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Souhan: Free Agent Pitchers Not The Answer

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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 11:25 AM

From the Twins Daily Newsroom....

Jim Souhan had an interesting and well-researched story in today's Star-Tribune. His initial point seemed to be that Vance Worley stinks, which I'm not ready to agree with yet. But his larger point is that the Twins have had tremendous success finding starting pitching from the minors and have mostly failed miserable to find starting pitching from the free agent market.

What’s remarkable about the Twins’ failings in the free-agent pitching market, dating to 1993, is that the organization has proved so adept in acquiring talent by almost any other method. The Twins have acquired about as many quality pitchers via the Rule V draft, a mechanism for picking up minor league players other organizations have given up on, than in free agency and via trades for big-leaguers.


This is maybe my biggest concern about the Twins organization under Ryan - that he might be incapable of using the free agent market as a tool to fill gaps, and it's a handy tool for a lot of teams. On the other hand, Souhan details all the pitching they have acquired and just how darn good they have been at getting minor league pitchers that eventually had a great deal of success.

I don't know that I have a discussion question here, but it's worth the read. I guess the question is - how do the Twins become adept at getting the pitching using both methods?

Souhan: Look within for starting pitchers, or do without | StarTribune.com

#2 fairweather

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 11:45 AM

I read this article this morning and thought it was one of Souhans worst that I can remember. He's not usually such a blatant apologist so he might actually believe this crud. How did the Pirates do the last few years acquiring low price quality starting pitching?

#3 Thrylos

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:07 PM

Because the Twins' way of using the free agent market under Ryan (bottom feeding with marginal MLB pitchers and MiLB FAs) is not working, it does not mean that it cannot work.

The FA market was used pretty well under MacPhail, IIRC but he was not bottom feeding, bringing players like Morris, Bedrosian etc. If you bottom feed you will fail. Spendthrift Ryan's way is not working. Not Free Agency.
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#4 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:09 PM

Thank you thrylos, I was thinking that too.
With the bottom of the barrell free agent pitchers that Ryan likes to bring in, it shouldnt be any surprise that most havent worked out.

#5 greengoblinrulz

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:10 PM

Ryan is over his head in 21st century baseball. He was a great GM for a underachieving 50-60m payroll w/retread players but isnt willing to try to do it w/100m

#6 gunnarthor

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:21 PM

I didn't read the Souhan piece and I'm honestly not sure what to think of Ryan with free agent picks. For his first term, he had considerable payroll hinderances that wouldn't let him to much other than get the scraps. Now he does have payroll ability but the team is not ready to compete so it might not make sense to spend 100m to get 79-82 wins. (Others might disagree). It'll be interesting to see what happens in a few years when the team is ready to compete. I hope that's when we would see Ryan make the bigger deals that help a contending team.

He's already made a number of good small signings (Burton, Fein, Carroll, Willingham, Doumit) and solid trades (Revere, Span, Liriano) that show he knows how to make moves now and isn't in over his head. And the Pohlad's seem to have enough faith in him that he didn't reach for a pitcher in last years draft and instead took BPA. That suggests that he'll be around long enough for us to see how he does in a few years.

#7 Thrylos

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:30 PM

He's already made a number of good small signings (Burton, Fein, Carroll, Willingham, Doumit) and solid trades (Revere, Span, Liriano) that show he knows how to make moves now and isn't in over his head. .


I am keeping this on pitching only, because it is a different beast.
In his last 2 off-seasons, he signed about 20 MiLB and MLB FAs and, of course some of them stuck. For every Burton and Fien there were about 3 Thompsons, a Capps, a few 35 year olds that did not make it after spring training, several with blown arms or shoulders or elbows, and a hord of AAAA talent.

BTW, not that sold on Fien...
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#8 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:33 PM

I didn't read the Souhan piece and I'm honestly not sure what to think of Ryan with free agent picks. For his first term, he had considerable payroll hinderances that wouldn't let him to much other than get the scraps. Now he does have payroll ability but the team is not ready to compete so it might not make sense to spend 100m to get 79-82 wins. (Others might disagree). It'll be interesting to see what happens in a few years when the team is ready to compete. I hope that's when we would see Ryan make the bigger deals that help a contending team.

