On Thursday, news began to leak that major league organizations were releasing dozens of players in recent days. The Seattle Mariners were said to have released over 30 minor leaguers. The Atlanta Braves reportedly released over 50 players. Some estimates noted that over 1000 minor leaguers would be released this week.
The Twins went in completely the opposite direction. They will continue to pay their minor leaguers the same $400 per week through the end of August. Normally the minor league seasons go through Labor Day, so they are essentially paying their players for the full season, including insurance, through a season that is unlikely to be played. (Note, if there is a minor league season, it's back to "business as normal" and there could be releases, based on making rosters and such.)
The Twins very easily could have explained releasing players if they chose to, for a number of reasons.
The Twins could have followed the lead of other teams in this. Major League teams have been paying their minor leaguers (those not on the 40-man roster) $400 per week, and will continue to do so through May. Some teams have extended that payment beyond May, but the A’s came out yesterday stating that they would not be paying their minor leaguers once June hits. Some teams will announce that they will continue to pay their minor leaguers through June, well, except for those who get released.
While the sheer number of player releases now stands out and can feel devastating, some of that quantity comes from the fact that there have not been “normal” timelines this season. Spring Training wasn’t complete when the pandemic ended things. Normally at the end of spring training, an organization will release anywhere from 10 to 15 players. In the season’s first two months, there are typically more releases as players move up levels.
With the draft approaching, even more players typically get released from full-season affiliates or even from extended spring training. Those players who were not set to go to Elizabethton or the GCL (or get bumped to Cedar Rapids) usually were released. And room needs to be made to add newly drafted players.
Now, the Twins will have just four draft picks in the June MLB draft, but teams are also able to sign as many other draft-eligible players as they want for $20,000. So, teams could still add 20 to 30 additional players in June and July.
The other thing to remember is that the current plan is for the Elizabethton Twins to no longer be a Twins affiliate. MLB is cutting dozens of minor league affiliates from the game, and Elizabethton is one of them. That’s 30+ less players that an organization is able to find playing time for than before in future years.
Again, I mention those things only to suggest that the Twins very easily could have explained releasing players at this time.
Instead, the Twins did the right thing. They showed a commitment to their players. They showed a huge commitment to the continuing player development work that has been ongoing the last few years.
In addition, hey, if you’re a minor league free agent, would you want to sign with a team that just showed this kind of support for its players?
If you are a draft-eligible player and you’re not taken in the five round 2020 MLB Draft, you’ve got the option to sign with any MLB team for up to $20,000. Would this news make you more likely to sign with the Twins if all else is equal?
And frankly, there are likely a lot of minor leaguers around the league stressing out about where their next paychecks will come from, or even if they need to start looking for other employment. The Twins minor leaguers can breathe more easily now, knowing they'll be paid for the next three months.
Personally, I congratulate the Twins, starting with the Pohlad family and all those who were part of this decision. It does make me proud to be a Twins fan, proud of the organization.
- May 29 2020 01:18 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Initially saddled with a holdover manager, Falvey and Levine weren’t going to be able to make their mark from the start. They waded in the shallow end and allowed an acclimation process of sorts to take place. Prior to the 2019 season they jumped right off the high dive straight into the deep end. Regardless of the fanfare created by roster reinforcements, it was the infrastructure that seemed so valuable last winter.
Having spent time down in Fort Myers for Spring Training, it was immediately evident that this collection was going to do things differently. The Twins can’t change how they’re viewed by potential free agents overnight, but they can position themselves as an industry leader other teams will quickly want to emulate. The former carries a significant monetary cost while the latter is generally accompanied by a level of commitment towards a strong belief in process. Over the past year Minnesota’s front office has reinvigorated the organization to levels it’s likely never seen.
Without having yet signed any free agents, there’s been a flurry of activity from the Twins ranks this offseason. Something like five coaches will have been poached when the dust settles, and a five-year extension will have been handed out to the two head men. Those two combining realities are the defining moments of where Minnesota is now, and how they’ll want to operate in the future. Talent has been plucked from the organization to take promotions elsewhere, while the men who picked them for those roles are now tasked with getting it right again.
There’s no denying that the Twins have a substantial amount of money to spend this offseason, and coming off a 101-win season, a responsibility to write those checks. What they also must get right is the replacements for the now goner developers of that talent, and a blueprint that continues to make the overall infrastructure an environment conducive of producing success.
Minnesota should be looking to add everyone from Gerrit Cole to Anthony Rendon on the diamond over the next handful of months. Jim Pohlad also realizes that it’s equally important Falvey finds the next James Rowson, Jeremy Hefner, or Tanner Swanson as well. Coming over from an Indians organization that generated some steam as being progressive, the Twins head man has left no stone unturned. Plucking a pitching coach from the collegiate ranks and adding support staff based on success rather than tenure, it’s been in the advancements Minnesota has made that ultimately generated hot commodities for other big-league clubs.
I’ll be the first to admit disappointment if a certain payroll threshold isn’t reached before Opening Day in 2020. I also believe that the Twins front office duo of Falvey and Levine are the best equipped to construct a process-oriented blueprint both on the field and off it. The Twins seem to believe this as well, evidenced by the lengthy pact made to the tandem, and that’s a very key development.
With a window open, and execution at the forefront, I’m not sure we’ve ever had reason to feel so confident in a Minnesota Twins management group at any point in history. It will be on Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to hit on those beliefs, but for now, there’s no stopping this train.
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- Nov 14 2019 10:57 AM
- by Ted Schwerzler
Let’s rewind over a half decade and land back in 2013. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros both employed top five farm systems but were among the worst teams in baseball. Chicago won just 66 games while Houston joined the American League and punted on the season to the tune of 51 victories. The next year both clubs remained in the top five on the farm but also showed life in the majors to the tune of 73 and 70 wins respectively. Pairing their development success with what was happening at the highest level, it became evident that it was time to go.
In 2015 the Cubs opened with a $106.6 million payroll, 98% increase from the $53.6 million a year prior. Houston was not as drastic, going from $41.6 million to $64.8 million (a 56% increase). Both teams jumped up in wins, most notably Chicago parlaying their 97 into an NLCS appearance (in which they were swept by the Mets). 2016 saw the Cubs fully realize their goal with a World Series victory, the first since 1908. To get there Theo pushed payroll to $161.3 million, another 51% increase, or jump of 200% since 2014.
