Twins Daily Roundtable: Grading the Front Office
Image courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsNick Nelson
Short-term planning is hard sometimes. No one could have predicted last offseason that returning core players like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Ervin Santana — as well as new additions like Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison and Addison Reed — would collectively contribute so little in 2018 after the years they had in 2017. This turn of events completely sabotaged any chance of contention this season, and there's little the front office could have done about it without the benefit of hindsight.
I still like the moves they made, especially because they were geared toward big-picture success. The Twins can move on from Lynn and Morrison after this season and managed to reload the pipeline with savvy trades in late July. They've set themselves up for tremendous spending flexibility this winter. Falvey and Levine have shown a penchant for opportunistically acquiring useful talents — such as Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Gabriel Moya — at low costs. And, crucially, they've also overseen two drafts that look like absolute slam dunks so far, shoring up a sore spot from the latter years of Terry Ryan's tenure.
The 2018 season has been a bummer but I feel extremely optimistic about the organization's leadership going forward.
Always a tough question because what's more important, process or results? Obviously results matter, but that's too easy. We all loved the offseason, for the most part, and adding the likes of Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison to one-year deals in spring training was immensely exciting. It didn't pan out. At all.
But I think they've continued to add personnel and systems behind the scenes that should have Twins fans excited.
In season, I think they've been fine. They've been willing to work and make changes to the 24th and 25th men on the active roster, and they've been willing to grab guys on the back end of the 40-man roster.
I may not agree with every single decision, but I do trust the process. I do like what they did at the trade deadline and as they like to say, the way they've developed "waves" of prospects to hopefully put the Twins in a position to compete for playoff spots for the next decade or two!
Grade: I don't know. B?
Last week’s roundtable revolved around trying to give a grade to Paul Molitor. Managers get too much of the credit when a team wins or loses. For the front office, it takes a long-term approach to revamp an entire organization. The Twins were amid some bad seasons, but the farm system had some good pieces. There are lots of things to consider when looking at the front office as a whole.
In their first season leading the organization, Falvey and Levine kept a lot of the previous front office pieces in place to reevaluate everyone. They started overhauling some of the pieces last off-season so it’s hard to know how well those pieces have worked out.
Even though the wins haven’t piled up, I’d give the front office an A for last off-season. It helps to have the number one overall pick, but the minor league system has moved from middle of the road to a top-10 system in all of baseball. I’d give them a solid B+ for their drafting so far with the potential of it moving higher based on results in the years ahead.
I feel their approach with Sano and Buxton this season was also appropriate. There are few teams that would send a former All-Star all the way down to High-A to “find themselves.” All things considered, I’d give them an A- at this point.
This is a tough question to answer, given that Derek Falvey has only been around since October of 2016. There are a lot of areas where I would give an incomplete grade at this point, but overall, I'd give them a C.
Nothing jumps out to me that suggests they're either clearly above or clearly below average.
What's really going to make or break this front office in the end is how they draft. So far, they appear to me to be very good at draft strategy, though having the No. 1 overall pick their first year certainly didn't hurt.
I liked how decisive they were at this year's deadline, but there have been a number of odd scrap-heap additions while guys performing down on the farm have struggled to find opportunities. The more Falvey and Thad Levine put their fingerprints on the org, the more we'll know. I think the next 12 months could be particularly telling
I've considered this as a significantly loaded question at multiple points during this 2018 season. The offseason was one in which the front office hit it out of the park. They aimed high (Darvish), and they shot often (multiple FAs). When the dust settled, they brought in a crop of players that signified a large talent leap and did so by boasting an all-time high payroll.
From there, things went downhill. A good number of those new players flopped (which isn't the fault of the front office), and the answers sought seemed less than satisfactory. I haven't found myself a fan of many roster moves made during the season and think more games could've been won with better promotions from the farm. As a whole, it's been a strong step forward from the late years of the Terry Ryan regime, but this duo isn't yet to the point of breaking through.
It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia of what the front office does and doesn't do, particularly with roster management. While some of the roster decisions have been odd (if not extremely poor), there are so many facets of the organization the front office has excelled at.
Early indicators suggest the front office has drafted well in both drafts. Additionally, the Twins offseason was both strong and opportunistic (despite not translating on to the field). Finally, the team worked hard to acquire some exciting pieces at the deadline and took advantage of impending free agents.
One other key lever when examining the front office. We tend to give equal weight to all aspects of the work of the front office in evaluating them. In reality, the number -one pick decision is vastly higher leverage than in-season roster management in a season where they were unlikely to reach the playoffs anyway. While the front office has some areas for refinement, their biggest decisions have been huge wins for the organization.
Two years into evaluating any long-term “plan” Falvine and company may have is still a bit quick on the trigger, but I am on board with a lot of the things they have done to this point in the short-term sense.
I liked that they struck on a colder free agent market to bring in guys like Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, and Logan Morrison on short deals. On paper they improved some areas that needed it after a playoff appearance, which is what we all asked for. I’ll concede this didn’t work out, but when it didn’t they unloaded those and other short-term assets for future returns.
I also approve of how they seem to be running the minor league system. For once, I don’t have the impression prospects are being held back as a whole. Top prospects Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Brusdar Graterol were all promoted after a half-season in Cedar Rapids, where such prospects often would spend an entire season no matter how they performed under old leadership. Fernando Romero made his MLB debut after just four starts in Triple-A, as examples.
What I haven’t liked is their usage of the 40-man roster, both heading into the season with whom they protected/lost, and who has been bypassed with moves on the waiver wire. Small potatoes here, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with them yet.
To assign a letter grade, I’ll say B-minus, trending up.
The best “grade” I can give this front office is “Incomplete.” It hasn’t had time to fail, but the results on the field haven’t been anything to get TOO excited about, either. I’m sure some will give them a partial pass simply because they were not allowed to hire their “own man” as manager, instead being required by ownership to retain Paul Molitor. I think that’s a cop out.
“Falvine” has only had one full offseason and I think most of us felt they did a decent job assembling a roster over the offseason. I’m also certain that a lot of people are impressed with the way this FO has modernized its approach to everything from scouting to assembling and utilizing advanced data.
I just think running a professional baseball organization is about more than that. It’s also about relationship building – with players, agents, other GMs/executives, affiliates, fans, media and, I’m sure, many more stakeholders.
It’s just too early for me to give a pass or fail grade at this point.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Hall of Fame Impact
Baseball in 2028
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