The last time the Twins organization saw this many changes in one season was back in 2007, when perennial all-stars Torii Hunter and Johan Santana departed. In trying to avoid replicating a disastrous 99-loss season, Minnesota sacked Bill Smith and reinstated Terry Ryan as General Manager, who stepped down in that same 2007 season. The moves Ryan have made since then have mostly been positive, as he's helped situate the Twins to be better than they were in 2011--thought that wasn't all that difficult.
There are still many holes, however, and many of the problems that produced 99 losses last year are still present. While the Twins will probably be better, hopes are not nearly as high as they've been in years past. Let's take a look at each of Terry Ryan's moves one-by-one and evaluate their effect on the prospects of the 2011 Minnesota Twins.
Matt Capps- The gift that keeps on taking. In mid-2010, Bill Smith traded top catching prospect Wilson Ramos for the overrated Matt Capps. In the 2010 off-season, Smith retained Capps for the next season for more than $7 million, a result of Smith's complete over-valuation of the save statistic. In December of 2011, Terry Ryan decided to re-sign Capps for $4.75 million. While that represents a significantly smaller sum than his previous salary, it was still far too much, especially considering the number of quality relievers available as free agents. Aaron Gleeman depressingly captures exactly what the Twins could have done to improve their bullpen with that $4.75 million they spent on Capps. Oh, and they also would have received an extra draft pick if Capps had signed with another team. Ouch.
Jamey Carroll- This was meant as a move to fill the chasm that was created at shortstop last season when Tsuyoshi Nishioka turned out to be woefully under-prepared for the Major Leagues. Of course he's still around and could be better this year, but nobody's hopes are very high. Carroll will presumably begin the year as the starting shortstop, a role that he adequately fits. He's 37 years old so his good defensive ratings from last year are no bet to continue, though, and his slap-hitting tendencies won't make up for his defense if it's below average. Considering the black hole the Twins have often been sporting at shortstop over the last decade, however, this move is solid. 2 years at more than $7 million total may be a little high, but all around this was a decent acquisition.
Ryan Doumit- I don't think there's anything to complain about with this signing. For the low price of $3 million, the Twins have added a switch-hitting catcher who can also play the outfield. With Denard Span and new acquisition Josh Willingham locked into outfield spots, Doumit will either play DH or take the third outfield position from Ben Revere. In addition, he provides a very capable option at catcher if Joe Mauer gets injured or just to fill in on his regular days of rest. Doumit is no superstar but he's a great fit for the Twins at a great price.
Josh Willingham- The biggest move of the Twins off-season was essentially choosing to sign Willingham over re-signing Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer's popularity with Minnesota fans and the media is well-known, but the fact of the matter is that this was the correct move to make. Cuddyer signed with the Rockies for $30 million over 3 years, while the Twins got Willingham for $21 million over the same period. In addition to saving $9 million, Minnesota will also get two extra draft picks because another team signed Cuddyer. And, despite that, they really didn't lost much, if anything, in terms of on-field production. Willingham is a poor-fielding right-handed power bat, just like Cuddyer, except that he gets on base a little more while hitting for a slightly lower average. It's sad to see Cuddyer go, but Ryan did well in making this tough decision.
Joel Zumaya- This was a low-risk, high-reward signing that will probably give the Twins little to no value. Zumaya hasn't pitched since mid-2010, when his elbow shattered while pitching for the Tigers against Minnesota. The likelihood that Zumaya will be healthy and effective at all in 2012 is low, and the likelihood that he will be both of those for anything resembling an entire season is essentially zero. Nonetheless, for $800,000 it was worth the risk. In the past, when healthy, Zumaya has been a top-flight reliever, something the Twins sorely need with the departure of Joe Nathan.