Image Credit: Forbes
To be fair, Minnesota will never operate on the same revenue stream that a national brand like the Cubs benefit from. Houston is a much more feasible example though, and while they likely have a more lucrative TV deal as well, 2019 revenues highlight the gap being relatively insignificant. The Astros also saw an 86-win successful year in 2015, only to take a step backwards (84 wins) in 2016. That is largely reflective of the cycle Minnesota endured popping up for a one-game Wild Card loss.
Payroll growth in Houston has been noteworthy as well. Coming out of the 86-win campaign in 2015 the Astros operated differently than the Twins (who went from $130MM in 2018 to $114MM in 2019) by increasing payroll to $75.4 million, a slight 16% increase. They finished third in the division, but the dam was clearly ready to break. Still with a top farm system, and so much big-league talent, Houston went gangbusters spending $132.5 million in 2017, a 76% increase that culminated in a World Series.
Despite being an uncapped sport teams all have a spending threshold. Chicago suggests they’re near theirs and have begun to scale back. The additional funs provided them a window of five straight winning seasons, 90 wins in all but one of them, and the ultimate goal. Houston is in the midst of a stretch where they’ve won three straight division titles, 100 games in three straight seasons, and have gone to the World Series in two of the past three years.
Infrastructure and development in baseball is about creating a backbone capable of sustaining excellence at the highest level. Whether prospects contribute to maturing on the biggest stage, or being parlayed into veteran talent, the goal is not a constant state of hording. Minnesota’s window is now fully open, paired with ideal opportunity around them, and the financial flexibility to make waves. You could, and I have, made the argument that significant spending would have provided marginal gains in recent seasons. That is no longer on the table, and the blueprint has already been draw up for these Twins.
2020 isn’t about dabbling at $130 million. This franchise now needs to show up at the checkout counter and make use of what it has built these past few years.
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- Nov 06 2019 01:45 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
The team's 2017 season earned Paul Molitor Manager Of The Year Award honors, and a winner for this last season has not yet been announced, meaning he is still the reigning Manager of the Year. But his position as the Twins manager has been in doubt each of the last three seasons.
In 2016, the Twins dismal start led to the dismissal of General Manager Terry Ryan, which would often mean a change in manager as well. But Twins ownership announced that any new GM would need to retain Molitor as manager.
Which, of course, meant that questions emerged during the 2017 season as to whether new CBO Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine would retain Molitor after their inaugural season was over, especially since Molitor's contract would also conclude after the 2017 season. A strong finish in 2017 and the resulting Manager of the Year award convinced both sides to extend the contract through 2020, though the amount of the contract was not announced.
This year's disappointing start led to a trade deadline selloff when the Twins were out of the race by mid-summer, but there had been very little speculation that a coaching change was imminent.
Comments from the Twins:
“I would like to thank Paul for his tremendous dedication to the Minnesota Twins over his last four years as manager of this club,” said Twins Executive Vice President, Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey. “Paul’s roots here run deep and his commitment to the organization, his staff, and the players is special. I have every hope and desire that he remains a part of this club for many years to come.”
“The importance and contribution of Paul Molitor to the Twins, our community and Major League Baseball cannot be diminished,” said Twins Owner Jim Pohlad. “On behalf of our family, I offer thanks to Paul for his four years as Twins manager and look forward to the continuation of our relationship with him.”
Comments from Paul Molitor:
“I was informed today that the Twins will seek a new manager for the 2019 season and I fully respect that decision. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity they gave me to serve in the role as manager for these past four years. I’m going to consider their genuine offer to serve in a different capacity to positively impact the Twins from a different role. Special thanks to my coaches and players I have had a chance to manage and I certainly appreciate the tremendous support I received from all of Twins Territory.”
- Oct 02 2018 06:35 PM
- by John Bonnes
Molitor has managed three seasons and in two of those years he has had the Twins in surprise contention for the playoffs. During his rookie managerial season, the Twins fought off their recent losing trend as the club was in the playoff hunt until the season's last weekend. An 83-79 record was a vast improvement compared to four straight 90-loss seasons under Ron Gardenhire. Players like Brian Dozier, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano posted strong numbers at the plate under the leadership of a Hall of Fame hitter.
The 2017 campaign has been up and down to say the least. Minnesota somehow finds themselves in the thick of the wild card race even though they have been outscored by over 50 runs. A young core of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are supplementing a rotation led by Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. For the second time in three years, Molitor has the Twins in position to make the playoffs which is something the Twins haven't seen since 2010.
It's hard to forget how bad the Twins were in 2016. The team fumbled and stumbled their way to a franchise-worst 103 losses. Moving Sano to the outfield was a disaster while the pitching staff was one of the worst in the game. In the end, the Twins fired long-time general manager Terry Ryan. A roster reconstruction was needed and Minnesota's young core needed more time to develop. It was time for a change but the team's ownership stood behind Molitor.
As the hunt started for men to lead the baseball operations department, Twins owner Jim Pohlad made it clear that Paul Molitor wasn't going anywhere. Some thought this might have handcuffed the Twins in their search for new front office personnel. However, the Twins have rarely made changes under Pohlad ownership. For example, the team has employed only three managers since the 1987 campaign. With changes happening in the front office, it was an interesting stance for the owner to take, and now the future is murky.
Molitor's three-year contract is expiring at season's end and this time Pohlad isn't insisting on him returning as manager. He told the Star Tribune that he wants Molitor back for 2018 but that will be up to Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Pohlad said, "I know how much they value the relationship between them and the manager, and the engagement with the whole baseball staff. They are going to make the decision." It will be a decision that won't be made until after the 2017 campaign.
Falvey and Levine have already been making changes to the front office. Longtime executive and current scout Wayne Krivsky was fired along with four other scouts. Part of the agreement when Falvey joined the Twins was that he couldn't bring any scouts with him from Cleveland during his first year. That calendar year will be expiring soon and the new front office wants some fresh faces.
