After rounding out their rotation with the addition of right-hander Jason Marquis a couple weeks ago, the Twins took a holiday hiatus -- and so did I. Now, with 2012 officially underway, it's time for the front office to turn its attention toward adding the final pieces of the puzzle as they seek a return to respectability.
Terry Ryan got most of his shopping done early this offseason, utilizing free agency to address several of the club's greatest needs -- a shortstop, a right fielder, a versatile backup catcher and a starting pitcher -- before Christmas. Now, the one unit that stands out as the most lacking is the bullpen.
Fortunately, as is often the case after the holiday season, there are plenty of options left on the shelf and they should be available at a reduced price.
With Matt Capps re-signed to join southpaws Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing, the Twins have a solid base for the back end of the bullpen. What they clearly need now is another right-handed arm for the late innings.
Here are a few free agent righty relievers that the budget-conscious Twins should consider targeting in the coming weeks:
Age: 35 | 2011 Stats: 19.1 IP, 1.40 ERA, 23 K / 13 BB, 1.50 WHIP
Lidge was limited to under 20 innings by injury last year, but despite some control issues he was pretty effective when able to take the mound. The slider-slinging right-hander had hoped to land a closer job this winter, but those opportunities have dried up quickly and he'll probably have to settle for a one-year deal as a setup man. He carries some question marks, but holds plenty of upside.
Age: 31 | 2011 Stats: 59 2/3 IP, 3.62 ERA, 46 K / 20 BB, 1.26 WHIP
Coffey possesses the type of durability that will surely appeal to a Twins club that watched its pitchers drop like flies last year. He's appeared in 69 or more games in each of the past three years, and has made 57-plus appearances in all but one of his seven big-league seasons. He owns a 4.08 career ERA and has never been a truly dominant pitcher, but figures to be a great value if he lands in the range of the one-year, $2.1 million contract that the TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook predicted.
Age: 34 | 2011 Stats: 49.1 IP, 4.38 ERA, 39 K / 8 BB, 1.11 WHIP
Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported last week that Wheeler's agent tried reaching out to the Twins but got no response since the front office was shut down for the holidays. Hopefully Ryan returned that call as soon as he got back into the office this week, because Wheeler is a nice fit. His 4.38 ERA last year may appear mediocre, but his peripherals were very strong and he posted a 3.24 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in the three seasons prior. For his career, Wheeler has held right-handed hitters to a .636 OPS.
Age: 35 | 2011 Stats: 54.1 IP, 3.64 ERA, 42 K / 21 BB, 1.45 WHIP
Like Coffey, Linebrink's main appeal is his durability. He's appeared in 50 or more games in every season since 2004. Even at age 35, his fastball still registers in the mid-90s and he's averaged at least seven strikeouts per nine innings in each of the past four years. His occasional proneness to the long ball could be downplayed at Target Field.
Age: 33 | 2011 Stats: 74.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 43 K / 20 BB, 1.25 WHIP
When looking at Qualls' track record, the one word that comes to mind is "consistency." With the exception of a clunker season in 2010, his ERA has been between 2.81 and 3.76 in each of his eight MLB campaigns. Qualls has been a workhorse in the Matt Guerrier mold, ranking among the National League's top ten most oft-used relievers in five different seasons.
Age: 33 | 2011 Stats: 33.2 IP, 6.68 ERA, 32 K / 26 BB, 1.87 WHIP
Wuertz will likely come cheaper than any other hurler on this list, because he's coming off a tumultuous 2011 campaign and hasn't thrown more than 40 innings since 2009. In that 2009 season, though, he was truly spectacular, posting a 2.63 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while notching 102 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings. At the right price, it might be worth gambling on the chance that Wuertz can once again harness his devastating slider, but he probably shouldn't be the sole remaining bullpen addition.