The Twins are getting to work improving a bullpen that finished 12th out of 15 American League teams last year with a 4.40 ERA. Rather than sit around and hope their internal candidates get healthy and/or improve, the Twins are picking up the phone and making calls, so to speak.
Minnesota has reached out to check on the trade availability of Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, according to a report from Jon Morosi.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 12, 2017
Iglesias, who turns 28 in January, is primarily a fastball-slider reliever, with a changeup that he throws roughly 13% of the time, according to Brooks Baseball. A former starter, his heater has jumped to 96.5 mph on average, per Brooks Baseball. His average fastball velocity ranked 11th last year among National League relievers with at least 50 innings pitched.
Iglesias also racked up 28 saves with the 68-win Reds last year. He posted a 2.49 ERA in 76 innings, with a strong 92:27 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 30.1% strikeout rate ranked 27th among all MLB relievers with at least 50 innings last year.
The Reds’ closer is under contract through the 2020 season, with a clause that he can “opt out” of that deal in favor of raises through salary arbitration if he chooses to. That mean’s that he’ll likely make a minimum of $14.5 million over the next three seasons, and that’s only if he doesn’t make more through arbitration.
A bullpen trade wouldn’t be new for the Twins under Derek Falvey and Co.
The Twins traded Brandon Kintzler at last year’s trade deadline to the Nationals for pitching prospect Tyler Watson and $500,000 in international bonus pool money. (That bonus pool money could come into play if the Twins emerge as a realistic suitor for Japanese wunderkind Shohei Ohtani.)
Minnesota has reached out to Kintzler’s side to inquire about a possible reunion through free agency, according to 1500ESPN contributor Darren Wolfson on a recent episode of the Scoop podcast. Kintzler could be a closer candidate, but I’d venture to guess that some teams will target him as a setup man.
Kintzler’s not the only former Twins closer to keep an eye on. Given his popularity in the clubhouse and his resurgent second half of the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if they also checked in on free agent Matt Belisle. But any attempt to sign him to a Major League deal in 2018 should come with the expectation that he would no longer be pitching the final outs of games, as he was down the stretch as the team’s primary closer on the way to the postseason. Trevor Hildenberger, a good reliever with a seemingly bright future, would be an internal candidate to close for the Twins.
What would it take in a trade to land a young and cost-controlled closer with a big fastball and strikeout stuff like Iglesias? That’s a question for another column. The short answer is “a lot.”
Last summer the word from Jon Heyman was that Reds would entertain the idea of trading Iglesias, but that they had to “be blown away” for that to happen. It’s hard to know exactly what to make of that. Sometimes things in this sport are transparent and other times they’re murkier. For example, if you’re the Twins – a high-ranking executive, for example – and you’re having a nice little chat on background with a member or members of the media, you might say that you’d need to be blown away to trade Byron Buxton. On the other hand, you might also, in that same context, say that you’ve gotten some calls on Eduardo Escobar, but he’s such a nice guy in the clubhouse and he filled in nicely as a utility guy with some position flexibility and power … that you’d really have to be blown away to trade him this winter.
One of those is probably true and one of them is probably posturing.
Iglesias is a relatively young closer with a bit of a track record and the ability to get swings and misses. He’s under contract for three more seasons – but perhaps available in a trade – at a time when the relief market is being closely watched. That market currently is filled out with names like Wade Davis, Greg Holland and a whole slew of good relievers with strong numbers.
Morosi reported that there was “strong interest” from other teams for an Iglesias trade at the non-waiver deadline last year, but of course nothing was finalized. We’ll see if anything comes of the latest round of rumors this winter.