Twins get prospect Watson from Nats for Kintzler

Minnesota likely to tab southpaw Rogers as new closer

July 31st, 2017
Tyler Watson has posted a 4.35 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 24 walks with Class A Hagerstown this season.

SAN DIEGO -- The Twins made a move shortly before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring prospect Tyler Watson and $500,000 in international bonus pool money from the Nationals for closer .

The Twins, who became sellers after trading lefty to the Yankees early Sunday, just six days after acquiring him from the Braves, added much-needed pitching depth to their organization for Kintzler, who is set to be a free agent after the season.

"You have to think about the long-term value of the club," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "Brandon is one of the best stories in baseball, making his way to the All-Star Game after injuries and otherwise. He's a quality person and we knew there would be interest in him at the Deadline. We fielded a number of calls, and after Washington made the call and offered something above the bar in our minds, we thought it was a value important to the long-term building of this club."

Watson, who is ranked as Minnesota's No. 18 overall prospect by, has posted a 4.35 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 24 walks in 93 innings with Class A Hagerstown. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound lefty has a career 3.40 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 164 1/3 innings since getting taken by the Nationals in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. The 20-year-old is expected to report to Class A Cedar Rapids.

"There were two pieces to this deal to put it over the top," Falvey said. "Tyler is a young left-handed starter we feel is just scratching the surface of who he can be. Taller pitchers can take a little longer to develop, but we feel there's more in the tank. And we were able to acquire some cap space, the ability to add flexibility to our international pool, and there's real value in that."

With Kintzler gone, the Twins are likely to turn to lefty as closer in the short-term. He has struggled recently, but he has a 3.79 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. Rogers leads the Majors with 24 holds.

Kintzler, who turns 33 on Tuesday, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career in 2017, posting a 2.78 ERA with 28 saves. He's struck out 27 in 45 1/3 innings, but he makes up for it with his elite ground-ball rate. Kintzler was originally signed by the Twins as a Minor League free agent before the 2016 season, but he became closer last season after ' shoulder surgery.

The D-backs, Rockies and Rays also reportedly had interest in Kintzler, who is making $2.93 million in his final year of arbitration. It's the second straight year they've traded an unlikely first-time All-Star, as they sent infielder to the Giants last year for lefty .

Right-hander and second baseman also received interest from other clubs leading up to the Trade Deadline, but both are under contract through next season, and the Twins were looking for strong returns. Santana and Dozier are considered clubhouse leaders, and trading either one of them would've been an unpopular move among teammates.

"There was certainly interest in [Dozier and Santana], but also for a number of players on our club, which isn't atypical," Falvey said. "But we valued that additional control for some of these guys. We view them as part of our team here."

The Twins were pressed into being sellers after losing seven of nine, while the Indians and Royals have been red hot. Minnesota entered Monday trailing Cleveland by seven games in the AL Central and five games back of Kansas City for the second AL Wild Card spot.

"It's always tough," Falvey said. "The reality is that each week is a set of data points and a measuring stick of where you are. We've fallen further back in the division than we'd like. I don't believe in marking yourself as a buyer or seller, because there are opportunities to buy and sell at the Deadline. But we had to make decisions today based more on the medium-term and long-term than short-term."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

With 28 saves in 32 chances with the Twins this season, Kintzler has proven that he can handle ninth-inning duties. However, the right-hander lacks the swing-and-miss skills of a typical closer (career 6.3 K/9 rate) and may work in a setup role in front of Doolittle. For now, mixed-league owners should retain both Doolittle and Kintzler on the expectation that one of the two will compile many saves down the stretch. Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Twins could hand their closer's role to Rogers, who leads the AL with 24 holds and owned a 1.93 ERA on July 21 before hitting a rough patch in recent outings. The club could also consider , a Minor League stopper who has shown exciting skills (19:3 K:BB ratio) across 17 1/3 career innings in the Majors.