"The Twins are a proud, historic franchise with a lot of people who are deeply connected to the organization," Falvey said. "We didn't want to make a lot of changes at the outset and bring in a whole new staff. We set a new direction and vision, let people know what expectations were of them, and then let people do their jobs. And we're learning a lot about people."
Has Molitor met the expectations of the new front office? Do the Twins need to make the playoffs for him to save his job? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Aug 14 2017 04:33 PM
- by Cody Christie
Derek Falvey was officially announced as the Twins Chief Baseball Officer last month. However, due to an agreement between Minnesota, Cleveland and MLB, he remained with Cleveland through the World Series. However, in that time, he was able to hire his choice for Twins General Manager, and he chose long-time assistant GM of the Texas Rangers, Thad Levine.
In addition, interim GM Rob Antony told reporters that his new title would be essentially be his old title, Assistant General Manager.
To summarize, the messages shared from the mouths of both Falvey and Levine included a lot of collaborations and synergy at every level. From scouting, to player development, to the Major League club, the goal will be to share a common system of beliefs and structure. As you will find with many companies, they will focus on People, Process and Culture. Good people who are interested in communication and continuous improvement will work within some established processes to develop a culture. Hopefully that culture involves winning, and a lot of it.
According to Falvey, the goal is “long-term, sustainable, championship-caliber” success for the organization he had earlier described as “one of the most proud, resilient franchises in baseball.”
Getting to that level will require a lot of work. And that work starts right away. Tonight, Falvey, Levine and Antony fly to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the GM Meetings. According to Falvey, they will “dive underneath the hood of this team here.” He added, “We would expect that we’ll go through player personnel decisions and evaluations over the next 72 hours aggressively and work forward from there.”
As we all know, part of the arrangement with a restructured front office was that Paul Molitor was to remain the team’s manager. That came directly from owner Jim Pohlad.
Falvey and Molitor have met a few times and it sounds like the discussions have been good. “He and I share the same vision which is building a winning organization and a winning Major League team.”
On Molitor, Levine added, “My opinion is that the healthiest franchises in the game have strong synergies between ownership, front office, business and the clubhouse. So when we walk in the door having inherited a manager of the caliber of Paul Molitor, we feel like we’ve got a partner in this process, someone we can invest in the future with, so we view it as a prominent positive.”
The team isn’t starting from scratch. As Falvey noted, “There are some building blocks here. There are some good young players. There’s talent in this organization. I think that’s a credit to Terry Ryan and the staff that came before us and built a good foundation, particularly on the position player side. It’s something I’ve always admired from a distance.”
Falvey wasn’t willing to say how good this team is or how good they can be in 2017. “I don’t want to put restraints on teams. I want to go into the year with the hope that we are a competitive team that continues to build and gets better every single day.”
The big question, of course, is how to go about adding pitching, something the Twins are greatly in need of. For Falvey, he said it’s the same philosophy for hitters or pitchers.
“We’re trying to seek and find the best possible talent that exists out there, and then align that talent with a development plan that will maximize those strengths.”
It’s a system that worked with Cleveland. They were able to bring together scouting, development and major league operations to bring the best results. He talked about working with other departments such as medical and strength and conditioning, and potentially some departments that currently do not exist.
The new staff will attempt to bring balance to the organization. They will communicate internally. It is a sound strategy.
Listen, the reality is that Falvey and Levine have their work cut out for them. Aside from some of the specifics as it relates to analytics, the message was the same you would have heard from Ryan and his group, or any new collection being brought in. Falvey and Levine use bigger words and speak very well. They do bring knowledge and experience from outside the current Twins system, but they also know that it isn’t 100 percent about analytics.
I was impressed with Levine noting that the opinions of former players like Michael Young and Darren Oliver, who are senior advisers in the Rangers’ front office, were helpful in the evaluation as well. Corey Koskie, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins were in attendance.
Falvey talked about being a “data-driven organization.”
Levine thinks that data needs to be “married up with the scouting acumen of your field staff. The talent evaluators are really the difference-makers in the game. I subscribe to the theory that the competitive advantage is that whoever has the best talent evaluators... who then has it married up with an ownership group who will support you to acquire that talent, is probably going to win a lot of games.”
Levine also noted that relationship building, the human side, is just as important. Working with the media. Building relationships with agents. All in an attempt to be able to bring in the best talent. Young talent. Talented veterans. Leaders. It all fits into the equation. So while the theme most Twins fans want to hear are words like “analytics” and “advanced stats,” it’s good to hear that these new leaders will always understand the human element as well.
Things are changing in the front office of the Minnesota Twins. The goals remain the same. Build a winner. Build a team that can win in the short and long terms. It is certainly going to be a challenge.
Press conferences are an opportunity to meet the new guys. We had the opportunity to listen to them speak and see some personality. It’s hard to lose in an introductory press conference. But for the most part, I feel like it was a successful unveiling of the new direction. Falvey and Levine are both very well spoken and articulate. They flash business acumen, but they have also been in great organizations that have won. They are very convincing and appear to be strong leaders. Levine showed a sense of humor and hinted humility with a few of his remarks.
Of course now the work begins. Coming off of a 59-win season, much work needs to be done to make the team more competitive. It feels like the Twins have made some strong choices. Now the fun of the offseason begins.
We know that those reading this on the pages of Twins Daily will be watching closely to see what will happen!
- Nov 07 2016 09:34 PM
- by Seth Stohs
The first major league signing under the new regime was, drum roll please, David DeJesus! Not exactly a big splash, franchise-defining move. Their first trade didn't work out so well, either. They sent future All-Star, Gold Glover and possible 2016 NL batting champ D.J. LaMahieu to Colorado with Tyler Colvin for Ian Stewart (who hit .210/.292/.335 in one season for the Cubs) and Casey Weathers (who never made it out of the minors).
Ooops. Luckily for the Cubbie faithful, they didn't misfire on another big trade they made that winter.
On Jan. 6, 2012, the new-look Cubs front office, just a few months on the job, made a franchise-altering trade, though it didn't appear to be that impactful at the time. Despite the old adage that pitching wins championships, the Cubs sent young fireballer Andrew Cashner, the organization's first-round pick in '08, to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo.
