Closer Glen Perkins is now a free agent after the Twins announced Wednesday that they declined to pick up his 2018 option for $6.5 million.
It could signal the end of Perkins’ playing career, if he chooses not to hook on with another club and the Twins decide to head in another direction.
The move itself is not surprising, given that Perkins is coming off two injury-plagued seasons. That includes a 2017 campaign during which he spent most of the year rehabilitating following labrum repair surgery and appeared in only eight late-season games, going 0-0 with a 9.53 ERA. Because of the shoulder problems — he had to have the labrum reattached to the bone during surgery June 23, 2016 — Perkins appeared in only 10 games over the past two seasons.
And Perkins wasn’t his flame-throwing finest when he returned. His average fastball was 90.3 miles per hour — more than 4 mph slower than it was when he was most effective. And his slider was not as sharp. There was no time for the Twins to let Perkins pitch his way into form, given that they were in the hunt for a wild-card spot until the final days of the regular season.
The club even called up lefthander Gabriel Moya from Class AA Chattanooga in September, which limited Perkins’ opportunities even more.
Perkins, 34, made just four appearances for the Twins in September, including an emotional outing Sept. 30 against the Tigers. It was difficult for Perkins to maintain his composure as he walked off the field after getting Andrew Romine to pop up for what might have been the final out of his career. Then tears welled in his eyes again as he faced reporters following the game.
“I didn’t think it was going to be like this,” Perkins said after the game, “but you just never know.”
The Twins could bring him back next season for less money, but the club could go in another direction as it looks for upgrades following an unexpectedly successful season. While Perkins has indicated that he is open to returning for a lower salary, the Twins have made no indications that they are interested in that. Instead of paying him $6.5 million next season, the Twins will pay Perkins a $700,000 buyout.
If the Twins don’t bring him back to camp, Perkins will be faced with a big decision: Look to hook on with another team to stop playing after 14 seasons with the only organization he’s been with.
Perkins starred at Stillwater High, was drafted by the Twins out of out of the University of Minnesota in 2004 and reached the majors two years later. He was a starting pitching prospect who ended up in the bullpen by 2011. In 2013, he was named to the first of three straight All-Star teams. In 2014, he picked up the save for the American League in the Midsummer Classic — which was played at Target Field. He would have gotten the save in the 2015 game in Cincinnati, but Brian Dozier’s homer in the top of the ninth made it a non-save situation.
Later that season, Perkins needed two cortisone shots in his neck and had following that went down because of back spasms. When he returned, manager Paul Molitor stuck with Kevin Jepsen as closer, and Perkins became frustrated about his role. He even jammed the ball in Molitor’s hand when he came out to remove him from a late September game. Both agreed they could have handled things differently.
But it was Molitor last month who made a point of making sure Perkins appeared in at least one more game at Target Field during the final week of the season.
“I appreciate what he did,” Perkins said through tears following the game. “It’s a cool moment, and if that’s it, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Minor league awards
Catcher Mitch Garver and righthander Aaron Slegers were named the Twins minor league player and pitcher of the year.
Garver batted .291 with 17 home runs and 45 RBI in 88 games with Class AAA Rochester before being called up to the majors, where he batted .196 in 23 games.
Slegers was 15-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 24 starts with Rochester and 0-1, 6.46 with the Twins.
Both will be honored at the Diamond Awards on Jan. 18.