Span Traded to Nationals!

GM Terry Ryan didn’t wait until the start of the Winter Meetings next week before swinging his first deal, trading Denard Span to the Nationals for minor league starting pitcher Alex Meyer.

Alex Meyer (Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP)

Meyer, the Nats 2011 first round draft pick, represented Washington in this summer’s Future’s Game in Kansas City. He’s 6′ 9″ and can bring a 98 mph fastball to the table. He immediately will become the Twins top starting pitching prospect, though he’s only pitched as high as the high-A level to this point.

Honestly, I love Span and hate to seem him go. Knowing it was likely, however, I hoped he would be traded for immediate pitching help. All of that said, it’s hard not to be excited about the potential of a guy like Meyer. Nobody can say any longer that the Twins do not have a “top of the rotation” prospect in their farm system. He is certainly that.

Best of luck to Denard in Washington and thank you for all of his efforts as a Minnesota Twin.

– JC

Are We Seeing Bizarro Terry Ryan?

It’s been difficult for me this offseason to, on the one hand, listen to and read Terry Ryan’s comments about what his plans are for addressing the Twins’ obvious needs, while bearing in mind the Twins’ historical approach to offseason roster building. In fact, it brings to mind the “Bizarro World” introduced by DC Comics back in my younger (much younger) days.

Bizarro Superman #1

You remember Bizarro Superman, right? The “perfect imperfect duplicate” of Superman that was essentially the Man of Steel’s polar opposite. He lived, along with Bizarro versions of various other DC Comics superheroes, on Bizarro World… a cube-shaped version of Earth. In Bizarro World, down is up, yes is no, and virtually every uttered word means exactly the opposite of what we’re programmed to think it means.

Ryan’s stated plans for the offseason have pretty much convinced me that the Twins will be represented by Bizarro Terry Ryan at the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville next week.

Consider, for example, Ryan’s comments in response to questions from Twins Daily’s John “TwinsGeek” Bonnes, as published in TD’s “Offseason Handbook” (which, by the way, you really should order if you haven’t done so yet). In response to a question by John concerning Ryan’s perception of the free agent starting pitching market, Ryan said his view is that the market is, “thin,” but that, “there’s a few guys out there who are pretty darn good.” Given that there appears to be a deeper pool of above average starting pitchers available this year than there has been for years, most of us would only characterize Ryan’s assessment of the pitching market as “thin” to be… well… bizarre.

Then consider Ryan’s response to the following questions:

Bonnes: Are you likely to be chasing some players who are pretty darn good?

Ryan: We better.

Bonnes: Are you willing to give multi-year deals to pitchers?

Ryan: You aren’t going to get a pitcher unless you give a multi-year deal.

That, in itself, is a little bit un-Twinslike. Was Terry Ryan really saying he’s prepared to step up and offer multi-year deals for “pretty darn good” pitchers? But wait… it gets better.

Bonnes: It sounds like you’re sitting back and seeing what in the market comes to you, as opposed to aggressively chasing a couple of targets.

Ryan: If I do that, we’ll probably be holding the bag. You know pitching is going to go off the board. We certainly have to be looking at it.

So, not only is Terry Ryan saying he’ll go multiple years for pretty darn good pitching, but he indicates an awareness that sitting back and waiting for pitching to fall to the Twins won’t get the job done.

Who is this man and what did he do with our GM?

This week, Ryan also was interviewed by Tom Pelissero and Phil Mackey at 1500ESPN and his message remained consistent with what he told Bonnes. Again, he used the term “thin” to describe the free agent pitching market, but he also went on to say the team needed more than one “Mark Buehrle” type pitcher. As he has stated in almost every interview he’s given this offseason, he continued to maintain that the Twins have enough money to fix the rotation and it’s his job to do so.

Add it all up and you have to say that Ryan’s message has been consistent. According to Ryan:

  • The Twins top… and perhaps only… priority is to fix the rotation. In the 1500ESPN interview, he went so far as to point out (accurately) that there’s been nothing published linking the Twins to anything but pitchers and that the only way they’d spend any significant money on anything but pitching would be if efforts to acquire serious rotation help ultimately prove fruitless.
  • Payroll is not an issue and money will not preclude the Twins from fixing the rotation.
  • Ryan intends to do exactly that… fix the rotation… even acknowledging that Scott Diamond, while having the potential to become a #3 pitcher, isn’t likely to be considered at that level in 2013. Ryan has also given every indication that he intends to actively seek multiple pitchers that exceed Diamond’s current talent level.
  • Ryan does not intend to sit back and simply scrape the bottom of the barrel of the available pitching talent. He certainly sounds intent on being aggressive in pursuing what he believes the Twins need.

None of that sounds much like the kind of noise coming out of the Twins front office in recent years. As recently as last offseason, Ryan was bluntly telling us that the payroll in 2012 would be cut considerably from the 2011 level. He played the “lower the fans’ expectations” game and then followed through by assembling a roster that reflected about a 10% decrease in Opening Day payroll, effectively meeting the reduced expectations.

So… what should we expect next week down in Nashville? Will Ryan’s actions (or lack thereof) contradict his newly-aggressive public persona? Or will he back up his words with strong action?

None of the “top half of the rotation” free agent pitchers have come off the board yet, nor have many of those rumored to be available via trade. So long as that’s the case, perhaps we can hold out hope that Ryan means what he’s been saying… that we’ll see a level of aggressive pursuit of pitching help, starting as soon as next week, unlike anything the Twins have demonstrated before. Maybe he’s not going to Nashville with one arm tied behind his back.

I hope that’s the case. But I have to admit that years of watching the Twins steadfastly avoid paying market-rate, multi-year salaries to top-shelf (or even middle-shelf) starting pitchers on the free agent market has me skeptical.

After all, as any true 1960s comic book fan could tell you, in Bizarro-speak, “me am signing good expensive pitching this time,” really means, “I’m going shopping for crap in the bargain bin again.”

– JC