It was essentially a challenge trade, swapping two young players, one of whom (Cashner) Epstein and Hoyer couldn't have known too well, for one whom they were extremely familiar with. Epstein was the general manager of the Red Sox when they drafted Rizzo and Hoyer was the GM of the Padres when they traded for him. He was their guy.
It wasn't exactly a popular trade at the time, seeing as Rizzo had just hit .141/.281/.242 in 49 games with San Diego, but it has turned out to be one of the better trades of the past 20 years. Over the past three seasons, only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson have accumulated more fWAR than Rizzo's 16.3. Cashner never lived up to his lofty expectations.
But it's not like it was all smooth sailing even after the Rizzo trade. The next offseason, Epstein handed out his first big money free agent contract with the Cubs. In Jan. '13, the Cubs signed Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal and he rewarded them with a 5.37 ERA. To Twins fans, that deal looks eerily similar to the Ricky Nolasco contract.
The Epstein-run front office had also struggled to find a manager. Only a couple of weeks after the new regime took over they fired Mike Quade (current Rochester Red Wings skipper) despite the fact he was under contract for the 2012 season. They brought in Dale Sveum as their hand-picked replacement, but his .392 winning percentage over two seasons didn't cut it.
In 2014 they replaced Sveum with Rick Renteria, who served only one year on the job after some odd circumstances led Joe Maddon to take the reins. Chicago's love affair with Maddon started on Day 1, as he famously offered to buy everyone shots at his hiring press conference. The .619 winning percentage the team has posted since doesn't hurt either.
To summarize, thing's didn't just turn over for the Epstein-led Cubs at the flip of (GM) switch, and their record was indicative of that. In the first season under the new regime, the Cubs actually lost 101 games. They didn't post a winning record until just last season, which was the fourth under Epstein's leadership.
But ask any Cubs fan and they'll tell you it doesn't matter how long it took to get here. It was well worth the wait. Along with making improvements to Wrigley Field to ensure it will be a viable ballpark for the future, the Cubs have built both an elite roster and farm system. And best of all, this team appears to have a window of contention about as large as the windows that open up on the Vikings' new stadium.
The Cubs have baseball's best record, but even if they can't break their 107-year World Series drought this season, when the bleacher bums say "there's always next year" instead of it being a sheepish rallying cry, they can really mean it this time. They appear to be well equipped for an extended stay atop the NL. For their efforts, the Cubs just gave extensions to Epstein, Hoyer and player development guru Jason McLeod.
Looking at the Cubs' turnaround, the first thing that stands out to me is how little it mattered that the new regime was able to hire their own manager. They didn't really get their guy (Maddon) until the team was ready for contention.
Many have argued that Jim Pohlad's insistence that Paul Molitor remain as manager is a cataclysmic mistake. It probably isn't the wisest move, but at the same time it probably won't really matter. It seems there's a very good chance Falvey will able to hire his manager for the 2018 season, at the latest.
Of course, every team and every front office is different, and Twins fans shouldn't expect Falvey to take the Cubs rebuild as a blueprint. It is, however, worthwhile to note that what may eventually go down as one of the greatest turnarounds and front office tenures in baseball history took three years to get off the ground.
Given the year we've suffered through, it may be painful to accept the fact the Twins may have a few more lean years ahead. But, if Falvey and company (whoever that may be) can deliver an extended run of championship-caliber teams it will be well worth the wait, however long it may be. That should be the ultimate goal, regardless of what it means for the 2017 season.
- Sep 29 2016 09:28 PM
- by Tom Froemming
Here is the tweet from Rosenthal:
This is a direction that Nick presented back in May, even before the announcement that GM Terry Ryan had been fired.
He wrote that he believes current Twins president Dave St. Peter does his job well as it is currently laid out, but adds that the duties associated with that title are changing across the majors. Nick wrote:
From everything I know, Dave St. Peter is good at his job. He manages people and projects, has an excellent grasp on business relationships, interacts with fans, and admirably handles the tremendous responsibility and pressure inherent to his title as Twins President. ... He's not a baseball mind. But maybe that's part of the problem here.
St. Peter would likely remain in his current role of running the Twins business, but this new president of baseball operations would be more involved in roster construction and such.
Few names have been mentioned as potential candidates over the last month or so. Ben Cherington appears to be a favorite. Darren Wolfson has reported that he is very much interested.
The Twins hired a search firm, Korn Ferry, to conduct their search and make recommendations.
A new president of baseball operations would likely come in and evaluate current Twins front office personnel, including interim GM Rob Antony, along with outside options to determine the new general manager and other front office posts.
Presumably, the Twins will want to hire a president of baseball operations by the end of the season so that person could get his or her staff in place. They would certainly want to have new staff in place by organizational meetings (which could be pushed back).
- Aug 26 2016 09:25 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Before we get to the questions, I’m going to take a moment to share some thoughts on Terry Ryan. As you’ve noticed, most people who know Ryan or have worked in any capacity start discussions today with what a terrific person that he is. Then they go on to, typically, state that despite that, the Twins needed to make a change. It’s hard to argue with any of that. Terry Ryan has always treated me with the utmost respect and been upfront and as honest as he can be. He has been very helpful to me and accepting of Twins Daily. I have always enjoyed each opportunity and I have had to converse with Ryan and feel like I learn something each time whether or not we’re even talking about baseball.
For me, Terry Ryan was always someone I admired. I look at what he did in the late 90s to set up the success the Twins had for most of the decade of 2000. Signing veterans and then trading them to acquire more young talent. Building a farm system and building a winner on a budget. As a blogger who started in 2003, I enjoyed seeing the transactions and trying to figure out what Ryan was doing. I recall seemingly any time I wrote something about the Twins being out of it, they would find a way to get themselves back into contention.
Unfortunately, since his return, the Twins have had many low moments, and there have been fewer positive turn-arounds.
When Ryan reclaimed the GM position, I sent him a quick note. He responded relatively quickly and noted “we won’t take any shortcuts.”
