Twins Regime Change: Winners and Losers

You may have heard the news… the Twins fired General Manager Bill Smith Monday and replaced him with his predecessor, Terry Ryan.

The news has been received well among most Twins fans. That’s not surprising. Most of us had lost much of whatever confidence we may have once had in Smith’s talent as a GM and what better guy to replace him with than the GM who gets most of the credit for molding the Twins in to a contender for most of the past decade? It does seem pretty convenient though, doesn’t it, that fans tend to overlook the fact that he also failed miserably at the GM job during his first half dozen or so years in the GM chair. Then again, he was barely over 40 years old when he first got the job and we all know that nobody under 50 knows a damn thing, anyway.

In any event, I’m certainly not disappointed to see Ryan back in charge. It was a good and necessary move by the Twins ownership and top management.

But make no mistake, this move means things are going to be done differently and there will be changes, both at Target Field and across the Twins organization, from the minor leagues to the international scouts and beyond. You might not think that someone with merely an “interim” GM title would have the clout to turn an organization on its head, but this is no ordinary “interim” GM. There is nothing “interim” about his level of authority.

All of this has me thinking a bit about who the potential winners and losers are likely to be when the dust settles on this little internal drama that’s playing out within the team’s front office.


Twins prospect Aaron Hicks

Minor league prospects: If you’re a prospect in the Twins organization and were starting to get concerned that the Twins might go out on the open market and sign a free agent to a multiple-year contract that could essentially block your path to the Big Leagues, you’re a winner in this deal. It wasn’t all that likely to happen in the first place, but now, those chances are considerably smaller.

By association, our friend Seth Stohs over at is a winner, too. Seth lives and breathes minor league baseball and nobody knows that stuff better. I doubt that Seth was ever too concerned that the Twins might become a “trade all your prospects for old guys” organization, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Terry Ryan will make improving the Twins minor league organization a high priority. That’s going to make Seth (and, eventually, the rest of us) very happy.

Ben Revere

Ben Revere: Terry Ryan made perfectly clear on Monday that the Twins need to improve their defense. There are questions about whether you’ll ever be a Major League hitter, but if Ryan truly believes that better defense will lead to better pitchers, I think you just got locked in to a starting spot in the 2012 Twins outfield.

Talented prospects buried in other organizations: Terry Ryan’s forte is identifying young talent, whether in his own organization or others, and bringing that talent to the Twins where they get a chance to prove themselves worthy of a shot at the big time. If your organization has been holding you back, there’s a decent chance Ryan already has a file on you that’s about an inch thick. Make sure your agent has Ryan’s number on speed dial.

Wayne Krivsky: It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride for you over the past week. A week ago, you were a frustrated, seldom listened to, advisor in the Mets front office. Then you got the good news… the Twins GM wanted you back in the organization in an advisory capacity. Then you got the bad news… the GM who wanted you back was being canned. Then you got more good news… the new interim GM is your old buddy Terry Ryan and now you’re close enough to sniff your next opportunity to become a Major League GM, once again. That is, if you’re the one person on the planet who actually believes that Terry Ryan is just the “interim” General Manager of the Twins.


Twins Medics: You may have breathed a sigh of relief a while back when Bill Smith stated publicly that there would be no blood-letting among the organization’s doctors and trainers. Better get back to work on those resumes, folks.

Cuddyer, Nathan, Kubel (assuming any of them wanted to return to the Twins for 2012 and beyond): Bill Smith grew to genuinely like certain players and some feel that he allowed those feelings to affect his decisions. Terry Ryan isn’t heartless, but he is first and foremost an evaluator and appraiser of baseball talent. The next time he overpays for the declining years of a player who’s productivity level has arguably peaked will be the first time.

