Looking over the front page of the Star Tribune's sports section on Thanksgiving morning, I couldn't help but notice the irony.
The top story: Pat Reusse's annual "Turkey of the Year" column, in which the longtime scribe called out Terry Ryan as the top goat in Minnesota sports for the past year.
Just below, also above the fold, was the headline, "Pitcher Nolasco headed to Twins," with a subhead indicating that the pitcher had been signed to a record $49 million deal.
Reusse's selection was certainly justified when you look at the last year as a whole. Following a disastrous 2012 season in which the starting rotation was a complete mess, Ryan signed only low-end free agents and wound up with a team that showed no improvement.
By continuing to rely on the same low-strikeout hurlers while the league has trended more and more toward power arms that can miss bats, Ryan has indeed looked at times like the game has passed him by. Or, as Reusse puts it, a "dinosaur."
The signing of Nolasco is anything but business as usual for Ryan and the Twins. Not only does the total amount shatter the previous franchise benchmark for an external free agent (Josh Willingham's $21 million contract), but the timing of the move is also telling.
Aside from Jason Vargas, who inked a weird four-year, $32 million deal with the Royals, Nolasco is the first free agent pitcher to sign a long-term contract (three or more years) this offseason. Rather than waiting for the market to develop, as they've pretty much almost done, the Twins went hard after their top target and made him an offer that convinced him he wasn't going to get more money by waiting around.
Talk about uncharacteristically splashy.
To be clear, Nolasco is not an elite pitcher. He's not going to single-handedly turn the team around and he's not likely to be the best member of a good staff. There will be plentiful analysis of his strengths and weaknesses here at Twins Daily in the coming weeks.
But the bottom line, for now, is this: Outside of Matt Garza, Nolasco was arguably the best pitcher available on the market among those who won't require a draft pick or colossal posting fee to sign. Given the club's reluctance to delve into those areas, Nolasco may have been the best realistic option for the Twins. And Ryan got him signed before Thanksgiving.
There's more work do be done, but for now, with a large segment of the fan base voicing the same dejection toward the front office as Reusse, this is a loud statement that could have hardly come at a better time.