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The Minnesota Twins Build-A-Bullpen

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Possibly coming soon to a mall/ballpark near you

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

This weekend, a large swarm of Gotham-ites will likely descend upon the Twin Cities for Game 3 (and hopefully Game 4? Nahh…we’ll have the sweep by then ☺) of the ALDS. One of the likely tourist destinations for these New Yahk-ahs will undoubtedly be the Mall of America. In that shrine to capitalism, one can find a store called Build-A-Bear, where the combination of stuffing and spare craft parts produce animals that make kiddies squeal with joy.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Store At Mall of America Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for Build-A-Bear

In much the same fashion, the Minnesota Twins have built-a-bullpen. Around early August, I contemplated a post about how the Twins should strip the bullpen down to the studs and rebuild. Shockingly, since that point the Twins’ pen has been one of the best in baseball (saving me from a plate of crow in the process).

Let’s take a look at how this marvellous collection of castoffs and spare parts was cobbled together…

  1. As with any team, several players are going to emerge through “the system”, meaning they were drafted (or acquired as undrafted free agents) by the organization and progressed through the minor leagues. For the Twins, that homegrown crew includes Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Lewis Thorpe, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, and Brusdar Graterol. An impressive crop of arms for a franchise that had long-struggled to develop pitching talent of any kind.
  2. In terms of honest-to-gosh free agents, only one key bullpen arm was nabbed in this fashion: Ryne Harper.
  3. The Falvine (or previous regime) have been much more active in the Yankee-swap (no pun intended) department:
  • Trevor May came over from the Phillies (along with former Opening Day Twins starter Vance Worley) in exchange for Ben Revere.
  • Devin Smeltzer was part of the harvest from trading Brian Dozier to the LA Dodgers.
  • Zack Littell was pilfered from the Yankees during the roughly 15 minutes Jaime Garcia was a Twin before being shipped to the Big Apple.
  • Sergio Romo is the newbie, plucked from the Marlins this season for prospect Lewin Diaz.

All in all, the Twins’ front office has largely been successful at using these different avenues to put together an effective set of firemen. This is in stark contrast to the New York approach of compiling some of the top relief arms in the game—Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, & Zack Britton—strictly through external means.

In a sport where bullpen innings-pitched continue to increase (especially during the playoffs), a strong group of late—or even middle—inning arms is an absolute necessity towards a potential World Series run. Using all the materials at their disposal, the Twins have seemingly made that a reality. Will it be enough to eclipse the Yankee super-pen? That will be determined in the next few days.