Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Twins Rule 5 'trade'

Sean Gilmartin was a starter
in college and the minors, but he's
working out of the Mets bullpen this year.
The Twins are apparently committed to carrying Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham on their active roster all season. That intent may be tested if they remain in contention and if Graham can't be relied on in winnable games.

Those are two "ifs," which makes it a highly hypothetical question. For what it's worth, Graham has a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings, mostly compiled in mop-up outings. That's the fourth-best ERA in the current eight-man bullpen, but he's not nearly that high in the bullpen totem pole.

The Twins were able to pluck Graham out of the Atlanta system because they chose not to put Sean Gilmartin on their 40-man roster last fall. Gilmartin is a left-handed pitcher the Braves took in the first round in 2011, then traded to the Twins after the 2013 season for Ryan Doumit. He split 2014 between Double A and Triple A in the Twins system, compiling a combined mark of 9-7, 3.71 in 145.2 innings over 26 starts.

Leaving Gilmartin off the 40 gave the Twins an open spot to use in the Rule 5 draft to get Graham. And then the New York Mets took Gilmartin. It wasn't a formal trade, but that's what it amounted to, Graham for Gilmartin. (Or, if you like, Doumit for Gilmartin for Graham for the course of a year.)

J.R. Graham's
presence on the roster
is more about the
future than about
As Rule 5 picks, Graham and Gilmartin can't be optioned out. They are use or lose. And with both the Twins and Mets both providing at least the illusion of contention through Memorial Day, they'd like to get something useful out of them.

Gilmartin, a starter in the minors for both the Braves and Twins, is the second lefty in the Mets bullpen behind Alex Torres. He's made 17 appearances and worked 14.2 innings (3.07 ERA), which suggests a LOOGY role (Left-handed One Out GuY), but he has appeared just once in a save situation. It's a different usage pattern than for Graham, who has pitched in 13 games and thrown 17.1 innings. Graham leads the Twins in innings per relief appearance. But I don't believe Gilmartin is being given chances to lose games any more than Graham is.

Graham is also second to Glen Perkins on the Twins in "games finished," a stat that serves in bonus clauses as a stand-in for saves and as a rough measure historically of relief ace status. In his case, of course, it serves no such purpose. He's finishing one-sided games, not close ones.

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