Bullpen help should be top priority for the Twins

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 15: Pat Neshek /

With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, the Minnesota Twins need to prioritize a trade for a reliever over anything else.

The Minnesota Twins are in a position no one else expected at this point in the season. They currently sit at 47-46, only trailing the Cleveland Indians by 2.5 games in the weak American League Central division. Considering they are in the thick of the playoff race, you’d assume the Twins would be buyers at the trade deadline in an attempt to get the club into their first playoff appearance since 2010.

Well, rumor is that they are buyers, but a special sort of one. A “measured buyer,” according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

"The Minnesota Twins have told other clubs in so many terms that they will be measured buyers — in other words, they won’t rip up major parts of their farm system to trade for big names, but they would like to add some help in their pursuit of a wild-card spot."

Olney’s report suggests that the Twins aren’t looking to buy big at the deadline regardless of where they are in the standings. This makes sense as the team has many holes to fill in order to conquer teams like the Houston Astros.

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  • Even so, I’ve seen crazier things happens in sports. All it takes is for a team to get in the playoffs and anything can happen.  Yes, the Twins’ pitching situation makes the chances of a World Series seem bleak. But, even the 2015 Kansas City Royals won the World Series with a starting rotation that ranked 22nd in ERA. Compare that to this year’s Twins, whose starting rotation ranks 24th, and that’s not far off from the 2015 Royals.

    Yet, the huge difference between the World Series champion Royals and this year’s Twins is the bullpen. Back in 2015, the Royals had a top notch bullpen that consisted of set-up relievers Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson with Wade Davis closing. Herrera and Madson had ERAs in the low 2.00s, while Davis posted an insane 0.94 ERA and 17 saves. They helped the Royals’ bullpen to rank second in ERA (2.74) and wins probability added (10.36).

    The Twins’ bullpen isn’t on that level at all. They rank 26th in ERA and only have a respectable 1.58 wins probability added because of Brandon Kintzler and Taylor Rogers. Other than Kintzler and Rogers, Twins relievers have been dismal. Just take a look at this tweet from Aaron Gleeman:

    Of course, that is not going to cut it if the Twins plan on making the playoffs, let alone win in the playoffs. So, the Twins need to make a move for a reliever or two, which should be their main goal as the trade deadline approaches.

    Making a trade for a bullpen arm is perfect for what the Twins want to do because it won’t require the team to give up top prospects. At the same time, acquiring bullpen help shows the team that management is on board with helping them make the playoffs. They also keep long-term interest in mind.

    The other big need for the Twins is starting pitching. The problem is that the price for starting pitchers is at a premium. Jose Quintana was the most recent starting pitcher traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Chicago Cubs. In that trade, the White Sox netted the no. 5 prospect in baseball, a high-end pitching prospect, and two other minor leaguers. Quintana is under team control for a couple more seasons, so that undoubtedly made the price higher.

    While the Twins are in need of starting pitching, giving up top prospects doesn’t seem to interest Twins management. While acquiring controlled assets makes the price higher, even a rental starting pitcher likely comes with a large cost. On the other hand, relief pitchers are usually priced at a mid-level prospect or two. That’s much more reasonable for a team like the Twins.

    One name that comes to mind is former Twin Pat Neshek, who made it to his second All-Star game with the Philadelphia Phillies and is on the trading block. He could be used in a set-up role with Rogers to help pave the way for Kintzler in the 9th. He also will come at a reasonable price given his expiring contract.

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    A big reason the Royals were so successful in 2014 and 2015 was that their starting pitchers could pitch five or six innings. Then, they’d give way to their strong trio of bullpen arms. If the Twins make the playoffs, the Twins could afford going to their bullpen early with a trio of Neshek, Rogers and Kintzler. With off days between playoff games, Minnesota would have more flexibility to rely on that trio of arms.

    Essentially, adding a capable set-up man helps a below-average starting rotation. Now, if a starting pitcher’s price comes down, look for the Twins to jump in and make a deal. In the meantime, prioritizing the bullpen is best for the short and long term health of the team.

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