The Runner Sports

Twins Say Goodbye To Brandon Kintzler

The Minnesota Twins’ bullpen just got worse. Brandon Kintzler, the best and most consistent reliever on the team, has been traded to the Washington Nationals for minor league left-hander Tyler Watson.

While Kintzler was never super likely to stay past this season –he was due bigger money on the free agent market– he was an All-Star this year and a stabilizing force on a team that needed as much balance as it could get. His 2.78 ERA will certainly be missed, and his 28 saves, while not a big deal given the team’s record, were still something for Twins fans to hang their hats on.

Luckily for Kintzler, he will be pitching for the Nationals who are comfortably in the playoff picture, and looking to capitalize on a very talented roster. And Kintzler will get to play a key part in this team trying to make it to the NLCS for the first time since they made it as the Montreal Expos in 1981, because Washington’s bullpen has been by far their biggest weakness this season. They have added other relief pitchers in the past weeks, but Kintzler could likely be slotted in as their ninth inning guy. Regardless, Kintzler has a chance to build on his already impressive rise in the baseball world over the last few years.

Now the Twins must figure out who will fill Kintzler’s shoes. Taylor Rogers is the obvious choice as he has been the primary setup man, and until recently, the second best arm in the late innings. But if the Twins are so firmly planted in looking ahead, I believe that Trevor Hildenberger is the correct replacement.

Hildenberger has a 3.12 ERA in 12 appearances so far this season, and has accumulated 19 strikeouts in that time. His most recent appearance, in Sunday’s eye-rolling loss to Oakland, was the highlight of the game. In two innings of work, Hildenberger struck out five batters, and made them look foolish in the process. The ability to blow hitters away would be key at the end of the game (though Kintzler did not do that), and the experience in ninth innings would give him more confidence heading into next season and beyond, where he could very likely be the star of the bullpen. Rogers could also be a future closer, but Hildenberger’s electrifying stuff could put him at the top of the list in terms of longer term solutions.

It is possible that Hildenberger’s ability to throw more innings per outing would keep him as seventh and eighth inning arm, where he could bridge the gap from the starters to Rogers, similar to guys like Andrew Miller of Cleveland. Either role would be fine, but I still believe the pressure of the ninth inning late in this potentially lost season would be the best thing for Hildenberger to endure.

Better yet, how about Joe Buck calling the final out of the Twins winning the World Series this year as he talks about how Hildenberger went from minor leaguer to World Series save-earner in a matter of months? I like that.

Charlie Gillmer

Charlie Gillmer

Charlie Gillmer is a lifelong Twins fan who spends most nights dreaming of learning a knuckleball and pitching them to a World Series victory.
Charlie Gillmer

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