Terry Ryan is willing to trade anyone this winter to improve the Twins, he told the team’s season-ticket holders on Tuesday, even super prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton — though it would take a lot to convince him to do so.
“I don’t think we’ve got any untouchables. Those guys are pretty talented, but … you’d have to consider pretty much anything,” the Twins’ general manager said in an hourlong conference call with the team’s best customers. Still, he said, “It would be difficult to trade those guys, because both of them are on a fast track” to the major leagues.
The Twins’ annual ask-the-decision-makers session took place one day after Ryan announced Ron Gardenhire would return next season, and the manager joined Ryan on the call, along with team President Dave St. Peter. If Gardenhire’s two-year extension was controversial, there was no evidence of it during the question-and-answer session; nearly every ticket holder expressed satisfaction with the choice.
But the questions were more pointed about making over the 66-96 team’s roster, with more than one caller describing it as a collection of “Triple-A players.”
“You saying you’re paying major league prices for Triple-A talent, that does bother me. I don’t ever like to hear that,” Ryan told one ticket holder. “That’s not what I want, it’s not what Gardy wants.”
Ryan pledged several times to make significant changes this winter beginning, he said, with the pitching rotation. Free agents will be a priority, he said, and he hopes to be active in the trade market, too.
“There isn’t any excuse for the lack of talent right now,” he said.
And payroll will not be an issue, he emphasized.
“I’m not going to worry about dollars. We’ve got the backing of ownership,” Ryan said. But, he said, “Dollars don’t win anything — it’s baseball decisions [that pay off]. My responsibility is to make good baseball decisions and not whine about payroll.”
Some other topics covered in the hourlong forum:
• Joe Mauer is “pretty much symptom-free” from the concussion that ended his season Aug. 19, Ryan said, and plans to remain in the Twin Cities for several weeks while he recovers. Will he catch next year? “This will be a decision between Joe and Ron and myself and ownership. We have to figure a way to keep him on the diamond,” Ryan said, with the goal of Mauer playing 150 games next year.
• The Twins are deciding whether to give relievers Anthony Swarzak and Ryan Pressly a shot at the rotation next year, Gardenhire said. And Ryan said “We’ve got to get [Vance] Worley straightened out” after he lasted only six weeks before being demoted this year. In addition, minor league prospects Trevor May and Alex Meyer will be invited to major league camp, though it’s unlikely either will be ready for the majors next April.
• Aaron Hicks was Rochester’s best player in the International League playoffs, Gardenhire said Red Wings manager Gene Glynn told him, and the Twins expect the outfielder to bounce back from a disastrous rookie year. “He’ll be fine,” Ryan said. “He had a troubling year, but he’ll be a pretty good player, and soon.”
In fact, Gardenhire said, Hicks and Sano and Buxton are the key to the Twins’ turnaround. “We’re not a team that goes out and builds a team through the [free-agent] market. When we’ve built teams that have been successful, it’s been through our system. And we’re getting there again,” the manager said. “Ultimately, it’s going to fall on the young players we’re talking about to come up together and make it happen. … We’re close.”