Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 3/8/12

It doesn’t get talked about very often, but spring training serves a dual purpose for many teams. Not only is it a time to get their players warmed up and ready for the regular season, but it’s also a perfect time for teams and players to finalize contract extensions. Free agent acquisitions are finished for the year and the off-season madness is in the past, so teams have the free time to focus on locking up their players. Coming into today, there had already been seven extensions signed since the beginning of spring training…and the Twins just added number eight:

The Twins have signed left-hander Glen Perkins to a three-year, $10.3MM extension, the team announced. The SFX client was already under contract for $1.55MM in 2012, so the deal covers the 2013-15 seasons. It includes a club option for 2016.  (MLB Trade Rumors)

This was a savvy move by the Twins. In his first full season working out of the bullpen, Perkins blossumed into an entirely new pitcher. As a starter, his strikeout rate had hung around 10% as his slider and change-up both generated mediocre amounts of whiffs. His fastballs averaged in the low-90 MPH range, making his overall repertoire middling.

But in the bullpen, Perkins let himself go. His fastball’s velocity jumped up to 94-95 MPH, and he ditched his change-up in favor of throwing his slider 30% of the time. He had never generated more than 28% Whiffs/Swing with any of his pitches before, but in 2012, hitters whiffed on his slider 40% of the time they swung at it. Perkins went from a replacement-level starter to closer material — not something you see happen every day.

The Twins don’t have a deep bullpen, so it makes sense that they’d want to lock up Perkins. His 2.41 FIP and 1.7 WAR led the Twins last season by a wide margin; the next best pitcher in their ‘pen was arguably Joe Nathan, who had a 4.28 FIP and finished the season with zero WAR. Their closer, Matt Capps, saw his strikeout rate plummet last season, and he blew 9 saves and posted a 4.75 FIP. It was a sorry bunch back there, and Perkins was the only consistent, reliable reliever that the Twins had.

By locking up Perkins before the season begins, the Twins essentially just inked their closer-of-the-future to a contract worthy of a set-up man. At the first sign of trouble from Capps, Perkins will likely be inserted as closer, and the Twins will have themselves a great closer signed to a very affordable control.

My only hesitancy is that Perkins is guaranteed money by the Twins for four seasons; that’s a long time to trust that Perkins will remain healthy and effective. Relief pitchers come and go, their performance fluctuates on a yearly basis, and they are a constant injury risk. Teams rarely sign relief pitchers to deals longer than two or three years, and even those sort of deals can blow up in a team’s face easily enough. This is a tad of a risky signing by the Twins — but at least it’s a small risk, as $12 million over four seasons isn’t so bad. Even if he regresses some or has some injury issues over the coming years, Perkins should still easily be worth this contract in the end.

Considering the current state of the Twins’ bullpen, this was a no-brainer decision. They may have six other holes, but at least they have one reliable reliever to count on in the future.


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