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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. Joe A. Preusser's Avatar
      Joe A. Preusser -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post

      Also, Nick may want to brace for bizarre arguments that in terms of talent Nolasco = Garza. I still haven't wrapped my head around that.
      I would be willing to put a case of beer on who has the better ERA or WAR at the end of 4 years, but that's a long time away. How about a recurring bet once a year for both those metrics? Oh, and I get Nolasco if that wasn't clear.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      I'd classify Ryan's actions as decisive rather than aggressive.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Joe A. Preusser View Post
      I would be willing to put a case of beer on who has the better ERA or WAR at the end of 4 years, but that's a long time away. How about a recurring bet once a year for both those metrics? Oh, and I get Nolasco if that wasn't clear.
      id gladly take that in spirit.

      I get the sense the only thing actually better about Nolasco is the uniform he'll put on in 2014. If it was Garza in that uni at the same price your position would flip.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      I said at the end of the season that I wanted Ryan to be proactive and get the pitchers he identified and not wait around for the scraps. I was pleasantly surprised when he did just that. Could he have made some better deals? Possibly. He also could have been left picking up this year's version of Correia and Pelfrey. I did not want to see that happen again, although Correia turned out fine.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      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.
      It's a game of musical chairs, except that at some stages of the game there are more players than chairs, and at other times there are more chairs than players, and everyone's blindfolded (yes even the chairs) and never quite sure of the exact layout.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Heimer View Post
      Why did we trade Garza again? His ego? Or he hated us?
      I don't think it was anything quite as simple as those. At the time there was a perceived oversupply of young starters, and in dealing from strength they opted to get the maximum in return they felt they could, and that meant dealing Garza. My opinion at the time was they had it backwards, and he was the one to not trade, even if the return would be less, but then again I don't have access to internal scouting reports, and my personal crystal ball is pretty much of a random number generator that happened to be right the one time.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Joe A. Preusser View Post
      I would be willing to put a case of beer on who has the better ERA or WAR at the end of 4 years, but that's a long time away. How about a recurring bet once a year for both those metrics? Oh, and I get Nolasco if that wasn't clear.
      I'm with you Joe. I feel more confident about Nolasco getting 180+ innings all 4 years than Garza getting 150+ innings all 4 years.

      I also feel the Twins in year 3 of this arrangement will be considerably better than the Brewers. The Brewers don't have a farm system with any talent in sight. The Twins have the following possible contributors offer an improvement over what was on the field in 2013 to help out Nolasco in 2015.

      C: Pinto, Turner
      2B: Rosario, Polanco
      SS: Santana
      3B: Sano
      OF: Hicks, Arcia, Buxton, Kepler

      I don't know if these guys ever become starters:
      Travis Harrison, Kennys Vargas, Dalton Hicks, Adam Brett Walker, Niko Goodrum, JD Williams.

      And these guys who almost assuredly won't be ready, but might be starter worthy:
      Amauris Minier, Brian Navarreto, Lewin Diaz, Position player from 2014 and 2015 Drafts given he's top 2 Rounds, and others TBD.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      I think Ryan did just fine. He still had the money left to add Garza. I was thinking he did not like the four year deal. You couldn't guess that Garza was returning to the Twins at a discount. He can still add a pitcher now if they are so cheap that it is a great value. You can move Pelfrey to the bullpen. $5Mil per year for a bullpen guy would not crush their budget. I think for a non-contender to land Arroyo it would have taken 3 years 30 million. No value there. I would think that Santana and Jimenez are looking for non-contenders to over pay also.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      To me when it is said Correia is "fine" it means fans are satisfied with mediocrity and will settle for innings eaters instead of better pitchers.
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      To me when it is said Correia is "fine" it means fans are satisfied with mediocrity and will settle for innings eaters instead of better pitchers.
      Since when is 185 innings an innings eater? He averaged less than six innings per start which, by definition, can't even be a considered a quality start.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      I also feel the Twins in year 3 of this arrangement will be considerably better than the Brewers. The Brewers don't have a farm system with any talent in sight. The Twins have the following possible contributors offer an improvement over what was on the field in 2013 to help out Nolasco in 2015.
      The guys you list have absolutely nothing to do with Nolasco vs. Garza (or signing both Nolasco and Garza this offseason).

      And the Brewers are obviously hoping to contend in 2014 and 2015 -- they still have a ton of MLB talent on their roster. They're probably +20 wins over the Twins right now. Yes, they need to improve their farm system, but they can't (and shouldn't) punt the next two years and focus on 2016, which seems to be more akin to the Twins strategy. And 20 wins is still a huge gap to overcome in 3 seasons (much less reverse as implied by "considerably better").