He set out to help re-establish and repopulate the Twins minor league system. And you know what… he did just that. The last few years, the Twins have been one of the top three minor league organizations by most who rank those types of things. In the last couple of seasons, we have begun to see some of the talented players who have helped the Twins to those rankings. And the farm system is still stacked with terrific talent.
Think about it for a moment. Ryan made the focus of the organization development of the minor league system. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco all have a lot of room to grow as players. Jose Berrios will take off at some point, and within the next two or three years the likes of Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Felix Jorge, Fernando Romero and some others have a chance to round out a solid rotation. Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly are developing this year and will lead the way as JT Chargois, Nick Burdi, Mason Melotakis and Trevor Hildenberger are on their way. In some ways, I think that whoever takes over as the next Twins general manager is going to look pretty smart when so many of these young, talented players reach their potential.
Will Terry Ryan get credit when this team takes off thanks to the core of young players that developed under his watch?
That’s one question I have, and here are some more questions I have after today.
What’s up with the timing of this decision?
My first organizational thought after my initial surprise at the Twins move was, why did they make this decision less than two weeks from this year’s August 1st trade deadline? That certainly puts Rob Antony, who was named the interim GM, in a tough position. Then again, he will be supported by the Twins current front office, scouts and player personnel staff.
Will Rob Antony get a legitimate shot to have the interim-label removed?
All indications from Monday’s discussions seem to indicate that the Twins will look to hire someone from outside the organization. However, the track record of the organization would certainly indicate that he will be given an opportunity. How he handled the trade deadline and, frankly, how the team performs may be his interview for the job. Maybe that is why Terry Ryan resigned when he did, to give Antony an opportunity to show what he can do, his style, etc.
Should Rob Antony get a legitimate shot at the full-time GM job?
Among Twins fans, the general sentiment seems to be that they have to go outside the organization to change the culture. When Antony’s name comes up, fans like to bring up the spring training when Antony took over the reigns when Ryan was working through his cancer treatments and recovery. They like to bring up the decision to keep Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett on the Opening Day roster. First, that’s a very small sample size. All other reports indicate that Antony has done a nice job as Ryan’s assistant GM. He is well respected among players and scouts for his negotiations in arbitration and free agencies. He’s being given a lot of credit, by Eduardo Nunez, for bringing him to the Twins. And yes, he has been involved in the current ‘regime,’ but that doesn’t mean that things would be exactly the same under Antony’s leadership. Maybe they would be, but my assumption is that Antony would be willing to do some things differently. In general, I just don’t like the idea that it has to be someone from outside the organization.
Should the Twins go outside the organization for their GM hire?
To appease the fan base, it is probably a good idea to hire someone from outside. While the Twins have implemented many more systems throughout the minor leagues and added more statistical analysis, it is never a bad idea to look elsewhere for new and fresh ideas. If nothing else, the Twins ownership group needs to take time to consider what is happening in other organizations and reassess their own expectations for a GM or other roles in the organization.
So, who will make the hire? Who will sit in on the interviews?
From various interviews, it does appear that the Twins could use a search firm to develop a list or candidates or even make a recommendation. However, it will be Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter who will have the final say. St. Peter even said that he would likely talk about candidates with Tom Kelly.
I’m not a huge fan of search firms, but I don’t know that Pohlad and St. Peter are necessarily the right people to make the decision on the next General Manager. I have my doubts.
More important, what are these two looking for in a GM?
In May, I wrote up many of the roles, responsibilities and requirements for a GM. I would hope that the owner and president would provide a search firm a very, very detailed list of exactly what they are looking for in the next GM.
Will Rob Antony be given full rein to do as he sees best for the Twins organization during this trade deadline?
We are being told that he will not be limited. We are told that they have complete confidence in Antony to do what is best for the organization. This is such a big trade deadline with some very difficult decisions to make. Which players will or should be traded? How will he do in terms of negotiating prospect returns? The tough part of this is that those trades really can’t be graded for several years.
The unfortunate thing for Antony is that he will be trading veterans and getting back non-big name prospects. Most fans will respond to any Twins trade returns with “Who is that?” Some will say, “That’s all Antony was able to get for (insert Nunez, Kintzler, Abad, Escobar, Santana, Nolasco here)?” He could trade Brian Dozier for a bigger return and make a bigger splash, but then critics will question that decision as well. It’s a tough situation for Antony to be thrust into, but again it’s probably the only option to give him some experience to add to his resume.
Should the Twins wait until after the season to decide?
Well, Pohlad has said that they are going to start their search right away and would like to name their new GM even before the season ends. Is this wise? There are only 30 MLB General Manager jobs available. Each year, maybe one, possibly two GM jobs are available (if that many), so these jobs don’t come around real often. By starting this process and making a decision early, they will get a headstart on other GM jobs that may open up in the offseason (if any).
The downside is that there may be playoff-contending teams that won’t let their employees apply or interview for this job until after their seasons. In other words, it’s possible that a couple of potential candidates may not be available for this reason.
Is the Twins General Manager a desirable position that candidates should seek?
It absolutely should be a job that people would want. As I wrote earlier, the talent accumulated by Ryan and Company will make the next GM look really smart over the next couple of years. There is a lot of talent. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, there are only 30 Major League GM jobs available. These jobs don’t come along, so there should be plenty of strong options for Pohlad and St. Peter to consider. Finally, if the team has any form of success with the GM, the organization is very loyal. It’s a job that could come with a lot of leeway.
How does this affect the rest of the Twins front office?
For the short-term, it doesn’t. Rob Antony takes over as interim GM. They continue in their roles, supporting Antony. But if someone else is chosen as the General Manager, you would think that he (or she) would come with some of his own personnel. I personally hope that the new GM would be open to keeping at least some of the current staff. Would a new GM expand upon Jack Goin’s current analytical group, or would he bring in his own people? How will Mike Radcliff, the Twins director of player personnel and long-time employee who, like Ryan, has given up several opportunities to be with other organizations, fit into the organization? Does Deron Johnson remain the team’s scouting director? Does Brad Steil remain the Twins minor league director? I don’t think we know.
Pohlad has said that Paul Molitor will be the Twins manager in 2017 regardless of who the GM is. Why would he do that? How does it affect the on-field coaching staff?
