Righthanded reliever Blake Parker, a 33-year-old veteran of four big-league bullpens who had a breakout season with the Angels in 2017, is set to be the first addition to the Twins’ relief corps of this offseason.
Parker, who became a free agent in November after the Angels declined to offer him a contract for 2019, is headed to the Twins, according to reports from Fox Sports and ESPN. The agreement, pending a physical, would be for one year and $3.2 million; following the season, he would be under team control and eligible for arbitration.
Parker broke into the major leagues in 2012 with the Cubs, who selected him in the 16th round of the 2006 draft, but pitched only 90 ⅔ innings (with a 3.87 ERA) in the majors through 2016. Los Angeles claimed him off waivers in 2017, however, and his career suddenly blossomed.
Parker held hitters to a .172 average in his breakthrough year, striking out 86 hitters in 67 ⅓ innings, while walking only 16. Handed the closer’s role in mid-August, he converted seven of eight save opportunities in the season’s final five weeks.
Parker’s fastball velocity declined from an average of 94 miles per hour in 2017 to 92.8 in 2018, however, and his strikeout rate dipped accordingly, from 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings to 9.5. His ERA rose from 2.54 to 3.26, and he gave up 12 home runs in 66 ⅓ innings, though he still recorded 14 saves in 17 chances.
The Twins have no established closer on their roster as they enter 2019, so Parker, noted for his bent-at-the-waist, herky-jerky windup before coming set, could be given an opportunity to earn that job. More likely, however, is a role as a righthanded setup man with returnees Addison Reed, Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger.