Anyone watching this team meanwhile can see a different problem: a shaky bullpen in need of backup. The Twins currently have a high win percentage but a notably high FIP, which we have already seen act as a recipe for disaster (especially against playoff contending teams).
The Twins might be in a better position to snatch a high-caliber arm to slot in every other day—if not two of them—to fill in some of their more questionable pieces. I’ve decided to highlight five arms from teams likely to be sellers at the deadline that the Twins might pursue.
David Robertson (Chicago Cubs)
K/9: 12.4, BB/9: 4.7
Like Joe Smith, David Robertson is a veteran pitcher at 37 with his fifth major league ball club, filling in a small role for the depleted Cubs as they enter what can only be described as their Pirates phase. After Tommy John, Robertson played a critical role on the 2021 Olympics squad, before signing with the Rays where he demonstrated a strong strikeout rate and low walk rate in his twelve appearances and four postseason appearances. Now with the Cubs, Robertson looks even better, quickly working his way to the closer role, where hitters are going .150 against him with a single home run in 23 innings of work. Unlike the younger pitchers like Duran who just throw for heat, Robertson is all about that spin. His cutter is now mixed into both a slider and a curveball, the latter two which have produced two hits total. Robertson basically is moving his ball all over the plate and players cannot get a barrel on it.
The Cubs are eager for some prospects to rebuild the greatness of 2016 and following the model of quick signings they can flip for a high caliber prospect. Robertson’s surprising bargain contract is one the Twins should be immediately eying, either to play a late inning against the heart of the order.
Anthony Bass (MIA)
K/9: 8.3, BB/9: 2.1
Kim Ng’s Marlins are yet to become a playoff contending team, but she’s slowly building a set of arms that are just waiting to see the Phillies or Mets do the things that have made those fan bases literally a health hazard and sneak into the NL East top spot. But until then, they will need to flip some players and hope the owners actually allow for some serious spending. I tracked Anthony Bass while listening to some spring training games and the booth seems quite enthused. After struggling in 2021, Bass has become an eighth inning set up man with one of the hardest to hit pitches in the game. Hitters are barely making contact with his slider, which has produced a 38% whiffs.
His sinker can be a problem, when pitchers are making solid contact. Miami hasn’t had too many competitive games, but Bass seems like a more reliable swing and miss guy to throw into the pen to come out maybe for the third time through the order. Plus, Bass has a $3 million club option for 2023, and it might be the right time to bring his arm into the Twins.
Michael Fulmer (DET)
K/9: 9.4, BB/9: 4.1
It’s not usual that the competition deals a player to their division rivals, but I don’t think the Detroit Tigers will be too picky about who gets one of their bright stars of their bullpen. Two seasons ago, the former Rookie of the Year was getting lit up for an ERA just under 9.00. Now he’s sitting at 2.35 over 23 innings with a slider that batters are barely touching and a fastball that’s touching 100 while becoming a bit of a mentor for the young arms out in Detroit. The walk rate is a problem—Fulmer is great with getting into the zone but hitters are rarely chasing anything out—and he hasn’t performed well in high leverage situations, so Fulmer might slide in for a mid-inning appearance against the bottom of a few line ups as the Twins make it through the dog days of summer. Given the necessity of the divorce from the Tiger, this might just be the cheapest trade the Twins can do and one they can easily depart if it doesn't work out.
Daniel Bard (COL)
K/9: 11.6, BB/9: 4.1
Daniel Bard plays at Coors Field, but he’s also kept players to a BABIP under 200 in the hitter friendly park (on the road, it’s .130). Bard’s basically abandoned his fastball by throwing a 98mph sinker alongside a much slower slider that hitters can’t tell the difference. Bard at once seemed done with the majors, but the success of that sinker with its incredible change up movement has been a secret sauce in his comeback in Colorado.
Sporting a WHIP under 1.00 and almost as many strikeouts as the Rockies’ starters, opponents are averaging a paltry .141. He’s turning numerous ground balls, which is a perfect concoction when you had a defensive line of Carlos Correa and Gio Urshela to work with. Now we just need to get the Rockies to actually pick up their phones this year.
Tanner Rainey (WSN)
K/9: 11.1, BB/9: 3.4
On paper, Tanner Rainey might not look like the kind of player you trade for, but relief trades are about experimentation. Rainey mostly depends on a fastball that tops around 97 and a slider that hitters are missing half the time he throws it. Rainey essentially abandoned his change up from last year, focusing on increasing the spin on his fastball. He strikes players out about the same level as Griffin Jax with just a dent of a higher walk rate. Rainer has saved seven games in his 20 innings of work, and he hasn’t been as sharp in June, but he might be a critical piece for the bullpen in need of revival.
Any other relievers you’ve been eyeing this season? Sound off in the comments.