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  • Did Terry Ryan Act Too Aggressively in Free Agency?

    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.

    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.
    This article was originally published in blog: Did Terry Ryan Act Too Aggressively in Free Agency? started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 72 Comments
    1. James's Avatar
      James -
      Nick, it's a good article that brings up some interesting points.

      I don't think we'll really know if he was too aggressive until we see the performance of some of these guys. I am in the camp that he wasn't too aggressive.

      First, as you pointed out, sending the message to the fan base was important. Second, there is no way for us to know how the market would have been had the Twins not been aggressive. There is a good chance that if they had not signed anyone early, the price for a guy like Garza may have gone up. TR was pretty much the first GM to act this offseason when it came to pitching, and thus set the market. I think when we look back it a few years from now, these will end up looking like good signings and good values.

      Sure, Garza would have been nice at that price, but if was the first guy that the Twins signed, I don't think he would have been here at the same price. I think Garza gave the Brewers a little bit of a discount, and probably got a little nervous about not having a contract in January. Who knows though...
    1. ALessKosherScott's Avatar
      ALessKosherScott -
      When you're coming off a rotation in 2013 that featured five guys who could best be dubbed 4A starters, I'm not sure you can ever act "too aggressively."
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      I was happy with the deals when it happened and I'm happy with them now. People complain about how unaggressive Ryan is but then he is aggressive and people complain he was too aggressive.... Can't have it both ways. Even if he over payed, which has yet to be determined, who cares? If he did it isn't by much and we still have plenty of money available.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      No, Ryan wasn't too aggressive. Acting early to "lock-in" the price prevents a situation where price "runs-away" when the supply dries-up. In this manner, it is more likely that he pitchers waited too long hoping for a higher price--and the demand slacked instead!
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      No.
    1. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      If Tanaka is not posted, and there were real questions about that all through December, if he isn't posted, the market would have an extra $150M sloshing around looking for hurlers. Ryan didn't know, nor could he know if Tanaka would be posted. He just knew the risks of waiting to find out. In the long run, needing three arms and having the dough available to spend, he did the prudent and wise thing: lock up the guys you can live with early on.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I felt Nolasco and Hughes were both overpays but the way the contracts we have are structured I don't see it hampering what they can do in the future so I don't think it really matters. Personally I like the fact they went out and got the guys they liked early rather than waiting for the scraps at the end. I liked the aggressive approach this year and I don't think it hurt them.

      I really think teams value the deep talent in this years draft and don't want to lose a pick for the high priced pitchers that are left. It is a very odd year for FA especially considering the extra money coming in for teams. I really thought the prices would go through the roof this year. I hope the Twins make some good selections in the draft and remain aggressive in FA.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Wish he would've been equally aggressive getting some bats in the lineup. Bottom 5 in BA and runs scored and nothing done to address that. Although I'm not sure competing in 2014 was ever a realistic goal anyway.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      The Twins targeted a couple guys they wanted, and they got them.

      I see nothing wrong with taking care of business like that.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Not aggressive enough, IMO. The Twins needed offensive help and Ryan didn't go after that.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      No. They needed pitching, they paid fair amounts for that pitching. I'm not sure why this is even really a question.
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      It's not that he was too aggressive. It's that he signed mediocre players. Nolasco is an improvement but that's not saying a lot. Hughes and Pelfrey do not help this organization win games.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      I have no problem with TR acting quickly, if only to quickly address the perception from past offseasons that the Twins wouldn't act at all. It was a big relief to get that out of the way.

      However, I don't think acting early should necessarily preclude continued action. As much as we may still want to sort through a few of our 2013 strugglers, we were probably the closest team in the league to having 5 wide open rotation spots to fill (basically, only KC on a 1 year 5 mil deal stood in the way of that, and that's hardly going to block anybody).

      Waiting on Pelfrey and/or making a push late for the remaining guys could have been a very good value play to inject some much-needed upside to the rotation. This is all the more important when TR's quick-strike targets were all of very modest upside. As it is, as much as we've "stabilized" the rotation (very important after 2012-2013), we're still counting on our minor leaguers or some future FA class to provide all the upside. Would have been nice to kill two birds with one stone, or rather address two needs (stability and upside) with at least one signing.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by notoriousgod71 View Post
      It's not that he was too aggressive. It's that he signed mediocre players. Nolasco is an improvement but that's not saying a lot. Hughes and Pelfrey do not help this organization win games.
      I think Phil Hughes will help this team win games. If you take his career line of 4.54 ERA and 7.6 K/9 at face value, that is certainly is an improvement over the 5.25 ERA our starters put up last year.

      If you remove his numbers at the new yankee stadium, you are left with a career 4.26 ERA. He debuted at 20 and is only 27. I think was a very good buy low situation. The ballpark should go from a head-wind to a tail wind as he is a fly ball pitcher and tougher on righties.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      I felt like we overpaid a little on Nolasco, but I'm ok with the aggression. Considering the Twins major needs and the state of the market, it's probably a good idea to be aggressive. It's not like the twins were just looking for one guy to fill in the back end, you know?

      The Garza contract is interesting; I expected him to be a bit more expensive, but I wonder if injury concerns were a bigger fear with him? I would have preferred Garza over Nolasco, but you can't know if that's a real choice. I vastly prefer Nolasco over say...Arroyo.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      No Ryan didnt act to quickly, He did in fact wait to long to add a better Catcher, and should have added a better arm then Pelfrey , even if he lives up to his career average stats.

      But to me each and every year the Twins should know who they want come the end of september, and target those players the first day they are eligible to, then have plan B,C, and D if they cant sign the ones they want.

      It would be nice to have 95% of your roster in place before the start of the new year,even if you dont get your Teams name in the paper much after it
    1. Heimer's Avatar
      Heimer -
      Why did we trade Garza again? His ego? Or he hated us? Can't remember?????
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I believe the Front Office identified pitchers that they thought made sense for the Twins in terms of cost and potential future performance and then they made an assessment of the potential cost of those pitchers.

      Using that... I believe they made an offer a little higher than that assessment and presented something that would bring them to Minnesota. After some negotiation... they got a deal done with Starting Pitching that was near the very top of their list and starting pitching that did not feel they would get a better offer by waiting and stretching out the process.

      I guess that's a couple of paragraphs that can be condensed to:

      No... I don't think they moved to soon.

      I'm not a Hughes fan but I'm glad we got him and Nolasco and Pelfrey when we did. We needed arms and I'd hate to get shut out by trying to wait out the process.

      If we were still trying to sign some ball chuckers right now in February. We'd have a fan base that is going nuts.
    1. Jerr's Avatar
      Jerr -
      No way was it too, aggressive, as we needed pitching and got the types the Twins figured were right. I don't get all the Garza love here, as he hated it here I doubt, if he ever would agree to coming here.
      I do worry about the bats, but I figure next year is to see what pitching we have and some bats are in our minor league. Patience is such a hard thing at times
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      No. Absolutely not. You make offers and a player grabs them or not. The player has to feel secure that they won't be getting more elsewhere.

      Did the Twins overpay, or are there problems on the horizon with the guys who are waiting it out. Did they make a hint of an offer to Arroyo or Garza and were rebuffed? Did Pelfrey really want to come here?

      The Twins needed to blow players away to get them to come. Agents work against you. They dangle that Arroyo has three years on the table, that Garza is looking at $72 million.

      I think it is he other way around...Garza and Arroyo probably should've signed sooner rather than later. At some point rosters and payroll are set. The number of teams willing to payout so much $$$ shrinks.
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