Twins sign veteran reliever Hansel Robles

December 29th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' pitching braintrust has found its next restoration project in right-handed reliever , who agreed to a one-year contract on Tuesday. The deal is worth $2 million, according to a source, with the possibility for up to $500,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished.

While not a splashy move, the signing does begin to address one of Minnesota's most pressing needs in the midst of what has been an otherwise quiet offseason. Robles lost his closer job during a tough 2020 season with a 10.26 ERA in 18 games and was later non-tendered by the Angels, but he's not far removed from his successes of '19, when he posted a 2.48 ERA with 23 saves. Robles would've been eligible for salary arbitration.

Considering what pitching coach Wes Johnson and his staff did to squeeze marked improvement out of Kenta Maeda, Matt Wisler and Caleb Thielbar last season, Robles and his track record of success over six mostly solid seasons (3.91 career ERA) with the Mets and Angels could make for another low-risk, high-upside candidate for the bullpen.

Though Robles lost a lot on his fastball, which dipped from an average of 97.2 mph in 2019 to 95.4 mph in '20, there could be hope that less uncertainty surrounding a Spring Training program and work with the Twins' biomechanical minds could help him regain those ticks on the radar. His raw stuff at its best has worked in the Majors in the past, as evidenced by his 75 strikeouts and 1.018 WHIP in 72 2/3 innings in '19.

With Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo and Wisler all gone from the 2020 bullpen, the Twins could use a relatively cheap bounceback season from Robles to consolidate the late-innings relief corps. Only Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers remain as proven high-leverage options, and even Rogers got hit harder last season, when he pitched to a 4.05 ERA.

What's next?
The Twins still need relief help. May and Wisler have both signed with other teams, meaning that Minnesota will need younger pitchers like Jorge Alcala and Cody Stashak to mature into higher-leverage roles, complemented by another signing or two for the bullpen. Twins relievers tied for the Major League lead with 3.6 wins above replacement last season, per FanGraphs, and maintaining that level of performance could help them hold off the White Sox in the division.

The club still hasn't addressed any of its other needs -- a starting pitcher or two, infield help, and utility options to round out the bench following the departures of both Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza. The designated hitter situation still remains uncertain, with Nelson Cruz still on the open market despite interest in a reunion from both sides.

Anything else to know?
Robles might have one of the most intense entrances in baseball. He made viral waves on the internet when he trotted in from the bullpen to the same entrance music as WWE's The Undertaker and a matching video with a galloping white horse and red eyes in 2019. He later explained that his nickname is "El Caballo Blanco" ("The White Horse") and is a big fan of The Undertaker.