Asked whether he’ll make a trade this week, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said, “I hope so.”
I hope so, too.
In his second stint on the job, the former Trader Terry has become the general manager of mild moves.
He has built a strong farm system. His free-agent signings have ranged from very good (Phil Hughes) to horrific (Ricky Nolasco). He has yet to flash a royal flush and sweep the pot off the green felt table.
From 1995 through 1998, Ryan had little to work with and did little with it.
From 1998 through 2007, he made a series of trades that might be unprecedented in baseball history. He dealt the proverbial bags of baseballs for the following players: David Ortiz, Joe Mays, Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse, Johan Santana, Lew Ford, Rick Reed, Jason Bartlett, Shannon Stewart, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, Carlos Silva, Nick Punto and Luis Castillo.
Ten of those players made an All-Star team. One who didn’t finished in the top five in an MVP vote.
After stepping down as general manager following the 2007 season, Ryan returned to the job in November of 2011. He’s had almost four years to make a deal reminiscent of his former self.
He has traded for Eduardo Nunez, Eduardo Escobar, Tommy Milone, some cash and a lot of minor-league filler.
This week, Ryan gets to show off his former strength. He has a good team, a flexible payroll, an obvious need and a deep farm system. He should be able to land a hard-throwing reliever if nothing more.
The strange thing about baseball’s trading deadline is that the teams celebrated for making bold moves rarely benefit in the way they would hope. Making a deadline deal is often more about firing up the clubhouse and fan base than acquiring value.
If a player joins a team on Aug. 1, he has two months to make a contribution. One slump during that team means he might not outperform the player he replaced.
Picking 2001 as an arbitrary starting point, based on the Twins’ return to relevance that season, few World Series winners have triumphed because of trade deadline acquisitions.
Often, teams win the World Series despite their midseason trades, like the 2014 Giants, who got nothing from Jake Peavy, and the 2013 Red Sox, who got nothing from Jake Peavy. The 2010 Giants, 2009 Yankees, 2007 Red Sox, 2006 Cardinals, 2002 Angels and 2001 Diamondbacks got little or nothing at the deadline.
The 2003 Marlins made good use of Ugueth Urbina. The 2004 Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts and Doug Mientkiewicz, who improved the team’s fielding and speed.
In 2005, Geoff Blum probably surprised even himself by hitting a big home run for the White Sox in the World Series.
Ryan shouldn’t trade to make a point, but there is a logical deal to be made.
He has a glut of outfielders. The Padres are out of the race. Ryan should be, and probably is, trying to make this deal:
Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia for Padres righthanded reliever Joaquin Benoit.
If that’s not exactly the right deal, it’s in the ballpark.
Arcia has the power to hit home runs in spacious Petco Park. Benoit would give the Twins the reliable righthanded reliever they need. Because he has an $8 million option for 2016, he wouldn’t necessarily be a two-month rental. He could be a big part of a 2016 Twins team that has a chance to be exceptional.
It would be the opposite of the kind of deals Ryan made so often in the 2000s. He’d be trading a talented young player for a player with a short shelf life.
But times have changed. He’s no longer in the Metrodome. He can spend money. He’s running a team that was an embarrassment for the four previous seasons. He’s being watched by a clubhouse and fan base looking for proof that management is willing to take a chance on this team.
This would be a good time for Ryan to remind everyone why ownership wanted him back.