If the 2022 Twins were a house, it would have a solid foundation but some chipped paint, a dishwasher on the fritz and a need for fresh carpeting.
They needed a remodel but not a total teardown. It was obvious from the start of the season as Sonny Gray, Randy Dobnak, Cody Stashak and Jorge Alcala landed on the injured list in April. It continued as Bailey Ober and Josh Winder suffered injuries that continue to nag them. It continued through the All-Star break as Emilio Pagan and Tyler Duffey faltered too many times out of the bullpen. Twins relievers overall have 20 losses. Unacceptable for a first-place team.
Starter Dylan Bundy has struggled to pitch more than five innings. Chris Archer? Four.
President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey looked over his farm system, picked up his smartphone and started dealing. In one of the more impactful days the Twins have had before a trade deadline, Falvey and his crew crafted four trades that required them to deal away nine minor-leaguers. This has been Falvey's main approach to building a pitching staff. Since he joined the Twins before the 2017 season, the Twins have dealt 16 minor-leaguers for nine major league pitchers.
In return, the Twins received a credible starter in Tyler Mahle, an All-Star closer in Jorge Lopez, a reinvented set-up man in Michael Fulmer and a backup catcher in Sandy Leon. The cost was a little painful. Among the players dealt were infielder Spencer Steer, their fourth-ranked prospect, according to Baseball America. Lefthander Steven Hajjar was ranked 11th. Infielder Christian Encarnacion-Strand was 14th. Prospects also are commodities who can be exchanged. Steer and Encarnacion-Strand are blocked at first base, second or third by Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco and the emerging Jose Miranda.
"We took some really good prospects out of our system," Falvey said. "But because we have some depth — and because we have some good players — we still feel we have a lot in our system."
The rotation gains an arm in Mahle who joins with some gusto. He likes to strike out guys, as he fanned 210 batters in 180 innings last season. He's pitched into the sixth inning 10 times this season. He's thrown at least 100 pitches ten times, more than 110 three times. This equals less reliance on the bullpen the days he pitches.
This will help. Because the bullpen frequently has been more like a playpen and is THE reason why the Twins' lead over Cleveland in the AL Central is only one scant game.
Too many times this season, a Twins reliever has failed in his role. Baldelli, following a July 26 loss at Milwaukee, sounded like a jealous neighbor as the folks next door pulled up in a Range Rover that dwarfed his Mini Cooper.
Baldelli spoke of how he would like to be where the Brewers were with setup man Devin Williams and closer Josh Hader and have games locked up after six innings.
Falvey must have been listening.
Lopez combines with Jhoan Duran to lock down the final two or three innings of games. Fulmer can help in the seventh and eighth innings. These are now the main men who will pitch when the Twins are tied or are leading late in games. Pagan and Tyler Duffey, because of their struggles, can find a groove in less demanding situations. In one day, the front office attacked where the Twins have often been vulnerable: the middle innings.
Falvey entered the trade deadline with a list of desired repairs and exits with a better team. And I Iike this team even more in 2023, when Alcala, Kenta Maeda, and perhaps Chris Paddack are healthy again.
As for 2022, the Twins have been fortified while their main competition in the Central stood pat. The Guardians made one deal, sending Leon to the Twins. The White Sox failed to make a deal. The Twins are better equipped to handle them now.
Rocco, now go win a division.