In 2017, one of the greatest deficiencies for the Minnesota Twins was the lack of quality relief pitching. While the starting rotation left plenty to be desired on its own, it was the bullpen that generally provided little in the way of resistance when tasked to come in and back up a start. Minnesota needs to address that this offseason, but what if they don't look anywhere but within?
Over the course of the early offseason, I've considered plenty of different ways the Twins could spend their dollars and roster openings. I'd argue that a starting pitcher is a must (with a second having a decent amount of potential). A right handed bat, with some positional flexibility could be a nice add as well. Initially, my thought was that the Twins would be best served to bring in two relief options, but what if they shifted to add no one at all.
Currently, the 40 man roster has 17 relievers on it. Those players will be shifted in the coming weeks as some will be reinstated, others will become free agents, some will be DFA'd, and one may even retire. Looking at that group, and what isn't on the 40 man however, the Twins glaring need may be less significant than one would imagine.
Starting with one of the most missed pieces from 2016, Trevor May re-enters the fold for the 2018 season. He'll have missed a year due to Tommy John surgery, and he'll need to work back towards what he was. However, out of the bullpen, his 12.7 K/9 was elite, and while the 3.6 BB/9 wasn't ideal, it was the longball that bit him. I'm not sure if May's back issues will allow him to be a full time reliever, but if he can get right in the pen, he could definitely be a weapon for Paul Molitor.
Joining May on the reinstatement train from the 60-day DL is J.T. Chargois. Had he been healthy in 2017, it's all but guaranteed he would've recorded a few save opportunities. He's got the stuff that should play as a big league closer, and there's real velocity there. Chargois is among the many touted relief options from the Twins prospect lists over the past few years, and seeing him bear fruit would be a welcomed addition.
Rounding out the trio of guys on the 60-day DL is Ryan O'Rourke. Unlike Chargois, velocity is hardly O'Rourke's game, but he's lethal against lefties. The southpaw held opposing lefties to a .359 OPS in 2016, and was definitely missed by the Minnesota bullpen this year. There's other guys that have stepped in during his absence, but if used correctly in relief, O'Rourke could put up some really flashy numbers.
Outside of those returning from injuries, options like Gabriel Moya and Randy Rosario were given a taste of the highest level this season. Moya has had significant success on the farm, and Rosario has flashed plus stuff in relief as well. Whether they are given a shot, and stick like Alan Busenitz and Trevor Hildenberger remains to be seen however.
Venturing from the 40 man roster, the Twins have a couple of high ceiling options that have yet to reach their projections. First and foremost, Tyler Jay enters the picture. Having been drafted as a reliever, converted to a starter, and now working in relief again, the former first round pick could turn out to be a weapon. Velocity rises in short bursts, and he's put up solid performances throughout his Arizona Fall League action this year. Minnesota may not be ready to give up on him as a starter yet, but if he's healthy, getting him to help the big league club in whatever way possible is a must.
The duo of Jake Reed and Nick Burdi were once the next best thing coming to the Twins pen, and their steam has somewhat cooled. While Burdi missed all year due to Tommy John surgery, Reed started late and never was able to get his footing. Both throw gas and have a keen ability to miss bats. There's nothing the Twins need more than the ideal version of these two pitching in the late innings for them. Should Reed and Burdi breakthrough this season, it could arguably the greatest offseason pickup for the big league club.
By my count, there's at least eight internal options vying for a spot, and each of them have significant upside. With something like three or four relief spots likely claimed already, that provides plenty of competition to fight things out. That being said, each of the aforementioned names come with serious question marks. The Twins will have to decide if they are willing to commit to a player potentially blocking an internal option, or if they believe in some of the names above to break through.
During free agency, the best relief names aren't going to be actively seeking out one year deals. The hope would be that the organization would aim higher than a Matt Belisle type if they're going to bring someone in, but there's lots of caveats that come with such a move. It's certain that the hometown nine needs some bullpen help, but navigating how to go about getting it is anyone's guess.