Friday, January 13, 2017

New Front Office Has Two Futures In The Air

The Minnesota Twins removed Terry Ryan as general manager last season, and in doing so, brought in a completely new way of thinking in the form of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. While there's plenty of reason to believe the new structure will work better, there's question as to how what's in place will be handled. For the most part, a roster overhaul isn't a one offseason thing, but there's two players that could see their fate hang in the balance.

First comes in the form of Byungho Park. He was a surprise signing by the Twins last offseason, and was expected to come in and take over the designated hitter duties. There was some concern that Park simply added more of a logjam to the list of DH/1B types for the Twins, but the narrative didn't play out in his favor. A prolific home run hitter in Korea, he struggled mightily in the big leagues, and the strikeouts outweighed the power production.

What's worth bringing up with Park though, is that he dealt with a wrist injury for much of his rookie season stateside. I am in the camp that believes he pressed, and tried to play through the pain a bit more than he let on. Given the overall success of Korean players in the big leagues, Park being arguably the best hitter to ever come over, appears as a massive outlier when looking at his major league production.

Neither Derek Falvey nor Thad Levine had input on the $24.8 million that was invested in the Korean slugger. While it's a substantial amount, teams have cut bait with much worse. Despite their lack of involvement in the deal, I find it hard to believe that Park won't again be in the Twins plans this season. Joe Mauer doesn't profile as a regular anymore, and I'd prefer Park over Kennys Vargas defensively. Given the belief I have in the upside, as well as the reality that Vargas has another option year to his name, I think the new front office allows Park another chance to flash his stuff in the majors.

On the flip side of the coin, I'm not so sure that catcher John Ryan Murphy will be given the same benefit of the doubt. Acquired by Ryan when he dealt former top prospect Aaron Hicks to the Yankees, Murphy was supposed to come in and take away the starting catcher role from Kurt Suzuki. Unfortunately, Murphy managed just 26 games at the MLB level, and his .413 OPS was an incredibly disappointing showing.

Neither Falvey nor Levine have any skin in the game when it comes to either Hicks or Murphy. Given that reality, it's not necessarily on their record to care whether or not the Twins look like the exchange had any benefit for the organization. On top of that, Murphy did little to earn his way back up while at Triple-A. He owned just a .609 OPS in over 80 games, and he struggle to throw out base stealers nabbing just 21% of them.

This offseason, the Twins have signed Jason Castro to be their starting catcher. On top of that, they brought in former Indians catcher Chris Gimenez, and have minors depth with Mitch Garver, Dan Rohlfing, and Eddy Rodriguez. There was real weight to the argument that Garver outplayed Murphy a season ago, and he should be given some extra belief because of that as we head into 2017. The Triple-A team isn't going to carry four catchers, and while I'd doubt Minnesota cuts ties with Murphy, I would be far from shocked if he's relegated to a backup minor league role.

When a new front office comes in, it's obvious they are dealt a hand left over from whatever was in place prior to their arrival. It's been a relatively difficult challenge to handle the Brian Dozier scenario right out of the gate I'd imagine, but when it comes to more roster filling players, the new men in charge will have their opportunity to put faith behind who they best see fit. Park and Murphy are hardly the only players in this camp. Honestly, Vargas, Danny Santana, and even someone like Buddy Boshers could all join them. Watching how the duo navigates the spring will definitely be worthwhile.

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