      And frankly, most of the guys you list aren't really that great of prospects. Buxton and Sano are great but they are only two guys and neither has even hit AAA yet. The difference between the Twins and Brewers in 2016 is really going to come down to: how well their current MLB talent ages (advantage: Brewers, simply due to quantity), how well they develop ALL prospects including non-elites (leaning Twins with Buxton and Sano although no real results are in yet), and how well they sign MLB free agents (leaning Brewers).
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by notoriousgod71 View Post
      Since when is 185 innings an innings eater? He averaged less than six innings per start which, by definition, can't even be a considered a quality start.
      Innings-eaters span the same quality spectrum as any other players, I'd suggest.

      I'd say 185 IP is a fair innings-eater. It at least implies reasonable health/effectiveness and close to 6 IP per start. But, Correia has only hit that level twice in 5 seasons starting, so he's a bit of an inconsistent innings eater (which somewhat defeats the purpose of the role). Nolasco is a better example of innings-eater, but even he has walked the line of effectiveness a bit.

      Obviously, 200+ IP is a BETTER innings-eater, and probably how the term is more likely used by fans of contending ballclubs. Guys like Arroyo, or even Lohse or Ervin Santana (or Garza when healthy) -- in reality, quality #2 starters. It will be nice to get back to that frame of mind again, and leave 2012-2013 behind!

      I'm more concerned when we profile Hughes and Pelfrey as effective innings-eaters, when neither logged 150 IP last year or even averaged 5 IP per start. I don't know how likely those guys are to even equal Correia's 2013 level, which seems like the upper limit on their upside.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Innings-eaters span the same quality spectrum as any other players, I'd suggest.

      I'd say 185 IP is a fair innings-eater. It at least implies reasonable health/effectiveness and close to 6 IP per start. But, Correia has only hit that level twice in 5 seasons starting, so he's a bit of an inconsistent innings eater (which somewhat defeats the purpose of the role). Nolasco is a better example of innings-eater, but even he has walked the line of effectiveness a bit.

      Obviously, 200+ IP is a BETTER innings-eater, and probably how the term is more likely used by fans of contending ballclubs. Guys like Arroyo, or even Lohse or Ervin Santana (or Garza when healthy) -- in reality, quality #2 starters. It will be nice to get back to that frame of mind again, and leave 2012-2013 behind!

      I'm more concerned when we profile Hughes and Pelfrey as effective innings-eaters, when neither logged 150 IP last year or even averaged 5 IP per start. I don't know how likely those guys are to even equal Correia's 2013 level, which seems like the upper limit on their upside.
      As a point of reference, 185 IP would have been 54th last year, 200 IP would have been 34th (of 150 starters). Adam Wainwright led the league with 241 in the regular season., Kershaw was at 236. Opinions may vary here, but I would not want my $30M arm pitching that many innings unless they are so good that their total pitchers are in line with the 200-220 IP guys.
    1. IronMonkee's Avatar
      IronMonkee -
      Late to the party, so this probably won't get read.
      I take issue with the Terry Ryan was more aggressive than usual train of thought. TR spent more, and bought more expensive things and usual, but he has never waited out the market. It seems to me he has always acted quickly to pick up pieces. If TR was going to pick up pitchers, it was always going to be ASAP. I don't get where people are seeing that as breaking from form. Did we all forget that Bill Smith was the one that waits out the market?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      To be clear, ironmonkee, he signed guys to larger contracts than he ever has.....but he hasn't spent more on the budget.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by IronMonkee View Post
      Late to the party, so this probably won't get read.
      I take issue with the Terry Ryan was more aggressive than usual train of thought. TR spent more, and bought more expensive things and usual, but he has never waited out the market. It seems to me he has always acted quickly to pick up pieces. If TR was going to pick up pitchers, it was always going to be ASAP. I don't get where people are seeing that as breaking from form. Did we all forget that Bill Smith was the one that waits out the market?
      TR had never really actively participated in the FA market before. I guess that gets interpreted as indefinite waiting!
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Heimer View Post
      Why did we trade Garza again? His ego? Or he hated us? Can't remember?????
      That... and at the time we had an overabundance of starting pitching and desparately needed hitting... so we traded our two best starters and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, Carlos Gomez, and a bunch of filler...

      Now I'm having flashbacks... and not the good kind.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      The guys you list have absolutely nothing to do with Nolasco vs. Garza (or signing both Nolasco and Garza this offseason).

      And the Brewers are obviously hoping to contend in 2014 and 2015 -- they still have a ton of MLB talent on their roster. They're probably +20 wins over the Twins right now. Yes, they need to improve their farm system, but they can't (and shouldn't) punt the next two years and focus on 2016, which seems to be more akin to the Twins strategy. And 20 wins is still a huge gap to overcome in 3 seasons (much less reverse as implied by "considerably better").