Mike Radcliff: A week ago, you were being mentioned as a possible GM candidate in Baltimore, then the Twins declined to allow the Birds to interview you. Now, your new boss is publicly talking about how you’ve been spread too thin and will have some of your responsibilities reassigned. Word is that you decided you weren’t interested in their job and the Twins “declined permission” for the Orioles to talk to you merely to allow them to save some face. If that’s the case, you may be regretting that decision. Now, instead of the organization’s highest ranking player-personnel guy and heir apparent to Bill Smith, your new boss is twice the baseball man you are and he’s bringing back his former right-hand man in Krivsky. Ouch.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Tsuyoshi Nishioka: There is absolutely no way Terry Ryan would have committed $15 million to acquire you a year ago and given that you embody everything that Ryan feels is wrong with the current roster, your already meager hopes of ever playing another inning of baseball for the Twins just became virtually non-existent. I don’t know where you’ll be playing ball in 2012, but it won’t be in the Twin Cities.

Trevor Plouffe: Did you hear what Ryan said about needing to improve the Twins defense? Yeah… he was talking about you, Trevor. You’re still inexpensive, so if you’ve been improving your glovework, you may get a shot at redemption in Ft. Myers, but you’d better demonstrate marked improvement or you’re going to be the “throw in” player in one of Ryan’s inevitable trades.

Anyone who pitched for the Twins in 2011: Glen Perkins might be the only pitcher on the roster who’s spot is relatively safe. The rest of you, either by virtue of your performance or your contract (or both… see: Blackburn, Nick, et al), are just as likely to be playing elsewhere in 2012 as playing on a Terry Ryan team.

Carl Pavano

Carl Pavano: I don’t believe for an instant that Ryan would have re-signed you to a two-year deal last offseason. If he can find someone willing to take on most of your remaining salary, I believe you’ll be wearing another uniform in 2012.

Bloggers who spent time assembling a 2012 “blueprint” (unless you didn’t really like your blueprint, in which case you’re in luck because now you can start over and do a new one): Back to the drawing board. Any of us that still want to spend $35 million on free agents need to get creative about figuring out how to cut $15 million from the existing commitments. Then again, we can pretty much rule out the Mark Buehrles and anyone else likely to get several million dollars for multiple years.


Ron Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire: You didn’t see eye-to-eye with Smith on a number of personnel issues, so you’re probably feeling pretty good about things right now. But keep in mind that Terry Ryan just actively participated in the firing of one of his best friends. He says he’s going to assemble a team that he thinks should be competitive in 2012. If it isn’t, he’s not going to hesitate for a moment to send you packing, too.

Danny Valencia: On the one hand, Danny, you’re young and cheap and you hit the ball a little bit. On the other hand, your defense is not good and some reports indicate you’re not exactly the prototypical “Twins guy” in the clubhouse. That may not have been a big deal a week ago, but there is absolutely nobody in the organization that’s more of a believer in the “Twins Way” than Terry Ryan. If you thought Gardy was anal about that kind of thing, you’re REALLY gonna love the new sheriff in town.

Denard Span

Denard Span and Alexi Casilla: I’m honestly not sure what Terry will do with you two. You’re not gold-glovers in the field, but by comparison to almost everyone else the Twins have on defense, you almost look the part. I suspect he will start his purge elsewhere, but your salaries are getting to the point where Ryan starts to think he can find someone comparable for less money. Not to mention, you may be two of the few members of the current roster with actual trade value.

Fans: I stand by my previous statements that fans should not accept a slashed payroll without loud objection. We can hold out some hope that Ryan was just tossing out numbers during the press conference and, by the time spring rolls around, the payroll is pretty close to the 2011 levels. At any rate, if (and this is a very big “if”) Ryan can actually unload some dead weight and replace it with players who can actually… you know… play baseball, then fans may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

What are your thoughts? Who do you project to be the big “winners” and “losers” under the Terry Ryan Regime, Part Deux? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

–  JC

Friday Twins Baseball Oddities

A couple of peculiar items have captured my attention today. One involved MLB as a whole and the other the Twins, specifically.

The latter was the news from Phil Mackey at 1500espn (referring to a Tweet by Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports) that the Twins have denied the Orioles permission to interview VP of Player Personnel Mike Radcliff for the Birds’ vacant General Manager position.

