Twins Talking to Blue Jays

No.  Not about Roy Halladay.

From LEN III in his Mulvey update:

The Twins have gone the last month with a 11-man pitching staff. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said part of the reason was that no one has stepped up from the minors to deserve a call up. If that’s not enough motivation to go hard after a reliever from another organization, I don’t know what is. The Twins have shown interest in Matt Capps and John Grabow from Pittsburgh and have called Toronto about their relievers (Scott Downs? Jason Frasor? Brandon League?)

Naturally I thought this was a good time for a scouting report on those bullpen arms from Canada.  Check it out after the jump.


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Scott Downs 1-0 28 0 0 0 9 1 28.1 21 7 6 1 5 30 1.91 .92

Downs, a 33-year old southpaw, has quietly been one of the American League's automatic relievers for the past three seasons.  After experiments with the starting rotation, Downs has been exclusively a relief pitcher since 2007.  In that period he's put together a sub-2.00 ERA, found a way to strike guys out and been simply extraordinary at keep the ball within the confines of the playing field.  He gets loads of ground balls, inducing them at a 56.1% clip for his career.  His fastball comes in just over 90 mph and is one of his two best pitches, along with the curve.  He throws those two pitches almost exclusively, but does have another breaking ball and a rare changeup.  He's been uncharacteristically stingy with the walks this season, but even at his worst was right around average.  His FIP?  2.04.  He's been outstanding.  He did spend a couple of weeks on the disabled list for his foot in late June.


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Jason Frasor 5-2 36 0 0 0 3 2 33.0 25 9 9 1 10 29 2.45 1.06

A righty who turns 32 in August, Frasor had one other noteworthy season of relief in 2005.  From '06 to '08 he struck out roughly a batter per inning, but wasn't as successful as he was in '05 due to a combination of walks, defensive inefficiency, home runs or an inability to strand runners.  But he's never been horrible, and with a good defense behind him can be a very reliable guy.  He does have some history of control problems, but has been posting career-best numbers in that category to date this season.  There's a little more chance of regression to the mean for Frasor than Downs, but he has better stuff than downs and may be the sexier option.  He throws three pitches at an above-average level:  his fastball (mid-90's), his slider (mid-80's) and his changeup (mid-to-upper 80's) have all been rated as above average by FanGraphs.  In spite of his thorns, Frasor could be a very solid set-up man that could take some high-leverage situations off of Matt Guerrier's hands.


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Brandon League 1-4 38 0 0 0 0 3 42.2 41 24 24 5 14 39 5.06 1.29

League is a 26-year old right hander who's spent parts of the last six seasons with the Blue Jays.  In 2008 he was very effective in 33 innings (2.18 ERA), although FIP would insist that this season has been better.  Last year he struck out fewer, walked more, but stranded 85% of his base runners.  This season he strikes out more, walks fewer, but strands just 67% of base runners.  But a lot of that has to do with luck.  Looking at his arsenal, he has the highest velocity of anyone on this list with his average fastball coming in over 95 mph.  He also throws a hard slider, but his best pitch has been his mid-80's changeup.  Like Downs, League gets a lot of ground balls, with a career rate of 62.2%; it's been just above 50% this season, which is still good.  Like Frasor, League can also suffer from bouts of inconsistency in finding the plate.  It can happen to anyone, but League is a flame thrower, which means we just nod sagely and understand.

Conclusions

I'm not opposed to the Twins making a move on any of these players, if only because the worst of the bunch (League) would still be an improvement over who we have in that he could offer a change of pace; nobody in the bullpen (outside of Nathan) has a decent fastball.  Frasor and Downs (my preference) are the more reliable options, but may come at a slightly higher price than League.

In addition to second base, the bullpen is the other obvious area of need for this team.  The front office won't break the bank to bring anyone in, but it won't take a "break the bank" type of deal to upgrade, either.  League average would suffice, but all three of those guys above could be better than that.

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