The Minnesota Twins were a surprise playoff team in 2017. Could some free-agent acquisitions help advance them even further in 2018? With free agency opening Tuesday, FOX Sports North runs down some possibilities for the Twins this offseason.
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RP Matt Belisle
Minnesota signed Belisle as a free agent before last season and he ended up being the team's closer by the end of the year. The Twins are in need of a ninth-inning reliever, could Belisle be that guy? Or even come back as a setup reliever. While Belisle's ERA was a little high in his one year in Minnesota (4.03), he did boast a 1.160 WHIP and 8.1 K/9, the later his best mark since 2010. Belisle turns 38 in June, so doubtful he'll be looking for -- or getting -- any long-term commitments.
SP Clay Buchholz
The Twins have made impact signings for their rotation before (see: Ervin Santana), but if they want to take on a low-risk, high-reward reclamation project, Buchholz could be worth a flyer. He only started two games for Philadelphia in 2017 -- and was horrible -- but certainly had his moments in his first 10 years with Boston, although staying healthy has always been a factor. Only three times has Buchholz toiled more than 140 innings in a season, and never more than 189 1/3, which occurred back in 2012. Still, he's had a pretty consistent good WHIP throughout his career and when he's on, he's very, very good.
SP Andrew Cashner
The 31-year-old Cashner has bounced around a bit in his eight-year career, pitching for four teams, the latest a one-year stint in Texas where he went 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.320 WHIP. Cashner had his best years with the Padres, including a 2.5 ERA in 2014. However, like many pitchers, Cashner has struggled staying on the field. He's never pitched more than 184 2/3 innings in a season and had 166 2/3 in 28 starts for Texas in 2017. He's a solid guy to have in the middle or back end of the rotation, as long as he doesn't cost much, but one possible detraction: Cashner whiffed only 4.6 per nine innings last year, easily a career low. Is he trending down or was that merely a blip?
SP Tyler Chatwood
Chatwood would be a sneaky-good signing for Minnesota, someone who could slot nicely in the middle of the rotation, after posting decent back-to-back seasons in Colorado. His numbers might not be eye-popping (20-24, 4.27 ERA, 1.407 WHIP over that span), but like many pitchers, Chatwood fared better away from Coors Field. In 2016, Chatwood was 8-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 1.113 WHIP on the road while last season it was 3.48 and 1.228. Chatwood is also in the prime of his career, turning 28 in December.
RP Dillon Gee
Every bullpen needs a guy like Gee -- someone who can throw multiple innings or provide a spot start without making a mess of things. Gee was solid with the Twins in 2017, making three starts and relieving in 11 others, posting a 3.22 ERA, 1.266 WHIP and 7.7 K/9. Perhaps he wants to go elsewhere and be a starter, but if he can come back in the role he had with Minnesota last season he'd be a good fit.
USA TODAY SportsBruce Kluckhohn
RP Greg Holland
OK, this one might be folly, but Minnesota is in need of a closer. After missing all of 2016, the former Royals stopper notched 41 saves with the Rockies in 2017 with a 1.151 WHIP and 11.0 K/9. From 2013-15, he saved 125 games. However … Holland, who will be 32 later in November, turned down his $15 million player option and is obviously looking for a multiyear contract and a big payday.
USA TODAY SportsIsaiah J. Downing
OF Austin Jackson
Jackson can play all three outfield positions and has been a part-time player the past couple of seasons. Last year with Cleveland, he hit .318/.387/.482 with seven home runs in 85 games (318 plate appearances). Jackson has bounced around some lately (four teams in the last three years) and might want a two-year deal. However, if he can be had for one year he'd potentially be a good bargain. He also brings playoff experience, having played in 45 postseason games.
IF/OF Howie Kendrick
Kendrick might be looking for more playing time elsewhere, but he'll be 35 in July so there might not be a lot of offers out there for him. One of those proverbial professional hitters, Kendrick could fill in around the diamond where needed -- he has experience at first, second, third and the outfield -- as well at designated hitter or by providing quality right-handed at-bats off the bench. A career .291/.334/.421 hitter, Kendrick hit .315/.368/.475 in 91 games last season with Philadelphia and Washington.
