You can never have enough bullpen help, and for the Minnesota Twins that means something after they finished the 2015 season ranked among the leagues ten worst teams for bullpen ERA. A bad bullpen was one of the main reasons why the Twins fell just short of their first playoff berth since 2010.
Joe Nathan, the franchise all-time saves leader, had been a mainstay on the Twins for years, but spent that entire 2010 season on the disabled list as he could only watch his teammates celebrate their sixth American League Central title in the last nine years after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Fast forward to 2015, and Nathan is once again trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. The Detroit Tigers recently declined his $10 million option for the 2016 season. He’s going to turn 41 years old in just a matter of weeks meaning interest in the six time All-Star will be low. Whoever decides to take a chance on Nathan will be inking him to a minor league deal that is incentive based, making the risk very minimal with a strong upside. While bringing Nathan in doesn’t guarantee a solution to any bullpen issues, there’s no reason for the Twins to not at least try and make this work.
Signing relief pitchers to boost a bullpen is a lot like playing the lottery. For the most part, every sure thing is already locked up, while many middle relief pitchers have very inconsistent careers, making it difficult to rely on them year-to-year. Minnesota was able to see this firsthand last year when 10-year MLB veteran Tim Stauffer, who the team signed for $2.2 million last winter, posted an ERA on the wrong side of six and was released by mid-June, while Blaine Boyer, another veteran who was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training similar to the one Nathan will wind up getting, became one of the team’s more reliable options and posted a 2.49 ERA over 68 appearances.
Coming back from a second Tommy John surgery in your 40’s isn’t easy; Nathan being an effective relief pitcher even again could be called a long shot, but after all the feel-goods from the Torii Hunter reunion this past season, why not at least take a shot with one of the best closers of all-time?