The Twins have been active this offseason, re-signing Carlos Correa while bringing in new faces such as Pablo López, Joey Gallo, Christian Vázquez, Michael A. Taylor and Kyle Farmer. Things have been relatively quiet in terms of the bullpen, however, and it doesn’t seem as though that’s going to change in the near future. The club’s president of baseball operations Derek Falvey tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that a significant bullpen addition it isn’t a pressing concern right now. “If we were to do anything at this point, it would likely be to add depth in the middle [innings],” Falvey said. “We’ll keep an open mind, but [relief pitching is] not a priority.”
Last year, the club’s relief corps was firmly in the middle of the pack. Their collective 3.84 ERA was tied for 15th among the 30 teams in the league, while their 3.85 FIP was 14th, their 3.79 xFIP 10th and their 3.50 SIERA ninth. That group also took a hit when deadline acquisition Michael Fulmer reached free agency, though he remains unsigned.
It seems Falvey and the other decision makers in Minnesota have a lot of faith in their internal options. Jorge López was acquired from the Orioles at the deadline last year but still has two remaining years of club control. “We did our bullpen shopping at the [trade] deadline last year by adding some depth, adding Jorge [López],” Falvey said. After many years of mediocre performance as a starter, López converted to a bullpen role full-time in 2022 to great results. In 44 appearances for the O’s, he posted a 1.68 ERA while getting grounders at a 60% clip, striking out 27.6% of batters faced and walking 8.7%. Unfortunately, he didn’t maintain that pace after the trade, with a 4.37 ERA, 53.7% grounder rate, 17.6% strikeout rate and 13.7% walk rate as a Twin.
López will be looking for a bounceback after that frustrating finish to his 2022 campaign, though the club also has other intriguing names in the mix that could step up. Jhoan Durán was primarily a starter in the minors but cracked the majors last year in a relief role and utterly dominated. He tossed 67 2/3 innings over 57 appearances with a 1.86 ERA, getting grounders at a 61% clip while striking out 33.5% of opponents and walking just 6% of them. “He adapted to a new role, at the highest level, faster than we could have hoped,” Falvey said.
As for others in the mix that they’re encouraged by, Falvey had this to say: “We watched Griffin Jax develop into someone we can rely on. What Jovani Moran did the last month of the season, it’s something he can really build upon.” Jax also moved from a starter to a reliever in 2022, and while he didn’t match Durán’s results, he still did well. With 65 appearances last year, he finished the year with a 3.36 ERA, 47.3% ground ball rate, 26.9% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate. Moran, meanwhile, put up a 2.21 ERA in 40 2/3 innings, keeping the ball on the ground at a 48.9% pace, while striking out 32.9% of batters faced, though he did walk 11% of them.
Though Falvey admits they might still make a small addition, it seems they feel they already have the high-leverage arms they need. “We feel like we have the eighth and ninth innings covered,” he says. Other relievers likely to be in the club’s bullpen include Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagán, Jorge Alcalá and Trevor Megill.