keeping him on board for now.

     

    Beau Burrows - Another guy that may stay with the Twins for minor elague depth because they gave him a shot, and St. Paul used him as a starter. We'll see.

     

    John Gant - Is a bit safer than he was in Cardinal-land, who didn't want to go to arbitration with him. I would love to see him stay in the bullpen, but he is an option to start.

     

    Edwar Colina will stay on the 40-man as there is too much promise there...the question is can he be major league ready for some innings before mid-season 2022. It is hard to keep 40-man spots full of injured players (we already have Madea filling one for 2022). 

     

    Jordon Gore is an interesting case. Seems the Twins are keeping the converted infielder at AA with the hopes of maybe sneaking him thru the Rule 5 and having him workout at AAA ball in 2022 before making a roster decision. Might be another guy that gets away to another team.

     

    Ryan Mason is one of those middle-inning multi-inning arms that is not spectacular but seems to get the job done and could be lost to the Twins if not protected. He may not be ready out of spring training, but could play into the bullpen, or becomes one of those journeymen that ends up shining elsewhere (Chargois, Curtiss, Guerra, maybe Hildenberger, whatever).

     

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    2 hours ago, roger said:

    Should be interesting discussions in the FO, however, no where near as interesting as solving the starting pitching problems.

    I expect the Twins will/should begin the process by signing one top late inning guy.  Not picking up Colome's option (it is a team option, isn't it?) would give them a big part of the cost to bring in late inning pitcher X.  Combine X with Duffey and a healthy Rogers and you have a nice 8th and 9th inning trio.  Alcala and Thielbar make it a fivesome which stretches it back to the seventh inning.  Expect Gant will be in the pen as a long reliever, which he should be effective as.  Speaking of Rogers and Duff, I expect they will have discussions about extensions with each...or at least they should.

    Can see the remaining two spots manned by some combination of the guys they have in house along with a couple AAAA types picked up over the winter.  Who knows, maybe they can find lightening in a bottle like with Wistler two years ago.  Moran has options. What about Minaya, Garza, Farrell and Coloumbe?  If they do, expect several of this group could begin their seasons in St. Paul with one or two filling out the Twins pen.  They also expect Cody Stashak to be healthy next year, don't they?  Assuming he returns to pitch like 2019, he could be one of the leaders for the last two spots.     

    Colone is a 4 million decision after the buyout is accounted for.  They will likely bring him back.  The question is will they get a closer too?

    I think there are several good options to bring back next year.  Barraclough, Garza Jr, Minaya, Coloumbe, Farrell, Vincent, Stashak,  I would bring back as many as we can and offer split contracts to those we remove from the 40 man roster.

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    Gant starts with Ober and Ryan (alongside possibly one or both of Dobnak and Jax).  


    Rogers, Duffey, Thielbar, Alcala stay

    Up to five free agents or trades - at least three of whom should be considered better than those four. 

    Don’t skimp on the pen. With a starting pitching rotation that will no doubt be made up of a number of youngsters, the pen is the key. No laying up on the pen. 
     

     

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    Rogers' recovery status will be key to what the Twins do. He's in his final year of arbitration, but if it looks like he's healing up well, I can't see him being non-tendered. When it comes to steady high performance over the past 4 years, Rogers is in elite company so I'd hope the Twins bring him back if they expect him to be healthy.

    • 2.47, 2.66, 2.81, 2.03 (Pressley)
    • 2.23, 3.10, 4.03, 1.86 (Hader)
    • 4.33, 1.87, 1.14, 2.56 (Hendriks)
    • 2.33, 2.85, 2.84, 2.12 (Rogers)
    • 3.13, 8.00, 3.97, 2.19 (Kimbrel)
    • 2.09, 2.28, 2.93, 3.85 (Chapman)

    Aside from Rogers, I'd like to see Duffey, Thielbar, Alcala, Farrell, Stashak, Moran and Gant. That's 8 total with Alcala, Stashak and Moran all having options.

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    As Tom said, the Twins bullpen has gone through a lot of players this year and most likely will again in 2022. They  would be well advised to have fewer out of options guys than they have in years past so that they can be moved back and forth to AAA.  Of the guys in that category this year, I believe Juan Minaya and Caleb Thielbar performed well enough to be brought back for sure. 
     

    Duffey and Rogers will be in their last arb year. Alcala looks like he has turned the corner and might even be a closer candidate. The rest of the guys should be interchangeable. 

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    2022 bullpen:

    1. Rogers

    2. Duffey

    3. Alcala

    4. Minaya

    5. Garza Jr.

    6. Thielbar

    7. Farrell / Vincent / Stashak

    8. A good and reliable closer who could share duty with Rogers (definitely NO MORE Colome)

    Gant could be a starter or long reliever.

     

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    I feel somewhat better about this group now than I did in July, that's for sure, but it still needs an upgrade or two. I forgot about Stashak. Like what I've seen from Gant and Garza Jr. Been hearing about Thorpe for what seems like ten years, and it never pans out. He'd better have a lights out spring training or I wouldn't give him another shot.

