Minnesota Twins: Reflecting on a series of good bullpen signings

The Minnesota Twins have often been labeled as “cheap.” While their signings this offseason may qualify as that, it shouldn’t be in a negative sense.

The Minnesota Twins at this time about a week ago were finalizing a deal with one of the top free agent relievers available this offseason, Addison Reed. Reed became the most recent in three moves the Twins have made to bolster and remake their bullpen going into 2018. After a week to reflect on the Reed signing, what has happened with the Twins bullpen looks brilliant.

The Contracts

The brilliance of adding Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, and Reed to the Twins bullpen starts with the contracts handed out. The Twins as an organization have constantly been blamed for being cheap just for the sake of being cheap. In a reliever market that continues to explode, the Twins front office found excellent value in each of these contracts.

  • Fernando Rodney- 1 year, $4.5 million
  • Zach Duke- 1 year, $2.15 million
  • Addison Reed- 2 years, 16.75 million

When you think about that in comparison to another active team on the reliever market, the Colorado Rockies, the Twins accomplished something very similar in their moves at a much smaller commitment. As the Rockies signed Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw they have committed $106 million to their bullpen. For just his season they are committing over $17 million to Davis alone when the Twins are committed to just over $15 million for all three of their signings in 2018.

Not only money wise did the Twins wind up with a better deal than the Rockies. The Twins also may have flat out ended up with a better trio of pitchers at least according to one measurement, WAR. Over the past two seasons the trio from the Rockies have accumulated 7.5 WAR. The Twins trio on the other hand 8.9 WAR.

Their Roles

Functionally, the Twins new relievers should fit together well. Reed comes to the Twins with experience pitching in late inning roles and becomes the Twins best reliever immediately. He also has proven to have the durability to log a high volume of innings as he has logged 76.0 and 77.2 the past two seasons. This seems to line Reed up well to be used in the highest leverage positions no matter when they occur within a game, much like the Indians have used Andrew Miller over the years.

This leaves the Twins able to keep their promise to Rodney that he will be the closer. The Twins are one team that has proven that not every “successful closer” needs to be the caliber of pitcher of a Wade Davis. Just see what they have done with Kevin Jepsen, Brandon Kintzler, and Matt Belisle. Not to take away from those three as they each did well for the Twins in many ways, but they are not your traditional closer and Rodney’s skills make him a huge upgrade as a closer compared to them.

Rodney has his own warts and creates some drama in those late innings to help make fans uncomfortable, but as he stares his 41st birthday in the face he continues to be effective on the mound. For the past three seasons Rodney has been able to average striking out more than ten batters per nine innings. Rodney also continues to be able to throw the ball hard at 95 mph and higher helping to make his offspeed pitches in the mid to low 80’s that much more effective. If the Twins were able to make the trio above look good as closers, the hope would be that helping Rodney look good would be an easy task.

Lastly, Duke slots in as the last quality lefty the Twins were in need of alongside Taylor Rogers this past season. Duke will definitely be able to be used as a left specialist, but like Rogers did in 2017, Duke should also be good enough against righties to be able to extend some of his relief appearances past a single left handed batter.

The Depth Chart

Currently the Twins bullpen could look something like this Opening Day:

Also in consideration (for one of those seven or even an eighth bullpen spot) are Alan Busenitz, Gabriel Moya, John Curtiss, and J.T. Chargois. As good as Busenitz was in the second half of 2017 it speaks volumes to the depth the Twins have added with these three signings that Busenitz truly appears to have a fight ahead of him to make the Opening Day roster.

A step further down is a group of guys the Twins could also look to this season in Tyler Jay, Jake Reed, and there is even word surfacing that Fernando Romero could potentially work as a reliever in 2018. In offseasons of the past, the Twins would likely be relying on this group to fill some of those top 7 reliever spots listed earlier. Instead the Twins have already filled those positions and now get to bring these three and likely others along at the right time. These signings have created depth for if the team ends up with a series of reliever injuries, poor performances, or maybe one absolutely breaks out with an incredible performance before they are need in the major league pen.

That strength in “pushing down” these players applies further up the depth chart as well. Hildenberger, who was the Twins best reliever down the stretch of 2017 will now be utilized earlier in games. The same can be said for Rogers and Pressly. If we remember Rogers and Hildenberger were the Twins 8th inning options in 2017 and they now become the 6th and 7th inning options.

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This offseason has been dreadfully slow, but the moves the Twins have made in the bullpen and even with the signing of Michael Pineda creates something to celebrate. With news coming out of Twinsfest this weekend that the Twins do not have any financial ceiling to hold them back from more signings, it makes one wonder if their is still one more splash signing out there for the Twins. No matter what, the bullpen should be greatly improved from 2017 after some savy signings from the Twins front office.