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  1. The Twins have not had a default closer in their bullpen since 2018 with the famous journey-man reliever Fernando Rodney. If the Twins continue without a default closer next year, which relievers would be best to go after? Image courtesy of Eric Hartline, USA Today Sports Since becoming manager of the Twins, Rocco Baldelli has avoided designating any of his relievers as the team’s go-to closer. While one reliever has recorded over 20 saves in the Baldelli era (Taylor Rogers with 30 in 2019), no player has come close to 20 since. This is a change from the previous front office regime of Terry Ryan and managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor’s days of operating a bullpen. From the time of Gardy’s first season to Molitor’s final, the Twins had a go-to closer for the majority of seasons developing all-star closers such as Eddie Guardado, Joe Nathan, and Glen Perkins leading this front. This method of bullpen management reached a new peak for the Twins' 2022 season as no reliever recorded more than nine saves, Emilio Pagan leading the team with nine. While 14 of the 23 relievers in the bullpen were brought in for save opportunities, almost double the number of relievers that came in for save opportunities in 2021 with eight. This season the Twins were also dead last in the American with total saves at 28 and tied for last in all of Major League Baseball alongside the Washington Nationals. As of now the guy currently in the Twins bullpen that looks to have a “primary closer” role for 2023 is Jhoan Duran. The top rookie of 2022 may eventually see more save opportunities as the season goes on, but it is uncertain if that role will be thrust upon him immediately come Opening Day. Jorge Lopez was brought in to be the Twins' closer at the trade deadline but struggled in his short time with the Twins as the season waned, making it less likely for Lopez to be used as a closer for the start of the 2023 season. The stat to quantify who may be best to trade off with Duran for save opportunities is the relievers version of a quality start: shutdowns. FanGraphs has quantified this stat for years and has offered a countermark to that stat with meltdowns. Duran was eighth in all of MLB with 34 shutdowns and had the fifth-lowest amount of meltdowns with four. 25 relievers reached the threshold of 30 or more shutdowns this season but only three of these relievers are free agents. All three of these relievers are players the Twins should consider for their bullpen. Rafael Montero Rafael Montero made himself one of baseball’s best-known relievers this postseason with the Houston Astros. Even before raising his value en route to his first World Series ring, Montero pitched his best season in the majors this regular season. Montero recorded 37 shutdowns, tied for second in MLB with Toronto's Jordan Romero. He also had very few meltdowns with five, only one more than Duran. Montero had 14 saves on the season which helped to balance former Twin Ryan Pressly’s workload as a closer. If the Twins were to pursue Montero this offseason, he could be the biggest reliever acquired from free agency in the history of the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine era. Any contract that would be offered to Montero longer than a year also has a chance of eclipsing Addison Reed’s 2-year, $16.75 million deal from the 2017-18 offseason. Brad Boxberger After a few rough seasons in Arizona and Kansas City, Brad Boxberger has revitalized himself as a high-leverage reliever with the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Boxberger is not the reliever he used to be nor is he seeing much of any save opportunities, appearing in only 13 over the last three seasons. Boxberger still has been used in many high-leverage opportunities this season, recording 35 shutdowns in 70 reliever appearances. There is one downside to offering Boxberger a contract, he was tied alongside Griffin Jax, Jake Diekman, and Tanner Scott to lead MLB with 17 meltdowns out of the bullpen. This tallies to nearly a quarter of Boxberger’s relief appearances turning bad for him and the Brewers in 2022. Boxberger suits the Twins better on a one-year deal given his hit-or-miss success in high-leverage situations as well as turning 35 during the 2023 season. Matt Moore Once the highest-ranked prospect in all of baseball (MLB.com, 2012), Matt Moore revitalized his career this season in the Texas Rangers bullpen. Moore’s transition into a full-time reliever worked to his benefit as he posted a 1.95 ERA in 63 relief appearances with the Rangers this season. The Rangers also trotted Moore out for six save opportunities, five of which he converted. The major success of Moore’s numbers in the 2022 season makes him of the more sought-after high-leverage lefty relievers this offseason. This also shows with his shutdown-to-meltdown numbers as he recorded 31 shutdowns out of the bullpen while only having nine meltdowns. With Caleb Thielbar guaranteed a spot in the Twins' 2023 bullpen and Jovani Moran more than likely to join him, signing Moore as a third lefty for the Twins bullpen could crowd the space up. But he is a worthwhile option for the Twins to consider partnering with Duran to close out games. Any one of these three relievers would be a good fit for the Twins for the 2023 season. If a designated closer is still something Baldelli and the front office want to start the season without, either Montero, Boxberger, or Moore may suit a role to ensure the Twins are not just punting for bullpen help this offseason. View full article
