Going into 2019, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have an advantage they were not previously afforded. Picking their manager for the first time as the duo leading the organization, Rocco Baldelli represents opportunity. It’s not only the skipper though, as we’ve seen the Twins front office infuse talent across all levels of development this winter. Being impressed with what’s been done, it’s worth wondering if this is really what we were always waiting for.
When the new front office took over for Terry Ryan, the ownership group decided they would be saddled with manager Paul Molitor. Sure, he was a hometown hero and had ties to the organization, but that seemed like an odd mandate to force on a culture shift. The Minnesota manager was coming off a 103-loss season and did little to substantiate the 83 wins in his first go around. Surprisingly the club won 85 games, and despite a Postseason berth and Manager of the Year nod, the feeling was always that it was maybe time to part ways.
The front office couldn’t make the move they were obviously leaning towards and needed an opportunity for a clean break. 2018 provided that, and where we are today has only cemented to desire to make a shift. Not only is Baldelli green as a manager, but the Twins have a pitching coach who has only worked in college, and an assistant closer to still being a player than leaning on a resume of development. Looking at it all, it’s obvious what the vision for the front office truly is.
Despite a spending deficiency in the form of payroll, the Twins have dropped a significant amount of cash on the coaching and development side of the house. New coaches have been brought in across the minor league ranks, and no stone has been left unturned when it comes to finding that talent. Dollars have been allocated to Rapsodo devices and Edgertronic cameras, money has been spent on analytics salaries, and in general, every competitive advantage has been explored.
As we’ve seen with the changing free agent landscape this winter, teams are spending smarter and working harder. No longer are fringe big leaguers finding guaranteed or lucrative deals. Instead teams are looking to find players with the ability to unlock talent that is hidden behind a small tweak. Minnesota is attempting this exact thing in the form of Matt Magill and Martin Perez. Using the infrastructure, they’ve now set up, and the expertise of the newly acquired Wes Johnson, the hope is that the results bear fruit.
What it all boils down to is wondering where we’d be at if this all happened a bit sooner. 2019 is being billed as a season in which Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton help to dictate the future. While they will both play an integral role in that reality, having had this infrastructure in place a year or two ago may have helped to create consistency the organization so badly has desired. Rather than up and down years, or not being able to pinpoint reasons for success, the Twins now have a clear blueprint for process to drive results.
There’s room to be frustrated with the lack of pitching additions this winter. There’s legitimacy to wondering why payroll hasn’t properly been allocated. There isn’t any question about the intentions driving development and coaching, however. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have welcomed more information, and they’ve also hired and placed individuals in position to disseminate that knowledge in usable ways. We’ll see if it all works, but it’s hard not to view it as exciting.