He's already made a number of good small signings (Burton, Fein, Carroll, Willingham, Doumit) and solid trades (Revere, Span, Liriano) that show he knows how to make moves now and isn't in over his head. And the Pohlad's seem to have enough faith in him that he didn't reach for a pitcher in last years draft and instead took BPA. That suggests that he'll be around long enough for us to see how he does in a few years.


How can you call the Revere trade solid so far??

#9 TheLeviathan

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:38 PM

Ryan appears to be very good at getting cheap RP options, but what about high end starting pitching? I'm not even sure another Johan will happen for any team again, much less the Twins. That really just leaves drafting and signing - neither of which have been historic strengths of Ryan.

In FA - the problem isn't just bottom feeding. It's bottom-feeding to particular skill-sets. (High contact guys that will chew up innings, regardless of how effectively they chew them up. Aging hitters with severe defensive liabilities)

Teams in similar markets to ours that are predicated on building through the farm like we are (Atlanta and St. Louis) use the FA market much better than Ryan has. It shouldn't be too much to ask for that. But there is no evidence in Ryan's track record or his public rhetoric to suggest we've seen a change in that direction.

#10 gunnarthor

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 01:39 PM

How can you call the Revere trade solid so far??

Not basing it on "so far." I think Worley is better than he's shown but I really like May. I think it's the type of trade the Twins should be making. Most baseball analysts agreed. If one of those two turn out to be a consistent rotation piece over the next 6 years, the trade works out. Solid move.

#11 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 02:03 PM

Not basing it on "so far." I think Worley is better than he's shown but I really like May. I think it's the type of trade the Twins should be making. Most baseball analysts agreed. If one of those two turn out to be a consistent rotation piece over the next 6 years, the trade works out. Solid move.


May is more than likely a bullpen arm.
Worley is Nick Blackburn at best.
Revere is nothing special, but we basically gave him away for nothing. In fact if May never reaches the majors, or only does as a middle reliever, we will probably end up getting negative WAR in the trade.
Yuck.

#12 notoriousgod71

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 02:48 PM

Honest question- which FA Twins pitcher signed since 1991 has had the highest expectations when we signed him? Or the best previous season? I'm at a loss... really.

#13 Badsmerf

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 02:55 PM

Honest question- which FA Twins pitcher signed since 1991 has had the highest expectations when we signed him? Or the best previous season? I'm at a loss... really.

I would have to go with 38 year old Kenny Rogers.
Do or do not. There is no try.

#14 mike wants wins

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 03:06 PM

Self fulfilling prophecy....sign low priced, bad players, get bad results. It is not FA that is broken.......btw, how many good starters has this team got on its roster right now that it drafted? Last year, how many? They have been terrible at drafting players also.....should they just not try at all?

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :)


#15 gunnarthor

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 03:10 PM

One last point worth making. For most of Ryan's first run, starting pitching wasn't the issue. He rarely needed to sign a FA starter. I think Rogers was about it from 02 until he retired. We had enough in-house arms acquired through a variety of means to make our rotation.

#16 greengoblinrulz

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 03:13 PM

Funny how Souhan didnt mention Max Scherzer, Doug Fister or Annibal Sanchez for DET bein acquired by trades

#17 TheLeviathan

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 03:14 PM

One last point worth making. For most of Ryan's first run, starting pitching wasn't the issue. He rarely needed to sign a FA starter. I think Rogers was about it from 02 until he retired. We had enough in-house arms acquired through a variety of means to make our rotation.


Right, but we were content with some relatively low-talent options.

He had limited payroll, but Ryan also wasted it repeatedly on the like of Rondell White and many other awful investments.

#18 Kwak

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 04:32 PM

My take on the article: mostly right from the Twins PR department. The statement that FA are by definition "overpaid". Twins-spin at its worst. The two conclusions of FA signings in general and second those by the Twins need two sets of evidence to form a conclusion. There was nothing cited that supported FA signing by all of MLB (other than the self-serving "overpaid" comment).
Some teams have been successful at signing FA pitchers (wasn't Jack Morris a FA when he signed with the Twins?)--true most of the successes are at the "high-priced" level. But just because the Twins didn't want to compete at that level doesn't mean signing FA pitchers is a bad strategy.
The second point of the lack of success by the Twins--well that part is true. But what caused the failure? Was it the "aim low strategy", or the "PtoC" strategy, or was it the FO that gather, analyze and decide? Perhaps changes there would make said strategy viable for the Twins. In neither case did Souhan justify his claim.

