3. Sign Brandon Kintzler, Tommy Hunter, & Re-sign Matt Belisle
After covering a couple moves the Twins can make to address the starting rotation, it’s only fitting to move on to the bullpen. At the moment, early reports suggest that Minnesota is prioritizing starting pitching over the bullpen and rightfully so. That being said, they could use a couple arms next season. So, for the purposes of move no. 3, just consider it a three-for-one deal.
First off, bringing Brandon Kintzler back seems like a logical move. Minnesota has a vacancy at closer and even though he has a poor strikeout rate, he gets the job done late in games. In the last two seasons, he’s made 46 saves in 55 opportunities, including a career-high 29 in 2017. Of course, that total would have been higher had he not been traded from the Twins to the Washington Nationals prior to the trade deadline.
Given the Twins are unlikely to spend top dollars on free agent closers Wade Davis or Greg Holland, Kintzler will come at a cheaper rate and provides stability in the short-term. Not to mention, he was a great guy in the Twins’ clubhouse, so he’d be welcomed back with open arms.
Another bullpen arm the Twins should make a move for is right-hander Tommy Hunter. In fact, there’s likely interest from general manager Thad Levine, who saw Hunter firsthand when they were both members of the Texas Rangers organization. Compared to other pitchers on the Twins’ staff, Hunter is the definition of a pitcher with great stuff and is coming off a good season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Here’s what Brooks Baseball has to say about Hunter’s pitches:
"Basic description of 2017 pitches compared to other RHP: His cutter is thrown at a speed that’s borderline unfair, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ cutters, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters and has good “rise”. His sinker is blazing fast, has less armside run than typical and has little sinking action compared to a true sinker. His curve is thrown extremely hard, has little depth and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ curves. His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, is blazing fast, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has some added backspin. His slider (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 13 of them in 2017) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ sliders, sweeps across the zone, has exceptional depth and is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ sliders."
With Hunter aboard, Minnesota adds a strikeout pitcher to their bullpen, one that can set up ballgames and even close games if needed.
Finally, re-signing Matt Belisle is likely an inexpensive move that gives the Twins another reliable pitcher in the bullpen. While he struggled mightily prior to the All Star break, he responded with a 1.71 ERA afterward and took over as closer once Kintzler was traded. In that role, he converted nine of 11 save opportunities. In another year with Minnesota, he could settle back into a setup or middle relief role.