ST. PAUL — First things first: The Twins’ bullpen, as a unit, has not been bad this season, contrary to what some on social media would lead you to believe.
Led by Taylor Rogers, who is in the midst of the best season of his career, the Twins’ bullpen ranked 11th coming into Monday, July 15, with a 4.20 earned-run average. The bullpen has a 3.2 wins-above-replacement (WAR) rating, per FanGraphs, which ranks it solidly fifth in the majors, trailing only the Yankees, Athletics, Rays and Indians.
While Rogers has been the most consistently reliable reliever this season, Trevor May and Blake Parker also have been used in high-leverage situations throughout the year to relatively good results.
Rookie Ryne Harper, a curveball specialist, boasts a 2.79 ERA and has been better than the Twins anticipated when they signed him as a minor league free agent. The same could be said for Mike Morin.
In the past month, Matt Magill has posted a 1.00 ERA and held opponents to a .161 batting average. Tyler Duffey, who has been up and down the past few years between Triple-A and the big leagues, has made strides, as has Zack Littell, who was converted from starter to reliever and has thrown nine straight scoreless innings.
“We’ve seen some guys make adjustments. We’ve seen some guys come in in big spots and pitch well. We have guys that we’ve seen pitch well in spurts,” first-year manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We have guys that have the ability to do it, to come in in big spots against really big major-league hitters, get swings and misses, get outs when we need them. I think our bullpen has done a great job. If you look at a picture of everything we’ve seen from our bullpen this year, I think we have to be very pleased with the production.”
With all that said, the Twins are expected to be on the hunt for another high-leverage reliever to pair with Rogers as the July 31 trade deadline rolls around. Trades have just started to pick up in recent days, though the reliever market hasn’t started moving yet.
Here are some relievers who could be on the move as the trade deadline approaches:
Will Smith, LHP, Giants
Smith very well might be the best rental available, almost assuring that he will be dealt away from San Francisco this month. Smith, 30, has been excellent this season, earning his first All-Star Game appearance. He has 23 saves for the Giants, boasting a 2.17 ERA and a 0.804 WHIP as of Monday.
The Giants could choose to package him with starter Madison Bumgarner, who is also on an expiring contract. The Giants also could choose to deal reliever Sam Dyson, who entered Monday with a 2.86 ERA in 44 innings.
Ken Giles, RHP, Blue Jays
Giles, who recently was sidelined by nerve inflammation after a massage gone wrong, is another hot name on the market.
The right-hander has a 1.45 ERA and has struck out 53 batters to just nine walks in 31 innings. He, too, could be traded as part of a package deal, depending on what the Blue Jays decide to do with starter Marcus Stroman, an intriguing trade target himself.
Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres
Should the Padres decide to trade Kirby Yates, a 32-year-old all-star who is having the best season of his career, he would be a hot name on the market. As of Monday, Yates has a 1.10 ERA and leads the majors with 30 saves.
In 41 innings, he has struck out 64 and walked nine. He possesses a 0.805 WHIP and would be attractive to a number of teams if the Padres move him.
Other relievers who could be on the move include Alex Colome (White Sox), Jake Diekman (Royals), Shane Greene (Tigers), Seth Lugo (Mets), Raisel Iglesias (Reds) and Tony Watson (Giants).