Minnesota Twins’ Terry Ryan Believes Free Agency is Not the Answer

By Brian Wille
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

In what has become a yearly tradition, Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan took part in the 2013 Midwinter Coaches Clinic at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota this weekend where he spoke about the state of the franchise and also addressed questions regarding the Twins’ struggling pitching staff. Ryan—who was joined by Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson—spoke about the numerous problems that the Twins’ pitching staff endured throughout the 2012 season.  In addition, Ryan shared his philosophy in regards to a pitching staff and franchise that are in dire need of a turnaround.

Heading into the off-season, the Twins pitching staff was in disarray due in large part to untimely injuries and a minor league system that could not replenish a depleted rotation or produce pitchers able to compete in the big leagues. This led many sports analysts to believe that the Twins would need to address their pitching need via free agency or a trade.

The names of Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse highlighted a relatively weak free agent crop of pitchers, with only Greinke possessing the talent and moxie of a number one starter.  Although fans may have assumed landing a pitcher of Greinke’s caliber was unlikely, many assumed Ryan would use free agency to address a pitching staff with a combined 4.77 ERA that ranked 13th out of 14 American League teams in 2012.

Ryan did in fact use free agency to acquire a glut of new pitching options, but the signings of Mike Pelfrey, Rich Harden and Kevin Correia have only came with skepticism and little upside.  In addition, Ryan also traded the likes of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies for highly touted pitching prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer, and promising youngster Vance Worley.

In theory, Ryan did address the Twins’ pitching staff by acquiring these new pitchers and stocking up a bare farm system; however, the signings did little to inspire a fan base with the desire to return to contention sooner rather than later. The organization’s continual signing of mediocre free agents over the past few years has soured many Twins’ fans and their faith in the vision of their favorite ball club, yet Ryan remains dedicated to his philosophy that is not built on making big moves via free agency.

When asked if the free agent signings this off-season had improved the Twins’ pitching staff, Ryan stated that he felt the Twins, “addressed many needs with the signings of Pelfrey, Harden and Correia”, but he also stated that he believes, “Free agency is only a band aid and not a way to build a team.”  Ryan believes that the only true way to build a successful team and acquire the pitching necessary to build a contender is, “through the draft”.  While this may not provide the instantaneous gratification that many Twins’ fans desire, it does provide a rationale for the type of moves the Twins have made this off-season and may make in the coming years until the team is ready to compete.

Ryan reiterated throughout his responses his desire to field a competitive team, but to also utilize low-risk, high-reward type of signings—like the Harden acquisition—to supplement a promising pitching staff highlighted by young pitchers like Worley, Meyer, May and Scott Diamond.  To doubt Ryan and his vision would be premature and illogical.

This is the same man who was once questioned when he traded fan favorites A.J Pierzynski and Chuck Knoblauch to replenish a depleted organization with young promising prospects. His vision and uncanny ability to acquire young talent in their early years of professional baseball has a proven track record and should be trusted.  The organization’s lack of success in the amateur draft—on the other hand—is cause for concern and Ryan is dedicated to improving the organization’s performance in drafting young talent.  While it may not instill confidence with fans in Twins’ Territory, the vision that Ryan has in place is one that—with time and patience—has a proven track record of working within this organization, but as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers once eloquently put it, “The waiting, is the hardest part.”

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