Coming into the 2019 Major League Baseball season, relief pitching was a very serious question mark. For the most part, the guys Minnesota’s front office has told us to trust in have looked the part. Ryne Harper has been a great story, and Matt Magill has flashed solid stuff. The back end of Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker, and Trevor May work. Unfortunately, that’s where things end.
There’s been a revolving door at the bottom of Minnesota’s bullpen, and the options to call upon are dwindling. Fernando Romero has been up multiple times, without seeing any significant success. He’s been knocked around at Triple-A, and despite great stuff, the transition to relief hasn’t gone smoothly. We’ve seen Tyler Duffey a few times, and despite dominating Triple-A, the beautiful bender has yet to see solid run in the big leagues.
Rocco Baldelli has been given lefty Andrew Vasquez, and former starter Adalberto Mejia looks to have flamed out. Addison Reed was on a path back through a surprise rehab stint, but he’s been hit around the park for Rochester. The only other 40-man option is lefty Gabriel Moya, who has also been bad since returning to Triple-A and hasn’t ever shown a significant level of success at the big-league level.
Non-40-man options are also a difficult ask at this point. Jake Reed was going well for Rochester but has hit the skids. D.J. Baxendale and Ryan Eades have gaudy ERA numbers and are allowing far too much contact. Beyond that, you’d need to dip another level down and be relatively convinced that the big jump would be warranted.
The good news is that the Twins are 27-15 while looking in command of the AL Central. The bad news is that Trevor Hildenberger nearly surrendered a four-run lead, and Mike Morin was called upon to face both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in massive spots today. If that development alone doesn’t call for some action, I don’t know what does.
Craig Kimbrel still is unsigned and can be acquired for nothing more than cash. Yes, at this point you’d need to part with a draft pick to sign him. Waiting until after the draft could be smart, but the number of teams willing to bring him in without pick compensation being thwarted likely rises in number as well. On the trade front, there’s more than a handful of bad teams that can part will relievers. Typically deals are consummated in late June at the earlier. Though the asset capital may be higher when looking to acquire talent earlier in the year, it’s worth weighing what the immediate and extra impact would be should they get into Wes Johnson’s hands sooner.
At the end of the day it boils down to the simple principle that the Minnesota Twins have opportunity in front of them. Given their trajectory and roster construction, this isn’t a team that should be playing for 2020. You don’t need to mortgage the farm for a one-year run but capitalizing in years where you can make noise is a must. Right now, the greatest deficiency this group has is its bullpen. Although the collective has held strong, it’s been on the back of a small inner group that is going to be burned through come summer.