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Terry Ryan's Foolish Gamble

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The TwinsCentric GM Offseason Handbook listed 23 right-handed relievers, sorted in descending order by what we thought they would receive on the open market. The 23rd was Joel Zumaya. He was listed last because of the obvious injury risk he represented.


But Zumaya wasn't the 23rd one signed. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was aggressive, like he had been all offseason, and Zumaya signed relatively early given his status. That signing was almost universally praised because Zumaya has such terrific upside and because the contract was cheap and not guaranteed. It was lauded as the perfect low-risk signing for a team with a limited offseason budget like the Twins.


But it was not low risk, and the one person who knew that was Terry Ryan. Ryan knew something that the evaluators and fans did not - Zumaya would be the last reliever the Twins would sign this offseason. He was essentially replacing the departed Joe Nathan. If it didn't work, the backup plan was....


I'm sure I'll hear this week how there are still plenty of backup plans. In terms of quantity, there are. But not in terms of quality. Every one of them is either a member of last year's shaky corps or a waiver or minor-league pickup. We could bring the TwinsCentric crew into spring training camp if we want to add some quantity. But that isn't going to bolster that backup plan.


So now the true risk of that move is a lot clearer. When Zumaya's season ended yesterday, the first 21 of the right-handed relievers on TwinsCentric's list already belonged to other major league teams. (By the way, at least a half dozen signed similar low-risk deals as Zumaya's.) Number 22 is Michael Wuertz, a formerly dominant reliever whose velocity has fallen and whose ERA soared to 6.68 last year. He represents a significant risk himself.


It's forgivable for evaluators to praise the Zumaya signing - they didn't know what Ryan did. But Ryan knew. And he had to know that a reliever who hadn't finished a season healthy since 2006 was a big risk. So now he will have an extra million dollars left to spend and no relievers to spend it on. It was a foolish gamble from the beginning which has unsurprisingly failed.
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