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

10 Replies to “Are We Seeing Bizarro Terry Ryan?”

  1. Great article!! We have officially entered panic mode in Twins Territory. I’m really confused as to why GM Terry Ryan is waiting so long. The Twins waited too long when they were shopping Johan Santana a few years ago and we all know how that turned out. I don’t see the Twins paying for an Edwin Jackson or Anibal Sanchez. My guess is you will see Brett Myers and Joe Blanton signed here instead of quality free agents. One thing to remember for optimistic fans, name the last time the Twins made a big move at the Winter Meetings. Not sure it’s ever happened. I believe the front office overvalues it’s players and nobody is willing to give up the haul Ryan wants in return.

  2. Well, Terry Ryan just made a trade that seems to be aiming at rotation improvement in 2014 and beyond. We’ll see if dealing Span is also meant to free up budget space to sign pitching upgrades this year, too.

    A little while back, Nick Nelson said he had the feeling that Joe Saunders would be the Twins’ big signing this winter. I tweeted back, “Maybe Joe Blanton.” I was only half-kidding. He almost perfectly fits the mold of a Twins-type mid-rotation starting pitcher.

  3. I absolutely do NOT see the Span/Meyer trade as an indication Ryan won’t be adding real rotation help this year. In fact, the extra money should help in that regard and if the Rays or Reds still want to trade current pitching for young OFs, we still have some we can offer. As I’ve written a few places, there is NO reason this needs to be “either/or”… Ryan and the Twins have the money and trade chips to improve drastically in 2013 AND prepare to be very good in 2015 and beyond.

  4. He almost has to sign a few veteran pitchers, just because the rotation right now is basically Scott Diamond & the Mysterians. But I wonder if Ryan really thinks that he’s just a couple TOR pitchers away from contention in 2013. Would you trade Span for a prospect right now, if you were really planning to Go Big this winter?

  5. If I were Terry Ryan and believed that Denard Span was my best trade chip, I would trade him for the best return I could get… whether that was a MLB ready guy or a high-ceiling SP like Meyer. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I believe Ryan had TWO almost equal objectives this offseason: 1a: Fix the current rotation by getting at least a couple of legitimate #2-#3 SPs, and 1b: Find a true potential “ace” to develop in a manner to have in place when Sano, Buxton, et al, arrive.

    I would have traded Span for the best option available that accomplished either of those goals… knowing full well that I still will have to accomplish the other goal in another manner. If he had packaged Span in a deal for Shields, I’d be saying the same thing… “that’s great, now how are you going to improve the SPs in your farm system?”

  6. I’ll add one more thing (and I probably should just do a full post on all of this over the weekend)… Ryan knew there were a number of CFs available both in free agency and potential trades. If I were a betting man, I’d guess this is what went down:

    Ryan had a deal in the works with Atlanta that he REALLY liked and his preference was to trade Span to Atlanta for whatever they were offering, but the Braves wouldn’t pull the trigger until they knew if they’d be able to sign Upton. If Upton signs elsewhere, the Braves would give Ryan what he wanted for Span.

    But the Braves got Upton, meaning that while they still would like to have Span, too, they no longer NEEDED him… and their offer to Ryan for him was less than what he wanted.

    Meyer was likely his second choice and even if he might have wanted to get a little more than Meyer in a 1 for 1 deal, he didn’t want to wait and risk having Washington trade Meyer to someone else or maybe sign one of the other FA CFs. So he pulled the trigger today.

  7. Although I don’t see Span as a star/cornerstone, he’s a good all-around player, and I doubt Revere or Parmelee will be worth as much as him next year. Do you expect Ryan to sign a FA to replace him in 2013, or would you feel fine about giving “the kids” a chance to play?

  8. I won’t be at all surprised to see Aaron Hicks playing CF by the end of 2013, rather than Revere, but I don’t expect Ryan to dip in to the FA pool for an outfielder unless he ends up trading some of the young OF prospects for pitching.

  9. Are you OK with that? Fangraphs puts Span’s value at 3.9 WAR this year (good defender, good baserunner, got on base at an above-average rate). Trading him without signing some lineup upgrade from outside the organization probably means a weaker lineup next year, unless one of the youngsters has a surprise breakout season, which could be taken as a sign that Ryan is already looking at 2013 as a rebuilding “let’s see how the kids develop” year.

  10. I can’t say I’m OK with much that’s gone on at Target Field over the past 2 years and if I could undo stuff that’s been done, I would. But I can’t. So now we deal with today’s reality and that reality is that the Twins are almost totally bankrupt of top of the rotation pitchers in their organization. They need some for 2013 and they need some for 2015 and beyond. Losing a very good player like Span in order to address the pitching problem is the price Terry Ryan is paying for the Twins allowing the situation to get to where it’s at today.

    Span brought a pitcher with a LOT of potential. Now Ryan has to address 2013’s rotation.