In his latest column for ESPN 1500
, Phil Mackey opens with the following statement: "Unlike in the previous two offseasons, there will be no over-promising and under-delivering by the Minnesota Twins in 2013."
Incidentally, that's pretty much exactly how I would describe this offseason for the Twins. Over-promising and under-delivering. Terry Ryan talked at length in the early days of winter about moving aggressively to upgrade the club's beleaguered pitching corps, and because I tend to trust Ryan
, I bought into this stated commitment.
In his interview for the Offseason Handbook, Ryan insisted that the Twins would pursue
a "pretty darn good pitcher" in free agency. In a subsequent interview with MLB Network
, he responded to a question from Ken Rosenthal about his apparent rebuilding approach by saying, "I think that's a good excuse to fail, Kenny. I don't have much interest in telling people we're playing for 2015. We need to get going here, we've had two tough years… We've got to quit talking about building for the future."
All of that rhetoric certainly falls short of what we've actually seen this offseason, however. Ryan made a couple nice trades for the long-term, swapping out Denard Span and Ben Revere for some intriguing young arms, but his short-term strategy has been puzzling to say the least. Kevin Correia was the team's top "prize" in free agency, followed by fliers on a couple reclamation projects in Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden. By nearly all accounts, the Twins have made very little effort to outbid the competition for remotely high-profile names. Now, with at least $15 million in supposedly available payroll remaining, Ryan is "likely done making significant moves."
In his ESPN 1500 interview, the Twins' general manager attempted to put a realistic slant on the coming season, noting that making the playoffs would be ideal but is unlikely. This is probably what Mackey was getting at with his opening line, but even Ryan's adjusted goal of playing meaningful baseball in September looks like a reach based on the moves he's made. When your pitching staff ranks as one of the worst in the game, it takes more than a couple low-end stopgap solutions to foster significant improvement, and the club's hesitance to put more of its available funds toward tapping into that middle tier of starters suggests a level of commitment that is not in line with their purported resolve.
Up to this point, the Twins have spent minimally in addressing their pitiful rotation via free agency, and if payroll remains around its current ~$80 million mark, it will be $15 million lower than it was last year and $30 million lower than 2011. Heck, right now the number is closer to where it was in 2007 in the Metrodome than where it's been any year at Target Field.
Payroll isn't everything, of course, but the amount that the Twins are willing to spend says a lot about their true desire to promptly right the ship, especially with such drastic needs in the starting corps and so many free agent pitchers inking lucrative deals.
Maybe Ryan and Co. really do believe they've done enough to position this team for a leap forward in 2013. Perhaps they're confident in the ability of internal options to step up, or they have some reason to believe Pelfrey and Harden will be healthy and productive that I'm not aware of. Perhaps there's another move coming and the quotes we're seeing are intended to flip the script by under-promising and over-delivering.
Right now that's feeling like wishful thinking. If what we see is what we're going to get, this season is shaping up to be more of the same, and despite their adamant claims to the contrary the organization doesn't appear all that fiercely determined to prevent such an outcome.