Ryan made it clear that most players outside of Joe Mauer, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, could be discussed in deals that would replenish the Twins' dilapidated starting rotation.
"When you lose 90-plus games two years in a row, there shouldn't be too many untouchables on the club," Ryan said. "You've got to find a way to get better."
Perhaps the most startling aspect of the 2012 season is how many things went right for them this season. Mauer and Justin Morneau stayed healthy for the entire season, with Mauer bouncing back from a nightmare 2011 to contend for another AL batting crown. Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit delivered career seasons, Scott Diamond became a mainstay in the rotation and closer Glen Perkins and setup man Jared Burton gave Minnesota a formidable back end of the bullpen.
"That just stresses the importance of the rotation," Ryan said. "We've had some guys that have had very good years. And unfortunately we're still losing 90-some games."
The rotation was a disaster from opening day. Scott Baker was lost before the season began with Tommy John surgery, Carl Pavano battled injuries for most of the year and only pitched in 11 games, and Francisco Liriano was traded. Jason Marquis and Nick Blackburn were both designated for assignment after struggling and youngsters Sam Deduno, Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks and P.J. Walters vacillated between mediocre and ineffective.
"Of course, you'd love to be able to keep all your players and get starting pitching, but that's really almost impossible," Gardenhire said. "There aren't that many free agents out there that are going to be able to step in and do what we want them to do, and that's fill out the first few spots of our starting rotation."
For what it's worth, Morneau wants to stick around and thinks the team is a lot closer to returning to relevance than some may think.
"There's been a lot of positives you can look at," Morneau said. "I don't feel like we're that far off. We dug ourselves such a big hole at the start that we were running uphill the whole way. When you're playing catch-up it eventually wears on you."
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