#19 johnnydakota

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 04:44 PM

I didn't read the Souhan piece and I'm honestly not sure what to think of Ryan with free agent picks. For his first term, he had considerable payroll hinderances that wouldn't let him to much other than get the scraps. Now he does have payroll ability but the team is not ready to compete so it might not make sense to spend 100m to get 79-82 wins. (Others might disagree). It'll be interesting to see what happens in a few years when the team is ready to compete. I hope that's when we would see Ryan make the bigger deals that help a contending team.

He's already made a number of good small signings (Burton, Fein, Carroll, Willingham, Doumit) and solid trades (Revere, Span, Liriano) that show he knows how to make moves now and isn't in over his head. And the Pohlad's seem to have enough faith in him that he didn't reach for a pitcher in last years draft and instead took BPA. That suggests that he'll be around long enough for us to see how he does in a few years.


Defender to the end... Why are the Twins in the basement? Because senior advisior to the general manager didnt do his job....While credit is due for Ryans ability to crawl through the garbage heaps to find a handful of servicable players, you cant field a winning team this way.Imagine if Joe mauer did his catching like Terry does his job? Say Joe hits .345,frames pitches great but he doesnt ever throw to 2b , how long would Mr. Mauer be a starting catcher in the major leaques? Same is true of Terry Ryan , while he may be good at some areas of his job , he fails terribly in other aspects.

#20 jorgenswest

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 05:04 PM

Free agency isn't the route to long term success.

Signing an over 30 guy to a multiyear almost guarantees being stuck with the decline phase of the player.

One year or even two year guys often are not very good to begin with or are already in decline. Someone has probably done the study, but it sure seems like the majority of last winters bargains are struggling.

The route to long term success is to develop pitching from within. Adding young pitchers like Meyer, May and even Worley is a step in that direction.

#21 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 05:36 PM

How can you call the Revere trade solid so far??


Given that Revere has a .561 OPS, I think it's safe to say that it hasn't panned out for Philly.

#22 TheLeviathan

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 05:57 PM

Free agency isn't the route to long term success.


Since when is it either/or? You can do both.

#23 clutterheart

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:13 PM

As much as I like Ryan,and his ability to mine the scrap heap, I do think the game has past him by.
The Twins should not be where they are right now. To waste a talent like Mauer with these poor pitching staff is almost criminal. This team has amazing amount of flexibility when it comes to money. There is no high priced prospect needing to get paid for at least 4 years. There is no risk of blocking almost any prospect who does not play Outfield. Twins should be dumping good money after bad to keep the team competitive, the fan base interested and try to build something around Mauer.

Instead Ryan gambled that his low rent style would pay off. Right now his gamble is unraveling.
Hopefully Gardy can tie it back together but its not looking good right now.

#24 jorgenswest

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:16 PM

Since when is it either/or? You can do both.


The problem with doing both is long term commitments can conflict with the arrival of youth. If you are the Yankees, this isn't a problem. Just absorb the salaries and let go of older players that become liabilities. If you are the Twins or most teams, you end up with declining players in the third or later year of their contract with commitments too large to throw them to the side. Teams that do this end up in a cycle of mediocrity. Far better to have a focused plan and direction and go all in towards that goal.

#25 JB_Iowa

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:29 PM

Free agency isn't the route to long term success.

Signing an over 30 guy to a multiyear almost guarantees being stuck with the decline phase of the player.

One year or even two year guys often are not very good to begin with or are already in decline. Someone has probably done the study, but it sure seems like the majority of last winters bargains are struggling.

The route to long term success is to develop pitching from within. Adding young pitchers like Meyer, May and even Worley is a step in that direction.


To me, there is a difference between trying to buy a team or rotation (free agency isn't the route to long-term success) AND bottom feeding in the guys you DO acquire especially when you have a staff that was in as dire of shape as this one was last year.

They had plenty of money available. They might have had to overpay especially if they wanted someone on a reasonably short deal (e.g. 1-3 years) but a young staff could desperately use some veteran, quality pitching to lead it.

While I agree that the route to long-term success is developing pitching from within, that should not be a reason to TOTALLY IGNORE acquiring some quality pitching through FA.

