Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Best Trade The Twins Never Made

Generally, lights out relievers are hard to come by. While you can put together a makeshift bullpen in hopes of finding things that work, the really good ones often get hung onto. With the emergence of closer importance for teams, seeing the Craig Kimbrel's and Aroldis Chapman's of the big leagues dealt on a yearly basis often doesn't happen.

On July 18, 2014, it did happen though.

A guy with a 2.78 career ERA, 299 saves, and a 9.0 K/9 was sent packing. Not only are those great numbers for a bullpen guy, but they rank amongst some of the best when it comes to closers. That pitcher was the San Diego Padres Huston Street. In being sent to the Los Angeles Angels, the Padres expected a return, and that's exactly what they got.

The Padres welcomed the Angels number one, six, and eighth best prospects, as well as fourth top 20 inclusion (per FanGraphs). In retrospect, the Angels fleeced the bulk of their already mediocre farm system in return for elite level back end of the bullpen help.

So, why does this matter? Last season, the Twins dangled the idea of dealing their home grown closer. To be fair, I was even on board with the idea (sadly). Without a doubt, the lack of a move, may go down as one of the best decisions in Twins history.

For a losing team, and one in it's fourth year of significant losing, having a great closer seems like somewhat of a luxury. Even when 30 or more saves get racked up, does it really matter in the context of 90 losses. What about making the farm system even stronger for when the winning returns? Sure it would look like a bad move after just extending Perkins a contract extension, but who cares right?

The Twins put their foot down, they said no. No to dealing the local product. No to selling of a irreplaceable asset. No to all of it, and now, Perkins is making them feel great about the decision all over again.

Sure, Perkins was a very good closer last season. Late in the year injury problems inflated his ERA, but his 34 saves and 9.6 K/9 were some of the best marks of his career. He was coming off a 36 save season in 2013, a 2.30 ERA, an 11.1 K/9 mark, his first All Star Game appearance, and that shiny new four-year, $22.18 million contract. Nothing he did last season though could have prepared the Twins for what was to come.

There was a spring training injury scare, but Perkins insisted he was good to go this season. He wasn't going to miss time, and he was ready to compete. Glen Perkins was right.

In 2015, Perkins is 28-28 in save opportunities and leads the American League in that category. He's walking batters at a career best 1.2 BB/9 rate and his 0.830 WHIP is the best of his career. Not only is his season impressive, but Perkins recent run has been impressive as well. He's yet to give up a run since May 31 (a stretch of 14 games and 14.1 IP). In that timeframe, Perkins has struck out 15, walked just two, allowed only four hits, and picked up 10 saves.

Unlike other back end of the bullpen options, Perkins does it differently. Having thrown just four pitches 96 miles per hour or faster this season, it's his slider that has been devastating. Used a career high (as a closer) 26.7% of the time, Perkins has kept hitters off balance and outworked them at the plate.

Now fresh off his third straight trip to the midsummer classic, Glen Perkins looks every bit the part of one of the best in team history. Tying Eddie Guardado for third on the list right before the All Star break, he will set his sights on Rick Aguilera and Joe Nathan as the season draws on.

With his current pace set at 51 saves when the season comes to an end, Perkins is targeting what would be a tie for the 9th best single-season mark in Major League Baseball history. While an uphill battle, Perkins has overcome being a failed starter, a timeshared reliever, and an injured closer to boast the best season of his career.

It's pretty safe to say dealing Glen Perkins is the best trade the Twins never made. At 32, signed through 2017, and with no intention of playing anywhere else, Perkins should have Twins fans on their feet in the 9th for years to come.

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