The New Year generally brings with it new beginnings. As we enter into a new year of Twins baseball, I can’t help but think Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire might be a little concerned about a new beginning in his future. For the first time in his decade-plus tenure as manager, Gardenhire will enter the 2013 season without a contract extension in place that carries him beyond the coming year.
Following an AL worst 96-loss season, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan promised to make improvements to the team. Ryan began by shaking up the coaching staff. Not wasting anytime, Ryan handed bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, third base coach Steve Liddle, first base coach Jerry White and head trainer Rick McWane their pink slips on October 4, one day after closing a second consecutive losing season with a 1-2 road loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Scott Ullger and Joe Vavra were also reassigned to coaching first and third base respectively. On October 22, it was announced that Tom Brunansky, Bobby Cuellar and Terry Steinbach would be filling the vacant coaching positions. Prior to the shakeup, the only change to Gardenhire’s staff was Al Newman’s departure in 2005.
With the coaching staff in order, Ryan shifted his focus to improving a starting rotation that pitched the fewest amount of innings among all AL starting staffs. Ryan’s first transaction sent Denard Span to Washington for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. Picked 23rd overall in the MLB draft by Washington in 2011, Meyer was rank sixth best in the Nationals’ farm system by Baseball America.
Ryan followed up that trade that sent his starting centerfielder to the NL East by trading his other young speedy outfielder to another NL East team during annual Baseball Winter Meetings. In a deal that looked even more appealing than the Span trade, the Twins sent Ben Revere to the Phillies for pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May.
Worley will have a definite effect on the Twins rotation this season. He is projected to be the #2 starter for the 2013 Twins behind Scott Diamond. Worley started the 2012 season as the #3 starter for the Phillies behind Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and ahead of Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. Worley started off the 2012 season 3-2 prior to before being sent to the DL with a bone chip in his elbow. Worley was shut down and sent to the DL again for surgery following an unsuccessful July and August.
While Worley looks to be a key fixture in the 2013 Twins rotation, the other half of the deal, Trevor May, looks to be a key fixture in Twins rotations to come. May was ranked the #69 in baseball and the best prospect in the Phillies farm system by Baseball America in 2012. Both the Span and Revere trades were deemed as huge successes for Ryan by the local media and the Twins blogging community.
Following two successful trades, Ryan looked to the free agent market as a solution for the problems in the starting rotation. He first inked Kevin Correia to two-year, $10M contract. When you look up pitch-to-contact in the dictionary, Kevin Correia’s face might appear next to the definition. As first noted by Aaron Gleeman, Correia finished with the lowest K/9 among starters over the years 2011-2012. (Interestingly enough, Correia posted the exact same K/9 rate as Scott Diamond in 2012.) Ryan proceeded to sign Mike Pelfrey to the tune of $4M. Pelfrey missed the majority of 2012 after having Tommy-John surgery to repair a torn UCL in his elbow. Rich Harden was also added on a minor league deal with an extended offer to spend Spring Training in Fort Myers battling for a rotation spot.
What do all of these moves have in common? They were all made with 2014 and beyond in mind. The free agent signings affect the 2014 Twins as much as they do the 2013 version. The moves don’t do much to help the 2013 club, but they also don’t tie up money that could be used on free agents in the 2013 offseason. An argument can be made the Revere trade did slightly help the 2013 ball club. The Twins have a surplus of outfielders that can fill the hole during 2013 season as opposed to their lack of major league-ready starting pitching. The reason the Twins traded Revere, however, was not because they received Vance Worley in the deal but by adding Trevor May to the pot, the Phillies offered Minnesota a deal they couldn’t refuse.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Ryan has done a great job this offseason. He understands that in the coming years there will be an influx of young positional players making their way up to the big leagues. Ryan is looking to build a team around a potential lineup that would include the likes of Hicks and Sano. The trades add two potential great pitchers to go along with the likes of Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendricks in the rotation. The lack of big name free agent signings allow for future rotation, bullpen and other positional signings.
Focusing on the future isn’t a bad thing. But where does this put Gardy? Is Ryan setting up Gardy for failure? What are your expectations for the Twins in 2013? Will they finish last in the AL Central or will they finish better than expected? Will Gardy be managing the 2014 Minnesota Twins or will it be Paul Molitor?
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