Good news, Twins fans. It can’t get any worse

If only Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano had developed the way the Twins had hoped, maybe Terry Ryan would still have a job.

The general manager of the Twins was fired today by the team with the second-worst record in baseball.

A lot of the blame for that has to go to the inability of the team to develop young talent, and hold onto talent it shouldn’t have.

A look at Ryan’s trades since returning for his second stint in the job, however, also reveals he never seemed to have a Plan B. There were only three significant free agent signings during his tenure and all three have been failures. Other transactions reveal a bottom-feeding approach to acquiring players with the usual result being bottom-feeding players.

Nothing went right with Ryan’s gambits. He signed Byung-ho Park even though there was no place for him to play. He played a position (first) that Joe Mauer plays. Sano could have been the DH, but Park was given the role. Trevor Plouffe was at third, so Ryan hatched a plan to move Sano to rightfield.

It was a train wreck waiting to happen. And it happened. Regularly.

Plouffe is on the disabled list, has virtually no trade value now, and Park is in the minors.

That is to say: None of the failures surrounding the Twins since Ryan’s return as general manager is much of a fluke. And none of it is likely to be easily fixed.

Here’s some of the highlight transactions since he took over the job from previous GM Bill Smith.

2012

* Drafted Byron Buxton in the 1st round (2nd pick) of the 2012 amateur draft. Buxton, considered a no-brainer pick, is the player everyone was told to wait for. He’s been a bust so far, but he’s only 22 and one need only look at Jackie Bradley Jr., of the Red Sox to see how patience with disappointing young players can pay off. Still, Buxton’s slow development is one of the primary reasons Ryan is out of work.

* Traded Francisco Liriano to the Chicago White Sox. Received Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Liriano finished 9th in Cy Young balloting in 2013. He’s been disappointing in Pittsburgh this year, but he’s a lefty and lefties are hard to find. Escobar, meanwhile, is a 27-year-old utility player of no distinction with the Twins now. Hernandez posted a 6.83 as a starter in 2013 and then became a free agent.

* Traded Danny Valencia to the Boston Red Sox. Received Jeremias Pineda . Valencia hit 15 HR for the Blue Jays and Oakland last year. Pineda never made it out of AA minor league and now is in the Miami organization.

*Traded Denard Span to the Washington Nationals. Received Alex Meyer. Span was never going to amount to much in Minnesota and he didn’t amount to much in Washington either. But Meyer, a first-round draft pick, is one of the players the Twins pointed to and said, “just wait until he’s ready (along with Buxton, presumably) around 2015.” He’s pitched in two games in each of the last two seasons for the Twins, has an ERA in double digits in both, and is injury prone. He’s 26 now, an age at which he should have developed by now.

* Signed Mike Pelfrey as a free agent. Another failed first-round pick (Mets), he lost 13 games as a starter in his first year with the Twins. He’s with Detroit now. He’s terrible for them, too.

2013

*Traded Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received Trevor May and Vance Worley. Twins fans elevated Revere, a fine fielder who can’t hit, to a loftier status than he probably deserved, but he’s still perched higher than either May or Worley. May, who started 16 games for the Twins last year, is 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA this year. Worley went 1-5 for the Twins before being sold to Pittsburgh. He’s 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA, working out of the bullpen.

* Traded Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received a player to be named later and Alex Presley. The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Duke Welker (October 5, 2013) to the Minnesota Twins to complete the trade. Morneau, of course, was the victim of a concussion and never again was the player he was in his Twins salad days. He matched his Minnesota 2013 output with 17 for Colorado in 2014. But he played in few games in 2015 and just signed with the White Sox where it appears he’s finished. Presley was an undistinguished outfielder who did nothing in Minnesota. Duke Welker, who’s done nothing in major league baseball, was traded a month after the Twins got him for Kris Johnson, who did very little for Minnesota before being released.

* Signed Kurt Suzuki as a free agent. With a brain injury sending Joe Mauer to firstbase, Suzuki became the team’s starting catcher in 2014. He didn’t hit much but was named to the All Star team.

2014

*Traded Miguel Sulbaran (minors) to the New York Yankees. Received Eduardo Nunez. Nunez is now the team’s starting shortstop and represented the Twins at the All Star game last week. Sulbaran has been injured all season in the Yankee farm system.

* Traded Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners. Received Stephen Pryor. Morales played about 40 games for the Twins after being out of the game for half the season. The Twins gave up on him because of poor production and traded him to Seattle at the July trade deadline. He hit 22 HRs for the Royals last year and got a World Series ring. He has 15 homeruns for Kansas City this season.

