Earlier this month, while calling his team's play "embarrassing" (this was before the pitching staff coughed up 39 runs in a four-game sweep at Oakland over the weekend), owner Jim Pohlad expressed his dedication to turning things around, suggesting that he was ready to make a significant financial commitment toward that end.
"We made a couple trades last year; I'm not sure that we can rely on that this year," Pohlad told Charley Walters
of the Pioneer Press. "So if we're going to do something, it's going to have to be that way (free agency)."
Pohlad went on to say that the Twins would be willing to spend spend "any amount of money" on a current-year contract for an acquired player, hinting that he'd like to see at least one true impact arm added to help solidify this rotten rotation.
Ron Gardenhire also sees a clear need for pitching reinforcements. "I don't think we have enough ready arms to step into this rotation," Gardy recently admitted
. "We have lots of candidates. But are these guys ready to turn you around? I don't think so."
You can hardly blame Pohlad or Gardenhire for feeling some urgency on this front. While the Twins have limped to three straight 90-plus loss seasons, Pohlad has seen revenues drop along with attendance, while Gardy's job has fallen into danger. The option of staying the course and remaining patient starts to look far less palatable when there's no real progress being shown on the field.
And yet, despite the mounting evidence that several individuals within the organization would like to see meaningful steps toward fast improvement, Terry Ryan is singing a very different
-- yet familiar -- tune. "If we're going to do anything here (to) succeed in the near and long-term, it's probably not going to be in free agency," said the general manager.
So we've got a manager begging for help. An owner in agreement, who says trades are probably not a realistic avenue and that he'd like to see the club spend to add talent from free agency. And a GM, holding all the strings, insisting that he plans to eschew the risk-filled free agent market until the team is closer to where it needs to be.
Amidst all this, there's a bevy of money available. The Twins will be as much as $30-40 million below their targeted budget this offseason, and that's before you account for the added $25 million or so in revenue that pours in as a result of the new league-wide media deals. Ryan has not only permission but perhaps even a mandate to open up the wallet and finally bring in some difference-makers for the rotation -- something he clearly failed to do last winter despite his efforts.
Will he be willing to set aside the philosophies that he has always embraced, and that he continues to espouse, in order to satisfy the stated desires of ownership, the manager and frustrated fans? Or can he find a way to shrewdly get the rotation on the right track without spending significant dollars? The latter scenario seems unlikely, considering that -- as Pohlad implied -- there aren't many assets to trade, and the last few bargain free agents that the team has signed -- Jason Marquis, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey -- have failed to move the needle.
It will be an interesting storyline to follow. This much is certain: Pohlad's lamentations about the club's embarrassing play and Gardenhire's admissions about the current group of pitchers being unacceptable have never rung more true than this past weekend in Oakland, where Minnesota's hurlers were absolutely battered in one of the game's most pitcher-friendly parks (albeit against a quality offense).
I'm not a believer that the Twins need to aggressively pursue stars with the goal of contending next year. But there's a large difference between contending and what we've seen unfold here for a third straight year. This is pitiful, completely uncompetitive baseball, and everyone -- from the owner, to the manager, to the fans -- deserves better.
Hopefully Ryan can agree with that.