The Twins “pushed hard” this week for closer Craig Kimbrel before he agreed to a three-year, $43MM contract with the Cubs on Wednesday, according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic (subscription link). Minnesota’s offer was “competitive,” but the team was only willing to give Kimbrel two years, Hayes reports.
The Twins had been after Kimbrel dating back to the offseason, per Hayes. At that point, as the Twins sought to upgrade last year’s underwhelming bullpen, they came away with a few inexpensive relief acquisitions in Blake Parker, Ryne Harper and Mike Morin. While the unheralded Harper and Morin have been shockingly effective across a combined 35 innings, Parker has begun to fade after an encouraging start. The ex-Angel boasted a 1.04 ERA entering play May 28, but it’s all the way up to 3.74 through 21 2/3 frames after he allowed at least two earned runs in three of his past four appearances. Parker also yielded four home runs in that four-inning stretch, during which his already below-average velocity fell. With a 5.84 FIP, 7.06 K/9 against 3.32 BB/9, and a 21.7 percent home run-to-fly ball rate, Parker doesn’t look like a strong candidate to break out of his slump in a significant way.
Not only has Parker been unreliable of late, but most of the Twins’ other top relievers are sporting less favorable fielding-independent pitching numbers than their ERAs indicate. With those factors in mind and Kimbrel off the market, the bullpen figures to remain one of the Twins’ highest priorities leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Speculatively, Shane Greene (Tigers), Ken Giles (Blue Jays), Alex Colome (White Sox), Mychal Givens (Orioles), Will Smith and Tony Watson (Giants) are some of the league’s relief trade candidates who could land on the Twins’ radar over the next several weeks.
As shown by their interest in Kimbrel and starter Dallas Keuchel, who signed with the Braves on Thursday, Twins executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine seem prepared to act aggressively this summer. Considering Minnesota’s an American League-best 41-20 and 10 1/2 games up in the AL Central, it’s no surprise management wants to boost the club’s World Series chances.