The Minnesota Twins claimed the right-hander from the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, giving themselves a low-risk gamble for their bullpen.
The one word that will surround the Minnesota Twins’ offseason plan is pitching. After the pitching staff fell off a cliff toward the end of June and ultimately cost them a deep run in the postseason, the Twins will be on the lookout for any way possible to upgrade their pitching staff both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen.
While the real fun won’t begin until after the World Series when “Hot Stove” season officially kicks off, the Twins have already been in motion, outrighting three players from their 40 man roster earlier this week to open the door for some minor moves in advance of free agency.
One of those spots was filled on Tuesday afternoon when the Twins claimed Matt Wisler off waivers from the Seattle Mariners (via Zone Coverage’s Brandon Warne). On the surface, this looks like a typical Twins offseason move as Wisler struggled between the Mariners and San Diego Padres last season posting a 5.61 ERA in 51 1/3 innings.
Of course, the Twins don’t always look at the traditional stats and a deeper dive on the 27-year old could show why Minnesota wants to take a look at the right-hander during spring training to see if he can help the Twins roster.
Wisler began his career as a seventh-round pick of the San Diego Padres and quickly became one of the game’s top prospects, ranking as high as 34th on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list in 2015. As such, Wisler was involved in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to San Diego in days after the beginning of that season.
Although there were high expectations, Wisler has failed to meet them in his first five seasons in the majors. After going 15-21 with a 4.88 ERA with the Braves as a starter in 2015 and 2016, Atlanta decided to give him an audition in the bullpen which also didn’t go well.
Since then, Wisler has bounced around to four different organizations in the past two years registering a 5.89 ERA in Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, and Seattle.
Where Wisler’s traditional numbers aren’t good, his analytics make him someone that should be very attractive for the Twins. Last season, Wisler’s strikeouts per nine innings rate jumped from 7.2 in 2018 to 11.0 with the Padres and Mariners. In addition, Wisler registered a 37.1% chase rate according to FanGraphs and MLB Trade Rumors’ Steve Adams noted that Wisler’s curveball ranked in the 72nd percentile among MLB pitchers in terms of spin rate.
All of these numbers should be music to pitching coach Wes Johnson’s ears after squeezing the most out of reclamation projects Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Martin Perez before the bottom fell out late in the season.
While nobody is going to forget that the Twins should probably go out and sign three or four starting pitchers this winter, it’s important that the Twins acquire depth and bullpen help as well. Wisler is not a former All-Star, but with what he brings to the table and the low-risk to bring him aboard, there is a chance he could play a bigger role than expected with a strong first impression.