As the Minnesota Twins prepare to report to Spring Training at Fort Myers, there are a few lingering questions that need to be answered.
Near the top of the list is what the Twins plan on doing with the bullpen this year, and if another arm should be added to the crew. There's a lot to love about the upside of the Twins corps of relievers, but there's a lot of reason for anxiety as well.
Outside of Jhoan Duran, watching Twins relievers was a roller coaster ride last season and one that fans would like to stay off of this year. It's a thin line between re-living the frustrations of last season and guys like Jorge Lopez, Emilio Pagan, and Griffin Jax figuring enough out that they take steps forward in 2023. Jorge Alcala is coming back from injury and could become another young gunslinger the Twins use as they did Duran last year.
But Twins fans have also witnessed the flip side of that coin where nothing goes right and games get away from the team in a hurry. That's why it made sense, at least in theory, for Minnesota to take some. high upside swings on free agent relievers this offseason.
That didn't happen, and it appears yet another reliever might be about to get away.
According to Ken Rosenthal, Zack Britton threw for a handful of clubs this week which seems to indicate he's finally back after missing almost all of last season following Tommy John surgery.
"Teams that scouted free-agent reliever Zack Britton during his throwing session today in Florida, per source: Giants, Angels, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers," Rosenthal reported.
Britton tried to come back early but was removed after his third appearance of the season in lat-September and was sent back to the 60-Day IL effectively ending his tenure in the Bronx.
You'll notice the Twins aren't in that group Rosenthal mentioned, which is both a bummer and extremely telling about where their head is at regarding the bullpen. Minnesota has now passed on as many as three potential fits for its bullpen and it looks like Britton will make a fourth.
Andrew Chafin seemed like a perfect and reliable option to add to the pen, but Minnesota wasn't interested enough to keep him from signing with the Diamondbacks. Michael Fulmer didn't blow anybody away last year, but the Cubs landed him on a $5.5M deal that doesn't feel too rich for the Twins.
Alex Reyes was admittedly an oversight when we put together our list of free agent relievers the Twins should take a gamble on. The Dodgers landed him on a paltry $1.1M incentives-laden deal that Minnesota absolutely should have competed with at that price.
Britton seems to fall into that Reyes category of high upside relievers the Twins aren't being directly linked to but will cause fans to raise an eyebrow when they agree to an affordable deal somewhere else. Sure, there are questions about his elbow but all signs seem to point toward Britton being in a position to bounce back and having the motivation to prove doubters wrong.
That, combined with the type of pitcher he was before the injury, should intrigue the Twins enough to be involved. Britton had a rough 2021 campaign, but even with posting a 5.89 ERA that season, he still has a combined ERA of 2.89 over the last three seasons (not including the three games he pitched last season). Britton also posted a 1.216 WHIP and 3.84 FIP, both of which puts him near the top of the Twins bullpen the second he walks through the gate.
Minnesota seems content on rolling with the pitchers it has, though. The gamble isn't on a free agent reliever but whether or not Alcala can bounce back from injury and the rest of the unit can reverse whatever hex was put on it by the baseball gods last season.