With the Twins' bullpen being the team's weakest link, Minnesota's front office is taking a flyer on former Indians and Angels reliever Cody Allen, inking him to a minor-league deal.
Allen was released by the Angels after after he posted an ERA of 6.26 and had a tough time throwing strikes as he walked 17.2% of the batters he faced, a career high.
Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey is familiar with Allen from his days in Cleveland, and the team's hopeful they can turn him around.
What went wrong?
From 2013-2017, Allen was one of the best relievers in the game. In 344.2 innings, he posted an ERA of 2.59, while picking up 122 saves and striking out 457 batters to just 125 walks.
He also was tremendous at keeping the ball in the yard, as he yielded just 33 home runs to the 1,412 batters. In other words, only 2% of the batters he faced during that time took him deep.
His struggles began in 2018. He still racked up 27 saves and struck out over a batter an inning, but his ERA ballooned to 4.70 in 67 innings.
Maybe most concerning, his fastball velocity dipped from 96.4 mph in 2014 to 94 mph in 2018. After he left Cleveland and signed with the Angels this offseason, his fastball was clocked at just 92.8 mph; nearly three ticks lower than his career average of 95.3.
After a solid start to 2019, where he didn't allow a run in his first five appearances, The wheels completely came off the bus.
From April 13 to his release on June 14, Allen allowed 16 earned runs (8.00 ERA) in 18 innings, issued 19 walks and surrendered nine home runs. Opponents were teeing off, as they slashed .304/.434/.747 against him during that span.
Can they fix him?
I'm no pitching coach, but the two most concerning areas in Allen's free fall are his drop in velocity and a skyrocketing home run rate.
Allen's primarily a two-pitch pitcher, throwing a fastball and a curveball. According to Fangraphs, Allen's throwing his fastball just 53% of his time and his curveball 46% of the time.
Now I don't blame him for throwing his fastball less if it doesn't have the same zip as it used to, but his curveball usage (46.3) is up 7% from his career average of (36.8).
So either pitching coach Wes Johnson needs to figure out a way to balance out that usage or possibly add a new pitch to his repertoire. Johnson might be the man to help Allen regain his velocity, too.
Another well-known reliever was released over the weekend in Trevor Rosenthal. The Washington Nationals are paying him $7 million not to play for them after a disastrous first season in the nation's capital.
In 6.1 inning this season, Rosenthal faced 43 batters, allowed 16 earned runs (22.74 ERA!), 15 walks, threw five wild pitches and hit three more batters for a WHIP of 3.63. Yikes.
Normally, the wise move would probably be to stay the hell away, but even after having Tommy John surgery in October of 2017, his fastball was still clocked at 98.4 mph this season, which is slightly ahead of his career average of 98.2.
He also stopped throwing his change up and increased his slider usage. Here's a breakdown of what he's thrown in his career compared to what he has done this year.
- Fastball: 76.8%
- Change up: 14.3%
- Slider: 5.6%
- Curveball: 3.3%
- Fastball: 75.5%
- Change up: 5.5%
- Slider: 19%
So in a way, it seems like Rosenthal ditched the secondary pitches that made him effective. Maybe the reconstructive arm surgery played a role in that, but if it didn't, it seems as if he should return to a fastball-changeup diet.
If the Twins were interested and feel they can get him back to the pitcher he used to be where he racked up 121 saves and and ERA of 3.01, maybe he could help out the bullpen.
They've done it before
We've already seen the Twins' brass turn around Martin Perez from a failed top prospect in Texas to a workhorse in the starting rotation with a brand new devastating cutter.
Let's not forget either that in 2017, they pulled off a similar signing with Bartolo Colon, who also looked like a disaster but then turned into a serviceable pitcher who helped the Twins clinch a Wild Card berth.
Both those arms were starting pitchers and not relievers, but it doesn't hurt that the organization has had recent success turning pitchers around.
Also, signing two pitchers to minor-league deals (like they did with Allen and, in my opinion, should consider doing with Rosenthal) doesn't hurt the team financially and it's a no-lose situation.
I think it's more likely the Twins do go out and trade for someone more established by the trade deadline, but trying to find lightning in a bottle with Allen and potentially with Rosenthal makes some sense.