  2. Since becoming manager of the Twins, Rocco Baldelli has avoided designating any of his relievers as the team’s go-to closer. While one reliever has recorded over 20 saves in the Baldelli era (Taylor Rogers with 30 in 2019), no player has come close to 20 since. This is a change from the previous front office regime of Terry Ryan and managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor’s days of operating a bullpen. From the time of Gardy’s first season to Molitor’s final, the Twins had a go-to closer for the majority of seasons developing all-star closers such as Eddie Guardado, Joe Nathan, and Glen Perkins leading this front. This method of bullpen management reached a new peak for the Twins' 2022 season as no reliever recorded more than nine saves, Emilio Pagan leading the team with nine. While 14 of the 23 relievers in the bullpen were brought in for save opportunities, almost double the number of relievers that came in for save opportunities in 2021 with eight. This season the Twins were also dead last in the American with total saves at 28 and tied for last in all of Major League Baseball alongside the Washington Nationals. As of now the guy currently in the Twins bullpen that looks to have a “primary closer” role for 2023 is Jhoan Duran. The top rookie of 2022 may eventually see more save opportunities as the season goes on, but it is uncertain if that role will be thrust upon him immediately come Opening Day. Jorge Lopez was brought in to be the Twins' closer at the trade deadline but struggled in his short time with the Twins as the season waned, making it less likely for Lopez to be used as a closer for the start of the 2023 season. The stat to quantify who may be best to trade off with Duran for save opportunities is the relievers version of a quality start: shutdowns. FanGraphs has quantified this stat for years and has offered a countermark to that stat with meltdowns. Duran was eighth in all of MLB with 34 shutdowns and had the fifth-lowest amount of meltdowns with four. 25 relievers reached the threshold of 30 or more shutdowns this season but only three of these relievers are free agents. All three of these relievers are players the Twins should consider for their bullpen. Rafael Montero Rafael Montero made himself one of baseball’s best-known relievers this postseason with the Houston Astros. Even before raising his value en route to his first World Series ring, Montero pitched his best season in the majors this regular season. Montero recorded 37 shutdowns, tied for second in MLB with Toronto's Jordan Romero. He also had very few meltdowns with five, only one more than Duran. Montero had 14 saves on the season which helped to balance former Twin Ryan Pressly’s workload as a closer. If the Twins were to pursue Montero this offseason, he could be the biggest reliever acquired from free agency in the history of the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine era. Any contract that would be offered to Montero longer than a year also has a chance of eclipsing Addison Reed’s 2-year, $16.75 million deal from the 2017-18 offseason. Brad Boxberger After a few rough seasons in Arizona and Kansas City, Brad Boxberger has revitalized himself as a high-leverage reliever with the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Boxberger is not the reliever he used to be nor is he seeing much of any save opportunities, appearing in only 13 over the last three seasons. Boxberger still has been used in many high-leverage opportunities this season, recording 35 shutdowns in 70 reliever appearances. There is one downside to offering Boxberger a contract, he was tied alongside Griffin Jax, Jake Diekman, and Tanner Scott to lead MLB with 17 meltdowns out of the bullpen. This tallies to nearly a quarter of Boxberger’s relief appearances turning bad for him and the Brewers in 2022. Boxberger suits the Twins better on a one-year deal given his hit-or-miss success in high-leverage situations as well as turning 35 during the 2023 season. Matt Moore Once the highest-ranked prospect in all of baseball (MLB.com, 2012), Matt Moore revitalized his career this season in the Texas Rangers bullpen. Moore’s transition into a full-time reliever worked to his benefit as he posted a 1.95 ERA in 63 relief appearances with the Rangers this season. The Rangers also trotted Moore out for six save opportunities, five of which he converted. The major success of Moore’s numbers in the 2022 season makes him of the more sought-after high-leverage lefty relievers this offseason. This also shows with his shutdown-to-meltdown numbers as he recorded 31 shutdowns out of the bullpen while only having nine meltdowns. With Caleb Thielbar guaranteed a spot in the Twins' 2023 bullpen and Jovani Moran more than likely to join him, signing Moore as a third lefty for the Twins bullpen could crowd the space up. But he is a worthwhile option for the Twins to consider partnering with Duran to close out games. Any one of these three relievers would be a good fit for the Twins for the 2023 season. If a designated closer is still something Baldelli and the front office want to start the season without, either Montero, Boxberger, or Moore may suit a role to ensure the Twins are not just punting for bullpen help this offseason.
