As the Minnesota Twins begin Spring Training this week, one of the lingering questions from the offseason is what will happen to the bullpen before Opening Day arrives.
While FanGraphs ranks it among the Twins best positional groups, fans will be quick to point out how easily that house of cards can fall down. Last year Minnesota’s bullpen largely struggled, with the standout from the group being Jhoan Duran.
Jorge Lopez imploded after being acquired from Baltimore, Emilio Pagan struggled, and Jorge Alcalá got hurt after just two games and didn’t have the impact many were hoping. All in all, there’s tremendous upside for the Twins bullpen in 2023, and the new starting rotation is projected to do its part by averaging more than five innings per game this season.
Still, adding some help to the bullpen to bolster things isn’t a bad idea and there were some great options on the market Minnesota could have entertained. Even after some of those potential fits were plucked by other teams, the Twins still have veteran options on the market who are looking for an opportunity to bounce back.
Notably, Brad Hand is available and the Twins seem to be at least mildly interested.
According to Darren Wolfson, the Twins have shown an interest in Brad Hand although it’s hard to tell how serious the team is about adding another arm to the bullpen.
“A reliever on the Twins radar, I hear: Chaska high school alum Brad Hand. The 3-time All-Star spent last season with the Phillies. Slider his go-to pitch. Handful of capable relievers left on market,” Wolfson reported.
While it’s great to hear the team is at least looking at potential help for the bullpen, the Twins didn’t seem very interested in getting into the market for Andrew Chafin or Michael Fulmer. Both were relievers who seemed like fits and signed reasonable deals elsewhere. Chafin went to Arizona on a one-year, $6.2M deal while Fulmer signed a one-year, $4M deal with the Cubs.
Hand is the prototypical Twins reclaimation project, as he was one of the best relievers in baseball at the peak of his powers during a four year stretch that began back in 2016. He posted a 2.70 ERA and struck out a third of opponents against a walk rate of 8.1 percent.
Things went south quickly for Hand, though, and he cratered hard with Toronto in 2021, getting lit up for a 7.72 ERA in just 11 games. For what it's worth, Hand posted a 2.80 ERA last season which trended him hard in the right direction away from a 3.90 ERA and 4.58 FIP in 2021.
He’s not quite a lottery ticket, but he feels like the type of down-on-his-luck veteran the Twins like to take chances on. With a bullpen full of upside potential, adding a former All-Star looking to prove he still has what it takes seems like a decent gamble to take.