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  • Finding Relief

    When the Twins rose to prominence after the turn of the millennium, dominating the AL Central for nearly a decade, they always relied on a steady bullpen that protected leads.

    During that time, Terry Ryan was extremely adept at plucking overlooked assets from other organizations, which allowed him to build effective relief units on the cheap.

    There are many examples.

    Matt Guerrier was a nondescript Pirates farmhand when the Twins grabbed him off waivers in 2003. Dennys Reyes was released by the Padres midway through '05 before Ryan signed him and watched him blossom into an elite lefty specialist. Joe Nathan was a failed starter and then a setup man with the Giants; with the Twins, he instantly became a top closer in the game.

    This was a hallmark of Ryan's first stint at the helm. Whether it was more on him or the scouts he had in place, his regime showed a remarkable ability to capture underutilized arms and get the most out of them. That's a great way to build bullpens, because spending big money on relievers is dangerous given the volatility quotient.

    Somewhere along the line, the Twins started failing in this department. Most of the discarded arms from other organizations that they've taken flyers on have been baffling at first and ultimately just frustrating. When you look at predictable wash-outs like Dusty Hughes, Jim Gray, Jim Hoey and Matt Maloney, it's difficult to figure out just what the thought process was. These were all older players with relatively bad track records who showed little in their time with the Twins but still got extended opportunities, sometimes over deserving internal candidates.

    The Twins hit big on Jared Burton, who is the resounding success story for this strategy over the past several years, but he was more of an injury gamble than a talent gamble, having previously established himself as a standout setup man in the National League.


    When you look at the crop of guys brought in to compete for spots this year, you see more of those talent gambles and it's difficult to have faith given the trends we've seen recently.

    There's Tim Wood, a minor-league signee who pitched well in Triple-A last year… as a 29-year-old. Wood's career numbers are mediocre and he's been brutal during limited time in the majors. But – like Hoey and Gray – he does throw hard.

    Then you've got Josh Roenicke, a rubber-armed righty claimed off waivers from the Rockies in November. Roenicke made 63 appearances for Colorado last year, logging almost 90 innings and posting a shiny 3.25 ERA, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio was ugly at 54/43. Like Wood, he's a 30-year-old without much meaningful success in his track record.

    Also in the fold is Ryan Pressly, the Rule 5 pick out of the Red Sox organization. A former 11th-round draft pick, he failed to gain traction in pro ball as a starter so last year he switched to the bullpen and had a nice run in Double-A last year as a reliever. He then impressed in the Arizona Fall League, which apparently helped draw the Twins to him.

    Pressly is only 24 and just transitioned to a new role, so it's easy to see the upside with him compared to Wood and Roenicke. Still, he has proven very little up to this point and his status as a Rule 5 pick adds a wrinkle: the Twins would need to keep him on the roster all season long or return him to Boston, barring a trade.

    Will one of these three get a shot? Personally I'd rather see the opportunity go to a player from within the organization, like Anthony Slama or Deolis Guerra or Tyler Robertson. Considering their typical attitude you'd think the Twins would agree.

    Nevertheless, I think there's a good chance we see the team gamble on one of the arms brought in from outside. That approach has been a boon for them in the past, but troubling recent decisions make it tougher to believe that the Twins are gambling on the right guys.
    This article was originally published in blog: Finding Relief started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      Maybe the twins could trade Blackburn to the Red sox to keep Pressly around??? Seems like a win even if Pressly doesnt pan out.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Quote Originally Posted by tjsyam921 View Post
      Maybe the twins could trade Blackburn to the Red sox to keep Pressly around??? Seems like a win even if Pressly doesnt pan out.
      Great idea. I am hoping Pressly makes the team straight up. He is a better upside option than Swarzak or Burnett. Wood and Roenicke are flyers, who would probably clear waviers if they do not make the club. Just do not like either Swarzak or Burnett. Maybe Peridomo could make this role also. Clear out the pitch to contact pitchers that have trouble hitting their spots.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      It is a pattern, though, ignoring long term results, either positive or negative in favor of something......I'd rather they keep the 24 year old, and cut any reliever that isn't Burton or Perkins or Duensing that is over 29.....if you are going to build, build.
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      I'm pretty sure the Red Sox wouldn't take Blackburn if he was free.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Twins still and will control all those guys you mentioned, Robertson, Slama, Guerra, Burnett. Except for adding to the arbitration clock ... I would gamble minor leaguing them as long as you can with an idea for 201 or 2015. The Twins can still add both uerra and Slama back onto the 40-man roster AFTER the season if they expect them to contribute in 2014. I would gamble mroe on the vets and Pressly, unless you desparately need the roster spot. As I mentioned in another post, one could become another Burton, and then the Twins are tasked with keeping longterm, or maybe using as tradebait (would the Twins have been better served for the now flipping Burton last July for some future part, or keeping him to back up Perkins). Hell, if you look at the bigger picture, the Twins could've possibly signed back Capps, Rauch and Hawkins ALL for under $4 million, if they just needed bullpen arms. Secondary middle relief and extra arms in the bullpen are not hard to find, if you need it. And if Twins starters pitch like hey did last year, does it matter if the bullpen really adds to the score if you are losing the game already anyways.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Pressly is interesting to me; I'd rather he get a chance on the roster than a retread arm with little upside or future.

      But this article is dead on regarding bullpen construction. It can and should be done on the cheap, especially with teams still overvaluing and overpaying the closer role.

      A good and deep bullpen can really help a young starting rotation see some success, but doing it cheaply with young pitchers lets a team better spend its resources on other things.
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      I dunno. Jared Burton was Ryan's first pick-up off the scrap heap that has worked out well for the Twins. I think there's a good chance that one of the pitchers that have been signed, from Rafael Perez to Rich Harden to Josh Roenicke, wins a job out of Spring Training for doing a great job. I guess we will see who it is.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by J-Dog Dungan View Post
      I dunno. Jared Burton was Ryan's first pick-up off the scrap heap that has worked out well for the Twins. I think there's a good chance that one of the pitchers that have been signed, from Rafael Perez to Rich Harden to Josh Roenicke, wins a job out of Spring Training for doing a great job. I guess we will see who it is.
      To me, Perez and Harden are in a different class from Roenicke and the other guys I mentioned. They are injury flyers with histories of dominating. To me, that's a better form of gamble. You get them into spring training and see if they're healthy. If so, maybe you get Jared Burton. If not, maybe you get Joel Zumaya -- nothing's really hurt. What's frustrating is watching the Twins run out the string with a bunch of aging minor-league journeymen carrying hittable stuff and no real upside. I don't see what purpose it serves.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      To me, Perez and Harden are in a different class from Roenicke and the other guys I mentioned. They are injury flyers with histories of dominating. To me, that's a better form of gamble. You get them into spring training and see if they're healthy. If so, maybe you get Jared Burton. If not, maybe you get Joel Zumaya -- nothing's really hurt. What's frustrating is watching the Twins run out the string with a bunch of aging minor-league journeymen carrying hittable stuff and no real upside. I don't see what purpose it serves.
      Amen brother.
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