Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A rough draft of the bullpen

The Twins current estimated 2012 payroll stands at about $99 million (there are a few arbitration-eligibile guys, like Alexi Casilla, Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins, whose salaries aren't yet set), and there remains one unused spot on the 40-man roster.

With five veterans for
the starting rotation,
Anthony Swarzak is
the front-runner for
the long man job.

Despite the hopes/dreams/desires of some in Twins-blogland, I suspect the Twins are done signing players to the major-league roster. They like having an open spot on the 40; it allows them to add a non-roster guy this spring without having to waive anybody. And $99 million is real close to the $100 million target.

Setting aside the question of whether the payroll ceiling is wise (I've said my piece on that already), this means that as a practical matter the Twins will go into training camp aiming to piece together a bullpen out of the parts currently on hand.

Using the roles-oriented format I deployed last spring, and anticipating the usual six-man bullpen:

Closer: Matt Capps
Setup 1: Glen Perkins
LOOGY 1: Brian Duensing
Long man: Anthony Swarzak

Three vacancies at this point. And the major need is for some right-handed arms who can miss bats.

Kyle Waldrop is
finally on the 40-man
roster, but he still has
an uphill battle to
secure a bullpen job,
as he's not a power arm.
The Jason Marquis signing really works against a few guys, specifically Terry Doyle, Scott Diamond, Matt Maloney and Jeff Manship. Without Marquis, Swarzak might have been the favorite to open the season in the rotation, with those four also in the competition -- and with the long man/swingman role available as a consolation prize. Now Swarzak figures to go into camp as the favorite to retain the long man job, and it's not easy to imagine the Twins keeping two guys for the role (though the lefties might have a chance).

A name to keep in mind as this competition shapes up is Jason Bulger, a big guy who throws hard and has a impressive strikeout rate over 123-plus innings with the Angels. The Twins signed him to a minor-league deal early this offseason. His control record isn't good, but he is definitely a power arm, and the Twins like having a power arm in that SU2/MR1 role.

Let's rerun the above roles and plug in specific names competing for specific jobs:

Closer: Capps
Setup 1: Perkins
LOOGY 1: Duensing
Setup2/MR1: (Bulger/Lester Oliveros/Esmerling Vasquez/Alex Burnett/Jeff Gray)
MR2: (Kyle Waldrop/Carlos Gutierrez/Deolis Guerra)
LOOGY2/MR3: (Diamond/Maloney/the runners up for the previous two slots)
Long man:  Swarzak (Doyle, Diamond, Maloney, Manship)

Waldrop, Gutierrez, Guerra, Diamond and Burnett all have options left. I think Manship is out of options, and Maloney and Vasquez may be as well. Doyle is a Rule V guy, which limits the Twins choices with him. He's either on the 25-man roster, returns to the White Sox or traded for.

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