Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Twins Final Phase

The Minnesota Twins have seen some significant turnover in the past few years. From a new front office, to a handful of new faces in the dugout and on the field, the organization has assumed a significantly different shape. Over the course of all the changes, there's been lots of good momentum with regards to the direction of the franchise. In fact, it could be suggested that the front office has been near flawless in their personnel decisions. Near flawless comes with a caveat however, and that's the final phase.

Heading into the offseason prior to the 2018 Major League Baseball season, Minnesota had plenty of opportunity. Coming off of a postseason berth, the arrow for the ballclub appeared to be pointing straight up. Given how much young talent filled the 25 man roster, spending to supplement that group finally made sense for the front office. With the opportunity in front of them, Derek Falvey and thad Levine performed admirably.

Although Minnesota didn't and Yu Darvish, they were heavily involved on arguably the premiere player available. Pivoting to other assets, Falvey and Levine bolstered the bullpen and rotation, while also tacking on some help for an already imposing lineup. When the dust settle on the open market, there was no other conclusion to draw aside from the reality that the Twins hit a home run. In the offseason, Minnesota dominated.

Fast forward to where we are today, and the Twins can look back on a season that lay in ruins. From top contributors falling flat, injuries coming at inopportune times, and key free agents giving the club little, the front office was pushed into sell mode. Making five separate deals, Falvey and Levine flipped four players who are set to be free agents at season's end. Two of those players were signed on one-year deals, making them either assets to a competitive team here, or beneficial trade chips to an organization in position to go for it. Knowing full well that those five players would head out of town leaving Minnesota nothing to show for them, the front office generated 12 new assets in exchange.

Much like the offseason, the trade deadline was another effort that highlighted the ability of Minnesota's front office. This duo maximized opportunity, and continued to be a forward thinking collective that best positions the on-field product for future success.

That leaves just one key area to examine, and it's part of where it all went wrong. What took place during the season itself?

From an outsider's perspective it's hard to fully attribute what level of control each party has in roster decisions. While Derek Falvey and Thad Levine likely have ultimate rule, they've coined collaboration as their calling card since joining the club. With Paul Molitor in tow, there's little argument to be made that his voice doesn't carry some weight as well. It's in the way moves have been handled as a whole that leaves me scratching my head.

It's hard to quantify what impact each decision has had on a wins and losses level, but there's no doubt in my mind that the bottom line has been impacted. Ryan LaMarre was given significantly more run than he should have been, Alan Busenitz hasn't been handled properly, Mitch Garver has experienced terrible playing time issues, and Matt Belisle remains among the worst signings across all of baseball this season.  Although the more egregious examples, there's been plenty of other questionable hiccups along the way.

You'd be hard pressed to argue that Paul Molitor's job wasn't entirely spared by winning Manager of the Year a season ago. He was never the choice of this front office, and has often looked inept when it comes to in game strategy. There's no evidence to suggest front office decisions have been made forcing Molitor to play with half of a deck, but the skipper seems insistent upon doing that to himself at times. As a collective, the front office and manager have done less with more on the field during 2018 and that's an issue needing to be addressed.

Going into the offseason, it's a possibility that Molitor could find himself relieved of his duties. Whether or not that takes place, and it probably doesn't need to, the focus for 2019 needs to be upon executing the final phase of comeptition. While stacking the roster in your favor through free agency and development is ideal, promotion, selection, and delegation of playing time dictates how effective those efforts are. Getting the most out of the assets available to you is an area Minnesota must take a step forward in for the year ahead.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the final phase, but it's also one that collaboration has a very real ability to address.