#26 JB_Iowa

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:31 PM

I don't think that the Twins have THAT MUCH quality pitching in the minors that acquiring a decent FA starter would block them down the road. That assumes that virtually everyone will pan out.

#27 TheLeviathan

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:31 PM

The problem with doing both is long term commitments can conflict with the arrival of youth. If you are the Yankees, this isn't a problem. Just absorb the salaries and let go of older players that become liabilities. If you are the Twins or most teams, you end up with declining players in the third or later year of their contract with commitments too large to throw them to the side. Teams that do this end up in a cycle of mediocrity. Far better to have a focused plan and direction and go all in towards that goal.


If you worry about prospect development with handing out contracts you're making a number of mistakes:

1) Prospects fail. All the time. Even elite ones. Worry about what they will earn in 6-7 years is nothing more than shooting in the dark. You have no idea and planning for something you can't predict and can't control is a horrible way to make decisions.

2) Going "all-in" is a popular phrase but rarely works. Most teams that go after that one or two big names to help their team usually have to sacrifice prospects, not money. So then it defeats the very thing you're talking about and only marginally increases your chances.

You are far better off to add talent at positions of need when you have the resources to do it and let the future chips fall where they may. That doesn't mean you buy an entire rotation or half your roster, but you do go after a few big additions that can supplement what you want your roster to look like.

Again, St. Louis and Atlanta are OUTSTANDING examples of the right model. Washington too. One, two, or three FA contracts are not going to cripple you if you stagger when you sign them and the value you place on them. Completely omitting one major way of adding talent just seems ludicrious on the face of it.

#28 jorgenswest

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:45 PM

I don't think it would have been wise to commit to any pitcher a large on contract in 2015. The likelihood is too great that they will not be effective or injured in the third year.

Once it narrows down to the guys willing to sign for one or two years, the player still has to choose to sign with the Twins and pitch in front of their poor defense.

The Twins have had two successful runs in the last thirty years. In both cases they went very young first 1981-1982 and 1999-2000 and built from there. Look at the cycle from 1993-1998 to see how trying to do both worked out.

In fact with the signings of old guys like Willingham, Doumit, Carroll and Correia, I would suggest that are trying to be both competitive while rebuilding. They aren't doing it very well. I would prefer they dump and go young.

#29 jorgenswest

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:56 PM

If you worry about prospect development with handing out contracts you're making a number of mistakes:

1) Prospects fail. All the time. Even elite ones. Worry about what they will earn in 6-7 years is nothing more than shooting in the dark. You have no idea and planning for something you can't predict and can't control is a horrible way to make decisions.

2) Going "all-in" is a popular phrase but rarely works. Most teams that go after that one or two big names to help their team usually have to sacrifice prospects, not money. So then it defeats the very thing you're talking about and only marginally increases your chances.

You are far better off to add talent at positions of need when you have the resources to do it and let the future chips fall where they may. That doesn't mean you buy an entire rotation or half your roster, but you do go after a few big additions that can supplement what you want your roster to look like.

Again, St. Louis and Atlanta are OUTSTANDING examples of the right model. Washington too. One, two, or three FA contracts are not going to cripple you if you stagger when you sign them and the value you place on them. Completely omitting one major way of adding talent just seems ludicrious on the face of it.


St. Louis and Atlanta are not building from 65 win teams and haven't been. They never let their farm system deplete like the Twins prior to 2011.

Washington did have some very poor years and went young. I found two free agent pitcher signings in that range. They signed Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis. Sounds like the Twins to me.

They did sign Edwin Jackson and trade for Gio Gonzalez prior to 2012 but they already had a foundation of a .500 team at that point.

#30 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:59 PM

Free agency isn't the route to long term success.

Signing an over 30 guy to a multiyear almost guarantees being stuck with the decline phase of the player.

One year or even two year guys often are not very good to begin with or are already in decline. Someone has probably done the study, but it sure seems like the majority of last winters bargains are struggling.

The route to long term success is to develop pitching from within. Adding young pitchers like Meyer, May and even Worley is a step in that direction.


I don't think anyone is saying that we should be building through Free Agency.
It can be used to supplement a roster though.
If Ryan had the courage to go out and spend on a legit FA starting pitcher to supplement our homegrown talent during his first regime, our playoff record would probably be different, and we might even have a 3rd WS banner hanging.