Ryan Must React
In his efforts to augment a bullpen that last year ranked last in the league in ERA, FIP and WHIP, Terry Ryan's moves essentially amounted to re-signing Matt Capps and adding Joel Zumaya to replace the departed Joe Nathan.
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Ryan Must React
That was hardly a recipe for guaranteed substantial improvement, and now with Zumaya's unfortunate yet unsurprising injury news, Ryan's passive approach to addressing this unit in a buyer's market looks all the more irresponsible.
With their sole bullpen pickup gone for the year, the Twins may react by trying to find another outside arm they can plug in. They'll now only have to pay Zumaya $400K, and his contract included incentives that escalated to $1.7M, so you'd have to figure they have $1.3M left in the budget to spend on a replacement.
That amount would have been plenty to sign a reliable relief guy such as Chad Qualls or Todd Coffey earlier in the offseason, but unfortunately all those hurlers are now off the board. The free agent market is exceedingly thin at this point, whittled down to such names as Michael Wuertz and Danys Baez – neither of whom have been effective since 2009.
A trade would appear to be the more palatable solution. There are some interesting players who might be available, the most notable of them being Koji Uehara of the Rangers. Owner of a 2.56 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 140-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the past two seasons, Uehara is an elite right-handed reliever and Texas has been dangling him all winter. The problem is that he's set to earn $4 million this year, and it's hard to believe the Twins would stretch their budget that far given their reluctance to spend even a million on an additional arm to supplement the Zumaya signing.
Then again, maybe this is the moment where the Twins finally put their money where their mouth is. They've claimed that they're serious about contending. They've claimed that there's wiggle room in their reduced budget, and that ownership is willing to add payroll over the course of the season.
Well, then do it. Make a move and get a dependable right-handed arm for this bullpen, because right now it's tough to identify a single one.
The time has come for Ryan to shed his past conservative tendencies and take an aggressive step aimed at putting his club in position for success. If he heads into the season with this current hodgepodge of bullpen question marks, and an inability to hold leads proves to be a crippling downfall for the Twins, all the good things Ryan has done during the offseason will be overshadowed by his baffling inactivity on the relief market. That would be a shame.