2016 Minnesota Twins Off-Season Outlook: Bullpen


Editor’s note: This is the third of a six-part segment detailing the Minnesota Twins and the 2016 off season. On deck: Infielders. Part: 1, 2

One of the ultimate downfalls of the Minnesota Twins last season was its bullpen. It ranked among the worst in the league in several traditional and advanced metrics, and trade deadline additions of Kevin Jepsen and Neal Cotts weren’t the boon General Manager Terry Ryan had hoped, though not disastrous either.

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With an eye toward 2016, the bullpen should be atop the Twins’ to-do list, whether improvements come from within or free agency. I tend to see relievers as a crapshoot in free agency, so the Twins the should avoid the pitfalls of long-term expensive deals.

Here to stay

Glen Perkins: He’s taken a small step backward in each of the last two seasons in terms of FIP, xFIP and K/9 rate, but he’s firmly entrenched as the closer. As far as 30-save closers go, he’s a bargain at $3.5 million in 2015 and $4.5M in 2016 (with a team option and $300,000 buyout).

Feb 27, 2015; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Kevin Jepsen (40) poses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jepsen: In his final year of arbitration. Jepsen was actually pretty good for the Twins after his season didn’t get off to a great start. It is worth watching the decline in strikeouts next year, but he’s a centerpiece in the bullpen, which in itself doesn’t say a lot about the quality behind him.

Casey Fien: He’s due for about $2.2M in arbitration this year, which is why he’s sure to return unlike some of his newly-minted free agent bullpen mates. Early in his career he showed big strikeout potential, but that dwindled to 5.83 K/9 last year, nearly a full two strikeouts off his career average.

Trevor May: I discussed May in my starters outlook. I think he gets a real chance to be in the rotation, but I’m leaning toward him starting 2016 in the bullpen.

Something to prove

Mar 3, 2015; Ft. Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Ryan Pressly (57) poses during photo day at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Pressly: Shoulder problems shortened the 26-year-old’s season, an early hit to the bullpen depth for the Twins. His 2015 was mixed bag: His ERA and FIP were impressive, but his 3.90 BB/9 ballooned. He also saw improvement in his strikeout rate. Good potential if he can harness the walks, find consistency and stay healthy.

All but gone

Brian Duensing: He was a proverbial garbage fire in 2014 and 2015. A free agent in 2016, he shouldn’t return.

Blaine Boyer: At 34, the Twins marked his eighth organization. He posted one of his worst K/9 and BB/9 seasons of his career. Time to move on.

Neal Cotts: He turned out to be a far cry from his 2013 output. His rates are normalizing and he produced a negative-WAR combined in 2015. Paul Molitor said in a post-season radio interview Cotts was a possibility to return, but in all reality, the only reason to do so is because he’s a cheap left-handed option.

In the minors

Nick Burdi: He reached 100 mph on the radar guns in Double-A with incredibly high strikeout rates throughout the minors. His command (6.60 BB/9) in Chattanooga really killed his overall line, but he has the makings of a dominant relief arm, and a timeline that puts him in Minnesota sometime in 2016.

Jake Reed: Didn’t fare as well as Burdi in Double-A, and command is also an issue. He misses significantly fewer bats, too. His fastball sits in the 95-97 range according to reports, so the potential for a higher-than-average strikeout rate is there if he can locate and develop secondary pitches.

Best outside options

Mar 2, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit (53) poses during photo day at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Joaquin Benoit: Late Tuesday, San Diego exercised his $8 million option for 2016. Pretty surprising when figuring he had a considerable drop off. He was the center of trade chatter to Minnesota last year, and could be this year again if the Padres eat a bulk of his salary. But, who knows what A.J. Preller is going to do this winter, and good luck guessing. I had Benoit on this list guessing he would be bought out ($1.5M).

Tony Sipp: Here’s a guy who checks items off the wish list. A lefty with a big strikeout rate (10.27 K/9 in 2015 with Houston), good advanced metrics, young in terms of relievers (32) and a free agent.

Antonio Bastardo: The cheaper version of Sipp: 30 years old, lefty and can miss bats. He walks about double that of Sipp, but he’s been very consistent so far.

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Joe Nathan: If he doesn’t retire I expect there to be talk of a 1-year reunion. He’ll be 41 next month and missed all but one game of 2015. He wants to return by the All-Star break after fully rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. It could be very low-risk addition if done right.