The Twins have been linked to several free-agent starters, including Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, Kevin Correia, Francisco Liriano and John Lannan.
Ryan wouldn't officially rule out any starters because of price such as Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez, but it appears highly unlikely the Twins will go after an expensive ace.
"There are some more realistic than others," Ryan said. "I don't want to pretend that we're going to be able to go out and get every pitcher that's on the market. Some of them won't be realistic."
The Twins did acquire pitching help on Thursday, when they dealt center fielder Denard Span to the Nationals for prospect Alex Meyer. But Meyer isn't expected to crack the rotation next year, as he only pitched in Class A last season.
Ryan, though, wouldn't say the Twins are officially rebuilding despite finishing in last place in the American League Central each of the last two years, as he hopes to acquire the pitching to be competitive in '13.
"We would try to have that happen," Ryan said. "We have to be realistic on all fronts. I think the goal here is to get better. Things can change over the course of not just the next two months or so, but also the next six months of the season. We're just trying to get better. We have to get better. We have to get people who will allow us to compete, give us hope on a nightly basis."
Aside from starting-pitching help, Ryan said he also hopes to acquire a third baseman to give Trevor Plouffe some competition. He said there's even a chance they could acquire a third baseman before the Winter Meetings are over on Thursday.
"We need to create competition," Ryan said. "I don't want to be flippant about that because I told Trevor that. I think it'll be good for him. He needs to compete and earn it. I keep looking back at what he looked like before and after his [thumb] injury. But he has to realize he has to play both sides of the game. I think he's capable."
Ryan added that he doesn't plan to add any middle-infield help from the free-agent market, as both spots will be up for grabs with Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar competing for those positions.
"The dollars we set aside for free agents are for pitching," Ryan said. "Our aspirations here are to use our money to get pitching. There's no use in spending money on a shortstop if we can't throw the ball."
Ryan said the same about right field, as Chris Parmelee is the frontrunner to take over there, with Ben Revere shifting to center field in Span's absence. Ryan Doumit and Darin Mastroianni are also expected to see time in right field.
"Parmelee needs at-bats," Ryan said. "This gives him an opportunity to move over to right field without any obstructions. Doumit can play right and Mastroianni can play right. And we'll have other people out there. Whoever is out there will have to earn it. But I'd like to think Parmelee has graduated from Triple-A."
Ryan also indicated the Twins will make a selection in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Minnesota has the No. 4 overall pick and has had success with Rule 5 selections in the past such as Diamond and Johan Santana.
"We went through that thoroughly last night, and I suspect we will," Ryan said. "We're picking fourth. Have you ever seen us pass that thing up? I don't think we're going to probably pass on that opportunity at No. 4. It's a pretty good gamble."