The Minnesota Twins offseason is underway and relievers top the wish list. Could a familiar face bring the same results as a coveted outsider?
The Minnesota Twins are at the beginning of an offseason where the main focus is clear. Improve the teams pitching staff. Many writers and experts are already pointing to an improved bullpen as the way in which the Twins can prevent 2017 from being a fluke.
With the reports swirling that the Twins may also be willing to pursue and spend on some of the top-tier free agents there is plenty of excitement on who could be toeing the rubber for the Twins in 2018. Even if the Twins can or are willing to spend, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should always spend on the top-tier guys when they may get the same results from a cheaper option.
Enter Bryan Shaw. The 30-year old reliever from the Cleveland Indians may be best known for his durability. He has never been on the disabled list since joining the Indians which has allowed him to lead the league in appearances 3 out of the past 4 seasons. This has made Shaw a reliable bridge from Indian starters to the likes of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
On the mound, Shaw is known for his control and ability to keep runs off the board. Shaw has never had a season with an ERA above 4, a pretty phenomenal accomplishment for a major league reliever. He has been able to obtain that low ERA by inducing a solid number of ground balls. This past season he posted a career-high with a 55.9% ground ball rate and holds a 50.6% rate for his career.
Shaw’s name is linked to the Twins because he is one of the top relievers on the market. Ranked as the 25th best free agent by MLB Trade Rumors and he is projected to fetch in the area of 3 years, $21 million deal. The connection continues as one of Shaw’s former bosses in Derek Falvey now leads the Twins front office.
Knowing Shaw like he does, Falvey may recognize that the Twins already had “Bryan Shaw” on their roster until the trade deadline this past season. When they sent then closer Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals. Since that trade was made it has been no secret that the Twins front office is willing to bring Kintzler back to the Twins for 2018.
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Kintzler is a little older than Shaw at 33, but in seasons in which Kintzler has appeared in at least 50 games, Kintzler has also not had an ERA over 4. Of those years with over 50 appearances, 2014 was his highest ERA at 3.24. Kintzler is also known as a good ground ball inducing pitcher with a career ground ball rate of 57.7%. Looking at those two traits that draw acclaim for Shaw, Kintzler is actually better.
Where Shaw separates from Kintzler is the area of durability and innings workload, but it isn’t likely as far of a spread as one might think. In the past with the Twins, Kintzler has been forced into the role as the team’s closer limiting his usage. The hope in a 2018 Twins bullpen (if Kintzler were signed by the Twins) would be that Kintzler would become a set-up man to a closer the team also signs this offseason. This scenario creates more flexibility for Kintzler’s usage within a game. After hitting 72 games in 2017, it seems Kintzler could easily obtain close to 80 appearances like Shaw has in the past.
Putting Shaw and Kintzler side-by-side it is hard to not wonder if Falvey sees the same similarities between the two as outlined here. That may just be some of the reasons we continue to hear the Twins name associated with a Kintzler signing this offseason.