MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins will be looking to add relief help, including a closer, this offseason after their bullpen as a group ranked 20th in ERA, finished 26th in strikeouts and lost Brandon Kintzler to a trade and Matt Belisle to free agency.The good news for the Twins is there
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins will be looking to add relief help, including a closer, this offseason after their bullpen as a group ranked 20th in ERA, finished 26th in strikeouts and lost Brandon Kintzler to a trade and Matt Belisle to free agency.
The good news for the Twins is there are plenty of quality free-agent relievers this offseason. Wade Davis headlines the list of available closers, but he's likely to fall out of Minnesota's price range, especially if the Twins spend on starting pitching, as they've already been linked to some of the top rotation arms available.
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The relief market also generally moves relatively slowly during the offseason -- only one reliever has signed a multi-year deal before the Winter Meetings over the past three years. Although this year's relief class has few star closers, it has more depth than usual, and here's a look at the different types of relievers the Twins could be interested in.
Relievers with extensive or recent closing experience: Davis, Greg Holland, Kintzler, Belisle, Jake McGee, Fernando Rodney, Steve Cishek, Addison Reed
After Davis, there isn't much star power among the available closers, but Holland is an underrated righty who the Twins are familiar with from his time with the Royals. But he was extended a qualifying offer, so Minnesota would lose a Draft pick if it signed him.
Kintzler was the Twins' closer until being dealt to the Nationals at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and a reunion isn't out of the question, but he's not an overpowering strikeout pitcher. Belisle, who ably served as Twins closer after Kintzler was traded, is also an option, but he is more likely to come back in a setup role.
McGee is an underrated lefty from the Rockies, and he might have the best pure stuff of any reliever in the class. He has 44 career saves, a fastball that averages 95 mph and a career strikeout rate of 10.3 batters per nine innings. McGee is one worth monitoring.
Rodney has 300 career saves and did strike out 10.6 batters per nine innings as D-backs closer last year, but he is erratic and posted a 4.23 ERA. Cishek and Reed are both intriguing former closers, as Cishek saved 88 games for the Marlins from 2012-14 and Reed saved 101 contests for the D-backs and White Sox from '12-14, before becoming setup men. Cishek has a career strikeout rate of 9.6 batters per nine and had a successful return from hip surgery, while Reed has great control and struck out 9.8 batters per nine last season.
High-velocity setup men:Brandon Morrow, Juan Nicasio, Tommy Hunter, Bryan Shaw, David Hernandez, Matt Albers
The Twins ranked last in the Majors in pitches thrown at 95 mph or higher, and Morrow, Hunter, Nicasio and Shaw all had fastballs that averaged at least 95 mph. Morrow is the best of this group, coming off a dominant season with the Dodgers with a fastball that averaged more than 97 mph. Nicasio, who served as the Cardinals' closer in September, posted a 2.61 ERA with 72 strikeouts over 72 1/3 innings in 2017.
Twins general manager Thad Levine is familiar with Hunter from his time in Texas, while chief baseball officer Derek Falvey knows Shaw well from his time in Cleveland. Hunter is the harder thrower, but Shaw has been less volatile, never posting an ERA above his 3.52 mark in 2017.
Hernandez and Albers are both veterans with fastballs that average roughly 93 mph, with Albers coming off a better year with a 1.62 ERA with the Nationals.
Setup men:Mike Minor, Tony Watson, Joe Smith, McGee
The Twins saw first-hand how impressive Minor looked with the Royals after missing two seasons with shoulder issues, striking out 88 batters in 77 2/3 innings. Watson, an Iowa native, has some closing experience with the Pirates but doesn't have an elite strikeout rate. Smith, an 11-year veteran and the only right-hander of the group, continues to confound hitters, striking out 71 in 54 innings last year. Falvey also knows him from his time with the Indians.
Former Twins:Pat Neshek, Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, Fernando Abad, Glen Perkins, Dillon Gee, Francisco Liriano, Craig Breslow, Deolis Guerra, Kintzler, Belisle
For whatever reason, there seems to be an abundance of former Twins relievers available, including solid targets like Neshek, Swarzak and Duensing. Neshek had a career year with a 1.59 ERA, and Swarzak had one as well with a 2.33 ERA. Duensing, who pitched for the Twins for seven seasons, struck out 61 batters in 62 1/3 innings with a 2.74 ERA for the Cubs.
The Twins would only consider Minor League deals for the others, including Perkins, a three-time All-Star who came back from shoulder surgery in August but could retire if Minnesota doesn't have interest.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.