The Minnesota Twins missed out on some of the top free agent starters of the offseason and it may be time to turn their attention to “bullpenning.”
The Minnesota Twins need to add a frontline starter this offseason, right? The team definitely could use a starter to either lead or co-lead the rotation with Jose Berrios, but that may not be the best direction for the Twins to head with the Winter Meetings beginning this next week.
I had started to ponder the idea I am about to lay out here earlier this week as I thought out loud on Twitter. Now I also know that I am not the first person by any means to think of this as a possibility for the Twins. My former colleague here at Puckett’s Pond, Benjamin Chase, is just one of probably many who has. What this post does signal is a complete shift in how I originally thought the Twins should approach this offseason.
The signings of Jonathan Schoop and Ronald Torreyes on salary saving deals paired with the current state of the free agent market has only affirmed this could or should be a reality for the Twins. It is time for the Twins to prepare to be a major league team that is “bullpenning” or stacking regularly.
The free agent market has already said good-bye to Patrick Corbin who signed with the Washington Nationals and it wasn’t as if the top starting asset on the market didn’t have his own flaws. Nathan Eovaldi is also headed back to the Boston Red Sox. The top pitchers remaining on the free agent market are guys like Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ who would also add to the Twins rotation, but at what cost?
The Twins still have a lot of question marks heading into the season that need to be answered for them to be contenders. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano need to get back on track. Eddie Rosario needs to continue to be first half Eddie and Max Kepler finding his bat will go a long way in helping. Did the Twins make the right signings for their middle infield? Do the Twins have a true closer or “fireman” reliever?
After watching the Brewers succeed with an average at best rotation last season it may make sense for the Twins to do something similar until they have some more answers. The Twins do not have Josh Hader which makes bullpenning a bit more difficult in its truest sense. The Twins do have a lot of young and unproven starters that could be used creatively in either a stack or opener type strategy. And doing so will give the team time to answer some of the big questions before committing big money or years to any player from outside the organization.
With the infield filled out in cost-effective ways, the Twins can also go out and grab some of the high-end free agent relievers available. David Robertson likely isn’t coming to the midwest, but that still leaves Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, Joe Kelly, and Kelvin Herrera as potential bullpen arms the Twins could add. These contracts would eat up less payroll money and come at a shorter length. Something that becomes valuable if a pivot in strategy is needed or a trade deadline contract added.
In a plan like this Berrios and Kyle Gibson are the two starters on this roster that can be relied on to make traditional starts. Jake Odorizzi could certainly benefit being paired with another pitcher to shorten his starts and increase his effectiveness.
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Adalberto Mejia seems like the perfect pitcher to come in and be “stacked” with another starter. Mejia has struggled with injury and could benefit from a shorter length to his appearances. Then there is the mix of Michael Pineda, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart and bullpen arms like Gabriel Moya and Trevor May that all can be part of this mix.
This approach will certainly make it feel like the Twins have too many pitchers, but that is very OK. Personally, Familia and Britton are my top choices and then I would like to see how both Gonsalves and Romero can get in the mix if they aren’t trade chips for another piece of the roster. The goal of this approach is to get the best major league pitchers on the mound for meaningful pitches.
It is the type of approach new Twins manager Rocco Baldelli would likely be comfortable moving forward with as well. He wouldn’t need a big sales pitch coming out of the Tampa Bay Rays organization that was the team that made the “opener” popular last season. It was also a strategy the Twins already experimented with down the stretch last season and had success with it many times as well.
Is this a bonafide World Series formula? No, at least not yet and maybe not at all. What it does do is gives the Twins an opportunity to have some competitive pitching while figuring out who are the long-term assets on the roster before committing long-term money to a starter or other potential free agent additions. Then if the results are good, the Twins have assets to go get additional pieces such as a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.