* Signed Ricky Nolasco as a free agent. In an unusual move for the Twins, Minnesota gave Nolasco $12 million to leave the Dodgers and be a starter for the Twins. He had considerable talent — or so we all thought — but has posted ERAs of 5.43, 7.47 and, this year, 5.71. He’s 15-21 in that time and will cash a Pohlad paycheck through at least next year. He’s often been injured

2015

* Signed Ervin Santana as a free agent. Perhaps believing that the “kids” (Sano and Buxton) were nearly ready to play in the majors, the Twins signed Santana to a $13.5 million free agent contract, giving every indication they were ready to drop big money to field a winning team. But Santana was suspended for half a season for using performance-enhancing drugs and has been unremarkable since, posting an ERA around 4 in the last two seasons. He’s one of the few assets the Twins have to trade at the upcoming trading deadline. But he hurt his wrist on a line drive on Friday night which may make some teams reluctant to trade for him. His fat contract through 2019 isn’t much of an enticement for them to want to.

2016

* Signed Byung Ho Park as a free agent. It seemed like the sweetest deal ever. The Twins actually outbid other teams — $12 million — just for the right to negotiate with the Korean League standout. A dozen early season homeruns settled fears that he’d be another Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a Japanese League bust at shortstop from several years earlier. But then, 30-year-old outfielder became the second coming of Tsuyoshi Nishioka when the league figured out how to pitch to him. He’s in AAA Rochester and the Twins are on the hook for his contract for three more years after this one.

* Traded Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees. Received John Ryan Murphy. Hicks (a first round draft choice of the Twins) showed a little talent and some fielding brilliance, hit 11 home runs last year and Ryan was smart to get rid of him when he did. He’s been a bust for New York, which didn’t give up a lot in Murphy who was demoted to AAA Rochester where he had a good stretch in June but has otherwise pretty much proven he has no value. He’s a free agent at the end of the season.

There’s good news, however, it really can’t get any worse.

Related: Souhan: Terry Ryan led a steady decline of the Twins franchise (Star Tribune)

  • CHS

    If the Pohlads are willing to axe Ryan maybe they will finally be willing to open the checkbook and solve the real problem.

    • Nolasco and Santana got $12 mil apiece on long terms deals. They spent $12 million just to win the right to spend $12 million on Park.

      • BJ

        ‘Opening’ the checkbook doesn’t solve long term problems, even the Yankee’s have a farm system and in the past (80-s and 90’s) used it very well.

  • Gary F

    Don’t forget Wilson Ramos, all star catcher for the Nationals. Traded for Matt Capps. Ramos, is batting over 300 and throwing runners out. Matt Capps is watching MLB baseball from his living room sofa.

    • That trade was in 2010. Bill Smith was the general manager then.

      • Gary F

        That long ago? How time flies when you are having such fun.

  • Jeff

    So I went to the game on Saturday, I hope it can’t get any worse, a rain delay at 10:30 pm in the 10th inning…I heard they won and I’m glad I left when it was tied 4-4 in the 9th. At least my friends and I got to hang out at the Surly brewery before the game and have a couple good beers.

  • Jeff

    Piling on, but I’m blaming him for taking out the pine trees too. Or was that Smith?

    • Smith.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      Actually I think it was in part complaints from players, initially. But then they decided they liked the trees better than the alternative.

  • wjc

    I wish I still liked baseball. I’ve been beaten down by the stadium battle and PEDs, by the interminable games and the inability to just watch a game without a constant thrum of marketing messages between innings.

    Where have you gone, Ernie Banks?

    • tboom

      I’m with you on every negative listed, I’d add the inability to watch an occasional game on over-the-air (commercial, free to the viewer) television and the dreadful quality of radio broadcasts.

      Yet for some reason I’m still unable to give-up on the game. I guess I can still read box scores … until they figure out how to monetize them.

      It’ a beautiful day to read two (box scores)!

  • Gary F

    I’ll be down the first base line at Fenway this Friday wearing my Twins shirt and paper bag.

  • Other highlights:

    Traded All Star Future Game participant Chih-Wei Hu to Rays for Kevin Jepsen. Twins cut Jepsen, Rays resign him for nothing.

    Leaving $10-20 million in annual payroll unused despite the Pohalds telling him he had money to spend.

    Extended Suzuki’s contract after his All-Star half season instead of trading Suzuki at his peak value.

