Twins' bullpen solid, but still taking shape

Minnesota open to bolstering relief corps from outside, converting current arms

January 18th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins moved quickly this offseason to grab C.J. Cron and to fill their infield needs. They got the right price for , who will slot in at designated hitter for at least one season. But with less than a month to go until Spring Training, right-hander has been the lone addition to a pitching staff that could use more depth to contend for a playoff berth.
The relief market has picked up in the meantime, with , , Zach Britton, and all signing deals in the new year.
So, where do things currently stand with the Twins' bullpen?
The Twins likely aren't done adding to a relief corps that finished ninth in the American League with a 4.45 combined ERA and 11th with a .759 opponents' OPS last season. They still anticipate more competition being brought in for the final spots on the pitching staff, whether in the form of non-roster invitees or potential fits on the 40-man roster.
But Minnesota leadership has looked for value and fit above all in its offseason signings, and that will likely remain a focus -- and perhaps get easier to find -- as the clock continues ticking and remaining free agents look for a home in 2019. Last season, the Twins didn't acquire until mid-January, and landed and Jake Odorizzi in mid-February before was signed in March.
"If we bring a good baseball decision to [ownership] that we think is the right investment, they'll support it, so we still have flexibility if we need it," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "If we find the right fits, we'll explore those. I feel pretty good about what we've been able to do this offseason in terms of finding good players that we like and getting them at good values."
The Twins still don't have an experienced closer on the roster, but between Reed, , and Parker, they have several late-inning options and still feel that there could be a healthy competition in camp for the role if they don't make another acquisition.

"At this stage, we're going to still stay open-minded about that and not necessarily name [a closer] now, but we certainly feel like there are options on our team if this ends up being our 'pen, to name one of that group, and [Parker] certainly would be a candidate for that," Falvey said.
Parker had actually been on the Twins' radar even before he was non-tendered by the Angels to make him available on the free-agent market, as they had heard good things about his makeup and had scouts with familiarity with the right-hander, who relies heavily on a splitter as his out pitch.
The 33-year-old took a slight step back last season from a breakout 2017 and saw decreased velocity, but he still posted a 3.26 ERA with a 9.5 K/9 strikeout rate, and the Twins feel that they can help him regain some of his form from two seasons ago.
"We think there's some things we can maybe do -- some pitch mix, selection, things like that -- to help him address maybe some of the tick back from last year, but he'll just fit somewhere into our 'pen, and he's a reliable guy," Falvey said.

Parker joins Reed, May, Hildenberger and as likely locks for the 2019 bullpen, and 24-year-old left-hander was consistently used in the final two months of last season as a traditional reliever and an opener. Minnesota feels that if a deal doesn't materialize, the last one or two spots could be filled by some of the young pitchers competing for the fifth rotation spot: , Chase De Jong, , Kohl Stewart and .
The Twins have had lengthy internal discussions about whether Romero will ultimately pitch as a starter or reliever, which could also depend on the continued development of his changeup. Stewart and Gonsalves pitched well in the "opener" scheme last season as well, which could bode well for additional looks out of the bullpen in 2019.
"My view is, bullpens are grown, not necessarily always bought, and I think that when you look at what pitchers we have in our organization, if we're plus on the starter side, in some cases, some of those guys may end up in the bullpen," Falvey said.