MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Twins interim general manager Rob Antony has six days before the non-waiver trade deadline to better position a non-contending team beyond an already lost season.
Antony’s task of replacing long-time mentor Terry Ryan, however, has come with no guarantee he’ll be part of that future.
The Twins announced Tuesday they have retained search firm Korn Ferry’s global sports practice to assist the hiring process of a new leader for the baseball operations department. Ryan was fired July 18, ending a three-decade stretch with the organization. He was the general manager for 13 1/2 seasons, over two tenures.
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Antony, who was on the road with the team last week when Ryan’s removal was announced, told reporters in the dugout before the Twins played Atlanta that he’s trying not to think about how there is a search ongoing for the job he’s currently holding.
"Right now, I need to worry about the organization. If I do the right things, then I’ll take my chances," Antony said, adding: "I just want to do the best job I can, and hopefully they say I did a good job and I take over the position."
President Dave St. Peter, who is the point person for interviews with owner and chief executive officer Jim Pohlad, said the goal is to fill the position before the end of the season. The timeline, though, is flexible.
Antony, whose assistant general manager contract runs through the 2017 season, is expected to have a formal interview once the process progresses. He also could return as a deputy GM.
"We certainly are open-minded to that," St. Peter said. "To the extent that we go outside, we know that there will be a period of transition with somebody coming from the outside. We think that they’d be very reliant on the historical knowledge."
The Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays are recent clients of Korn Ferry for their general manager searches. It also helped the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves with the process that ended in the hiring of head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau.
The firm has worked extensively with Major League Baseball, including support and preparation of minority and female candidates for key baseball operations positions around the sport. St. Peter called the identification of minority and female candidates an "important part" of the process.
Hiring Korn Ferry signaled the organization is serious about changing the direction of a baseball operations department that was once lauded around the major leagues for its ability to produce fundamentally sound players and contending clubs despite a mid-market-at-best payroll. The Twins averaged 96 losses over the 2011-14 seasons and, after an 83-79 finish under first-year manager Paul Molitor in 2015, have the worst record in the American League in 2016.
Antony, who was initially hired by the Twins as an assistant director of media relations in 1988, served as director of baseball operations for 12 seasons. He had been assistant general manager for eight-plus seasons until Ryan was fired.
"We do things differently," Antony said. "I analyze a potential trade different than he would. But in the end, both of us look at scouting reports, we look at analytics, we look at the numbers. You factor age, years of control. There are a lot of factors."
Antony said he’s been given "complete" autonomy to make moves, with starting pitcher Ervin Santana, current closer Brandon Kintzler and All-Star shortstop Eduardo Nunez leading the list of attractive players on the trade market. With a goal of bolstering the organization’s depleted starting pitching, the Twins will be most interested in procuring prospects. Antony didn’t rule out acquiring players already on another major league roster, though, and he said he’s willing to include cash to cover a veteran’s contract if it brings a better return.
The Twins have thus begun an anxious week, with several players wondering if they’ll be elsewhere in August.
"Mostly your messages regarding that are somewhat hollow because they’re the ones that have to deal with the reality of potentially being someone who might be moved," Molitor said. "And when you’re in our position, I think that kind of permeates throughout the whole clubhouse because we really don’t know how things might unfold."