In Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen and Casey Fien, the Twins feel they have the last couple of innings covered when it's time to close out games.
``We're not in a desparate situation here that we have to have a certan guy to plug into the eighth,'' Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. ``We've got a guy. And we've got a guy for the seventh. We've got some things in place. But that's not to say we're aren't going to try to come out of here with something to try to top it off as well.''
Ryan spent Monday talking with teams and agents - more agents than teams - about potential deals at the annual winter meetings. He's looking for pieces to add to the bullpen, but we just aren't sure what cailber of reliever he's looking for.
Good relievers remain available. Righthander Shawn Kelley was someone they have sniffed around this offseason, but the market for his services has expanded. The Nationals appear willing to move former closer Drew Storen, but would the Twins trade away pieces for someone who would be perhaps the third choice to close? And they need a lefthanded reliever in the worst way. They have expressed interest in bringing back Neal Cotts, and Cotts is open to coming back.
``I like his experience,'' Ryan said. ``He's got enough arm. He's got enough stuff. He's not goiing to run scared. He's got presence. He was comfortable in our organization and ballpark.''
But Tony Sipp and Antonio Bastardo are coming off of strong seasons and would tough to deal with in late-inning situations. Are the Twins willing to pay $5-6 million a year to sign one of them? They really need a lefthanded reliever.
``I would say we're leaning toward that side,'' Ryan said, ``but we're not going to run away from a good righty.''
Ryan is right in that bullpen has the makings of a decent unit, mostly because Jepsen posted a 1.61 ERA with 10 saves after being traded to the Twins at the July 31 non-waiver deadline. In 17 games with the Twins, he posted a 2.53 ERA that is lower than any other stop during his career. His hits per nine innings, home run rate and walk rate were all career bests. His ERA+ was a ridiculous 261. His 1.3 WAR with the Twins matched his career best WAR in 2014 with the Angels.He lived large.
But it will be a huge risk to not to add another power arm to the group.
The Twins bullpen posted a 3.95 ERA that was 21st in the league last season. It struck out the fewest batters in baseball. Perkins has been injured in each of the last two seasons. Fien spent part of last season on the disabled list. When times got tough and arms were worn out, J.R. Graham and A.J. Achter had to pitch in major jams that ended horribly. Manager Paul Molitor had to move Trevor May into the bullpen to settle things down, and trading for Jepsen was big.
Now May is being asked to come to camp as a starter, with the possibility of moving to the bullpen if needed. Ryan still considers May a bullpen piece as well, but he can't have it both ways. If May makes the rotation, the Twins really could use another arm in the bullpen. With Blaine Boyer and Brian Duensing not expected back, there's room for new - and hopefully nastier - blood.
``The bullpen has a chance to potentially take on a little bit different look,'' Molitor said. ``A couple people that were there, the majority of last year, probably will not be. Duensing is a free agent. Boyer is a free agent. We're going to have to find ways to try to put those pieces together.''
Current bullpen construction models point toward blowing people away after the sixth inning. Call it The Royal Way, since Kansas City just kept throwing power arm after power arm in the late innings. Other teams appear to be working on a similar setup. Boston has added Carson Smith and Craig Kimbrel to a bullpen that also has Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. The Yankees currently have Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller anchoring a powerful bullpen. The Royals lost Ryan Madson to Oakland as a free agent and Greg Holland will miss the season because of injury but the club signed Joakim Soria to fill the hole. Soria's deal does include provisions in case he becomes a starter.
Make it a six inning game.
The Twins do have help coming. Nick Burdi, Jake Reed and J.T. Chargois all are hard throwing righthanders. Burdi, named to the Arizona Fall League all-prospect team on Monday, hit 100 miles an hour several times during games and showed a legit wipeout slider. Chargois and Reed both throw over 95.
``We've got some guys who can run it up there pretty good,'' Ryan said.
From the left side, Mason Melotakis is coming back from missing 2015 because of Tommy John surgery and can hit 95-96 mph with his heater. Ryan added another lefty into the mix in Taylor Rogers, who has started most of his career in the minors but will be given a chance to make the bullpen out of spring training.
``We're gonig to give him every consideration in that pen,'' Ryan said of Rogers. ``I don't know how it is going to play out, but we have interest in seeing if he can make this club from the left side.''
Keep in mind that most of these pitchers have not pitched above Class AA.
The bullpen future looks bright, and some of those arms could debut this season. But will the Twins sit back and wait for their farm system to contribute, or bring in another quality reliever to start the season with?
One team official I spoke with last night believes the stuff some of their relief prospects throw is better than the stuff many of their current relievers have - and is better than some of the pitchers they are looking to add.
It's a reason why they say they don't need to be desperate. But it's a decision that could bite them - over and over again - if they choose the wrong path.
Scheduling: The Twins will meet with more agents and teams today as they continue to look for relief help. Ryan also is interested in bringing in a capable fourth outfielder. I might disappear around midday because of the annual BBWAA meeting.