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    8 hours ago, jun said:

    2022 bullpen:

    1. Rogers

    2. Duffey

    3. Alcala

    4. Minaya

    5. Garza Jr.

    6. Thielbar

    7. Farrell / Vincent / Stashak

    8. A good and reliable closer who could share duty with Rogers (definitely NO MORE Colome)

    Gant could be a starter or long reliever.

     

    This is the bullpen I am expecting.  I love what I have seen from Minaya.  There have been a few outings where he has come back out a second (or third) inning and his effectiveness has gone down, but not too often.  The 7th spot is the biggest question in my mind.  Is that one of those 3? Is it someone else from Brandon or Rosterman's note above? Or do they sign another solid FA and push those players to minor league/spring training deals.

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    16 hours ago, Sconnie said:

    FTFY, but not sure why they'd trade away $8mil of roster to free up cash. I could see them trading Rogers because they got blown away on return, but usually that's more of a trade deadline type of scenario.  

    It's not really to free up cash. It's recognizing that there aren't going to be very many leads to protect if they don't get any starting pitching. What's the point of a closer if all the games are over before inning 6?

    Ultimately it's the fact that he's currently injured that is likely to keep Rogers with the Twins to start next season.

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    My guess is Colome is kept at $5.5M. The buyout is $1.25M. So the question is can they get better numbers for $4.25M?

    Given his turnaround since he sucked the oxygen out of the room at the start of the year I suspect they'll keep him.

    I wish they wouldn't just from a psychological standpoint but ...

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    1 hour ago, DJL44 said:

    It's not really to free up cash. It's recognizing that there aren't going to be very many leads to protect if they don't get any starting pitching. What's the point of a closer if all the games are over before inning 6?

    Ultimately it's the fact that he's currently injured that is likely to keep Rogers with the Twins to start next season.

    Why would you make your team worse only because you don’t think you’ll have many saves to earn?

    or do you mean trade him at the next trade deadline? The OP was to start the season?

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    Currently on 40 and out of options:
    Farrell, Minaya, Coulumbe, and Gant

    • There's no way I drop Minaya. He's got a multi-year track record of solid at the MLB level. 
    • For John Gant, 2021 has been an outlier in an otherwise really good career. I think it would be foolish to drop him.
    • Coulombe is fine, but fungible as a LHP in a bullpen where two of the best relievers are LHP, as well as the top prospect. I'd rather keep him around than sign another $3mil arm from the FA market...but I'd rather do neither.
    • Farrell is a never-will-be. Sorry dude.

    Active roster holdovers for 2022:
    Rogers
    Duffey
    Thielbar
    Minaya
    Alcala
    Gant

    Keep on 40 and fighting for last couple spots:
    Stashak
    Garza
    Moran
    Smeltzer

    The rest of the guys are depth, but that's about it.

    Unless we are shopping the top of the RP market, I don't really see the point of signing FAs. RP pitching is volatile. Just fill in-house or trade for <26 year olds. 

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    3 hours ago, Sconnie said:

    Why would you make your team worse only because you don’t think you’ll have many saves to earn?

    When they traded Berrios the Twins punted on 2022. Rogers is a free agent after 2022. There is no practical difference between winning 75 games and winning 68 games in 2022. Trading Taylor Rogers could make the organization better in the long run at the expense of a few wins in 2022. Same goes for Duffey and Thielbar.

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    44 minutes ago, Minny505 said:

    Unless we are shopping the top of the RP market, I don't really see the point of signing FAs. RP pitching is volatile. Just fill in-house or trade for <26 year olds. 

    I'd actually argue the opposite. They should bring in a bunch of the leftovers on the free agent market on minor league contracts. Volatility also means that sometimes those pitchers figure it out and get better. Low risk, high reward. You can never have enough pitching.

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    16 hours ago, stringer bell said:

    As Tom said, the Twins bullpen has gone through a lot of players this year and most likely will again in 2022. They  would be well advised to have fewer out of options guys than they have in years past so that they can be moved back and forth to AAA.  Of the guys in that category this year, I believe Juan Minaya and Caleb Thielbar performed well enough to be brought back for sure. 
     

    Duffey and Rogers will be in their last arb year. Alcala looks like he has turned the corner and might even be a closer candidate. The rest of the guys should be interchangeable. 

    That's been my top complaint with the FO and the bullpen....going into every year with too many guys that can't be optioned. 

    Rogers, Duffey, Alcala are locks unless Rogers is traded (which seems very unlikely).

    Thielbar is likely back, imo.

    After that? No real idea. I would 100% prefer Gant in the bullpen, but I think he's a starter.

    Really, I'd like 3-4 guys that are piggy back starters with each other, do those count as bullpen? Only Ober and Ryan s/b locks for the rotation, which is why I think Gant is not a RP to start the year, alas.