  3. Other American League Previews AL West: Houston, We Don’t Have a Problem AL East: New York State of Mind Key Additions: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross Josh Harrison, a two-time All-Star, will take over at second base. The Pirates declined his $10.5 million option and Harrison signed with Detroit on a one-year, $2 million deal. He can play multiple positions, but he figures to get the majority of his time at second base. During the last three seasons, he has hit .270/.317/.398. Jordy Mercer joins the Tigers from the Pirates organization. He hopes to fill the middle infield hole left by Jose Iglesias. Over the last three seasons, he has hit .254/.324/.387 while averaging 10 home runs and 25 doubles. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, he was the third worst defensive shortstop in the NL last season. Matt Moore and Tyson Ross signed one-year pacts in Detroit, and they will fight to be in the rotation. Moore was once considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Over the last three seasons, he has posted a 5.20 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Tyson Ross has put up similar numbers over the same stretch with a 5.21 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. However, Moore has pitched 270 more innings than Ross. Key Departures: Victor Martinez, Alex Wilson, James McCann, Jose Iglesias Victor Martinez retired at the end of last season and that leaves a hole in the Tigers offense. James McCann leaves a spot open behind the plate for Greyson Greiner to take over. Wilson pitched 60 innings or more in each of the last four seasons, but he wasn’t tendered a contract. Since 2015, Jose Iglesias has started a minimum of 119 games at shortstop. He was an All-Star in 2015. Cincinnati signed him to a minor league contract at the end of February. Due to an injury, he will get to begin the year as a starter for the Reds. Potential X-Factors: Nick Castellanos It’s no secret that Detroit has been trying to deal Castellanos this off-season. He will be a free agent at season’s end. That being said, he is coming off a year where he hit .298/.354/.500 with 23 home runs and 46 doubles. Entering his age 27 season, he might be playing for a decent off-season contract. He’s played third base in the past, but he has shifted to the corner outfield in recent years. Corresponding with that shift has been a much-improved offensive player. His slugging percentage has been .490 or higher in each of the last three seasons. Can he be part of the solution in Detroit? Or will a hot start from Castellanos result in a trade before the deadline? FanGraphs Projected 2019 Record: 66-96 My Projected 2019 Record: 63-99 2018 Record: 64-98, (3rd Place in the AL Central) 2017 Record: 64-98 (5th Place in the AL Central) 2016 Record: 86-75 (2nd Place in the AL Central)
  4. We are less than two weeks away from the July 31 trade deadline. It is still fair to question whether the Twins are going to be buyers or sellers, both or neither at the deadline. They are 3-3 in six games against the Astros (1-2) and Yankees (2-1) and have stayed above .500. They are a half a game behind Cleveland in the American League Central, and they are half a game behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot. So who are the players that might be available in a trade?Over the coming week we’ll take a look which teams are buyers and sellers and who the Twins could look to acquire. We’ll start with the teams in the National League West division. STANDINGS Los Angeles Dodgers - 66-29 Colorado Rockies - 56-41 (11 games back) Arizona Diamondbacks - 54-40 (11.5 games back) San Diego Padres - 40-54 San Francisco Giants - 37-59 As things sit right now, the Rockies and Diamondbacks are the two Wild Card teams. The Cubs are currently five games out of the second Wild Card spot. We know they’ll make some moves, so will Colorado and Arizona be willing to add some players? THE BUYERS If the Twins decide to sell, which would be disappointing as things stand today (but may be different in a week), the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks could be calling. Brian Dozier, Brandon Kintzler and Ervin Santana will be the primary names tossed around (no surprise). The Dodgers wouldn’t trade Cody Bellinger for Brian Dozier in the offseason. I’m guessing he’s not available at this point either. THE SELLERS As of right now, the Twins should be leaning toward buying, and if that’s the case, the Padres and the Giants are teams that should be looking to sell. I assume that the Twins have already had discussions with the GMs from both teams. So, who could be on the table? The Padres While the Twins front office has indicated that it isn’t as interested in acquiring rental players (guys who will be free agents at the end of the season), those types of players can be had without getting rid of as big of a prospect, so they can’t be completely ignored. The Padres have a few starters who are likely very available. All three are free agents at the end of the season. Clayton Richard (33), who the Twins were said to be at least somewhat interested in before the season, has been terrible. He’s got a 4.75 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP through 19 starts. Jhoulys Chacin (29) has been mediocre. He’s got a 4.33 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP .He’s got 92 strikeouts in 108 innings. Trevor Cahill (29) missed two months earlier in the season, but he’s been pretty good since his return. He’s got a 3.38 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In 50.2 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 63. I mean, if you want, you could go after Jered Weaver who has an ERA way over 7 and a WHIP near 1.50. He’s also been on the disabled list. He