Twins fire general manager Bill Smith, name former GM Terry Ryan as interim replacement

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Minnesota gave zero indication that general manager Bill Smith’s job was in jeopardy despite a 99-loss season, with ownership publicly issuing a vote of confidence last month, but today the Twins fired Smith and replaced him on an interim basis with former general manager Terry Ryan.

Smith replaced Ryan as GM in late 2007 and has made a series of unsuccessful big-picture moves, including trading Johan Santana, Matt Garza, Wilson Ramos, and J.J. Hardy for very underwhelming returns.

When Ryan stepped down from the job in 2007 he cited a desire to focus on baseball rather than the off-field responsibilities that come along with being a GM, whereas the perception of Smith is that he was far more suited to handle those off-field responsibilities than he was making personnel decisions. He made several nice low-wattage free agent signings, but the bigger the move the worse Smith fared.

It’s unclear how long Ryan plans to stay on as GM this time around, but last week the Twins brought back his former right-hand man, Wayne Krivsky, who left Minnesota to become Cincinnati’s GM in 2005. They also denied the Orioles’ request to interview vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff. This isn’t so much a front office shakeup as it is admitting a mistake and turning back to the clock to the previous regime.

UPDATE: Smith did a local radio interview with 1500-ESPN and was an organizational soldier to the end, refusing to say a bad word about anyone. He’s been offered another role in the organization, but said he’s undecided. It was a very weird post-firing chat and Smith cited “philosophical differences” while making it pretty obvious that he was surprised by the firing.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.