Mike Radcliff (photo: Minnesota Twins)

That kind of thing doesn’t happen often. While it wouldn’t be ideal to lose your VP of Player Personnel just as the free agency market opens, it would still be odd for a team to deny one of their people an opportunity to even interview for a bigger, better job with another organization. On top of that, Mackey reported that the reason was due to, “internal reorganization and promotions.”

The thing is, the Twins haven’t announced any kind of internal front office reorganization or promotions.

Typically, teams don’t refuse other teams to interview their people if the open position would clearly be a step up. One could certainly argue that Radcliff’s current position with the Twins has more authority than what the eventual Orioles GM will have, given their “hands on” owner and a manager who’s been given an awful lot of authority over player personnel decisions. It might be the worst GM gig in baseball.

But the Twins aren’t saying that (at least not publicly). They’re saying the refusal is due to internal reorganization and promotions. The only promotion I’ve read about lately is Tom Brunansky getting the Rochester hitting coach gig. Hard to imagine that affecting Radcliff’s responsibilities, isn’t it?

Could it be that there’s some sort of succession plan in place whereby Radcliff will be taking over for GM Bill Smith in the relatively near future? Stay tuned… maybe someone in the Minnesota media will track down an answer from the Twins.

UPDATE: Subsequent media reports indicate there’s no plan to change Radcliff’s title, but the Twins are looking at bringing Wayne Krivsky back in to the front office as a Special Assistant to GM Bill Smith. Krivsky had been an Assistant GM for the Twins before taking the GM job with the Reds a few years back. He lost that job a couple of years ago and has held lesser jobs in the front offices of other teams since then.

The other odd item today was courtesy of ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

We’re well aware that MLB and its players are trying to work out a new collective bargaining agreement (does this sound familiar, or what?). What little has been written about the negotiations, however, has largely focused on two things… MLB’s desire for a hard slotting system for draft picks’ salaries and vague assurances that neither party sees it as being at all likely that this process will become as problematic as the NFL negotiations were and NBA negotiations have been.

What Stark points out, however, is that the MLB luxury tax system ended with the end of the 2011 season. There’s an assumption that some sort of luxury tax system will be included in whatever new CBA is ultimately adopted, but in the mean time, none exists.

That has to make it pretty difficult for some teams to figure out what they can afford for a 2012 payroll, which in turn makes it all but impossible for some of them to get very active in the free agent market.

Big market teams won’t be significantly affected. If you were going to be paying in to the system, you can just assume you will be under the new system, as well.

If you’re a team that neither pays in nor receives significant luxury tax dollars, you really aren’t affected either. The Twins probably fall in this category.

But if you’re the Tampa Bay Rays or Kansas City Royals, you’ve got to be just a little nervous, don’t you? Even if you are very certain that there will continue to be some form of luxury tax, you can’t be sure of the amount. If you can’t be sure of the amount, it’s kinda tough to put together a budget.

Not only does that prevent you from diving in to the free agent pool (even to try to retain your own free agents), but in some cases, teams need a significant amount of luxury tax money just to be able to afford to keep the players they have under contract. In a worst-case scenario, a lack of luxury tax money could force some teams to hold some interesting fire sales.

At the very least, it seems to me that the low-revenue teams are going to have to hold off on making significant roster decisions until there is some finality on the CBA. That won’t affect the market for high-end free agents (let’s face it, the Royals were not going to be bidding for Prince Fielder anyway), but it may mean a team like the Twins would have less competition for more moderately priced free agents, such as Ramon Santiago, if they act earlier rather than later. That’s not exactly the Twins MO, of course.

Maybe these two items aren’t ultimately big deals. But with Spring Training still over 100 days away, we have to talk about SOMETHING, don’t we?

Finally, speaking of Spring Training, our friend Paul Caputo (from has started a new Facebook page that’s worth checking out. “Countdown to Spring Training” gives us one more option for discussing any manner of Hot Stove issues. Check it out!

With that, I’ll call it a day. Have a good weekend, all!

– JC