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Brad Hand has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past half decade. Since the start of the 2017 season, Hand ranks 5th among all relievers in ERA (2.61), 8th in K/9 (12.60) and 7th in fWAR (5.5). Hand is coming off of the best season of his career, posting an ERA of 2.05 and leading the American League with 16 saves in the abbreviated 2020 season.
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Hand is still just 30 years old and has been tremendously durable over the course of his career, throwing at least 50 innings in every season since becoming a full time reliever, and throwing at least 70 innings in all but one.
The Minnesota Twins are finally turning up the dial a bit in the free agent market after the signing of J.A. Happ and noted interest in other players as well. Who else could come from the free agent market in the lead-up to spring training?
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In the spirit of full disclosure, a lot rides on whether or not the Twins re-sign Nelson Cruz. His potential contract wipes out several of these names, but with that being said, the Twins still have some needs that could be targeted.
Minnesota Twins Target No. 1: Bullpen
Hansel Robles was a slick little signing as a way to provide insurance for if Taylor Rogers falls apart again as a closer. That doesn’t mean the team should be done in the arms race, and I expect them to make a few more moves to fill the holes left by Trevor May, Matt Wisler, Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard.
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A nice left-handed arm would slide in nicely, making Jake McGee an ideal target. The guy had been nothing short of spectacular in 2020, and is coming off a championship season with the L.A. Dodgers. José Álvarez and Justin Wilson would also be other arms to keep eyes on. Both would come very cheap.
From the right-handed side of the mound, Shane Greene would be a great target. He would fill the Wisler departure, specifically, as he is is a nice veteran with a nasty slider and if they get him at an affordable price tag that’d be another championship signing.
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Minnesota Twins Target No. 2: Utility Man
Who fills the Marwin Gonzalez role? Well it may be Marwin, as word is the Twins want him back. I like the guy as a player, and he’s very athletic and plays literally everywhere. He can be a bit streaky, but versatility like that is hard to come by.
Jedd Gyorko could be someone else that’s targeted as well, as he’s another versatile player who’s coming into his prime and shown some pop in his bat. If Nelson Cruz doesn’t re-sign, this makes a lot more sense for his pop. Miguel Sano and Josh Donaldson could easily get used to being in the DH role if this were to work out.
As has been well documented within Twins fan circles, Brad Hand is a Minnesota native, playing his high school ball for Chaska High School. Bringing Hand home to play for his hometown ball club in front of friends and family would be a poetic next step in the all-star closer’s career.
The Case Against:
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After deciding to bring back Taylor Rogers and Caleb Thielbar via arbitration earlier this offseason, the Minnesota Twins set themselves up well with left handed arms in their bullpen. Adding in another high-leverage left handed arm might be a bit of overkill, as their biggest need is to replace the right handed bullpen arms that they lost in Trevor May, Matt Wisler, Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard.
The other reason against bringing back Brad Hand is the philosophical approach the Minnesota Twins have against spending money on relievers. The reliever position has been proven to be extremely volatile over the years, and the Twins have shown repeatedly that they would prefer to get the most out of waiver claims and sign veteran relievers than to sign the top tier arms on the free agent market. Signing Hand would likely require a sizable monetary investment, and the Twins have shown time and time again they are unwilling to do so, especially as a third left hander in a bullpen that’s starving for righties.
Contract Estimate: 2 years, $14M
The Case For:
Trevor Rosenthal was an elite closer in baseball for a long time, repeatedly finishing top-10 in the majors in ERA and strikeout numbers. After struggling with injury and undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2018, Rosenthal struggled on the mound. In 2020, though, Rosenthal proved that his injury issues were behind him as he posted the best season of his career, throwing up a 1.90 EAR with a career-best K/9 of 14.5. Rosenthal re-gained his top-notch velocity, repeatedly hitting triple digits on the radar gun throughout the 2020 season.
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Trevor Rosenthal would slot in perfect as a replacement for Trevor May as a fireball-throwing right handed pitcher who generates plenty of swings and misses and strikeouts. Rosenthal would instantly be thrust into the high-leverage spot of the bullpen and allow everyone in the bullpen to slot down a rung in the bullpen pecking order.
The Case Against:
Rosenthal has by no means been a man of clean health over the past five seasons, as he hasn’t pitched more than 48 innings in a season since 2015. If the Minnesota Twins were to commit money to an elite reliever, it would be hard to do so for a reliever that has not proven that he can stay healthy for an entire season. To bring in an injury risk to a bullpen that will already be struggling with depth after losing Trevor May, Matt Wisler, Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard would be an enormous risk for this Twins club.
Additionally, Rosenthal proved over 23.2 innings that he can be effective out of the bullpen, but it hasn’t been since 2017 that he has pitched more than 40 innings and proven to be effective. Should the Minnesota Twins sign Rosenthal they would be taking a big bet that he can be both healthy and effective for a long stretch for the first time in a long time.
Although the health and consistency concerns with Rosenthal are very real, Trevor would make a lot of sense as an addition for this Minnesota Twins bullpen and is the winner of this free agent faceoff. After losing out on nearly 100 innings of right-handed bullpen arms from 2020, the Minnesota Twins need to be able to replace that right handed production. To be able to do someone with the elite upside of the former Padre makes a lot of sense. Rosenthal being able to lock down the back of the bullpen and being able to replace the velocity and strikeout ability of Trevor May would allow younger players like Jorge Alcalá and Cody Stashak the ability to thrive in lower leverage situations.
Although Brand Hand makes sense in a lot of ways, it’s hard to envision the Twins committing money to a third left hander in the bullpen. Hand making more money than even his contract prediction would not be a surprise, and it’s difficult to see the Twins get into a bidding war for the southpaw.
Which of these two relievers would you like to see the Minnesota Twins sign? Are there any other relievers on the market you’d like better? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!