Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Implications of a roster shuffle.

Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron came off the injured list on Tuesday, which is good. Byron Buxton went on the seven-day concussion list, which is neither surprising nor good. And. in a bit of a surprise, veteran reliever Mike Morin was designated for assignment.
Morin is the least significant player of those four. But his deletion -- not only from the 25-man roster but the 40-man roster -- carries some implications, should it stand.

  • It drops Minnesota's 40-man roster down to 37, giving the Twins room to add as many as three major leaguers in deadline deals over the next two weeks.
  • It drops, if only temporarily, the Twins bullpen to seven relievers.
  • It signals a roster commitment of sorts to Zach Littell.

Compare Morin and Littell's ERAs, and this decision is baffling. Morin leaves with an ERA with the Twins of 3.18; Littell's scoreless inning Tuesday night lowered his ERA for the season to 4.41.

But it's a bit more complicated than that. Morin's FIP -- fielding independent pitching, a metric that attempts to remove the effects of ballparks and fielding from a pitcher's results -- is 4.49, a pretty good match for Littell's actual ERA. Littell's FIP, 3.67 entering Tuesday, is closer to Morin's actual ERA.

Morin had 11 strikeouts and just two walks allowed in 22 innings with Minnesota; Littell now has 13 strikeouts and six walks in 16.1 innings.

And Littell had moved ahead of Morin in the bullpen pecking order. Morin had pitched just twice this month, last working on July 4 at Oakland. The A's dinged him for four runs, inflating his ERA from 1.66 to 3.18 in the process. Tuesday was Littell's sixth appearance of July, and he hasn't allowed a run since May 30.

Littell to this point has been part of the Rochester shuttle. Unlike Morin, he was optionable. Indeed, both Littell and Tyler Duffey opened the season at Triple A, got called up, got sent back, got called up again -- and now appear to have risen to a more permanent bullpen status ("permanent" being a tricky concept for relievers).

If -- when -- the Twins decide they need a fresh reliever, it's more likely that they'll get the roster spot out of the position player.

Which leads to the "should it stand" caveat of the second paragraph of this post. Jonathan Schoop left Tuesday's game in the ninth inning with an apparent injury. He was downplaying it after the game, but as I understand the DFA rules, the Twins still have the opportunity to restore Morin to the roster if Schoop (or somebody else) goes on the IL before Morin's contract is disposed of.

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