When asked about the state of the Twins' bullpen yesterday, Bill Smith gave a rather unsettling answer:
"Sometimes your best bet, rather than go out and get a third baseman, your best bet is to bring up Valencia and give him a chance," Smith said. "And we always like to do that. We love to bring players out of our system if they can help us win."My hope is that this is one of those offhand remarks that doesn't accurately reflect the mindset of the front office. Because if Smith and Co. are remotely comfortable with the bullpen pieces they currently have in place, they're out of their minds.
He added, "Perkins and Neshek and Nathan are three guys that would be great wild cards for us, because Perkins and Neshek pitched all season in Triple-A, or most of the season in Triple-A, and Nathan not at all."
"So if we can get Nathan back, competitive, to anywhere close to where he was, if we can get Neshek back to where he was several years ago -- and this would be the second year after Tommy John surgery. And Perkins threw the ball well in September, and had some stints of throwing the ball very well in Rochester."
I don't mean to draw any unflattering Tim Brewster comparisons, but in the above quote Smith sounds like a used car salesman. Who does he think he's fooling? Pat Neshek and Glen Perkins spent most of 2010 in Triple-A because they were both completely ineffective and neither has proven to be fully recovered from their latest injuries. A "competitive" Joe Nathan is not exactly the jolt needed for a bullpen containing nothing but question marks past Matt Capps and Jose Mijares. The unit, as it currently stands, is exceedingly thin even if Nathan returns at full strength. And as Neshek's 2010 campaign proved, that first year back from Tommy John surgery can bring its share of tribulations.
There's no Danny Valencia caliber player ready to step into the Twins' bullpen and make us all forget about Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. It's possible that Anthony Slama -- a strikeout machine with questionable control -- could make a positive impact, but the organization has never seemed all that high on him and it's telling that Smith would rather mention Perkins, who has compiled a 5.71 ERA between the majors and minors over the past two seasons. Beyond Slama, the Twins have zero relief prospects in the organization with the kind of numbers that would indicate they're ready to step in and handle late-inning duties for the big-league club.
I'm sure Smith must realize the gravity of the team's bullpen situation, so most likely I'm just over-analyzing a harmless early December quote. Still, for the sake of my blood pressure Bill, please refrain from making similar comments in the future.