I have no idea why Pohlad would say that a GM can't make decide on his own manager 2017, year one of his or her tenure. Look at any sport and a new GM will almost always want to insert his own choice for manager or coach. Often, he will allow the current coach to stick around, but he is basically a lame duck and it doesn’t take long for a new coaching staff to be brought in. For the remainder of 2016, the coaching staff is most likely safe. The manager appears safe for at least the start of 2017, but beyond that I can’t imagine the coaching staff has a lot of job security.
Will the Twins bring back Terry Ryan in some capacity sometime in the future?
It is certainly possible that Ryan will come back to the Twins in some capacity, similar to Ron Gardenhire or Bill Smith? Obviously there is no way to know that answer right now. Pohlad and St. Peter indicate that they believe Ryan will seek a job elsewhere at this time. And he should. He is likely to have several offers to be a scout down the stretch for a winning team, or maybe a scouting director for a team as we go forward.
I get that there is a strong percentage of fandom that hates that they would bring back the likes of Smith or Gardenhire. I’m certainly on the complete opposite end of that spectrum. Bill Smith was a very good employee for the Twins for 20-25 years before his stint as the GM. He had a lot of strong qualities. Why would an organization not take advantage of those qualities. Since his return, he has been used in roles away from the baseball operations group. He has been very instrumental in the renovations at Hammond Stadium, the player academy in Ft. Myers, and will be key in the development of the new academy in the Dominican Republic. Gardenhire had a lot of success as a coach and a manager in the organization. He has a lot of knowledge to share, or can be an ear for minor league managers to talk to. After taking some time off, his return has been appreciated throughout the system. I don’t know why an organization wouldn’t want smart baseball people involved in the organization if they are still interested. And, for me, I would want to work in a culture where people like that are welcomed back. To me, it says a lot (positively) about the Twins culture brought about through the leadership of Terry Ryan.
If Ryan would ever be willing to come back in an advisory role in the scouting department, I’d certainly be willing to bring him back. I don’t know that he would want that though.
That is a bunch of questions after the dismissal of Terry Ryan. And you may have more in mind. Please feel free to ask more questions or answer some of these in the Comments below.
- Jul 19 2016 06:12 AM
- by Seth Stohs
Few who have watched this team so far would disagree with owner Jim Pohlad’s characterization of the team to the Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins as a “total system failure.” The offense sits in the bottom third of the league, eight percent below league average; their defense has provided negative value. Their starters, expected to sit around league average, haven’t been close to that modest mark, and the bullpen has caved in, in the absence of Perkins. There are individual successes, but it’s hard to look at a unit on the field and say that they’re performing at or above expectations.
What will raise more than a few eyebrows is that Pohlad then gave both general manager Terry Ryan and manager Paul Molitor an unequivocal vote of confidence and while it’s not always immediately clear, it didn’t seem to be the dreaded vote of confidence either. If there was any hope that the disastrous start to the season would result in a change in leadership, it’s gone for at least the rest of the season.
To be frank, firing a GM midseason would be fairly out of step with how the Twins tend to conduct business, and that’s before taking into account Ryan’s years of service to the organization. One bad month, even one bad half season isn’t going to earn Ryan a midseason public dismissal. Short of a catastrophic error -- a rules violation during the draft/signing process resulting in a huge fine, releasing Buxton outright without cause, burning down Target Field -- it’s hard to imagine what Ryan would have to do to have his season end before the team’s did.
If the goal is to keep the 2016 postseason in play, removing Ryan would do little good. There are no impact free agents available, no one in the draft is going to join the team and add seven wins from June 10 until the end of the year, major in-season trades are far more uncommon now than they used to be, and it’s hard to envision any other move designed to save 2016 that wouldn’t end up weakening the team substantially in the future. Yes, promoting and demoting players to their right levels is exceedingly important for the Twins in both the short- and long-term, but a new GM is actually less likely to make those calls correctly than Ryan is, simply because of his familiarity with the players up and down the system.
Paradoxically, if the Twins were playing a little better, perhaps Ryan’s job would be more vulnerable because the marginal utility of changing GMs would be higher. Bringing in someone who had shown an aptitude for working the trade deadline in July and the waiver wire in August would be appealing since the AL looks like it will be decided by a razor-thin margin. (This presupposes that such a person is freely available at this point in the season, but that’s another column entirely.)
Out of sheer proximity to the problem, the manager ought to be able to make the types of changes in-season that a GM can’t. But as the team has shown over the last few weeks, new blood isn’t enough to spark the team. Not counting pitchers, the team has had 15 players take the field with Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, and Rosario about the only players who haven’t split a meaningful amount time at their respective positions, so it’s not as if the opening day lineup has been run out for 28 consecutive games and this is the result. Changes are being made, they’re just producing the same outcomes.
Moving on from Molitor would certainly shake things up, and unlike Ryan, there are logical candidates available to take over. Gene Glynn, Mike Quade, and Doug Mientkiewicz are all within the organization and were either considered for the managerial vacancy left by Ron Gardenhire or have MLB managerial experience. So whereas Ryan is virtually locked in until the end of the season, Molitor could theoretically be moved.
The downside is that it means burning a bridge with a legendary hitter who the players -- at least publicly -- seem to like and to whom they respond. There’s also no guarantee it will work. Glynn and Mientkiewicz have good minor league track records to buoy their candidacies, but there’s a huge difference between motivating a 19-year-old kid whose dreams are still ahead of him to work hard and getting the same response out of veterans like Eduardo Nunez or Kurt Suzuki. Quade did have some time working with the Cubs during their rebuilding phase, but they finished 20 games under .500 during his only full season at the helm, which is hardly a sterling reference.
Molitor’s managerial ability is far from a known quantity. Last year’s team overperformed in his first full season by nearly as much as this year’s team is underperforming. He hasn’t shown an unhelpful fetishization of one particular type of player, nor has he proven incapable of handling a bullpen. The obvious warts aren’t there, but that doesn’t make him good, it just makes him not-bad-in-readily-apparent-ways. It may become clear what his deficiencies are as the season progresses, but losing him in service of a vague effort to spur a team that may well have put themselves in too deep a hole to recover from doesn’t seem like a good use of resources. Because, while he may prove himself to be a poor fit for a team that figures to be young and volatile for the next few years, it’s equally possible that he’ll prove to be a tremendous fit even if the team finishes 71-91. Plus, statistically speaking, firing a manager midseason doesn’t make your team appreciably better in the vast majority of cases. It’s a show of force, but if it doesn’t translate to more wins on the field, it can hardly be considered worth doing.
