In 2022, as has been the case in several recent seasons, the Twins’ patchwork bullpen was an unmitigated disaster for much of the first half of the season. While his 3.68 bullpen ERA through the end of May looks good and qualifies as mid-pack, the cumulative fWAR of 0.2 in that time was last in all of MLB, and the team had blown six of its 13 save opportunities. up to that point. It was so embarrassing that the front office was answering questions in every interview about reliever trades on the horizon even though the deadline was months away.
We’ve seen this cycle for two years where the team insists they can build a bullpen with little investment. In both 2021 and 2022, they made a single somewhat notable relief addition that they saw as value in Alex Colome and Emilio Pagan, and in both cases it can be argued that there was no other player as destructive to the success of the team as these two in their respective seasons. In both cases, at the end of the season, the Twins had a respectable bullpen. In 2021 it was too late as the Twins were out of contention. In 2022, the Twins were able to hang on despite countless crippling losses along the way.
In 2023, the Twins have a perfect set of circumstances to conclude that this can’t happen for the third year in a row. have lost Carlos Correa Y gio urshela, the Twins will be without two of their top four hitters in wRC+ starting in 2022. Some fans continue to cite better health and bursts of young players to make up for this gap, but all projections disagree. Also consider that while the Twins waited for Correa, nearly every other impact free agent found a home elsewhere. The Twins now have $20-30 million left to spend to get to 2022 levels and have no common players to spend it.
The goal should now be simple: improve any areas of weakness that you can. With a returning bullpen of Duran, Jax, Lopez, Thielbar, etc., the Twins should be in better shape in this regard than they have been in previous seasons. Still, filler arms like trevor megill have a place, and it’s hard to know what to expect from Jorge Alcalá who missed all of 2022 due to elbow problems. There are also several intriguing arms left on the free agent market.
In true Twins fashion, they could take a flyer on a comeback candidate like craig kimberl. Kimbrel blew 5 saves in 2022 and fell off the Dodgers’ postseason roster, but his “off” season still consisted of a 3.75 ERA, more than one strikeout per inning, .60 HR/9, and a 90 fastball. medium. The Twins don’t need Kimbrel to come in and close out despite his preference to do so. He may end up having to take whatever deal he can to restore his value, and the Twins could take advantage of something if someone like Duran stumbles or loses time.
They could also use a second left-handed reliever to pair with Thielbar. They could bet big zack british who has pitched just 19 innings over the past two seasons, but has always been the death of lefties. They might as well bet on the 2022 breakout matt moore whose 1.95 ERA in 74 innings was simply dominant.
Several other situational or raised arms remain, such as a meeting with michael fulmer to compete against heavy right-handed lineups. They could throw money at a time to ease the lockdown trevor rosenthal, corey kneebeleither alex reyes. They should be reasonably 1-2 spots in the bullpen pecking order to take a chance or two like this to try to avoid the early-season meltdowns we’ve seen so many times.
While neither of these arms is safe for bullpen aces, one thing is for sure: The Twins have plenty of money to spend to get to 2022 levels that absolutely should be reached again. They also have little to spend on for the rotation or position player side. Given how much trouble the bullpen has had in recent years, that money would be better spent trying to avoid the early annual catastrophes we’ve grown accustomed to. With how much they’ve lost from the roster, they may not be able to afford it this year.