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  • Winter Meetings: Time For Terry Ryan to Step Up.

    Baseball’s Winter Meetings get in to gear down at the Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville on Monday and that’s got me a bit nervous. The Twins, at least at the Major League level, are in a sorry state, having come off a 96-loss season which followed a 99-loss season. It just doesn’t get much worse than this, folks.


    A year ago, just ahead of the Winter Meetings in Dallas, I wrote a post here headlined “M&M: Time to Step Up or Shut Up.” The point was that, following a season in which the Twins stars had spent more time not playing baseball than playing baseball, perhaps it wasn’t totally unrealistic for the front office to play a little “wait and see” before spending a bunch of money trying to rebuild the roster to a level capable of contending.

    Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, among others, needed to play better in 2012 or it really wouldn’t matter whether the Twins spent money to buy them some help.

    To their credit, I believe Mauer and Morneau did exactly what I asked. They both had much-improved seasons, managing to stay on the field and hit baseballs with some regularity. Whatever the reasons were for the Twins dropping 96 games in 2012, those reasons had little, if anything, to do with Mauer and Morneau. The failure can arguably be laid almost entirely at the feet of the pitching staff. And that’s not entirely surprising. We at Knuckleballs posted multiple articles last offseason expressing our disappointment about the Twins failure to add significant pitching help and we certainly weren’t the only people making that point.

    So here we are, a year later, on the eve of yet another week of Winter Meetings, and guess what… the Twins need to significantly improve their pitching staff. Terry Ryan made what certainly appears to have been a reasonable trade this week when he sent popular and productive outfielder/leadoff hitter Denard Span to the Nationals for potential future top-of-the-rotation pitcher Alex Meyer. But that deal won’t do anything to make the product at Target Field any more watchable in 2013.

    The reports we are reading leading up to these meetings indicate the Twins are expected to be very active and that Terry Ryan is looking to significantly improve the 2013 rotation largely through the free agent market. That’s encouraging to hear, but gang, we’ve heard that before.

    Let’s hop in to our time machine and go back just one year ago, shall we? Here’s a summary of what we were reading about the Twins activities during the Winter Meetings last December:


    • On Day One last year, there was conjecture that the Twins remained interested in Edwin Jackson, but that Jackson was going to wait until CJ Wilson and/or Mark Buehrle set the market. The Twins were said to be interested in Jackson only if they did not spend the money to re-sign Michael Cuddyer. Of course, they signed Josh Willingham for considerably less money than Cuddyer was demanding, but we certainly did not see Jackson in a Twins uniform.
    • Speaking of Mark Buehrle, reports also came out of Dallas on Day One that the Twins were one of four teams (along with the Nationals, Marlins and Rangers) that were “still in on” Buehrle. He eventually signed with the Marlins and is now a Blue Jay.
    • So what DID the Twins do on Day One? They re-signed Matt Capps and claimed SS Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Orioles.
    • On Day Two, we read that Buehrle had narrowed his list to five teams and that the Twins had an offer in. Word also came out that the Twins would be meeting with Jeff Francis’ agent during the Winter Meetings.
    • On the other hand, the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal III was reporting that the Twins had had no conversations with the agents of Francis and Jackson.
    • They didn’t add a pitcher on Day Two, but the Twins did part with one. They traded Kevin Slowey to the Rockies for a “player to be named later.”
    • And on Day Three, apparently worn out by all the activity the first two days, the Twins front office rested.


    Of course, later in the month, Terry Ryan inked Jason Marquis to a one year contract, so it’s not like he didn’t add any starting pitching, right?

    So what’s my point?

    My point is that, while Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter are saying all the right things right now about improving the Twins in 2013 by adding legitimate starting pitchers, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve heard it before. Just a year ago, the media was being fed reports about how the Twins were in on Mark Buehrle and interested in talking to Edwin Jackson’s agent. But when it came to actually spending money, they signed Jason Marquis.

    And make no mistake, it would have been pretty easy to make a case to a top pitcher that their 2011 failures were fluke-ish… that injuries to Mauer, Morneau, Span, and others were responsible for the lousy record… and that with some pitching help and a return to health by their stars, the Twins could contend again in 2012. It won’t be nearly as easy to convince a top free agent that they’d be signing on to a contender in Minnesota this year. Last year, all Ryan had to so was spend money. This year he has to do a helluva sales job AND spend money.

    It’s perfectly fine for fans to be hopeful that Ryan will do exactly that. As fans, hope is what we live on in December and January.

    It’s also perfectly understandable for us to be skeptical that the Twins are really serious about being willing to spend the money that would be necessary to bring legitimate starting pitching help on board.

    As I’ve written this past week, Terry Ryan has been saying all the right things. I’m sure the Twins would like fans to take them at their word when they talk about being willing to spend money to make real and immediate improvements.

    But if the Twins really want us to take their words seriously, they need to do more than talk about signing good pitchers. They need to do it.

    You’re on deck Mr. Ryan. It’s time for you to step up.

