Twins claim Brian Fuentes off waivers from Angels, set to trade PTBNL.
Bill Smith, for the second year in a row, is managing to piece together the parts necessary for a respectable bullpen. In Fuentes the Twins have a strikeout threat, and a left-handed option that is actually adpet at retiring left-handed hitters.
There are voices of dissent: Angels fans aren't a big lover of Fuentes after watching him blow saves, and FanGraphs' Matthew Carruth can't quite seem to wrap his head around it, either. To be fair, they have their points. Angels fans have first-hand experience with their pitcher's weaknesses (he sounds like Eddie Guardado) and Carruth, as an outsider, looks at FIP in Minnesota's bullpen and doesn't see Fuentes as an improvement going forward.
But what makes this a good move for the Twins are the circumstances. Circumstances which are obviously different than those in LA this year, and circumstances which Carruth completely misses: the Twins need a left-handed bullpen arm, because they don't have one.
Jose Mijares? Not back yet.
Ron Mahay? Not coming back.
Brian Duensing? Busy being one of our better starting pitchers.
Randy Flores? Just not very good.
Glen Perkins? Small sample, but the peripherals aren't promising.
I deplore the concept of having a LOOGY simply for having one, but there is value in having a specialist. Against hitters who tee off against right-handed pitching, and against left-handed hitters in general, a pitcher like Fuentes has a well-defined role. Minnesota has had a conveyor belt of pitchers in this mold: Guardado, J.C. Romero, Dennys Reyes, Craig Breslow, Mijares and Mahay. They've all been part of a winning formula, and whether you believe in the concept of a LOOGY or not, a bullpen chalk full of noleftysyndrome is a weakness.
Fuentes will not close. This is double plus good, as he's proven to not be the most reliable man in that situation and he also won't reach the 55-games finished plateau required for his $9 million option to vest for 2011. It's a deal for September and October, and he's not going to be asked to perform in the unilateral role of protecting a small lead at the end of the game. He'll face left-handed hitters, and most of the time he's going to do his job.
Don't drink the Kool-Aid. The man isn't an All-Star. But by understanding how Fuentes gives the Twins value, and knowing how well Ron Gardnehire manages a bullpen when the heirarchy is firmly in place, this is (quite obviously, really) a positive move.