Pitching continues to be an obvious avenue the Minnesota Twins can improve on heading into 2019, and according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, it appears the club is close to bringing in another relief arm.
Free-agent reliever Blake Parker expected to come off the board shortly. Landing spot is believed to be #MNTwins.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 7, 2019
Parker, who turns 34 in June, was non-tendered by the Los Angeles Angels after the 2018 season. It was a disappointing one for the veteran righty, who posted a 3.26 ERA with a 4.40 FIP in 66.1 innings. The primary reason for the jump in FIP was allowing 1.63 homers per nine innings — a rate well above the AL average of 1.12 for relievers.
MLB Trade Rumors had projected Parker at $3.1 million in arbitration this winter — up from the $1.8 million he made last year. Parker’s rights are controlled for the next two years, so even if he signs a one-year deal, he’d have one more year of arbitration eligibility after 2019.
Before the dumpster-diving allegations roll in, Parker is just one year removed from a terrific season out of the Angels bullpen. In 2017, Parker threw 67.1 innings with a 2.54 ERA (2.71 FIP), 0.94 HR/9, 11.5 K/9 and just 2.1 BB/9. A big difference between 2018 and 2017 — and it stands, at least in part, to reason why he gave up more homers — was his groundball rate as well, as it dipped from 47 percent to 33.7 percent.
The AL average for relievers last year was 42.9 percent.
Parker’s career average velocity is 92.3 mph on his four-seam fastball, though it spiked in 2017 to 93.5 mph according to Fangraphs. He was back at 92.2 mph last year, which could be part of the reason he struggled — though he’s been successful at the velocity before.
He also had a swinging-strike rate of 10.7 percent — below his career mark of 11.7 percent and down from 13.8 percent in 2017.
The big swing-and-miss pitch for Parker is his splitter, which has a career whiff rate of 22.1 percent. Last year Parker was down across the board on his split, curve and four-seam fastball — the three pitches he goes to almost exclusively. In fact, of the nearly 4,000 career pitches he has thrown, Fangraphs’ PITCHf/x has him throwing only 46 sinkers, changeups and sliders combined — each of which could easily be a classification error.
The drop in sheer results for Parker didn’t stem from a lack of effectiveness on his split, either. Opposing batters had a .409 OPS on it in 2018 after a .484 mark the year before.
So to that end, the fastball velo drop is a potentially big issue. Opposing batters had a .529 OPS on his four-seamer in 2017 and a .939 mark in 2018. Ten of the 12 homers Parker allowed came on the four-seam fastball last year — so again, some sort of improvement is paramount to this being a good signing for the Twins.
Here’s how Parker looks on the mound.
His delivery is extremely funky, as he — at least from my point of view — seems to do everything a sidearmer would do with their legs, but then comes all the way over the top when he delivers the pitch.
The addition of Parker doesn’t likely preclude the Twins from getting more bullpen help, either. Parker has 24 career saves — 14 last year with the Angels — but the Twins still don’t have a firm ninth-inning answer after Addison Reed’s tough 2018.