ORLANDO – After two days of meeting with agents, General Manager Terry Ryan said it’s still too early to tell how much he’ll be able to upgrade the Twins’ starting rotation through free agency. But he has found one factor isn’t helping: the team’s lousy record.
“People look at us on paper and say, ‘Well, I have a lot of interest in playing for a contender,’ ” Ryan said Tuesday during a break in baseball’s annual general managers meetings here. “Now, do they consider us a contender? I suspect not.”
Still, Ryan has hopes of attracting a pitcher or two to beef up the major league’s least-effective rotation, and he said he has made that clear to a number of agents. “At this point in the process, not many offers have been exchanged. There’s a lot of feeling out right now,” he said. “When players get to [free agent] status in their career, they get more interested in playing for a team that has a chance to reach the postseason, and not so much for the dollars.”
That would seem to rule out the Twins, who followed up a 63-99 season in 2011 with back-to-back 66-96 records. But Ryan said he doesn’t want free agents — or Twins fans — to think the team is simply biding its time while waiting for its farm system to provide the foundation of a winner. His timetable is much more urgent.
“There are a lot of us who do not want to wait until that point. I am looking very seriously at 2014, and getting a lot better,” Ryan said. “Nobody wants to hear about ’15 or ’16. My job is to make us better in 2014.”
How much better?
“Just ask Boston. If you don’t like that answer, go ask Cleveland. If you don’t like that answer, go ask Oakland,” he said, rattling off three playoff teams, including the world champions. “I’m not saying it’s easy, but they proved it can be done. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Pitchers over mentors
Rumors circulated Tuesday that the Twins are also in the market for another catcher now that Joe Mauer has moved to first base, and cbssports.com reported that former Twin A.J. Pierzynski has been approached, most likely about a one-year contract. Ryan wouldn’t comment directly on those reports, but said he’s not inclined to add a catcher in a “mentor” role to split time with rookie Josmil Pinto.
“Do we have a need? No. We’ve got coaches. We have Mauer. He sits right over there, if [Pinto is] looking for guidance,” Ryan said. “Now, if you’re talking [about] upgrading the position, we can always do that, I guess. But that doesn’t come cheaply. That’s not a part-time [position]. Right now, we’re busy looking for upgrades on the pitching staff.”
Replay tests positive
Disputed calls were resolved by replay umpires within an average of one minute, 40 seconds during an Arizona Fall League test-run of baseball’s proposed replay system last week, Joe Torre said Tuesday, and he’s now confident the rules, and the technology to enforce them, will be in place by Opening Day.
“The results were very promising,” said Torre, the former Yankees manager who is now MLB’s executive vice president in charge of operations. “We’re negotiating with [the players’ and umpires’ unions], and we expect to be all on the same page by the first of the year.”
Torre reported his findings on the plans to use replays to review questionable calls to the general managers Tuesday, and expects team owners to approve the system this week. That gives MLB time to set up a central office to review replays, and install the necessary equipment in ballparks. They’ll probably do the same to spring training parks, too, Torre said.
“We have to make sure managers have a chance to practice this,” since they’ll be responsible for challenging umpires’ calls, Torre said. “They need to practice because it’s never been done before.”