also throws 82 mph. Of course, the Big Fish of the Padres is Chaska native, left-handed reliever Brad Hand. He was a deserving All-Star this year and he’s controllable for at least another two years beyond 2017. Recently, the Padres made it known that they want and expect a return for Hand similar to what the Phillies got to Ken Giles. That is to say a package of three or four players, including a top prospect or two. The Giants The Giants have probably been the biggest disappointment in baseball this season. They have a top-5 payroll and have been unable to get things rolling at all in 2017. So they would likely love to make some trades and push toward 2018. While there will be some position players, like Denard Span or even Brandon Crawford at the right price, the Twins focus should primarily be pitching. The Giants have pitchers with names, and big contracts. Johnny Cueto’s name has not really surfaced in rumors, but he would cost a team approximately $22 million a year through the 2021 season (and a team option for 2022) along with a haul of prospects. The 31-year-old is 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA and a career-high (by a long shot) 3.2 walks per nine innings. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been discussed in rumors as several teams have inquired about him. He is owed about $19.5 million for the next two seasons. He is 4-11 with a 4.86 ERA this season. While he hasn’t been particularly good for the last three seasons (posting ERA+ of 79, 104 and 85), he does eat a ton of innings. He’s posted over 200 innings four straight years and is on pace to be close to that number again. Speaking of long-term contracts that didn’t work out well, Matt Cain was a top pitcher for the Giants for several years. Then he signed a six-year, $127.5 million contract and has been hurt a majority of the time since. He’s healthy this year, and his 5.49 ERA would be his lowest in three years. However, his 1.67 WHIP makes the 32-year-old pretty Colon-like. He can become a free agent at season’s end. The intriguing name in the Giants rotation might just be Matt Moore. He was one of the top prospects in baseball (he, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were consensus Top 3 guys) with the Rays. He went 17-4 in 2013. They signed him to a team-friendly deal soon after he debuted. early in 2014, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed most of that season and over half of 2015 as well. Last year, the Rays traded him to the Giants. This year, he is 3-10 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. He’s got options for 2018 at $9 million and 2019 at $10 million. So, while he’s been pretty bad this year, he just turned 28 in June. If pro scouts believe that he is healthy and still has some stuff, Moore could be a relatively inexpensive option for two more years. I can’t imagine the prospect-return on any of these guys would be real high due to their contract size and/or performance this year. Evaluators just need to determine what they have left and whether or not they could help the team. Personally, Moore is the only one that is relatively intriguing. As for bullpen arms, the one interesting name might be Sam Dyson. He was good last year, but he began this year just terrible for the Texas Rangers. They let him go, and the Giants signed him. In 15 games, he has an ERA of 2.76 in 16.1 innings in San Francisco. He’s recorded five saves, taking over closer duties since Mark Melancon has been on the DL. Could he be available for cheap? Other Relievers: George Kontos, Cory Gearrin. SUMMARY There is a clear team at the top in the Dodgers who have proven they aren’t afraid to spend money. They have a smart front office that hasn’t been willing to just hand away prospects, but they could be buyers. Both the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been surprises in 2017. If the season ended now, which would be unfortunate for fans, they would both be wild card teams. They may have some interest in acquiring some additional talent at the deadline, particularly bullpen help. Meanwhile, winning teams will be frequently calling the Giants and Padres as those teams have been out of contention for quite some time already. Players are available. There are some big names who will be in the rumors, but the clear choice for best player available from the division is Brad Hand, and the steep asking price illustrates that well. What do you think? Could there be a match with the Twins somewhere in the NL West? Click here to view the article
  5. Over the coming week we’ll take a look which teams are buyers and sellers and who the Twins could look to acquire. We’ll start with the teams in the National League West division. STANDINGS Los Angeles Dodgers - 66-29 Colorado Rockies - 56-41 (11 games back) Arizona Diamondbacks - 54-40 (11.5 games back) San Diego Padres - 40-54 San Francisco Giants - 37-59 As things sit right now, the Rockies and Diamondbacks are the two Wild Card teams. The Cubs are currently five games out of the second Wild Card spot. We know they’ll make some moves, so will Colorado and Arizona be willing to add some players? THE BUYERS If the Twins decide to sell, which would be disappointing as things stand today (but may be different in a week), the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks could be calling. Brian Dozier, Brandon Kintzler and Ervin Santana will be the primary names tossed around (no surprise). The Dodgers wouldn’t trade Cody Bellinger for Brian Dozier in the offseason. I’m guessing he’s not available at this point either. THE SELLERS As of right now, the Twins should be leaning toward buying, and if that’s the case, the Padres and the Giants are teams that should be looking to sell. I assume that the Twins have