Someone had to be the scapegoat.
Coming into the season, the Twins were expected to not only compete for a third straight AL Central division title but also to get some elusive playoff wins. There were legitimate World Series aspirations.
Then came April. Things went bad, quick, and the Twins found themselves needing to win eight of their final 12 games just to avoid 90 losses. Regardless, the team finished in last place in the AL Central.
The old saying goes, “You can’t fire all the players, so…” Well, someone had to be the scapegoat. On Wednesday, hitting coach Edgar Varela was that guy.
The Twins didn’t immediately replace him with another bench coach, but Kevin Morgan eventually took on the job in the interim. He stayed in the role until the end of the season, but the assumption was that he would be reassigned at season’s end and the team would interview for the new bench coach.
Morgan will be reassigned to player development. He had been hired as the Minor League Field Coordinator before the 2020 season. Presumably he’ll take on that role again, or something similar.
Bill Evers is retiring, as we know. So, his role will also need to be filled.
These two open positions are certainly not surprising.
Back to co-hitting coach Edgar Varela, the team’s scapegoat for their disappointing 2021 season. After the Twins historic 2019 offensive season, then-hitting coach James Rowson became the Marlins offensive coordinator. Varela was hired as the hitting coach. In addition, the word “assistant’ was removed from assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez’s title. Hernandez was given credit by a lot of the players in 2019, and he will remain on the staff.
Like Morgan, Varela came to the Twins organization recently. He became the minor league field coordinator before the 2019 season after several season as a coach in the Pirates organization. A year later, he was a big-league hitting coach.
While the offense wasn’t great in 2021, it was not the biggest issue on the team. There were a lot of strikeouts. The batting average dropped some. While several hitters struggled, it was good to see Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver return to 2019 form. It was good to see Miguel Sano make some midseason adjustments and took off in the second half.
Here is how the Twins ranked among the 30 MLB teams in several offensive categories:
- Batting Average (.241): 17th
- On-Base Percentage (.314): 17th
- Slugging Percentage (.423): 9th
- PS (.738): 11th
- Doubles (271): 11th
- Home Runs (228): 5th
- Runs (729): 14th
- Walks (525): 17th
- Strikeouts (1,405): 14th
To summarize, while the Twins offense wasn’t great, it was approximately league average, maybe slightly above.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff crumbled. Jose Berrios was very good until traded in July. Taylor Rogers was an All Star and was terrific until injured in late July. However, Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ didn’t work as Twins starters and both were jettisoned. Michael Pineda missed time with injuries. Kenta Maeda needed Tommy John surgery. Even the second tier, the depth, was hurt. Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer were all hurt most of the season. On the positive side, Bailey Ober, the team's top rookie, is clearly a great example of what the Twins pitcher development philosophy is; increased velocity and use the analytics to get increased missed bats.
Here is where the Twins pitching staff ranked among the 30 MLB teams:
- ERA (4.83): 26th
- WHIP (1.32): 18th
- H/9 (8.8): 22nd
- BB/9 (3.1): 7th
- K/9 (8.4): 22nd
- HR/9 (1.5): 25th
That’s not to say that pitching coach Wes Johnson should have been reassigned. He certainly built up enough equity over his first two seasons to get some leeway. The Twins pitching staff was a top ten staff the previous two seasons.
2022 Twins Coaching Staff
- Manager: Rocco Baldelli
- Bench Coach: Job Open
- Hitting Coach: Rudy Hernandez
- Hitting Coach: Job Open
- Pitching Coach: Wes Johnson
- Assistant Pitching Coach/Bullpen Coach: Pete Maki
- 1B Coach/Outfield Coach: Tommy Watkins
- 3B Coach/Infield Coach: Tony Diaz
- MLB Coach: Job Open
And, with fewer limitations on MLB coaching staff, they could hire even more coaches.
Listen, Edgar Varela probably didn’t deserve to get demoted, but to be fair, he wasn’t fired. The front office recognizes that he brings value to the organization and that value will be seen in the player development group. And the organization will look for a hitting coach that complements Rudy Hernandez.
In his time with the Twins, Rocco Baldelli has been helped by strong bench coaches. In 2019, Derek Shelton was the runner-up for the managerial job and stuck around. He was very well respected and ended up getting the Pittsburgh Pirates manager job after the season. In 2020, Mike Bell was the bench coach after spending time in the Diamondbacks front office. He was already getting some managerial interviews last year.
So will the Twins go with another baseball person without big-league managerial experience? Or, could someone like Jayce Tingler, who was just fired by the Padres, be an ideal candidate for the job?
Bill Evers was the one coach on staff who worked with catchers, so it’s also likely that someone hired will be responsible for working with the backstops.
It’s going to be an interesting offseason, and with these moves, it has begun.
In addition, Edwar Colina was claimed off of waivers by the Texas Rangers. The hard-throwing righty had bone chips removed from his throwing elbow earlier this season and it was announced on Wednesday that he had a second procedure on his elbow recently.
I have also heard that Andrew Albers has been DFAd. It’s also likely that several other Twins players have been, or will soon be, DFAd. The team had 49 players on the 40-man roster, with nine players on the 60-Day IL. They have a lot of roster management moves to make in the very near future.