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    1 hour ago, DJL44 said:

    I'd actually argue the opposite. They should bring in a bunch of the leftovers on the free agent market on minor league contracts. Volatility also means that sometimes those pitchers figure it out and get better. Low risk, high reward. You can never have enough pitching.

    I'm not sure what you are arguing. I'm all onboard with that.

    Maybe I should have qualified my statement with "Unless we are shopping the top of the RP market, I don't really see the point of signing FAs to MLB contracts."

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    My pen would be:
    Rogers, Duffey, Thielbar, Gant, Alcala. Moran and Garza in AAA.

    I just don't trust the veteran filler guys (Farrell, Minaya, Coulombe) to be any good in 2022 despite their numbers. They should go after some FA options or a trade candidate or two to fill the pen up. 

    No way in heck I'd bring back Colome. Gant is not a starter, and has had strong stretches in the pen. Cano could be an option midway through 2022.

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    Relievers can be hard to trade in the off season because there is often a good supply a free agent relievers. Why trade prospects for Rogers when you can pay a few million more and get a similar reliever without hitting your farm system? Teams would have to wait until the reliever market is exhausted before trading.

    This off-season is different though. After Kenley Jansen there aren’t any relievers as reliable as Rogers. Kimbrel might be non-tendered but the supply of closers is small. Rogers will have trade value. With the limited supply the Twins won’t be able to replace him with another free agent. That supply thing is a double edged sword.

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    Going to preface my comments with a couple quick points:

    1] With $50-60M available to spend, IF the FO/ownership IS intent on competing, there ARE ways to add to the top of the rotation via FA and trade to do so. I'm NOT saying they WON'T, just stating an obvious caveat to be considered. And that flows in to my second initial point...

    2] Whether they go big, semi-big, or pull a rabbit or two out of their hat to add to the rotation...whatever...the pen has to be able to be counted on. (As best as you ever can considering the volatility of bullpens in general). I am way more confident in a possible pen for 2022 now than I was a couple months ago, and it's not just SSS and smoke and mirrors.

    LOCKS: That would be Rogers, Duffey and Thielbar.

    Unless the Twins know something they refuse to share, the expectation is Rogers will be healthy. Can't argue with what Duffey has done the past few years and his rebound the past few months. Despite some inherited runner problems earlier in the year, Thielbar has been a find, and a good one.

    NEAR LOCKS:  Alcala, Minaya and Colome.

    If you've watched Alcala this year and not just read box scores and the such, you woukd have seen wicked stuff, SO, and some quality work. Mixed in, unfortunately, have also been 2R HR after dominating a couple of batters, But the flashes have been there. And he's looked really good the last month or so, he has to prove he's turned a corner. Minaya has a solid history and by all accounts I've heard, looked pretty solid in 2020 at the alt site. He's been good at St Paul and seems to have unlocked something the past 30 games plus. And please don't shoot the messenger on Colome! Despite his atrocious April and May, he's been very much his career self since June, despite a couple bad days. With his buyout figured in, he only costs about $4M for 2022, which has been previously pointed out. I believe he leads the league in saves since July if I read the stat correctly the other day. I think we have to look at his career and what he's done since June and just realize he'd probably be an excellent 7th-8th IP RP who COULD close a game. Whether via his option or a re-worked deal, he's back.

    FRINGE: Stashak, Garza, Garcia, Garcia, Farrell, Coulombe, Baraclough, Burrows, Vincent.

    The Twins are far smarter than I am, as well as much closer to the situation. There are almost undoubtedly a couple of these guys they have seen enough, and liked enough, to protect. But I suspect that is it. Just one or two and the rest allowed to walk or re-sign on a milb deal. Stashak may be an outlier from the rest. Despite relatively SSS, he was very good in '19 and '20 with high K numbers to start 2021 but poor secondary numbers before he was lost due to injury. Has he shown enough that  you don't want risk losing him?

    WHO I DIDN'T CHOOSE: Gant and Moran.

    Gant is a given to be protected, but I am unsure about the Twins plans for him. He's had limited success as a ML SP and has looked solid thus far doing so for the Twins, almost out of necessity at this point. But I sure hope the plan is for him to be in the pen in 2022! Moran is a given to be protected as well but I doubt he's a "break camp" arm. Only reason I didn't include him. 

    WHAT'S LEFT TO DO? Sign one quality late IP arm for $5-7M.

    FINAL CONCLUSIONS:

    Think about this pen to begin 2022:

    FA

    Rogers

    Duffey

    Thielbar

    Colome

    Alcala

    Minaya

    Gant

    Between a couple protected options and others not even discussed in the "who survives" portion of this discussion, not to mention young SP who can also fill-in, would you feel good about that pen beginning 2022? I would.

    The one negative I see here, which others have broached, is a pen with limited options. My arguement would be, if you have a really good pen, and at least a DECENT rotation...different topic...does the "option" situation matter as much?

     

     

     

     

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