NASHVILLE – The Twins shopping list at this week’s winter meetings isn’t lengthy. They need a lefthanded reliever, and the week would be considered a success if they trade for or sign one.
“This is a unique winter meetings for us because we are not branched out too deep,” Ryan said. “We know what we kind of want, who we are talking to and who fits.”
It’s only one move, but it’s a move that can come back to bite them — over and over again — if they don’t get it right. Their bullpen has the makings of a solid unit, and another piece or two could make it a strength.
In Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen and Casey Fien, the Twins believe they have things covered when it’s time to close games.
“We’re not in a desperate situation here that we have to have a certain guy to plug into the eighth,” 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.”
He prefers to add a lefthander, and the top end of that group includes Tony Sipp and Antonio Bastardo. Then there’s the crafty group of lefties, such as Neal Cotts, who is interested in returning to the Twins after being dealt to Minnesota in August.
“I like his experience,” Ryan said of Cotts, 35. “He’s got enough arm. He’s got enough stuff. He’s not going to run scared. He’s got presence. He was comfortable in our organization and ballpark.”
But Sipp and Bastardo are coming off strong seasons and would be tough to deal with in late-inning situations. Are the Twins willing to pay $5 million to $6 million a year to sign one of them?
Ryan is right in that bullpen has the makings of a decent unit. Jepsen posted a 1.61 ERA with 10 saves and 25 strikeouts in 28 innings after being traded to the Twins at the July 31 nonwaiver deadline. His hits per nine innings (5.8), home run rate (0.3) and walk rate (2.3) were all career bests.
Perkins made the AL All-Star team for the third consecutive season.
But it will be a risk to not to add another quality 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 past two seasons. Fien spent part of last season on the disabled list. Manager Paul Molitor had to move Trevor May into the bullpen when games began to get out of hand.
May is being asked to come to camp as a starter, with the possibility of moving to the bullpen if needed. With Blaine Boyer and Brian Duensing not expected back, there’s room for upgrades.
“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.”
The Twins have several hard-throwing relief prospects in the minors who could be ready during the season. But one who throws in the low-90’s — lefthander Taylor Rogers — will get a chance to make the team during spring training after being a starter for most of his minor league career.
“We’re going to give him every consideration in that pen,” Ryan said of Rogers, 11-12 with a 3.98 ERA at Rochester last season. “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.”
The Twins could sit back and wait for their farm system to contribute, but they want to bring in another quality reliever.
“There are some people that we don’t just have a passing interest in but a severe interest,” Ryan said. “And we’re trying to work some of that.
“We might do something here. I don’t know. I have some interest in doing something here.’’