Given that he’ll have just one more year on his contract after the die is cast on this season, it seems more than likely that the Twins will give Molitor the full value of his contract, then evaluate his performance from there. Assuming this year finishes in the same vein as it has started -- if not the exact same path -- that will put quite a bit of pressure on Molitor going into the 2017 season, as he’ll have one impressive season under his belt and one fairly poor one.
While there is good reason to keep both Ryan and Molitor where they are for the rest of 2016 season, the takeaway here isn’t that Pohlad was right and that Ryan and Molitor are unquestionably the right people for their jobs. Ultimately, Ryan is the architect of a team that has been dire since 2011 (with a brief respite last year) and Molitor is the final authority on game-to-game matters for a team on pace to finish 47-115, the worst mark in franchise history and the Twins’ first 100+ loss team since 1982. And while 115 losses would be embarrassing even given how the season started, that 1982 mark is very much in play.
The takeaway here is that, as with virtually everything in baseball, there is a rhythm and a seasonality to leadership changes, and that jumping out of that order doesn’t necessarily produce better outcomes. If the ownership group believes there is even a 1% chance they’ll want to move on from Ryan come the offseason, they should start making that determination now. Do the necessary due diligence and be ready to make a call at the right moment. Taking the time to do the requisite research, let Ryan know what to expect, and positioning to the public for either his return or his departure will go a long way to making sure the 2017 Twins aren’t fighting these same battles.
Next week, I’ll take a deep dive into Ryan’s time with the Twins. The highs, lows, and how he stacks up against some of the league’s top architects right now.
- May 06 2016 09:12 AM
- by dwade
And I get it. Having taken the public for said ride and secured a stadium that is maybe the most appealing in baseball, the Twins (per Cot’s Contracts) ended their first two seasons in Target Field with top-ten payrolls, but then fell back to 13th in 2012, and haven’t been out of the 20s since. While attendance predictably declined from 2011 to 2015, it seems a safe bet that they could generally have spent more money than they did in those years and still turned a nice profit.
The problem I’ve always had, though, is that this (at the most) is generally where the fan’s analysis stops. They could have spent more money, but they didn’t, and they should have. The obvious next questions that gets left on the table, though, are “on what?” and “why?”: what could that money have gotten them, and what makes it a good idea? The 2011 Twins had a $115 million payroll and were coming off a 94-win, first-place year, but with injuries to almost literally everyone -- only Danny Valencia and Michael Cuddyer would play as many as 120 games for the Twins in 2011 -- they lost 99, finishing a whopping 28 games out of a wildcard spot, and it was pretty clear their window had slammed shut. They lost 96 in both 2012 and 2013 (22 and 26 games out of the playoffs, respectively), and 92 (18 out) in 2014. Their season-ending payroll declined, meanwhile, from 9th in 2011, to 13th, to 24th.
But, again, what could and should they have spent more money on, and what could we have expected it to bring them? In a league in which the very best player might be worth about nine wins and four is a typical All-Star, the Twins would’ve had to add the equivalent of four or five All-Stars, two Mike Trouts, or some combination thereof (assuming each of them takes the place of true replacement-level players, to boot) in order to have had any chance at a postseason berth in any of those years. That’s not the kind of thing that’s ever happened via free agency--teams have tried, typically with disastrous consequences (check out the turn-of-the-century Devil Rays sometime).
But what if the postseason isn’t the goal? What about just putting a marginally more entertaining product on the field? I question whether that’s a thing, personally--it’s the competing that draws the crowds, the Timberwolves are as entertaining as a bad basketball team can get right now and not drawing substantially more than their terribly depressing squads of the last couple years did--but I get that, too. It’s not as though a team puts those savings in an interest-bearing account and adds them to the pot for next year. They would, in a perfect world, but they don’t; those savings go to the owners, and the next year’s budget is its own thing. So to the extent you’re concerned only about this season, yes, you as a fan should want the team to spend as much money as they can possibly get away with, because that money’s gone for your purposes after the season either way.
The problem with that is that the one-year deal for a good (or even just “entertaining”) player exists in baseball only when that player comes with huge risks. Most free agents worth signing as anything more than filler in this game demand commitments of three years, or four or five or more. Most free agents are also in their 30s, which means almost without exception that they’re likely to get worse over those three to five years, not better. What that means is that most of the free agents the Twins could’ve signed to make them marginally better or more fun in 2013 or 2014 would still be getting paid as Twins in 2016, and would be less good or fun now than they were then (but probably making at least as much money). When you don’t expect to win, you probably shouldn’t (and can’t, to field a team that avoids challenging the ‘62 Mets) stop spending entirely. But your focus in spending, way ahead of getting better for the now, has to be to avoid hamstringing the team in future seasons, when -- if your prospects pan out and you’re not too bogged down by aging players’ contracts -- you might be positioned to spend to fill more immediate needs and make a run at it.
In that light, I tended to think the Twins’ spending from 2012 through 2014 was just about perfect--a weird thing for me to say, as I’ve never been one to go easy on the front office (Tony Batista and Ruben Sierra? Seriously?). In 2012, there was just a long, black-dark road ahead, and nothing to do but fill a couple of the gaps to try to be interesting and wait it out. And that’s exactly what they did, bringing in Josh Willingham (who worked) and Ryan Doumit (who didn’t) to fill in for the departing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and otherwise just stayed put and take their lumps. Heading into 2014, with Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others now on their way, it made sense to take a look at some relatively low-risk, 30-or-younger free agents who could reasonably be expected to be contributing at about the same level a couple years down the line, and they did that, bringing in Phil Hughes (who I’d argue worked) and Ricky Nolasco (who thus far clearly hasn’t), along with more stopgaps like Mike Pelfrey and Kurt Suzuki. For whatever else the Twins have done right or wrong, this is exactly how a non-contending team should spend its money. Should they have spent more of it? Perhaps--but it’s on the one arguing they should to identify where they should’ve spent it and why. Whining that they’re cheap and run by billionaires just doesn’t cut it; they’re losing ninety-plus either way. Show your work.
