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Did Terry Ryan Act Too Aggressively in Free Agency?

Attached Image: nolasco2.jpg Now there's a funny question to ask.

Terry Ryan, who has long been billed by his detractors as stingy and overly conservative when it comes to free agency, drawing criticism for exhibiting too much aggression in his approach to the open market? Not long ago, such a notion would have been difficult to comprehend.

Yet, it is fair to wonder if the Twins made the correct choices now that we've seen Matt Garza sign with the Brewers for far less than expected while other top arms remain unsigned in mid-February, their asking prices dropping.
[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
Ryan made franchise history in late November when he signed Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract. Around that same time, he reached agreement with Phil Hughes for three years and $24 million.

Both deals were colossal when viewed through the scope of this organization's history, and even outside of that lens, they were bold moves that were labeled overpays in some corners of the baseball world.

Given that Garza has now signed for nearly the same amount as Nolasco, who has the lesser resume, those claims gain more credence. But I would argue that even if the Twins did "overpay" for Nolasco and Hughes, the decisions still look good even in hindsight.

The Money Doesn't Matter

Could Ryan have saved some money by waiting out Nolasco and letting the market develop? It's very possible. But the GM paid what it took to bring him here, just as he did with Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey, and at the end of the day this club won't be needing to worry about saving a few million dollars any time soon.

The biggest concern, especially after last year's fizzled efforts, was getting some things done.

Statements Do Matter

Perhaps the Twins could have gone the direction of a team like the Brewers, who waited the market out and scored a relative bargain when Garza finally settled on their offer.

But that approach doesn't really have the same paradigm-shifting effect as signing two pitchers to unprecedented contracts by early December, does it? With many fans growing restless over a perceived sense of apathy from the front office, that kind of message needed to be sent.

Draft Picks Also Matter

Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez both remain unsigned despite coming off stellar seasons. The rest of the teams across the league, much like the Twins, are wary of surrendering a high draft pick in addition to a hefty salary commitment in order to add a starting pitcher with significant wear on his arm.

Among the group of free agent pitchers who did not have compensatory picks attached, Nolasco and Hughes were among the most appealing. Also in that group were Garza, who signed in late January, and Bronson Arroyo, who finally signed last week.

Arroyo's two-year deal with the Diamondbacks is worth more than double the one Pelfrey signed to round out the Minnesota rotation, and I highly doubt that Arroyo's production at ages 37 and 38 will warrant that sizable differential.

That the Twins pulled things together so quickly with Nolasco and Hughes indicates that both pitchers -- at least to some extent -- wanted to be here. That's something that Ryan values, and not without good reason.

While some might question the decision to strike so early in the offseason now that the pitching market has unexpectedly dragged on, seeing the indecisiveness and endless haggling going on elsewhere only makes me feel better about the Twins' front office taking the initiative to lock up two guys they coveted right away, even if that meant paying a little more.


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