The Minnesota Twins could use some bullpen reinforcement, and they’re making a low-risk bet that Cody Allen can eventually help.
With a 6.26 ERA over 25 appearances this season, the Los Angeles Angels designated Cody Allen for assignment and then released him. But he’s found a landing spot, as Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported the Minnesota Twins will sign Allen to a Minor League deal.
From 2014-2017, Allen had a 2.62 ERA, a 12.1 K/9 and 120 saves for the Cleveland Indians. Things went off the rails last year though, with a 4.70 ERA over 70 appearances (with 27 saves), and the Angels took a one-year bet it was just a blip on the radar.
But the core of Allen’s problems in 2018 have remained this year. A 4.4 BB/9 rate last year has become 7.8 this year, and his fastball velocity has fallen even more substantially (92.8 MPH, via FanGraphs). As might be expected with that, his first pitch strike percentage, swinging strike rate, contacts rate across the board and percentage of pitches in the strike zone are all at career-worsts.
According to Dan Hayes of The Athletic, the Twins are in no rush to have Allen in the big leagues.
As the Twins consider moves between now and the trade deadline, the bullpen stands as an area of need. Their bullpen ERA is 16th in all of baseball entering Sunday (4.45), with Taylor Rogers (29 appearances), Blake Parker (29 appearances), Trevor May (32 appearances) and Ryne Harper (33 appearances) taking a lot of high-leverage innings and pushing toward being overworked. Even with a team-high 10 saves Parker in particular does not inspire much confidence, with a 5.82 ERA since the beginning of May.
Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey was in the Indians’ organization when Allen was drafted (16th round in 2010) and ultimately developed into a top-level reliever. So there’s surely some notion of “we can fix him,” with Falvey as the one who might see executable ideas better than anyone.
Taking a flier on Allen should not be Minnesota’s only move to address the bullpen. But if it works out, it will be a notable move for one of baseball’s best teams.