RHP Trevor Hildenberger, RHP Brandon Kintzler
Admittedly, I’ve considered Brandon Kintzler as the most realistic closing candidate for Minnesota. Ultimately, he is going to come at a reasonable rate and has proven that he can get the job done in the role. Before being traded away to the Washington Nationals, Kintzler converted on 28 of 32 save opportunities and made his first All-Star game as a result. So, clearly, he’s able to fill the gap if need be.
That being said, there’s a legitimate argument that he is more of a setup man and in reality, that’s probably true. Basically, Kintzler just isn’t your prototypical closer that puts fear into opposing lineups. He simply doesn’t have the kind of presence on the mound that closers Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrell or Aroldis Chapman do. While he’s by no means a slouch, he doesn’t boast dominant stuff compared to the game’s elite and is among the worst strikeout pitchers in the league, only throwing 39 strikeouts in 71.1 innings last season. In turn, Minnesota should look elsewhere for their closer. Ideally, someone they can rely on for the long-term with the kind of stuff that batters have an extremely tough time hitting.
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Now, that doesn’t mean the Twins should forget about Kintzler. In reality, he’s still an above average reliever and is an excellent setup man for any team. This was the role he served in with the Nationals and he performed quite well, posting a 4-3 record, 10 holds and a 3.46 ERA in 27 games. So, given there’s mutual interest between Kintzler and the Twins, there’s a good chance both parties can strike a deal. Not to mention, the move would be extremely popular in the Twins clubhouse and fan base. As a result, signing Kintzler seems more like a matter of when than if.
In addition to Kintzler, Trevor Hildenberger is a good bet to be another featured arm late in games. In 37 games last season, he went 3-3 with a 3.21 ERA. He also put up 44 strikeouts in 42 innings, along with 12 holds in the final two months of the season. Clearly, Paul Molitor went his way plenty down the stretch and the 26-year-old largely delivered. In the end, he could end up playing a role similar to Andrew Miller with the Indians. A role that requires coming into big moments of a game and delivering however many innings it takes to bridge the gap to the closer.