The Twins’ problems run deeper than fixing the pitching.
“I’m not going to pretend to tell you that all of our numbers [of potential pitchers] are going to solve all of our problems on the mound,” Ryan said. “We are going to have to continue to look and continue to add, but we also have offensive concerns now which, coming into the year, I thought might be one of our stronger suits. We have certainly not hit well enough with people out there [on base]. And we haven’t really manufactured runs enough.”
To address all the shortcomings, Ryan might have to get creative. His one area of strength is his farm system. The Twins can covet their prospects all they want, but no team has seen all its top 10 prospects thrive in the majors. Is Ryan willing to trade prospects for established talent? For the right deal, is he willing to move one of the mega prospects such as Buxton or Sano for pitching?
Look no further than the Tigers to see the benefits of pulling the trigger on a deal involving prospects. GM Dave Dombrowski traded six prospects to the Marlins in 2007 for Miguel Cabrera (although they also had to take on Dontrelle Willis at the time). Two years ago, he packaged four prospects to the Mariners for Doug Fister.
Dombrowski also has traded away veterans to land prospects as well, dealing Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson away four years ago as part of a three-team trade to land Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson.
“Depending on who you are talking about and the situation and all that, if something comes up like that where someone presents something like that, we will take it all under consideration and see what the ramifications are,” Ryan said.
Another talent source
More teams are becoming heavily involved on the international market. The league has established some spending restrictions, but teams still have to pay posting fees for Japanese players and Cubans who are declared free agents, and those players still fetch huge deals.
In 2009, the Twins took the plunge with Sano, from the Dominican Republic, signing him for $3.15 million and watching him develop into one of baseball’s top prospects.
But the Twins have been reluctant to go after the top worldwide talent since, Nishioka notwithstanding. Ryan confirmed that they did submit a bid on Japanese righthander Hisashi Iwakuma (now an All-Star with the Mariners) and South Korean lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers) but fell short. But they never were linked to top Japanese righthander Yu Darvish when he became available before the 2012 season (the Rangers’ posting fee for Darvish was $51.7 million). And the Twins have not been involved heavily with any of the top Cuban players — such as Dodgers young star Yasiel Puig — who have hit the market in recent years.
The Twins have been linked to Cuban shortstop Alexander Guerrero, who still is available. The Twins even have had conversations with Scott Boras, Guerrero’s agent, according to a person familiar with the talks. But the Twins have indicated they are unlikely to get into a bidding war for Guerrero.
There’s another Japanese pitcher who might be ready to come abroad next season. Masahiro Tanaka is 22-0 — no typo — with a 1.23 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Twins have scouted Tanaka, 24, whose fastball sits in the low-90-miles-per-hour range to go with a slider and splitter. Are they willing to submit a competitive bid? It only cost the Twins a $5 million bid to land Nishioka. Tanaka will be different.
“We’re not afraid,” Ryan said. “Sometimes you’ll get that bid, like we did with Nishioka, and sometimes you’ll come up short. That’s another situation where you have to be aware and do your scouting and check on makeup. If a guy does become available from the other league, are we going to get in or out?”
This might the offseason in which the Twins need to “get in” more often.
“We are not as staid and conservative as you make us out to be,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins vice president in charge of player personnel. “There is some free thinking going on, and we are not afraid to get outside the box.”