I’ve left out 2015 so far, of course, and that’s a tough one because we know how it ends: the Twins win 83 games, surprising everyone, and miss the wildcard play-in game by just three wins. They entered the last week with a real shot, and as it turns out, even one modest upgrade in the offseason could have gotten them there. That’s cheating, though: the Twins didn’t know how it would end, and I really think they were looking at 2016 or 2017 as their next legitimate chance, and so they stayed the course, bringing in 32-year-old Ervin Santana to add to their stable of average starters who seem likely to still be about average by the next time they thought they’d be competitive. Were there moves that not only could have put them over the top as things turned out, but that they should have made in December or January 2014-15, knowing and believing what they reasonably did then? Maybe! But I’d like to know what those specifically were. (Note also that a first half from Santana might itself ultimately have put them in the playoffs.)
So that gets us to today. I’ve been as frustrated as anyone with the lack of activity: Byung-Ho Park is certainly interesting, but hardly fills a glaring need, and there’s not much else that’s even worth mentioning. It feels much like a team with two third basemen and three or four 1B/DH types, which seems to suggest moves to be made, and I would’ve loved to see them land, say, Darren O’Day, an elite reliever who signed a four-year deal to stay with the Orioles similar to the ones the Twins gave Santana and Nolasco. But: O’Day is 32 years old, and at his very best -- at any modern reliever’s best -- is worth about three wins. The Twins had a lot of luck last year, and while I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in 2016, there’s good reason to believe they’re not quite there yet, with or without the upgraded bullpen. If, as Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA expects, they go 79-83 and miss the playoffs by seven games, O’Day probably wouldn’t have made a difference, and neither would most anyone else. And then what about in 2018, when Buxton and Sano are MVP candidates, but O’Day is 35 and ineffective, while his $9 million salary helps prevent you from signing that year’s Darren O’Day, who could be the difference between an LDS loss and a world championship?
I have no answers. I thought they should have done more this offseason, and I sure hope that they do well enough that there’s a worry it might come back to bite them. But too often, we collectively seem to want the team to spend more money without considering a.) the limits of what that spending can actually do, or b.) the risks down the road of imprudently committing money now. Fans can complain that the team is cheap all they want -- and why not, it’s just baseball, it’s all in fun, you do you -- but without an idea of how they should spend that extra money, why they should and what might happen if it goes bad, all it is is whining for whining’s sake. Seems to me it’s more fun, more instructive, and, at least in this case, harder to argue with the plan, if you show your work.
- Feb 22 2016 10:12 AM
- by Bill Parker
The Twins payroll is in excess of $100M as the they enter the 2015 season, but if the team finds itself competitive, Pohlad would love to see them add players, even if it costs money. “That would be a great situation,” said Pohlad before today’s game, “and there would be total flexibility.”
Josmil Pinto Seeking Clearance
Twins GM Terry Ryan said that things continue to progress well for Josmil Pinto and he’ll seek clearance to return to game action. He will likely get acclimated in minor league games before joining the club. It doesn’t sound like his concussion will necessarily preclude him from making the opening day roster.
Brian Duensing Returns
Brian Duensing pitched in relief for the Twins today after leaving a game earlier this week when a comebacker hit him in the thigh. He threw 1.1 innings, got a strikeout and gave up no hits.
Whatever decisions Ryan and Molitor are making regarding the roster, Ryan claims they are “on the same page”. They met this morning and Ryan said of Molitor “He has opinions.” And then added, “So do I.”
Milone at Target Field
Ryan described Milone’s outing yesterday as “OK” but also thought that the smaller ballpark and wind hurt him a bit. He expects better results in Target Field. “He’s more oriented towards Target Field than some. It’s a nice big ballpark and he’ll have some of those fly balls that go and sometimes they’ll drop at the track,” said Ryan. “I think the ballpark benefited [Phil Hughes] and it will benefit Milone in whatever capacity we’re going to pitch him in.”
It might not be fair to look at last year’s stats, as Milone obviously struggled mightily after being traded from Oakland, but Target Field doesn’t appear to have done him any favors. Milone’s ERA in Target Field was 11.57 last year, the highest in any ballpark. The only place worse was Fenway – which yesterday’s jetBlue Ballpark essentially copies.
But Ryan’s point about Target Field keeping fly balls from becoming home runs appears true. Milone’s home run rate in Target Field was 0.9 HR/9, which was quite a bit lower than several other ballparks in which he pitched.
“None of Mr. Boras’s business.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media before yesterday’s game and was asked about Scott Boras’ criticism of the Cubs for not adding slugging prospect Chris Bryant to their roster. That move is widely perceived to be a financial one. By delaying adding Bryant to their roster for a few weeks, the Cubs delay his service clock from starting, meaning he’ll need to wait another whole year to become a free agent.
Manfred, not surprisingly, doesn’t think the Cubs are doing anything wrong. “I don’t think that the Cubs decision with respect to Chris Bryant is really any of Mr. Boras’s business,” replied Manfred. "I think the Cubs – I know the Cubs – will make decisions that are best for the long-term competitiveness of the club.”
An Answer From Outside?
I don’t want to make too much of this because Terry Ryan was specifically asked, but it is possible that some folks from the opening day roster are not yet in the Twins organization. Terry Ryan mentioned that Jason Repko and Hector Corrasco were both examples of players the Twins picked up late in spring training from other clubs. “Right now is about the time that things start to speed up,” said Ryan. “There hasn’t been much action yet. It’s going to start.”
If I was going to speculate on what the Twins would look for, it would be right-handed centerfielder who can hit southpaws. But Molitor did praise Shane Robinson in yesterday's postgame talk. He qualifies as a right-handed hitter and is good defensively. But he hasn't hit in the majors no matter which side he faced.
- Mar 27 2015 04:10 PM
- by John Bonnes