After an explosive beginning the Twins offseason has ground to a puzzling halt. Before the pilot light was even lit on the hot stove, the Twins had won the bidding for Byung-Ho Park, and boldly traded Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy, with Terry Ryan aggressively filling areas of need early and often. For Minnesota fans, this was a pleasing change of pace for the more pedestrian off-seasons of recent years, as we were reminded of the shrewd assertiveness which made Ryan so successful in his first stint at the helm.
More from Puckett's Pond
- Minnesota Twins: Holiday Wish List for the rest of the Offseason
- Minnesota Twins: After signing with the Mets, Correa spurns Twins again
- Minnesota Twins: You Spin Me Right Round, Right Round
- Minnesota Twins: What happens next at Shortstop?
- Minnesota Twins: Grading the Twins’ Joey Gallo signing
Fast forward to the Winter Meetings in Nashville and Twins fans were eagerly anticipating additions to the most glaring weakness of their young and promising core; no, not the cliché slide show advocating for the Twins to go in on a ‘legitimate ace’, rather, their bullpen. The popular position amongst both pundits and the front office was the bullpen needed two upgrades, particularly a lefty (after Duensing was poor, Cotts was O.K, and O’Rourke was streaky). In particular, it has been noted that the Twins need to pursue an increased number of Ks from the pen, with seven MLB clubs who had bullpens in the top 12 of the majors making the playoffs, the correlation seems evident. In particular, the Royals provided the most obvious model, not only of the importance of dominant back-end pitching, but also how to get it and use it in a similar ‘mid-market’ situation that has foreshadowed the rise of the Twins young nucleus.
Yet the Twins have made no significant moves to bolster their beleaguered pen. The most interesting has been signing former A’s lefty Fernando Abad to a minor league deal. Abad was poor for Oakland in 2015. He walked over 3.5 batters per 9 innings, and his peripherals (5.50 FIP) were even worse than he mediocre pitching line would suggest. Yet, if I had to guess today, Abad probably makes the bullpen as the matchup lefty. Darren Wolfson today suggested that the front office is starting to indicate they feel comfortable with the state of the roster moving towards the spring.
The indication from the club now seems to be that they are prepared to wait for some of the touted farm system arms that could be ready in the middle of the 2016 season. Arms such as Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, and J.T. Chargois have all shown a ton of promise, velocity, and Ks. While I have no problem with this strategy, it does raise two curious issues: 1) Ryan’s rhetoric throughout the off-season is that the Twins are looking to add to the bullpen. 2) It doesn’t solve the lefty issue. After positing that relying on a bounce back year from Abad is a risky move by the Twins front office, Wolfson agreed:
The Twins outperformed expectations in 2015 and are well placed to challenge for a post-season berth in 2016. Yet the Twins have exhibited dichotomous directions in the two halves of the off-season to this point; one seeks to capitalize on a young core of outstanding prospects that many though were not ready to compete for an AL central title, the other is trapped in ‘wait and see mode’, a little paralyzed by just how many high caliber prospects they feel will be major league ready. Perhaps the Twins see Mason Melatokis as close to being ready to contribute (they recently placed him on the 40 man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft), having fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and allegedly throwing in the mid-90s throughout the fall.
Regardless, one would hope Ryan continues his aggressive offseason and pursues a name like Antonio Bastardo through free agency or Jake McGee via trade, it might prove to be a risk worth taking for the young and talented 2016 Twins.