The Minnesota Twins need a reliable closer. It has to be someone they can count on for 2022. They traded their closer, Taylor Rogers, to the San Diego Padres on April 7th for pitchers Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagán. Now they need to settle on a new closer or try closer-by-committee.
Closer by Committee
Right now, it appears they’ll be going the closer-by-committee route with Tyler Duffey and Caleb Thielbar sharing closer duties until the team finds someone to fill the role. Duffey was the first go-to guy, but he gave up two runs on three hits over one inning in a 4–3 loss in his first outing as the closer. Despite this poor showing, he could continue to receive late-game opportunities since he has been one of the Twins’ best bullpen arms over the past three years. However, Duffey is an excellent set-up pitcher and might be better suited for that. Last season he had a 3.18 ERA, and opposing batters hit just .216 against him. He’s also one of the best at getting the ground ball outs.
Caleb Thielbar will get a chance at closing as well. He turned out to be one of the most reliable left-handed relievers in all of baseball in 2021, with a 3.23 ERA. He also went 7–0 last year and is an excellent set up pitcher. His slider is his go-to pitch. He also has a curveball that gets hitters out. As with Duffey, Theilbar will get a look at closing, but should stay as the left-handed set-up pitcher.
Joe Smith was signed in March and made the team out of spring training. He has pitched for seven teams over his 15-year career, with a career 3.09 ERA and a .229 opponent batting average. The 38-year-old veteran hasn’t been a closer except in 2014 when he was with the Los Angles Angels. He finished that season with 15 saves. Smith could be a stopgap in the closer role until another Twins reliever steps up. He can also provide veteran leadership to whoever ultimately wins the job.
Another possibility is the recently-acquired Emilio Pagán. He has closer experience, having saved 20 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019. The issue with Pagán is that he gives up too many home runs and walks. On top of that, his strikeouts are down from earlier in his career. He will most likely be used as a sixth or seventh inning pitcher.
Jhoan Duran could be the best option to become the Minnesota Twins’ closer. He had an outstanding spring training and appears to be healthy after last season’s elbow injury, which limited him to five games at Triple-A St. Paul.
Duran has the mechanics and the grit to become a closer. He throws an extremely hard fastball. He also gets swings-and-misses with a sinker/splitter combination. In the Eduardo Escobar trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018, Duran was a “throw-in” player. He was a starter, but converted to reliever. In his debut he had four straight strikeouts and three pitches in excess of 100 MPH, even setting the Twins’ record by tossing a 102 mph fastball. He could be the Twins’ closer sooner rather than later.
The Minnesota Twins need a reliable closer soon. Whoever is chosen to—or whoever steps up and takes—that role is going to be depended on. This team cannot be slow at making a decision either. Their bullpen was inconsistent last season, especially in the early goings. They did turn it around with the Duffey and Thielbar finding their groove. By then, however, it was far too late for them to contend.
We know major league bullpens can be unpredictable. Having a reliable closer is crucial. Simply put, if the Twins want to contend for a playoff spot, the team is going to need a top-notch performance from their closer, so they need a top-notch closer. Whoever that turns out to be is a mystery for now.
Embed from Getty Images