MINNEAPOLIS — There’s no easy cure for back-to-back 90-loss seasons. Terry Ryan knows that.
But that hasn’t kept the Minnesota Twins general manager from doing what he can to slowly right the ship. In the past few weeks, Ryan has traded away his team’s two center fielders — and top two hitters in the batting order, to boot — in order to address the organization’s biggest need. The return for those players was three pitchers, including two prospects and another that will slide into the rotation this season.
Ryan dealt center fielder Denard Span to Washington late last month for pitcher Alex Meyer, one of the Nationals’ top prospects. The move to trade Span was far from shocking given that his name had been brought up in trade rumors several times over the past few years. In return, Ryan landed a pitcher who should be able to help the Twins at the major league level in a few years.
One week after sending Span to Washington, Ryan traded another outfielder to a different National League East team. This time, it was leadoff hitter Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies for Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May. Worley will be in Minnesota’s rotation this season, although Ryan said it’s premature to predict where exactly he’ll fit.
May, meanwhile, already appears to be one of the Twins’ top pitching prospects, along with Meyer. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranks Meyer as Minnesota’s No. 3 overall prospect and May at No. 5; both are ahead of right-hander Kyle Gibson (No. 8), who could start the year in the majors.
“In our situation, we’re trying to get numbers, there’s no doubt. But even more important, you’re trying to get quality,” Ryan said. “But to get those types of trades to go through, you’ve got to give up something of value.”
Adding prospects like Meyer and May should bode well for the future of the Twins. These trades have now bolstered their list of top prospects, which includes several outfielders in Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Byron Buxton. The outfield depth throughout the organization is what allowed Ryan and Co. to deal both Span and Revere within a week of each other.
Hicks could compete with current Twins outfielder Darin Mastroianni for the center field spot this spring. Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, is still at least a few years away from the majors, but the five-tool outfielder is near the top of the list of Minnesota’s prospects.
“We’ve got some young guys, and we have the opportunity possibly to add to the inventory as we go through the winter,” Ryan said. “It allowed us to do this. It’s still a risk, obviously, but we’ve got to get pitching or it doesn’t really matter too much what we put out there if we can’t pitch.”
Though the future may look promising, what about the 2013 season? It appears as if many Twins fans have come to the realization that the team needs to acquire pitching, pitching and more pitching to shore up the American League’s worst rotation last year — even if that means trading away fan favorites such as Span and Revere — in order to return to relevance.
With that said, can Minnesota still win in 2013 while clearly rebuilding for upcoming years?
“I think it can be done both ways,” Ryan said. “That’s how we’re approaching it right now. Hopefully as we look back at some of these things, I hope that I’m right in that regard. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do here.”
That work includes adding more starting pitching, which Ryan did Thursday by signing free agent right-hander Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million deal. Correia most recently pitched for Pittsburgh, posting a 4.21 ERA in 32 games last season. At 32 years old and with 10 seasons in the majors, Correia brings a veteran presence to the Twins’ rotation.
But Minnesota has to do more, as Correia figures to be a back-of-the-rotation guy. Even with three starters — Scott Diamond, Worley and Correia — in place, Ryan likely isn’t done acquiring pitching this winter.
“We’re pretty well focused in on starting pitching, there’s no doubt,” he said. “Some other things, if they happen, so be it, and there will be a reason for it. I just go back to that statement: We’ve got to find some pitching here where we can be competitive nightly without falling behind and overexposing the bullpen and all those other things that have happened. . . .
“Everybody knows that all these guys don’t end up in the major leagues or have long careers, so you have to have people to pick from and choose from. We’re starting to develop a little opportunity here. Numbers are important. I don’t care how you slice this thing. You’ve got to have people to pick from.”