    - JC

    This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.
    This article was originally published in blog: Winter Meetings: Time For Terry Ryan to Step Up. started by Jim Crikket
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Ive said it before.....MN/Terry Ryan are very good at making an offer that is just not good enough to get a player but appear they are interested....which they never were at those prices.
      Until they change this perception, only the sheep will actually believe that they will do something. They hit some nice cheap deals last winter, but thats all they are interested in.
      Even now, Ryan isnt gonna get into a bidding war for even a Brett Myers type. Even more-so than this, Im frustrated by the middle infield & the refusal to address it.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      Faced with having to top the 4 year $58 million contract that Beuhrle received should have ended their interest in him. I would stay far away from a bidding war for Brett Myers.
      But I definitely agree with you on the middle infield. That can be addressed reasonably and I don't see the Twins even rumored for free agents at those positions. I think our pitching would do better if they had major league shortstops behind them. Our fielding at 3rd base has been poor also and now we are putting Parmelee in the out field and subtracting Span. Picking up some good defensive players wouldn't break the budget and would help the entire pitching staff.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Ive said it before.....MN/Terry Ryan are very good at making an offer that is just not good enough to get a player but appear they are interested....which they never were at those prices.
      Until they change this perception, only the sheep will actually believe that they will do something. They hit some nice cheap deals last winter, but thats all they are interested in.
      Even now, Ryan isnt gonna get into a bidding war for even a Brett Myers type. Even more-so than this, Im frustrated by the middle infield & the refusal to address it.


      He did address the MI-

      Buh-bye- Nishi, Lexi....

      Hello- Florimon, Escobar and Field (well, Field for 15 minutes, anyway)

      There. Fixed. Next?
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      There are 30 million ways Ryan could win a bidding war for pitching and MI help. How many other GMs have that much payroll room before they even hit the prior year's Opening Day payroll? I have no issue with the Span/Meyer trade, but with $30 million in his pocket, there's no excuse at all for Ryan not being able to address the present AND the future needs of his ballclub.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Bad teams often have to over pay for decent free agents. After all who wants to play for a bad team? All things being equal if the Jackson or Marcum types have an offer from the Twins and a contender which would you take?

      It's a lot more likely to be guys coming off poor years looking to rebuild some value, imo.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      Bad teams often have to over pay for decent free agents. After all who wants to play for a bad team? All things being equal if the Jackson or Marcum types have an offer from the Twins and a contender which would you take?

      It's a lot more likely to be guys coming off poor years looking to rebuild some value, imo.
      Having to overpay is the price this front office pays for allowing the team to fall to the depths it has. Starting pitching was a huge need last offseason, too, and they did nothing about it. Congratulations, you shaved $15 million off your 2011 payroll by not signing real pitching last year. Now you get to overpay to get similar pitching because you have to convince those pitchers that you're serious about contending. It's the price you pay for being stupid and cheap last year.

      Those pitchers also know that, if the Twins aren't competitive, there's a pretty good chance they get traded to a contender at mid-season anyway. Some might argue you've got a better chance of being in the playoffs by signing with a bad team now than if you sign with a borderline competitive team in the first place.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      The key to THIS year is that Ryan has no excuses. And, unlike in your time machine examples, Jim, THIS year Ryan (not media reports, but Ryan) has given us a very clear assurances that he won't be constrained by budgets.

      My theory is that last year Ryan failed to liberate himself to his own old mentality, which was necessary in the past, of value-shopping and avoiding bidding wars. He also made a very poor bet that Liriano, Baker, Pavano, Blackburn, and Marquis/Hendriks/whomever was going to be enough.

      So, those of us who hold out dim hope aren't doing so blindly. I for one base my hope on Ryan's own words, not media speculation, and on the fact that there are more options available to solve fewer problems this year than last.

      My expectations aren't ridiculous: two pitchers for 2013, through FA or trade, better than #3-4 starter Diamond. A 2013 team that wins close to half its games (say, 77 wins), making them watchable. A 2014 team of exciting first and second year players, on the rise, fun to watch, with more talent on the cusp.

      If Ryan instead gives me Liriano and Myers and calls it a day, I'll join in the criticism.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Ive said it before.....MN/Terry Ryan are very good at making an offer that is just not good enough to get a player but appear they are interested....which they never were at those prices.
      Until they change this perception, only the sheep will actually believe that they will do something. They hit some nice cheap deals last winter, but thats all they are interested in.
      Even now, Ryan isnt gonna get into a bidding war for even a Brett Myers type. Even more-so than this, Im frustrated by the middle infield & the refusal to address it.
      Nice post
    1. jctwins's Avatar
      jctwins -
      At least the new ballpark allows for increased payroll.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      "I'll believe it when I see it" is generally a good approach to any expected Twins FA activity, but the situation entering 2013 is notably worse than entering 2012. Nobody expected Baker and Pavano would be able to offer virtually nothing all year. Liriano was so awful early that he got yanked from the worst rotation in baseball. Guys who normally never would've sniffed the majors (like Walters and Devries) were suddenly rotation regulars. And Scott Diamond became our "ace".

