Who doesn’t like a nice aperitif?
The free agent buffet kicks off in a couple of days, and the Twins primary goal remains to get a plate full of starting pitching. But there’s still time for a little something to stimulate the appetite, and what would be better than a relief pitcher with a plus pitch that hasn’t yet found his groove?
The only trick is he’s going to have to find that groove fast.
The Twins claimed 27-year-old right-handed reliever Matt Wisler off of waivers yesterday from the Seattle Mariners. There is a lot to like about Wisler. He’s a former (2014 & 2015) top 100 prospect. He has a 93 mph fastball. He struck out 11 batters per 9 innings last year, and had a 4:1 striekout to walk ratio. He also has a slider that is considered a plus pitch and he’s become increasingly willing to throw it, including more than 70% of the time last season.
Best of all, he’s essentially free. The only cost is a 40-man roster spot, and the Twins freed up three roster spots yesterday. The Twins and pitching coach Wes Johnson essentially get to give Wisler a six-week tryout at spring training next year and see if they can add a little velocity to that fastball or find a mix of pitches that will result in something south of the 5.61 ERA he posted last year.
Unfortunately for the Twins (and possibly for Wisler), it will only be a six-week tryout; they may not be able to extend it to Rochester. The reason he’s available is because he is out of options, meaning any team that wants to keep him must have him on the 25-man roster when they break camp, or put him on waivers. That’s how the Twins got him from Seattle, and that’s how Seattle got him from the Padres, and that’s how the Padres got him from the Reds at the end of last spring training, which brings us full circle.
So this aperitif is an experiment of sorts, but chief mixologist Wes Johnson and the rest of the organization have served up some tasty cocktails already, plus the ingredients are all there. They’ve also had some clunkers, but if he misses, that bitter taste likely won’t last into April.