already had discussions with the GMs from both teams. So, who could be on the table? The Padres While the Twins front office has indicated that it isn’t as interested in acquiring rental players (guys who will be free agents at the end of the season), those types of players can be had without getting rid of as big of a prospect, so they can’t be completely ignored. The Padres have a few starters who are likely very available. All three are free agents at the end of the season. Clayton Richard (33), who the Twins were said to be at least somewhat interested in before the season, has been terrible. He’s got a 4.75 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP through 19 starts. Jhoulys Chacin (29) has been mediocre. He’s got a 4.33 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP .He’s got 92 strikeouts in 108 innings. Trevor Cahill (29) missed two months earlier in the season, but he’s been pretty good since his return. He’s got a 3.38 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In 50.2 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 63. I mean, if you want, you could go after Jered Weaver who has an ERA way over 7 and a WHIP near 1.50. He’s also been on the disabled list. He also throws 82 mph. Of course, the Big Fish of the Padres is Chaska native, left-handed reliever Brad Hand. He was a deserving All-Star this year and he’s controllable for at least another two years beyond 2017. Recently, the Padres made it known that they want and expect a return for Hand similar to what the Phillies got to Ken Giles. That is to say a package of three or four players, including a top prospect or two. The Giants The Giants have probably been the biggest disappointment in baseball this season. They have a top-5 payroll and have been unable to get things rolling at all in 2017. So they would likely love to make some trades and push toward 2018. While there will be some position players, like Denard Span or even Brandon Crawford at the right price, the Twins focus should primarily be pitching. The Giants have pitchers with names, and big contracts. Johnny Cueto’s name has not really surfaced in rumors, but he would cost a team approximately $22 million a year through the 2021 season (and a team option for 2022) along with a haul of prospects. The 31-year-old is 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA and a career-high (by a long shot) 3.2 walks per nine innings. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been discussed in rumors as several teams have inquired about him. He is owed about $19.5 million for the next two seasons. He is 4-11 with a 4.86 ERA this season. While he hasn’t been particularly good for the last three seasons (posting ERA+ of 79, 104 and 85), he does eat a ton of innings. He’s posted over 200 innings four straight years and is on pace to be close to that number again. Speaking of long-term contracts that didn’t work out well, Matt Cain was a top pitcher for the Giants for several years. Then he signed a six-year, $127.5 million contract and has been hurt a majority of the time since. He’s healthy this year, and his 5.49 ERA would be his lowest in three years. However, his 1.67 WHIP makes the 32-year-old pretty Colon-like. He can become a free agent at season’s end. The intriguing name in the Giants rotation might just be Matt Moore. He was one of the top prospects in baseball (he, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were consensus Top 3 guys) with the Rays. He went 17-4 in 2013. They signed him to a team-friendly deal soon after he debuted. early in 2014, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed most of that season and over half of 2015 as well. Last year, the Rays traded him to the Giants. This year, he is 3-10 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. He’s got options for 2018 at $9 million and 2019 at $10 million. So, while he’s been pretty bad this year, he just turned 28 in June. If pro scouts believe that he is healthy and still has some stuff, Moore could be a relatively inexpensive option for two more years. I can’t imagine the prospect-return on any of these guys would be real high due to their contract size and/or performance this year. Evaluators just need to determine what they have left and whether or not they could help the team. Personally, Moore is the only one that is relatively intriguing. As for bullpen arms, the one interesting name might be Sam Dyson. He was good last year, but he began this year just terrible for the Texas Rangers. They let him go, and the Giants signed him. In 15 games, he has an ERA of 2.76 in 16.1 innings in San Francisco. He’s recorded five saves, taking over closer duties since Mark Melancon has been on the DL. Could he be available for cheap? Other Relievers: George Kontos, Cory Gearrin. SUMMARY There is a clear team at the top in the Dodgers who have proven they aren’t afraid to spend money. They have a smart front office that hasn’t been willing to just hand away prospects, but they could be buyers. Both the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been surprises in 2017. If the season ended now, which would be unfortunate for fans, they would both be wild card teams. They may have some interest in acquiring some additional talent at the deadline, particularly bullpen help. Meanwhile, winning teams will be frequently calling the Giants and Padres as those teams have been out of contention for quite some time already. Players are available. There are some big names who will be in the rumors, but the clear choice for best player available from the division is Brad Hand, and the steep asking price illustrates that well. What do you think? Could there be a match with the Twins somewhere in the NL West?
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