Gardenhire has just one year left on his contract after telling general manager Terry Ryan he wasn't deserving of an extension after the club finished with the worst record in the American League the last two seasons.
But Gardenhire, who spoke with reporters at a news conference at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday, said he's trying not to think about his contract situation, as it's ultimately out of his control.
"It's not something that I lose sleep over at night," Gardenhire said. "You earn your contracts and you earn your extensions, and as I said, 'These last couple of years, I haven't earned anything.' We haven't done very well, and you're graded as a manager on how your ballclub performs. It doesn't matter whether you had injuries, it doesn't matter whether you were short on players. It doesn't matter. You're still graded on wins and losses. Terry told me that, and it didn't offend me at all, didn't bother me at all."
Ryan, though, said it's his responsibility to create a roster that can give Gardenhire a chance and acknowledged he didn't make it any easier for him when he dealt center fielder Denard Span to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer, who is expected to spend the year in the Minor Leagues.
"I don't want him to be in the awkward spot; I want me to be in the awkward spot," Ryan said. "I'm going to give him the players to play with. I'm putting myself in the awkward spot. Trading Span for a kid has put me in the awkward spot, not Gardy. I want to take on that responsibility. I don't want to put him in an awkward spot at all."
But Gardenhire hasn't officially heard any reassurances from Ryan that he'll have an upgraded roster this season, even after the club lost 99 games in 2011 and 96 in '12. Gardenhire added that he understands the Twins are trying to build for the future with high upside players such as Meyer.
"All I know is Terry Ryan is taking back over and his goal is to get this organization built from the bottom up, and get our organization, our system developing players and all those things," Gardenhire said. "We've talked about it an awful lot, about the needs of this organization, the Minor League levels and the Major League levels, and really, I think, all you need is an understanding of what we're trying to do here. I have that with Terry on what we're trying to do. He understands that I want to win now, but I also understand the process of developing."
So considering the state of the club, Ryan said he's looking to grade Gardenhire's '13 performance on more than wins and losses, as he's specifically looking for four things: improvement, hope, direction and leadership.
"There's not an amount of games that you say, 'Gardy, if you don't win 86 games or something, you're gone,'" Ryan said. "No, that's not realistic. You have to take all those things into consideration on whether or not a manager had a good or a bad year or a mediocre year. We had a bad year as an organization, and he's a part of that. But I'm more a part of it than he is. He can't dictate what his personnel is going to be. I have the ability to do a little bit more of that."
Gardenhire has had plenty of success in the past, as he's led the club to six AL Central titles. He also won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2010 and finished as the runner-up five other times.
And Ryan said he still sees all those qualities that made Gardenhire a top manager, but that his rosters haven't been nearly as strong the last two seasons.
"I think he's the same guy, but he certainly didn't have the same personnel," Ryan said. "I don't see much difference in the man -- the way he functions. Gardy's been pretty consistent the entire time I've ever been around him. Some of the things -- his personality, his charisma, his sense of humor, he stands by his players, he's loyal to his coaches -- none of that stuff has changed."
But even with his past success, Gardenhire knows nothing is guaranteed and said he's at peace with whatever happens.
"If I don't make it through this year, I'll be OK," Gardenhire said. "I've had a great opportunity here, I love the Minnesota Twins, I love where I'm at and hopefully I stay there for the rest of my career, however long that may be. We all know what happens in this game -- you're held accountable and I'm held accountable. I'm not worried about a contract extension. That's not up to me."