Oh, Terry Ryan. I think no matter how hard we try, we’re never going to forget him. It makes sense, considering he ran the Twins for roughly 20 years over two stints. However, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are now at the helm and theoretically they have big plans for the Twins this offseason.
Last year was rather quiet as their biggest transactions were signing Jason Castro to be the starting catcher and adding reliever Matt Belisle, along with minor league contracts for Chris Gimenez and Craig Breslow and the waiver claim of Ehire Adrianza. Those players combined for over 4 fWAR, with all but Breslow making a positive contribution to the team, but you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling underwhelmed. After all, Castro’s and Gimenez’s offense relied on drawing walks, a skill that is seemingly still underappreciated by casual fans. Belisle struggled so much early on that his ERA was bloated for the entire season, and Adrianza was a backup utility player that derived a lot of value from his defense. Overall, last season’s acquisitions felt a lot like what Ryan would have done himself.
This offseason might be different as the Twins are gearing up for a sustained playoff push. Like all teams, they were in on Shohei Ohtani until they were told he wanted to sign elsewhere. There also have been rumors that they would be interested in Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. Meanwhile, it’s been rather quiet regarding the relievers the organization would consider, and any rumblings of signing a position player has been nonexistent.
But what if Terry Ryan was still running this team? Well, we were well-acquainted with Ryan’s tendencies as a general manager. He typically looked for cheap, undervalued talent. Any big acquisitions via free agency typically involved players with little upside and were rarely cost much in terms of dollars or years. The exceptions were four-year contracts worth more than $40 million total for Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana, who were signed prior to the 2014 and 2015 seasons, respectively.
The last winning season for Ryan was in 2015, where the reunion of Torii Hunter led to 22 home runs and veteran leadership, triumphant debuts by Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario, and a pitching staff led by Kyle Gibson, Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, and Kevin Jepsen. Yeah, the hurlers were in an alternate universe that year. Going into that offseason, the rotation looked to be so full that Trevor May would ultimately get shifted to the bullpen to help out what was shaping up to be a shaky relief corp. As for the lineup, Hunter was retiring, but the outfield appeared to be manned by Byron Buxton, Aaron Hicks, and Rosario, with Max Kepler knocking on the door. As Ryan loved to do, he looked for bargains and was more interested in making tweaks instead of blockbuster moves:
- Traded Hicks to the New York Yankees for John Ryan Murphy, who was supposed to be the backup and heir to Kurt Suzuki until he forgot how to hit
- Gave out minor league contracts for Juan Centeno, who replaced Murphy as Suzuki’s backup; Brandon Kintzler, who filled in admirably for Glen Perkins as the closer; Buddy Boshers, an adequate run-of-the-mill lefthanded reliever; and Fernando Abad, who became the good lefty out of the ‘pen
- And the “big” splash, the successful bid and signing of Korean slugger ByungHo Park , who hit well initially until pitchers figured him out, followed by injuries that delivered the knockout punch
Of those transactions, all of them were typical Ryan moves except for the Park signing, as the offense appeared to need an outfielder more than anything. Unfortunately, bringing in Park led to the ill-fated decision to put Sano in right field as the Twins attempted to carry Park, Sano, Trevor Plouffe, and Joe Mauer in the same lineup.
Thus, if the Twins are looking at a need for top-end pitching in the rotation and bullpen, I think we’d have to set our sights a bit lower if Ryan was running the team. He probably would have made “competitive offers” (as he liked to say) to Darvish and Arrieta, but they would have signed elsewhere. As a side note, while it was frustrating that Ryan was so risk-averse that he never threw enough money to entice a top free agent to come to Minnesota, his cautiousness also prevented the team from being saddled by a dead weight contract (the worst contracts I can think of were Nolasco’s and Phil Hughes’, though Hughes’ current deal was from a contract extension).
Because of this, I bet Ryan would have locked on to Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, pitchers that I see as being of the same caliber as Ervin Santana. I think soft-tossing lefty Jason Vargas would also get a look on a two-year contract. Another name I’d throw out there would be Jhoulys Chacin, as Ryan seemed to aim for mid-level National League pitchers. As for the bullpen, it would be another slew of minor league contracts, with the biggest names being someone like Chad Qualls. In other words, no one that would make you feel like the bullpen was a strength, but the guy(s) could still turn in a fairly effective season.
Ultimately, I’m glad that Ryan isn’t in charge. With Cleveland being the team to beat, the Twins would have to make some serious adjustments to fell their AL Central foes and I don’t think Ryan would have made the moves necessary to accomplish that goal. Granted, it’s entirely possible that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine end up being just as conservative, but they’re still unknowns to us and could possibly pull the trigger on a big free agent whereas we knew with certainty that Ryan would not.
What do you think? Would Ryan have made any other moves that I didn’t list?