Adam Friedman Verified Member Posted March 30 Share Posted March 30 Over the first six years of the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine era, the Twins have been up and down. They've made the playoffs three times, including two division titles. Yet, they are coming off two straight losing seasons, putting into question whether this regime will see an eighth season leading the organization. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Heading into 2021, it seemed evident that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had things under control. They modernized the organization analytically, assembled a farm system of players seemingly ready to make an instant impact, and had just won two straight division titles – the franchise's first since 2010. The organization seemed poised for sustainable success with its leadership's thoughtful, cutting-edge decision-making steering the ship. There have always been critics of this front office, but on the back of 2021 and 2022, they have grown louder and multiplied. Some will question the regime's competency, others will criticize their lack of an "ace," and a vocal group of critics will question whether their entire philosophy and reliance on data is the right way to run a baseball team. Let's examine what this group has done well and poorly to evaluate whether the boisterous critics of Falvey and Levine are onto something. Front Office Strengths Development of Homegrown Major League Bats Terry Ryan, a scout by trade, always prided himself on putting together rosters built around cores of homegrown position player talent. This ability to construct a nucleus of quality hitters drafted or acquired via international free agency has carried over to the current regime. It's a critical skill when working with a middling payroll. The Twins can distribute their funds to a few extra quality players because they have team-friendly structures with most position players. Beyond utilizing those homegrown bats in everyday roles, they have shown an ability to develop hitters that they can flip in trades – even if they weren't top picks. That allowed them to acquire Tyler Mahle, and it could come into play again at this deadline when trying to bolster a playoff-caliber roster. Increased Aggression in Acquiring High-End Talent Under the current front office, the Twins have shown a more aggressive approach than the previous regime when acquiring high-end talent, and they've continued grown more emboldened over seven years at the helm. We first saw that when they acquired Nelson Cruz ahead of the 2019 season. That aggression grew when they signed Josh Donaldson to a record free agent deal. While this contract didn't pan out, it made a statement. They traded Donaldson while he still had some value, which enabled them to pay Carlos Correa, breaking the Donaldson contract record. Of course, they eventually shattered Correa's record when they re-signed him. Add in various trades – including the ones that brought in all five of this year's starting rotation members – and the increased aggressiveness is undeniable. Front Office Weaknesses Bullpen Construction and Reliever Free Agents One common thread between the losing seasons in 2021 and 2022 was bullpen meltdowns from newly acquired pitchers. In 2021, Alex Colomé deflated the team and its fans with his early-season implosions. In 2022, the Twins traded Taylor Rogers for Emilio Pagán. He held it together for a bit but memorably cost the Twins multiple times against Cleveland as the Guardians sped away in the divisional race. Beyond those memorable blowups, they have repeatedly tried to sign relief pitchers on small short-term deals, but most haven't worked out either. Due to the volatility of relievers, building a good bullpen is extremely difficult, but the Twins have rarely had enough homegrown arms or capable enough external additions to do so. It may be different this season, but it's one thing to have a good group on paper and another for them to succeed in games. Starting Pitching Development and Free Agent Acquisitions When the Pohlads tapped Falvey as president of baseball operations, they touted him for his role in building the terrific pitching development pipeline in Cleveland. However, Falvey has yet to materialize that level of pitching development success in Minnesota. To this point, Bailey Ober is the only homegrown starting pitcher that has proven to be major-league caliber during the Falvey and Levine era. Others may be on the precipice, including Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, and David Festa. However, they all have yet to prove they can be quality starters at the major-league level. Beyond the lack of internal development, the front office has invested very little into starting pitchers on the free agent market. Most of their free agent starter acquisitions have been bargain-bin signings, like Homer Bailey, Dylan Bundy and Matt Shoemaker. Most of those did not work out, with their only successful free agent starter addition being Michael Pineda. Not developing starting pitching and not paying for it in free agency has been one of the most significant flaws of this regime. They may have put together a good rotation for 2023 via trade, but the development of their starting pitching prospects this season will be a crucial storyline to monitor. If the strengths remain strong and they have improved their weaknesses, the front office should have put together a winning team in 2023. If so, their future will be clearer as the organization's leaders. However, if their bullpen construction weakness rears its head again and tanks their season, and we don't see progress in developing quality starters, the Twins may be at the point of considering a front-office shakeup. Ownership is investing in this team like never before and that comes with heightened expectations. View full article glunn 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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