Friday, December 15, 2017

Rodney and Rule Five

The Twins had a busy Thursday with bullpen moves:

  • They lost a pair of power arms from their Double A bullpen in the Rule 5 draft;
  • They picked up a power arm from a Double A bullpen in the Rule 5 draft and
  • They reached a reported contract agreement with veteran closer Fernando Rodney.

Let's start with the latter, since that is certain to have an effect on the 2018 team.

Most of us know Rodney to some degree. He spent seven years with Detroit to open his career; he was the losing pitcher in the famous Game 163 of 2009. He'll turn 41 during spring training, he's third in career saves among active pitchers (behind Francisco Rodriguez and Huston Street), he's made three All-Star teams and the Twins will be his ninth major league team.

This well-crafted opinion was issued early Thursday, after news that Brandon Kintzler had reached a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals:

They are quite different in pitching styles and repertiores. Rodney throws 60 percent fastballs and alomost 40 percent changeups; Kintzler throws more than 80 percent fastballs. Kintzler's strikeout rate and walk rates are both near the bottom of the league; Rodney's strikeout and walk rates are both about twice Kintzler's. Rodney threw strikes on 61 percent of his pitches (21 percent swinging strikes); Kintzler, 64 percent and 9 percent. (Stats from the Bill James Handbook.)

I'd rather have Kintzler pounding the strike zone than Rodney fighting his command. And since Paul Molitor's stated rationale for going with Kintzler and then Matt Belisle as his closers was that he could rely on them throwing strikes, I suspect Molitor might agree.

Kintzler got two years, $10 million from the Nats; Rodney one year at $4.5 to $6 million depending on incentives. (Both deals are pending physicals; both reportedly include an option year.)

It's possible the Twins preferred Kintzler too, but that Kintzler preferred the Nats. Or that the Twins truly see the addition of a veteran closer as a placeholder and want/expect to transition to a younger pitcher in that role as the season progresses and thus didn't want to do multiple guaranteed years. 

A lot of Twins fans will be irritated by his habit of wearing his cap cocked to the left and his post-save celebration of pantomining firing an arrow into the sky. I will be more irritated by the 2-0 counts and walks.


Lost in Rule 5: Nick Burdi and Luke Bard. Gained in Rule 5: Tyler Kinley. Three hard-throwing right handed relievers who spent much of 2017 in Double A.

Burdi and Bard were high draft picks during the second Terry Ryan era; both have missed more time than they've spent on the mound in the minors. The Twins reportedly tried to trade Burdi to the Braves last summer in the Jaime Garcia trade only to have him rejected on medical grounds. My guess is that the new regime does not believe either can remain sound enough to help the major league bullpen. And Burdi in particular is unlikely to fill the 90-day active roster requirement to retain Rule 5 picks in 2018. 

Kinley has been in the Marlins organization. His numbers in Double A and Triple A are not impressive, but he has apparently been dominating in winter ball so far, and the Twins opted to take a flier on him.

I will be surprised if Kinley sticks. 

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