Yesterday afternoon the Cardinals acquired Steve Cishek for Double-A right-hander Kyle Barraclough. Barraclough is 25 and is in his first taste of Double-A since being drafted by St. Louis in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, a big step up from when the Twins selected him in the 40th round out of high school a few years earlier. At any rate, Barraclough is a strikeout pitcher with serious command issues (167 strikeouts, 78 walks, 136.2 career minor league innings). That seems a pretty fair price to pay for Cishek, so I can only assume that the Twins either didn't make an offer or that the Marlins preferred the Cardinals' offer.
For the small flurry of moves that were made yesterday, Cishek's was the only one involving a relief pitcher. Here are's the latest on a few known and potential bullpen targets for the Twins.
There's some belief that the Pirates, Dodgers, and Nationals are all interested in the Padres' veteran right-hander, but he makes a lot of sense for the Twins, too. He turns 38 tomorrow but has maintained his velocity pretty well and is in the middle of a really good season: he's allowed just 20 hits in 41.2 innings.
Benoit is still due just under $3 million still this season. His $8 million option vests with 55 games finished, which he's guaranteed not to hit this year as he's finished just seven games so far. Because of his track record - he hasn't had a bad year since missing all of 2009 - he might require something more than a Barraclough to attain him, but it's still not going to be anything exorbitant. The only question is, as we mentioned with Cishek, whether whatever Minnesota offers is preferable to whatever Benoit's other suitors put forward.
Ziegler has done well as Arizona's closer since Addison Reed sucked his way out of the job. He doesn't post sexy strikeout numbers, but his funky delivery and the movement he generates has helped him to be an effective reliever for his entire career - in spite of mediocre command. He only throws three pitches, with his sinking fastball topping out around 84 mph. The breaking ball and changeup both sit in the 70s, but the slider/curve and the sinker make for a potent combination.
He's due just under $2 million the rest of the way. His 2016 option is worth $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout. It's hard to believe he's already 35 but as a bit of a late bloomer he's given himself a pretty good career.
With known interest in both Cishek and Ziegler, it's interesting that Minnesota has targeted two relievers with side-armed or deceptive deliveries. Does that mean we can still hold out hope for Carter Capps?
In the first of two notes related to the Washington Nationals, the Nats and Phillies have had conversations about the disgruntled Phillies closer. For all the bluster and talent surrounding this club they aren't doing any better than the Twins, but they are pretty solid when it comes to the state of the bullpen. They're also in a position, like the Twins, where Papelbon would be asked to set up a pretty good closer - Drew Storen, in the Nationals' case.
Minnesota would be a strange fit for Papelbon, even though he'd be a definitive upgrade. Once everyone is healthy in Washington they're a better team than the Twins on paper, so maybe that would make the situation preferable for him. Regardless, it's only a matter of time until he's moved. It's hard to believe that he hasn't been shipped out of Philadelphia yet.
The Nationals released Valverde on Wednesday after he reached an out clause in his contract. He didn't get the call to the Major League bullpen, so he's now a free agent having given Washington's Triple-A affiliate 26.1 innings of 2.39 ERA baseball with 21 strikeouts and three walks.
Walks, or more accurately command since his walk rates weren't terrible last year, have been an issue for Valverde over the last couple of seasons. It's what's kept him from being an effective reliever since 2012 and even that season he went through bouts where he had real trouble with consistently hitting his spots. So the question for any team that might be considering Valverde is this: is his apparent command this season a reflection of the less experienced hitters in the minor leagues, or is it a reflection of a veteran pitcher who has found a way to reign himself back in?
We know that the Twins have had interest in reclamation projects this summer, as they were not only interested in the recently recalled Cishek but also Neftali Feliz, who was released by the Rangers earlier this month. It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to assume that they'll be checking out Valverde as well. As Darren Wolfson mentions above: Minnesota is casting a wide net.