Starting pitching remains Twins' biggest need
GM Ryan expected to be busy at Winter Meetings trying to fill four rotation spots
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been a slow offseason for the Twins so far, as they've yet to make an impact move to improve their Major League roster.
But with baseball's annual Winter Meetings looming, it's sure to heat up for the Twins and general manager Terry Ryan.
Ryan and his staff are headed to Nashville for the Winter Meetings, which will be held from Dec. 3-6 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, and he knows acquiring pitching remains the club's main objective.
"We've got to find pitching, however we go about it," Ryan said. "When you lose 90-plus games two years in a row, there shouldn't be too many untouchables on the club. You've got to find a way to get better."
With 96 losses, the Twins finished 2012 with the worst record in the American League for a second straight year, and pitching was the main culprit.
Minnesota finished with the third-worst ERA in the Majors and only left-hander Scott Diamond is penciled into the starting rotation for next season.
So with four slots open in the rotation, Ryan said he's already checked in with the agents for just about every starting pitcher on the free-agent market.
But with so many holes to fill, it appears unlikely the Twins will go after an ace such as Zack Greinke, as they're more likely to go after affordable mid-rotation starters such as Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, Brandon McCarthy or Joe Blanton. They've also been linked to Brett Myers, who served as a reliever for the White Sox last season but is looking to start in 2013.
Ryan has about $25 million to work with, as the club's payroll is currently at about $75 million and it's expected to be around $100 million, which is where it was in 2012.
Ryan, though, said the club's payroll isn't an issue and pointed out the club had a higher payroll than several playoff teams last season.
"I think we can quit fooling ourselves that money is the answer," Ryan said. "We're going to have to make good decisions to create a pitching staff that's going to give us a chance."
The Twins also have a few trade chips at their disposal if they want to trade for pitching help, as they could opt to trade first baseman Justin Morneau or outfielder Josh Willingham.
But it'll be uncharacteristic for the Twins to make a splash at the Winter Meetings.
Last year, their biggest move was to re-sign reliever Matt Capps to a one-year deal while also trading Kevin Slowey to the Rockies and acquiring infielder Pedro Florimon from the Orioles.
Capps is again a free agent but it appears the Twins will be moving on, as left-hander Glen Perkins is the club's closer of the future. Right-hander Carl Pavano is Minnesota's only other free agent after right-hander Scott Baker signed an incentive-laden deal with the Cubs.
So while the Twins will certainly be on the lookout for starting pitching, they also have a few other needs to address.
The Twins could look to add some infield help because they want someone to push Trevor Plouffe at third base and could add a veteran to improve their middle infield depth.
The bullpen wasn't exactly a problem for Minnesota in 2012, with Twins relievers combining for a respectable 3.77 ERA, but the Twins are always searching for affordable bullpen arms.
Regardless of whether the Twins add a big name during the first few days of the Winter Meetings, they could add a player to their roster via the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 6. They'll have to clear room, however, as their 40-man roster is currently full after adding eight to their roster, including top prospects Kyle Gibson and Aaron Hicks.
Minnesota has the No. 4 pick, and has used the Rule 5 Draft to its advantage in the past, including acquiring former Twins ace Johan Santana, who was left unprotected by the Astros in 1999. The Twins also acquired Diamond via the Rule 5 Draft.