Hot stove: Twins aiming for arms as winter meetings begin

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Baseball is a numbers game but the only numbers you need to know about the Twins' bullpen last season was that it finished dead last in strikeouts and near the bottom in opponents' batting average.

Where Minnesota's bullpen ranked among 30 teams in 2015:

  • 21st with a 3.95 ERA
  • 13th with 515 innings
  • 30th with 392 strikeouts
  • 23rd with an opponents average of .254

Bullpens go a long way in going deep in the playoffs, and it proved true once again as the Royals' stingy bullpen helped Kansas City win its first World Series in 30 years.

Where the Royals ranked:

  • 2nd with a 2.72 ERA
  • 5th with 539.1 innings
  • 10th with 502 strikeouts
  • 1st with an opponents average of .212

According to Rhett Bollinger, the Twins biggest priority the rest of the offseason – starting with the first day of MLB Winter Meetings on Monday – is to improve the bullpen. Bollinger says Minnesota general manager, Terry Ryan, despite saying he's dedicated to keeping third baseman Trevor Plouffe, is open to trading Plouffe for bullpen help.

If Plouffe isn't traded, expect him to start at third base while Miguel Sano transitions to the outfield. Ryan spoke about that Monday, via the Star Tribune.

"If he (Sano) buys into this, we'll make it work,'' Ryan said. "If he doesn't then we're in trouble."

More on the need for bullpen help, via MLB.com.

"Their top priority remains upgrading the bullpen, as Twins relievers combined to strike out the fewest batters in the Majors last year. The Twins will look to add one or two high-quality veteran relievers to add to a core that includes Glen Perkins and Kevin Jepsen. A left-hander would make sense, especially if Perkins remains the club's closer."

Per the Washington Post, these are the top six free-agent relievers this year – and two of them are already off the board.

  1. Darren O'Day: LHP, 1.52 ERA with Baltimore
  2. Tyler Clippard: RHP, Mets' elite set-up man
  3. Joakim Soria (signing with Royals): RHP, 2.54 ERA, 24 saves
  4. Antonio Bastardo: LHP, 2.98 ERA for Pittsburgh
  5. Ryan Madson (signing with Oakland): 2.13 ERA with the Royals
  6. Tony Sipp: LHP, 1.99 ERA with Houston

The Dodgers have also reportedly struck a deal to acquire Reds All-Star, flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman.

Ryan is scheduled to speak with the media at the end of each day of the Winter Meetings, so expect plenty of ammo for the rumor mill as the week progresses.

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