      And frankly, most of the guys you list aren't really that great of prospects. Buxton and Sano are great but they are only two guys and neither has even hit AAA yet. The difference between the Twins and Brewers in 2016 is really going to come down to: how well their current MLB talent ages (advantage: Brewers, simply due to quantity), how well they develop ALL prospects including non-elites (leaning Twins with Buxton and Sano although no real results are in yet), and how well they sign MLB free agents (leaning Brewers).

      You have to be kidding...right? Where are the Brewers going to get 12 WAR more from their players while the Twins players do not improve at all???

      The Brewers only had 8 Wins more than arguably the worst Twins team ever (2013).





      As far as off-season 2014. Brewers lost their leadoff hitter for a spot reliever from the Royals. They signed Garza. They get a full season from Ryan Braun. So Garza...maybe...maybe 3 WAR...Braun goes Mike Trout on the world? His best WAR season is 5.9 bWAR. And he's going to be 30 this year and coming off the juice. Which hasn't fared well for many players (Melky Cabrera, A-Rod, et al).

      Where does the 12 WAR come from? And assuming the Twins don't improve at all...

      But...

      The Twins signed Nolasco, Hughes, and get a 2nd year after surgery from Pelfrey. Willingham is coming back. Hicks could do better. Only player who could do 'worse' is Brian Dozier, every other player or position could only improve.

      Can't say that about the Brewers. 12 more WAR...from who? And the Twins have to NOT improve. Makes no sense.

      Add to that, the Cardinals and Pirates are only getting better in 2014. Wacha and Martinez will be up all year. Peralta is an improvement at SS. Tavarez may start with the club. A whole healthy season from Allen Craig?

      The Pirates...a whole season of Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. Gregory Polanco may be up by June. Jameson Taillon as well.

      Now for the AL Central:
      The Indians could lose their TOP 2 staters - Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir (already lost to the A's).

      The Tigers? They got Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder (downgrade). Lost Jonny Paralta to the Cardinals in free agency. They pretty much gave away a 200 innings #3 (Doug Fister) to the Nationals for a backup 2B and 2 relief pitching prospects. The lost their closer, Joaquin Benoit, but signed Nathan. Then they lost arguably one of the top 5 managers of the past 40 years in Jim Leyland.

      The Royals may lose Ervin Santana.

      Again...the Twins got better in their own division while the rest of the Division seems to be getting worse.

      As far as the Prospects I listed. Let's just go with "Top 100 BA prospects" instead of "great" it's more exact.

      I didn't even list the Twins pitching prospects for overall record, just for those who would help Nolasco get more wins than Garza. Twins have more pitching depth than hitting depth in the Minors. And it was for possibilities to affect 2015 (Nolasco's 3rd season - as the context of my reply is important).

      Of those prospects...

      Top 100 Baseball America Prospects:
      Oswald Arcia #41 (2012)
      Aaron Hicks #19 (2010)
      Byron Buxton #1 (2014)
      Miguel Sano #top 10 (2014)

      Kepler, Rosario, and Polanco may make a top 100 (my copy hasn't arrived yet).

      The Brewers:
      Taylor Juggmann #70 (2012)
      Jed Bradley #71 (2012)

      And honestly, it looks like neither of those guys will make the Pros.

      They don't have a top Prospect for 2014 in the top 100 for any publication.

      AKA...no help likely in sight for a minimum of 4 years. Advantage Twins for the next 4 years...easy. No contest unless they land a Buxton or two in the draft (not likely with their 20+ wins over the Twins though).

      Free Agency 2014? I'd say the Twins have the advantage unless the Brewers land someone better to give them the edge.

      20+ Wins though...
    1. IronMonkee's Avatar
      IronMonkee -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      To be clear, ironmonkee, he signed guys to larger contracts than he ever has.....but he hasn't spent more on the budget.
      You're missing my point, when he is getting free agents he gets them ASAP, Hammer, Jamie Carrol, Rondell White and all the crap he picked up in the mid 2000s. He gets his shopping list and gets it done. TR has never waited to see who goes on clearance. So that he'd jump on what he wants early is sticking to form, not being abnormally aggressive. It gets missed because we aren't used to seeing him make it rain at all, but he's buying what he wants early, same as always.
    1. IronMonkee's Avatar
      IronMonkee -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      TR had never really actively participated in the FA market before. I guess that gets interpreted as indefinite waiting!
      That's simply incorrect. He's never participated in the top of the market, but he picked up a whole bunch of FA crap in his first go as GM. And it was always right away, we didn't get Livan Hernandez and Rondell White before spring training.
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