Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
I’ve been asked several times why they Twins aren’t bringing in a reliable, affordable, veteran right-handed reliever. The suggestion that they don’t have the money when there are so many available for peanuts seems crazy. The suggestion that they already have enough options in the organization might be even crazier.
Right now, the bullpen looks like this:
Closer – Matt Capps
LH Setup – Glen Perkins
RH Setup – Joel Zumaya
LH Reliever – Brian Duensing
Other - Anthony Swarzak and Alex Burnett
That essentially leaves one spot open or two spots if you assume that Zumaya gets hurt, which seems like a pretty safe bet. The right-handed options fall into a couple of categories:
Been There. Done That.
These are the guys we’ve seen before or have been in the organization for a while, so we know their upside, which is limited. I’d put Swarzak (2011 - 55K/102IP) and Burnett (2011 - 33K/50.2IP) in this category, but you can add Jeff Manship (career - 44K/66IP) and Kyle Waldrop (2011 – 44k/79IP in AAA) and Carlos Gutierrez.
I’ll add one more: Jeff Gray, a groundballish reliever who was picked up on waivers this offseason. Last year between the White Sox and the Mariners, he threw 48.1 inning and had just 23 strikeouts - and almost as many walks. He’s been a little bit better than that in previous years, but just a little.
Closest Thing To A Relief Prospect
Carlos Gutierrez still hasn’t found his way into the majors and even in Rochester last year he wasn’t trusted to close any games. Plus, he’s 25 years old. But at least he showed the ability to strike some guys out last year, wiffing 57 in 62.1 innings. He hasn’t really shown that much his other years in the majors (just 228 K in 321 IP) and he struggled with his control last year, too.
I suppose for the sake of completeness, I could add Deolis Guerra here, too. The 22-year-old was moved to the bullpen and put up some heady numbers, but he did so in AA. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Twins found an arm they liked and had it skip AAA.
Hit The Bull
The Twins picked up a couple of Nuke Lalooshes at the end of last season (and lost a third when they exposed Jim Hoey to waivers). You probably remember Lester Oliveros who the Twins got from the Tigers for Delmon Young. They also picked up Esmerling Vasquez off waivers very late last season. Both are as likely to walk a guy as strike him out. But if either figures things out, they could be more than just bullpen filler.
Zumaya’s New Friend
To keep Zumaya company on the DL, they also brought in Jared Burton on a minor league deal. Burton dealt with a shoulder issue all year last year and a hypothyroid condition that cost him almost all of 2010. But from 2007 through 2009 he was a pretty good closer, or at least a legitimate power arm that occasionally struggled with his control. If the Twins vaunted medical staff can just keep him healthy…. (crickets, crickets, crickets)….
Yes, there are options. And there are plenty of guys to whom a team could trust the 24th or 25th spot on the roster. But pitchers that can be considered reliable and dominating enough to play a significant late-inning role are awfully scarce.