RP Brandon Kintzler
The Twins dealt Kintzler to the Washington Nationals before the trade deadline in late July, a move that induced Paul Molitor’s "No Surrender" message (and Bruce Springsteen tribute) in the clubhouse. After being traded, Kintzler had a 3.46 ERA in Washington -- compared to a 2.78 ERA with Minnesota -- and he allowed two runs in 3 1/3 postseason innings. Kintzler only saved one game for the Nationals, so if he longs for the ninth-inning role that earned him an All-Star nod in 2017, he could reclaim it at Target Field.
RP Jake McGee
Minnesota needs a closer and McGee has experience. He was fairly dominant in the first six years of his career in Tampa Bay (2.77 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 11.1 K/9) before spending the last two seasons with the Rockies, where he performed much better on the road. In 2017, outside of Coors Field he had a 2.64 ERA, 0.880 WHIP and 9.4 K/9. The 31-year-old left-hander owns 44 career saves.
RP Pat Neshek
Everyone’s favorite hometown submariner could return to Minnesota, where he attended high school at Park Center and was selected in the sixth round by the Twins in 2002. Neshek was a fan favorite in his first two big-league seasons, but injuries and Tommy John surgery limited him to 26 appearances from 2008-10. Since he left Minnesota in 2011, Neshek has appeared in two All-Star games (2014, 2017) and is coming off a season in which he recorded a 5-3 record, 1.59 ERA and 10 K/9, his best mark since his days in Minnesota in 2008. At age 37, Neshek would need a one- or two-year deal at most, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
USA TODAY SportsSteven Bisig
RP Bryan Shaw
Shaw has been a key component to Cleveland's bullpen the past few years, leading the American League in appearances in three of the last four seasons and pitching in at least 70 games in five consecutive years. Oh, and Shaw, who pitched for Arizona in his first two years in the bigs, has been consistently good. His career numbers: 3.13 ERA, 1.228 WHIP and 8.0 K/9. He also would bring playoff experience, having pitched in 22 innings over 19 playoff games with a 2.45 ERA, 1.136 WHIP and 9.0 K/9. One other thought: After being stuck behind Cody Allen and Andrew Miller in Cleveland, perhaps he'd like to be a closer?
USA TODAY SportsJohn Rieger
RP Joe Smith
If the Twins deem other relievers too expensive, Smith, who turns 34 in March, could be a good, low-cost alternative. Since 2011, Smith has appeared in 472 games with a 2.72 ERA, 1.111 WHIP and 7.9 K/9. He doesn't have the extensive postseason experience of a Shaw, but has pitched in the postseason for three different teams (and also was on the 2016 Cubs, although did not participate in the playoffs), allowing one hit and no runs in five innings. And if for whatever reason Minnesota is out of the pennant race, he's someone who has value and could be flipped at the trading deadline.
RP Anthony Swarzak
Could a reunion be in order? A former second-round pick of the Twins who spent parts of five seasons in Minnesota, Swarzak is coming off a career-best year in which he had a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 for the White Sox and Brewers. The difference in this Swarzak compared to the one in Minnesota from 2009-14 is his improved slider, which is effective against both righties and lefties. That kind of versatility makes the 32-year-old a good fit in any bullpen. The question will be how many suitors will he have and how much will that drive up his cost?
Associated PressMorry Gash
SP Chris Tillman
Tillman is coming off an awful season in which he had a 7.84 ERA and 1.892 WHIP while allowing 2.3 HR/9. No other way to put it, that's dreadful. But Tillman was a solid starter for Baltimore before 2017, pitching over 200 innings in 2013 and '14 and posting sub-4 ERAs four of his five years previous to last season. Based on last year, Tillman is likely going to have to sign a one-year, "show me" contract. If he can get back in form, Tillman would be a great low-risk, high-reward signing.
OF Chris Young
Like Jackson, Young could come in and be a valuable backup outfielder and occasional designated hitter. The 34-year-old, right-handed hitter is far from his days when he was a potential 20-20 player with Arizona -- he hasn't reached 20 homers since 2011 -- but he still has a little pop in his bat, has decent speed and can play all three outfield positions. Young also apparently knows his role, serving as a backup in Boston the past two years. In 90 games in 2017 he hit just .235/.322/.387, but he had a .453 slugging percentage with the Yankees in 2015 and batted .276/.352/.498 for the Red Sox in '16. He'd be a quality fourth outfielder.