Souhan: Ryan's vision of Twins' future requires patience for the present

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2012 - 10:44 AM

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune file

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Imagine being one of Terry Ryan's kids. Every Christmas you ask for an X-Box. Every Christmas you get savings bonds.

In a world of instant gratification, Ryan is Mr. Piggy Bank. His predecessor, Bill Smith, carried the nickname Mr. No. Ryan is Mr. Not Yet.

Twice in two weeks he's traded a talented big-league center fielder for young pitching, at once damaging his team's chances of winning in 2013 for a chance to win big for the rest of the decade.

Last week, he traded Denard Span to the Nationals for Alex Meyer, an excellent pitching prospect. Thursday, he traded Ben Revere to the Phillies for Vance Worley and Trevor May. Worley finished third in the NL rookie of the year voting in 2011, and May was one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects.

When Ryan made the Twins one of baseball's most respected organizations in the early 2000s, he employed a formula, his own version of Moneyball.

He emphasized drafting athletic players with fielding range and pitchers who threw strikes, and making trades for underappreciated prospects in the lower minor leagues, while avoiding spending big money on the free-agent market.

In his second tenure as the Twins' general manager, Ryan is following a similar plan with a significant twist: He's looking for power pitchers via all avenues.

''We want the kind of pitchers we haven't had enough of," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Pitchers who can miss bats."

The Twins will try to sign two or three free-agent pitchers to fill out the 2013 rotation behind Worley, Scott Diamond and Kyle Gibson, whose innings will be limited because he's coming off Tommy John surgery. They will try to avoid signing free-agent pitchers to long-term contracts, because they hope their best youngsters will be ready to pitch in the majors by 2014 or '15.

Twins fans with a modicum of patience could see a team looking something like this by then:

Joe Mauer at catcher. Chris Parmelee at first. Eddie Rosario, an excellent hitter, at second. Daniel Santana at short. (Levi Michael, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar are other middle-infield options.) Miguel Sano, a power hitter with extraordinary promise, at third.

Aaron Hicks in center. Byron Buxton in left. Oswaldo Arcia in right. (Joe Benson could start at any of these positions, and Arcia could wind up at DH.)

The rotation could feature Meyer, May, Worley, Gibson, Scott Diamond and Jose Berrios, and the Twins have a number of hard-throwing relievers in their system.

Not all of those players will stay healthy and reach their potential, but the blueprint features power arms, power bats and outfielders who can run.

Ryan's strength during his first run as Twins general manager was pulling off one-sided trades. He hasn't fleeced anyone this winter. Span and Revere are good players. This time around, Ryan has merely taken advantage of the impatience of good teams willing to sacrifice top prospects for a chance to win immediately.

Last winter, he excelled in free agency, signing two players who would rank among the best bargains in the game in Josh Willingham and Jared Burton. This winter, he's made two trades that could benefit the rotation from now through 2018.

Antony has worked with Ryan since the '80s. He hasn't seen Ryan change much.

"He's pretty straightforward," Antony said. "He knows what he's looking for and what his objectives are, and he's honest, and he tells other teams, 'Hey, make us an offer if you have interest in this player,' and if we have interest, we'll make an offer.

"It's a simplified process. He knows what he wants. He does all of his due diligence, gets everyone's opinions, contacts every scout and player development guy who has seen a player. He gathers all of that information, formulates his thoughts, and he's ready to make a decision."

These trades were simple. The Twins view outfield as a position of strength in their organization, and pitching as their greatest weakness.

Thanks to the deals Ryan has made the past two weeks, by 2014 or '15 both could be positions of great strength.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. •

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