Sunday, September 25, 2011

2012 Wish List, Part VI: Take the Bullpen Seriously

Remember a year ago when one of the biggest gripes certain Twins fans could come up with was calling Jesse Crain "Crainwreck"? Remember a year ago when certain Twins fans were so fed up with Matt Guerrier they couldn't be bothered with pronouncing his name correctly?

Yeah...I wonder what those certain fans think about those guys now?

I miss them too.

I have to admit that the old cliche of you don't know what you've got until it's gone applies to me regarding the Twins bullpen of yesteryear. And as much I would love to have either one or both of those guys back, it's too late to rue the decisions of the past.

Too bad the present isn't much fun.

The current bullpen owns the worst cumulative ERA in all of baseball (4.53). The front office can't expect to win very many games when they can't trust the men at the back end of the game to preserve leads or, at the very least, keep the team close. Unfortunately, however, the front office has shown over the last few years that it doesn't worry too much about the state of the bullpen. Fans have been fed lines that everything will be ok with the guys we have for a while now.

We can't have Crain or Guerrier back (well, I suppose we could, but I doubt it). But that doesn't mean we have to be stuck with what we have.

Here's the plan I wish for:

Bring Nathan back. The Twins have a $12 million option to keep him one more year. That's pretty spendy; I don't see Bill Smith willing to pony up that kind of money. And frankly, that's too much for a relief pitcher. However, I would like the Twins to let him test the free agent market and then actively pursue him for less money. He turns 37 this off-season; his next multi-year contract will likely be his last. I can see him taking the security of more years and still make it affordable for the Twins.

Tender Glen Perkins another contract. I used to kind of hate him as a starter. I really like him as a set up man.

Find a new home for Kevin Slowey. His, um, philosophical differences with the team are simply too chaotic to overcome. He'll probably succeed elsewhere; he just doesn't fit with the Twins.

Put Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing back to the bullpen and keep them as middle-inning and long relievers.

Say good-bye to Phil Dumatrait, Jose Mijares, and Matt Capps. They simply don't pitch well enough and have proven that they can't be trusted. Maybe send Alex Burnett on his way as well.

Then, find good, reliable replacements. I like the promise that Lester Oliveros has shown, though I'm not sure he's really ready for the big leagues yet. He's only 23; let him earn a spot in spring training. Otherwise, make some trades and sign some new guys.

And maybe just make a quick phone call to Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier.


Since I mentioned Matt Capps, here's his paper doll:

If I remember correctly, he was unavailable for a few games mid-season because he had some forearm soreness. Or was it shoulder? Elbow? I guess I can't remember correctly.

Anyway, he's the last one of the guys who were on the Opening Day roster.


Anonymous said...

I was one of those fans who had big problems with Crain and always had a issue with pronouncing Guerrier's name correctly on my podcast. However, I will admit being wrong and move on from there. Our bullpen was an absolute disaster and it would not have been if those two guys were still here.

How GM Bill Smith can sleep at night when fans like us are suffering through this year is beyond me. My fear is he will bring Nathan, Capps, Burnett, and Mijares all back. If that happens we will be back to square one and it's the 90's all over again.

TT said...

Its hard to argue the Twins don't value the bullpen. In fact, there are still people upset about the Capps for Ramos trade, despite last years division championship. There were even people upset last year when the Twins sent Loek Van Mil to the Angels for Brian Fuentes. They traded JJ Hardy for bullpen help, but that seems to be unpopular since the help didn't work out. They traded Delmon Young for bullpen help.

My conclusion is that some fans always think the bullpen is overvalued when a team pays the market rate and undervalued when they imagine you can trade castoffs for rock solid replacements.

Almost every team in baseball is looking to improve its bullpen. And, for whatever reason, bullpen pitchers are notoriously unreliable. Its pretty tough to build a reliable bullpen by signing free agents at a reasonable cost.

But building from within also has risks. Going into this season, Glen Perkins was a stiff according to a number of bloggers. Going into spring training in 2010, Crain and Guerrier had both "proven" they couldn't be trusted.

Capps costs too much to keep as a setup guy. But I think the Twins should seriously consider picking up Nathan's option, unless they think they can get him for a couple years by guaranteeing him a couple million more. Perkins isn't a closer and they aren't going to find one for the $10 million they will save by declining the option.

Finally, both the starters and the bullpen ended up overworked this season. When you are regularly warming up your closer in the 8th inning, you know there is a problem. So, while the Twins pitching is a huge question mark for next year, its hard to know whether the problem is with the starters or the bullpen or both.

My take would be they should hang on to any affordable, quality pitchers they have now.

Slowey has shown in the past he is a solid starter and, frankly, I don't pay much attention to the rumors about his personality. It amazing how losing teams always seem to have those kinds of problems.

I am not sure it is time to give up on Mijares and Burnett. Or even Dumatrait. They all have some talent and there is no guarantee the Twins can find better replacements before the start of next year. The Twins don't look to be one of the teams being given first crack by players looking for a ring.

margo said...

I'm not sure why fans should be missing Guerrier so much. He hasn't done all that well as a Dodger this season with an ERA hovering around 4.00 (Dumatrait's ERA is 3.79, by the way).
The Twins bullpen needs improving for sure, but finding good reliable replacements is going to be harder than just making a few phone calls..