      This year, we know all those problems going in. There is no possible formula whereby the Twins could have an effective starting rotation as they are currently constituted.

      Therefore, I actually do have some level of confidence that we will sign pitchers, though they may be low budget signings, and it may not happen at the Winter Meetings.
    1. Wookiee of the Year's Avatar
      Wookiee of the Year -
      I wonder how TR felt after the offseason going into spring training last year? Did he feel like he'd done his job, or like he'd come up short?

      I ask because just because "we've heard it before" doesn't mean it'll be the same this year. I'm hoping TR himself learned from last year that you can't just "be in the mix" for a handful of guys and hope one or two shake out; you really do have to go after a few of them.

      Probably too optimistic on my part, but I'd hope the difference between last year and this year is that last year just happened and taught a few lessons.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      It's only Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, but when you sort through all of the rumors, there's virtually no mention of the Twins doing anything more than "checking in" on the top available free agent pitchers. Joe Blanton is the best that the Twins have been seriously connected to, so far. Beyond that, it's bottom-dwellers, so far. Not an encouraging first day.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      I expect upper tier players to see salarys with up to and more of 25% by the time spring training starts in 2014,with that in mind the twins should be looking for players they need this year rather then waiting till next.
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      Ubaldo Jiminez was terrible in 2012, but I believe he could still be a helpful #3 or #4 for Twins in 2013 and at a low cost. He has the tools and could flourish in the pitcher friendly Target Field. I would trade for him as Cleveland is looking to unload players. If our pithing coach can helpJiminez, what a find? Worth the $5 million or so investment Cleveland picked up his option for. Thoughts?????????
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789 View Post
      Ubaldo Jiminez was terrible in 2012, but I believe he could still be a helpful #3 or #4 for Twins in 2013 and at a low cost. He has the tools and could flourish in the pitcher friendly Target Field. I would trade for him as Cleveland is looking to unload players. If our pithing coach can helpJiminez, what a find? Worth the $5 million or so investment Cleveland picked up his option for. Thoughts?????????
      10th best hitter's park in baseball last year.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789 View Post
      Ubaldo Jiminez was terrible in 2012, but I believe he could still be a helpful #3 or #4 for Twins in 2013 and at a low cost. He has the tools and could flourish in the pitcher friendly Target Field. I would trade for him as Cleveland is looking to unload players. If our pithing coach can helpJiminez, what a find? Worth the $5 million or so investment Cleveland picked up his option for. Thoughts?????????
      Here's the problem... the Twins HAVE a #3 starter in Scott Diamond and they have a crapload of potential #4-#5 starters to audition in February and March. They don't need another "#3 or #4". They need at least a couple of guys BETTER THAN Scott Diamond and Terry Ryan knows it. We know he knows it because he's been saying it to anyone with a microphone for the past 2 months.

      Yet the only reports that have the Twins showing real interest are about other bottom of the rotation pitchers. Terry Ryan has at least $25 million dollars in his pocket and if he comes away from Nashville with nothing but low end pitching to show for it because he got spooked by the dollars that agents for top pitchers were asking for, fans have every right to stay away from Target Field en masse this summer.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      The key to THIS year is that Ryan has no excuses. And, unlike in your time machine examples, Jim, THIS year Ryan (not media reports, but Ryan) has given us a very clear assurances that he won't be constrained by budgets.

      My theory is that last year Ryan failed to liberate himself to his own old mentality, which was necessary in the past, of value-shopping and avoiding bidding wars. He also made a very poor bet that Liriano, Baker, Pavano, Blackburn, and Marquis/Hendriks/whomever was going to be enough.

      So, those of us who hold out dim hope aren't doing so blindly. I for one base my hope on Ryan's own words, not media speculation, and on the fact that there are more options available to solve fewer problems this year than last.

      My expectations aren't ridiculous: two pitchers for 2013, through FA or trade, better than #3-4 starter Diamond. A 2013 team that wins close to half its games (say, 77 wins), making them watchable. A 2014 team of exciting first and second year players, on the rise, fun to watch, with more talent on the cusp.

      If Ryan instead gives me Liriano and Myers and calls it a day, I'll join in the criticism.
      Promises, promises. With the names currently being bandied about as his FA pitching targets, he's already proven ridiculous and broken your heart and you don't even know it yet.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      Bad teams often have to over pay for decent free agents. After all who wants to play for a bad team? All things being equal if the Jackson or Marcum types have an offer from the Twins and a contender which would you take?

      It's a lot more likely to be guys coming off poor years looking to rebuild some value, imo.
      You haven't read the official TD handbook, I posted as much as you have proffered, recently. The apparent official rule on Free Agents at Twins Daily is 95% of the time or better, the FA ALWAYS chooses the biggest contract; unfortuanately, based on statements and actions in the offseason, I'm not holding my breath that Ryan is willing to overpay enough to make it worth it to any top tier or top-of-the-mid-tier SPs to come to the Twins, especially now with the downgrade on defense.
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