In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the Twins have excused general manager Bill Smith of his duties in the front office.
This comes shortly after the team declined the Baltimore Orioles the opportunity to interview Vice President of Player Personnel Mike Radcliff and the reports that they are trying to re-hire Wayne Krivsky, who was the Cincinnati Reds’ GM from 2006 to 2008. Clearly, ownership was not satisfied by the results generated by the current leadership.
According to Smith, on Friday he was notified that the Twins were going to insert Terry Ryan as the interim GM and allow Ryan to search for suitable replacements – which could very well be either Radcliff or Krivsky.
During a post-firing interview with 1500ESPN, Smith admitted that the two sides had “philosophical differences” in their approach. In his tenure as the GM, Smith had made plenty of trades that seemed highly questionable at the time and looked exponentially worse in retrospect – including his Johan Santana deal, the Garza-for-Young, Ramos-for-Capps and Hardy-for-Hoey and Jacobsen. While not necessarily alone on the decision, Smith green-lit signing Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a sizeable deal and the Japanese shortstop has been a complete disaster in year one of his contract. All of this has added up to an organization that is struggling to remain competitive in an improving AL Central.
Globally for the Twins, payroll increased but was allocated to only a handful of players while the farm system became dilapidated at the highest levels – a fact that came to light when the expensive talent was injured without major league-ready assistance available. When players did arrive, they failed to play at a level which the Twins had become accustom to and the once-touted “Twins way” was not being instilled properly to the younger players.
In another curious decision, when the Twins were seven games out with a week left until the non-waiver trade deadline and appeared out of the division race, the front office stood pat with its tradable commodities, refusing to move coveted soon-to-be free agents in Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel. While the team may get draft picks in return, the bounty at the deadline from desperate teams would have likely outweighed whatever supplemental pick the organization receives (and also grabbing players who would likely be able to contribute sooner rather than later). Who knows if that was just Smith’s decision but in the end someone needs to be there to make those types of tough calls.
To his credit, Smith and his team made in roads towards rebuilding the system, such as signing heralded international prospect Miguel Sano to a significant contract, as well as making some decent signings that provided some return on investment including Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson. While his headlining trades backfired or bore little fruit, Smith and his advisors managed to squeeze out some talent when acquiring such players like Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch and JJ Hardy.
The Twins are at a major crossroad. There are numerous holes to fill, a small amount of money to play with and an even smaller amount of trade bait available. Whoever takes over the player acquisition role this winter, they will have a tall task ahead of them of addressing the current and future needs of the franchise.