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Was Ryan Too Trigger-Happy?

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I've generally been pleased with the moves the Twins have made this offseason. In his return to the helm, Terry Ryan has wisely allowed some overpriced free agents to depart while signing solid producers like Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit to bargain deals with little downside.

Two moves that have rubbed me the wrong way, however, are the Kevin Slowey trade and the Matt Capps signing. This isn't because I take issue with the decisions that were made trading Slowey was certainly justifiable and Capps filled a need as a hard-throwing late-inning righty but rather the timing.

Ryan has been aggressive in addressing needs and taking care of business this offseason. The Slowey swap and the Capps contract, like the majority of the Twins' moves this winter, were both pulled off before Christmas. However, in neither case was there a need to rush, and events that have occurred recently have made the Twins' haste in those decisions appear rather misguided.

I addressed my quibbles with the Slowey trade earlier this week, when I pointed out that new needs tend to arise for teams as the season approaches and that a better market to trade the embattled starter would have likely developed had the Twins simply shown patience.

With Capps, the Twins clearly overpaid. He's a solid reliever and his $4.75 million deal for next year might be considered reasonable in a different offseason, but not this year. Not with him coming off an ineffecitve campaign and with a sizable crop of similar right-handed relievers on the market competing for jobs. Not with Ryan Madson forced to settle for a one-year deal; with Brad Lidge signing for only $1 million; with Dan Wheeler taking a minor-league contract.

There's no way any other team was going to give Capps close to $5 million. Not even close.

I argued back when the Twins re-signed Capps that the public backlash against the move was excessive because although I certainly recognized it as an overpay at the time, many folks failed to recognize that the righty does have value and will be a boost to the bullpen.

I also embraced the "no such thing as a bad one-year contract" mantra, reasoning that overpaying Capps by a couple million wouldn't hurt the club long-term and wouldn't prevent them from making other cost-effective moves to round out their bullpen. That's not how a high-revenue team playing in a new stadium should operate.

And yet, the Twins have now watched numerous inexpensive setup men come off the board at dirt-cheap prices including Lidge and Wheeler, who both signed yesterday while crying poor and suggesting that they're up against their payroll limit. The Joel Zumaya signing was nice, but he should be viewed more as a smart low-risk flier than a safe bet to lock down the seventh or eighth inning.

I'm not a person who has berated the Twins for lowering payroll and it doesn't really bother me that they're spending $30 million less than the Tigers, who play in a similar market. But if they're not willing to add a million dollars to their current payroll fill an obvious need, the Capps deal looks a whole lot worse.

Maybe this grumbling is all for naught. Maybe Ryan plans to nab one of the remaining relief arms to fill that right-handed setup role and provide the type of security that Zumaya and a crop of iffy internal candidates do not.

But if they don't sign anyone else because they significantly overspent in their eagerness to bring Capps back, the Twins will again be setting up their closer to be the villain in a bullpen that could easily turn out thin and unreliable for a second straight year.
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