Is Twins GM Terry Ryan Bluffing?

It was just one small line in a Pioneer Press article, but it caught my eye.

John Shipley’s article was primarily about Twins GM Terry Ryan going on record as stating his starting pitchers need to get away from the expectation that once they’ve completed six innings of work, they’ve done their jobs and can hit the shower. But there it was, in the next to last paragraph, a quote from Ryan to the effect that the Twins rotation was set unless someone, “fell in to our lap.”

Terry Ryan is a smart man… certainly smarter than I am. That certainty has had me wondering lately whether I’ve been wrong all along in my view that the Twins need more significant help in their rotation than what Jason Marquis, alone, is likely to provide. Pretty much since taking back the GM chair from Bill Smith, Ryan has insisted that the Twins just needed to get more healthy innings out of the starting pitchers they already have on staff, with perhaps the addition of another potential innings-eater at the back of the rotation (which turned out to be Marquis).

So the plan has apparently been to assume that Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn would all be much healthier and much better than last season AND that Carl Pavano would at least replicate his 2011 performance level.

Despite being fully aware of Ryan’s superior baseball knowledge, compared to my own, I’ve remained skeptical.

So I’m grasping on to that tiny quote as a glimmer of hope that maybe… just maybe… Ryan knows his team needs more significant help. Maybe, faced with a restrictive payroll limit, he just knew all along he’d need to wait until the starting pitching market matured to the point where bargains could be had. Maybe, as agents bloviated about how magnificent their pitching clients were, he just shrugged and told them that their clients were indeed such gems that there was no way he could afford the salaries they could get elsewhere… then handed out his business card, you know, “just in case.”

Rich Harden (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Now, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training in five short weeks, there’s a pretty sizable number of remaining free agent pitchers on the market and a shrinking number of teams with rotation spots available. The Twins clearly will not be signing guys like Edwin Jackson or Hiroki Kuroda, but let’s take a look at some of the other names that still don’t know where they’ll be calling home this season (click names for Baseball-Reference.com pages):

Bartolo Colon

Jeff Francis

Jon Garland

Rich Harden

Kevin Millwood

Roy Oswalt

Brad Penny

Joel Pineiro

Joe Saunders

I’m sure there are some guys on that list that you or I might differ on regarding how much we’d like to see them join the Twins’ rotation, but the chances of one or more of these pitchers “falling in to the lap” of Terry Ryan isn’t completely beyond the realm of possibility, at this point.

Todd Coffey (Photo: Gene J Puskar/AP)

Of course, it’s still probably more likely that Ryan adds a bullpen arm than a starting pitcher. If Ryan is waiting for a reliever to fall in to his lap, as well, there are plenty of those still looking for work and they’re probably getting even more nervous.

Conventional wisdom is that the Twins would want to add a right-hander, so for our purposes, let’s just glance at the… um… “northpaws(?)” Ryan Madson is off the board, now that he’s signed with the Reds, but he wasn’t going to be an option for the Twins anyway. I think we can also assume the Twins won’t be the organization signing Kerry Wood, or even Francisco Cordero, but maybe there’s someone else useful on this list:

Luis Ayala (OK, just kidding… we’ve been there, done that)

Shawn Camp

Todd Coffey

Brad Lidge

Scott Linebrink

Chad Qualls

Dan Wheeler

Michael Wuertz

Joel Zumaya

I can’t help but notice that two guys who were on my “blueprint”, Rich Harden and Todd Coffey, are both still available. I wonder if, perhaps in another week or two as the anxiety levels of the players and their agents rise, Ryan’s budget… or his lap… might have room both.

- JC

4 thoughts on “Is Twins GM Terry Ryan Bluffing?

  1. The thing with Terry Ryan is that you’re never quite sure. Bill Smith seemed to either “no comment” the media, sweat, or act cagey. Ryan is always there to give an answer, but is great at never really tipping his hand when he doesn’t want to. For example, I guess that’s why some of us thought, even after the Willingham signing was announced, that Cuddyer still might have been coming back, when it sort of became clear after the fact that Cuddyer was never that close to returning.
    I’d love to think that Todd Coffey could fall into Ryan’s lap. It would go a long way with respect to the bullpen.

  2. Terry Ryan’s patience is proving a virtue this off-season. He is also quite adept at not giving too many obvious clues about what his intentions are – maddening for those who follow the Twins closely, but wise negotiation strategy.

    I’m with you in hoping he is able to sign more help before the pitchers report. Because of potential injury and surgery recovery issues, I think the Twins still need one more veteran starter AND one more reliever to bring to camp to at least compete for roles on the opening day roster if not land guaranteed spots. I’d definitely take Harden and Coffey and make the payroll fit, but then I never was much of a believer in the $100 million limit.

  3. I think that the Twins have space for a couple of moves still. The prices on pitchers are dropping. Unfortunately TR was not patient enough and rushed to sign Capps, spending at least $1-2 M more that what he would have had if waited.

  4. Terry Cryan is a pro at speaking out of his a$$. He is a Pohlad stooge and a slappy. Terry Cryan knows who signs his pay checks.