Twins General Manager Terry Ryan last week committed $73 million to two starting pitchers after contacting nearly every free-agent arm on the market. But he knows he still has a ways to go before he can win the offseason.
Still, signing righthanders Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to prop up the rotation were necessary and a change from past approaches to free agency. Now Ryan and his staff are headed to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort this week for the annual baseball winter meetings, looking to continue their renovation of a 291-loss team over the past three seasons.
“We have all kinds of areas that could be upgraded,” Ryan said. “We’ve got people where, if I told you the positions you would say, ‘Well, this guy is going to be there.’ But some of those guys we need to take a step forward. We can always upgrade any spot anywhere. So if something came to our attention and it looks like an upgrade, we should probably pursue it.”
Worn down by the sharp decline in success, the Twins are out this offseason to address several areas of the roster.
Pitching was at the top of the team’s list after it fielded one of the worst rotations in baseball over the past couple of seasons. Nolasco and Hughes are not franchise-changing aces, but they are significant improvements. And Ryan is not done with his search for starting pitching. “There is still some quality starting pitching out there and we still have some payroll flexibility,” he said.
That could lead to the return of righthander Mike Pelfrey. He went 5-13 last season as he returned from Tommy John surgery, and there’s hope that he will thrive two years removed from surgery. He wants to come back, but it might take more than the two years and $10 million the Twins offered him earlier in the offseason. His agent is Scott Boras, who is an artist at getting max value for his clients.
And there is always the possibility of a trade. David Price and Jeff Samardzija have been mentioned in leaguewide rumors, but the Twins likely would have to add one of their prized prospects, which they have indicated they wouldn’t do.
Instead, the Twins could look into dealing for someone like Oakland lefthander Brett Anderson, who has hit the rumor mill. He’s had to recover from Tommy John surgery in 2011 and suffered a broken foot last season, yet could still draw interest from teams.
One potential trade chip, second base prospect Eddie Rosario, might not be in play after he notified his Winter League team in Puerto Rico that he failed a drug test. He is going through the appeal process.
When asked about acquiring catching help, Ryan mentioned all of the catchers currently under control as possibilities. The Twins made a hard run at A.J. Pierzynski before he signed with Boston last week. Several other catchers have signed since then, so they might have to deal for a catcher.
The Twins also could add an outfielder. While Oswaldo Arcia has shown a lot of promise, the club needs to see more from former first-round pick Aaron Hicks. Josh Willingham, the left fielder last season when healthy, might need to spend more time at designated hitter.
In the infield, they could look to add more offense at shortstop instead of going with the sure-handed Pedro Florimon.
So the Twins could be active on several fronts this week at Disney.
“This is a big year for many of our players because you don’t know which way they are going to go,” Ryan said. “If they take a step forward, they will answer some of our problems and questions. A step backwards is going to be concerning not only for us but for their careers.
“We have given opportunities to guys here the last two years. And it hasn’t gone so well. So now we may have to look out for ourselves here a little bit more.”