    Despite having Hughes locked up for two more seasons, decided to EXTEND his contract for an additional three years after his one good season in 2014. Hughes extension doesn’t kick in until NEXT year.

    Also, it’s been old listening to him straight out lie to reporters in interviews for years. Unless he wasn’t acting dumb …

    Per @AaronGleeman: Twins had a losing record in 11 of 18 seasons with Terry Ryan as GM. They won one playoff series and haven’t won a playoff game in 13 years.

    Unfortunately, his lackey/replacement has been with the team for 30 years and doesn’t give me any hope that he’ll be different from Ryan in any significant way.

    After six years of terrible baseball, it’s good to know the Twins rebuild finally begins today. Too bad it only took the Astros/Cubs/Phillies half as long to do it.

    • I forgot to include: RE-SIGNING Mike Pelfrey after his first terrible contract.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      My question for @AaronGleeman would be how many winning seasons did they have in the preceding 18 seasons?

      • In the 18 seasons before Terry Ryan took over, the Twins had a winning record in 7 of them and a .500 record in one. They also won two World Series during that time.

        The Twins also had a winning record in 3 of the 4 seasons that Bill Smith ran the team.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      I suspect that the “lackey/replacement” will not find the “interim” label removed from his title. His job will be to get the Twins to the end of this season and then a permanent replacement will be found. This in someways will be similar to what the T-Wolves did at the end of their season.

      • I’ve heard rumors that the same search firm, Korn Ferry, could be involved. I certainly hope so, I have no faith in Dave St. Peters, the Pohlads and Rob Antony to make that call on their own.

  • Denard Span wasn’t so bad for the Nationals. Between 2013-2015 his 8.8 fWAR for the Nationals was better than every Twins player except Brian Dozier.

    • Well, sure, if we’re going to adopt THAT standard.

      • Haha If anyone wants to feel better about their team’s players, just compare them to the Twins!

  • JonasGrumby

    Don’t forget Morneau won the batting title in Colorado in 2014.

  • Graeme Allen

    I agree with most of the article with two exceptions. 1) Denard Span has been a good player (when with the twins) and after, with last year being a down year because of various injures. He lead the NL in hits in 2014. 2) Ben Revere wasn’t that bad, and until this year, hasn’t been too bad since traded. He’s batted close to .300 every year since the trade. So, please lets give these former Twins there due. And of course, they were traded away for players that never were as good as Span and Revere were.

    • Graeme Allen

      I should amend my statement – in 2014 Both Revere and Span lead the NL in Hits.

  • blindeke

    Buxton and Sano aren’t the problem. Sano has been good, and Buxton makes up for his steep learning curve with great defense. Having terrible pitching, league worst, for something like 6 years running is the problem. And not making good decisions to improve it, like the Hughes extension… well.

    • blindeke

      and Buxton is only 22.

  • lindblomeagles

    There’s a fine line between overpaying poor talent and trying to win a World Series on the cheap. Ryan really isn’t the problem, and neither are the baseball players because we had a lot of talent through the years here. But the Twins don’t want to spend the money. Best example of all, David Ortiz, a.k.a. Big Papi. At age 40, Big Papi still swings a mean bat. The man is still hitting .330. But, the Twins didn’t want to pay him, let him leave to Boston, and he’s had a phenomenal career ever since, winning at least two World Series Titles. Can you imagine, what would have happened if he stayed with the Twins and was allowed to hit homers in the Metro Dome AND Target Field? What the Twins want to do is take MLB by surprise with a core group of players, all of whom have 4 years to go before they hit arbitration, and then dump them once their big money contracts come due. That’s why the club is in the hole.

  • Matt

    I got a call from a Twins ticket salesperson today “because I had been to a few games in the past years.” (in reality, I think I’ve been to three games since ~2010 – once in 2013, 2014, and 2015 – and in only one of those ticket-purchasing transactions the Twins would have obtained my contact info.

    The call came in after I heard news of Ryan’s firing.

    “How many games on average do you go to each year?” the salesperson asked.

    “Zero,” I answered. The answer was reflexive, and now that I have thought about it, not entirely correct. I should have said “One, but I won’t pay to watch this team.”

    “OK, well if you want to come to a game, there is plenty of baseball left, and you can always call me,” he replied.

    “OK, have a good day.” I ended the conversation. He didn’t leave his phone number.

    And no, I won’t go to a game or pay to be present for this team.

    I didn’t mention Ryan’s firing.