The case for Terry Ryan

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Mets

Of all the names bandied about in the Mets’ GM search, there is one that stands out to me.
Terry Ryan, former GM of the Minnesota Twins from 1994 through 2007, is the man I would urge the Wilpons to hire if possible. There have been reports that Ryan isn’t interested in the Mets’ job, but stranger things have happened.
When he took the GM job with the Twins, the team’s finances were in ruin. They played in the dingy Metrodome in front of no fans, just a few years after winning a second World Series title in five seasons.
Ryan’s expertise was in scouting and developing players, starting his career with the Mets in 1980. He scouted with the Mets from 1980 and 1986, and while I don’t have the specific players he scouted which became eventual draft picks, we’d all have to agree the Mets’ minor-league system was a virtual hotbed of talent during those years. The reason Frank Cashen was such a great GM early in his tenure was he put a focus on scouting and development, since the product on the field was lower than lousy when he took off. By hiring guys like Ryan, the Mets built a great minor-league system, only to be slowly destroyed by Cashen and his successors when the team began to have success.
I don’t think the same thing would befall Ryan, as he has seen an organization can succeed with a small major-league payroll. Instead, the Twins put most if not all of their focus on player development. And under Ryan, the Twins drafted and developed players such as Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Garza, Scott Baker and Denard Span, just to name a few off the top of my head.
With a low budget at the major-league level, developing players was a must. But the Twins under Ryan weren’t just successful at scouting and drafting their own players. They had a constant eye on other organizations’ talent, and Ryan made some shrewd moves during his 13-year tenure.
Due to financial constraints, the Twins often had to move players before they made too much money, constantly replenishing the farm system with trades. Here are just a few of the brilliant trades Ryan brokered:
* August 29, 1996: Traded a fading Dave Hollins to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later. On September 31, the Mariners sent David Ortiz to the Twins to complete the trade. One of Ryan’s big blunders was waiving Ortiz, but Big Papi wasn’t very consistent during his tenure there and when he got to Boston, he discovered a magical formula (let’s just leave it at that).
* August 20, 1997: Traded Roberto Kelly to the Seattle Mariners for players to be named later. On October 9, the Mariners sent the Twins future all-star Joe Mays and a minor leaguer to complete the deal.
* February 16, 1998: Traded second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to the New York Yankees in exchange for outfielder Brian Buchanan, shortstop Cristian Guzman, pitcher Eric Milton, pitcher Danny Mota, and cash. Guzman and Milton would become regulars, while Buchanan was later moved for a significant piece in Jason Bartlett.
* December 13, 1999: Under the Rule 5 Draft, the Twins sent minor leaguer Jared Camp and cash to the Florida Marlins in exchange for future Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
* July 30, 2001: Traded outfielder Matt Lawton to the New York Mets for pitcher Rick Reed.
* July 12, 2002: Traded Buchanan to the San Diego Padres for shortstop Jason Bartlett.
* July 16, 2003: Traded Bobby Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart. This move helped the Twins reach the playoffs that season, as Stewart had a stellar second-half as the Twins overtook the Kansas City Royals for the division crown.
* November 14, 2003: Traded Pierzynski and cash to the San Francisco Giants. Received pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. This is the gem of all gems right here. Pierzynski was a year away from free agency, and Ryan got an incredible return. Ryan saw something in Nathan that made him believe he’d be a dominant closer, and until an elbow injury this year, Nathan has been one of the top five stoppers in the game. Liriano was a somewhat wild Single-A lefty who has emerged into a No. 1 starter for the Twins. Even Bonser was a serviceable major-league starter until his career was derailed by injuries.
* December 3, 2003: Traded pitcher Eric Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Carlos Silva, infielder Nick Punto, and a player to be named later (Bobby Korecky). Milton was another player who was making too much money and approaching free agency. Ryan acquired a middle of the rotation starter in Silva and a useful utility infielder (who has started off and on) in Punto.
* December 2, 2005: Traded Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler to the Florida Marlins for second baseman Luis Castillo. Neither prospect has panned out for the Marlins, and although my distaste for Castillo is well known, he was still a useful player for the next season and a half for the Twins.

As witnessed by the trades above, Ryan is a forward thinker who has a keen eye for young talent. This is exactly the type of guy we need running the Mets. And if Ryan is uninterested, I would be on board with Sandy Alderson, another guy who thrived in a small market by building a talent-rich farm system. Give guys like this the Mets’ finances, and I believe you’ll see some wonderful things. The Mets need someone who is capable of juggling several scenarios at one time, something Omar Minaya wasn’t very good at. Omar would address one area he perceived to be a problem in the offseason, improved that, but seemed to neglect other spots on the team. Minaya also struggled with contingency plans. If a plan falls through, you’ve got to be able to fall back on others to get things done. I truly believe guys like Ryan and Alderson can do this, and I’m anxious to see what happens. Let’s go Mets!


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