A 26-win improvement from 2016 to 2017 suggests that Twins manager Paul Molitor has steered the ship back on course.
The Twins vastly outperformed expectations to finish 85-77 this season, good for second place in the American League Central and a spot in the wild-card game Tuesday against the Yankees — which they lost 8-4. The feeling around 1 Twins Way is that the window of opportunity for the club to compete has cracked open.
But success doesn’t mean there won’t be change. And change could be coming quickly, at the hands of Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine.
Indications are that Falvey and Levine were meeting with Molitor on Wednesday about his future, talks that could continue into Thursday. Members of the coaching staff will have their season-ending meetings with the club Thursday and learn who will and won’t return in 2018.
“There will be a whole bunch of things we need to get down to right away,” owner Jim Pohlad said from Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.
Molitor has finished with a winning record in two of his three seasons leading the Twins, and he is among the favorites for the AL manager of the year after his team’s unexpected success this season. But the brain trust has elected to wait until the end of the season before deciding on his future.
Molitor, when asked about his future in the moments following the Twins’ loss to the Yankees, declined to comment.
Pohlad, who insisted Molitor remain as manager in 2017 before hiring Falvey to run the baseball department, said he had not been given any recommendations by Falvey about who he wants to manage next season.
“They have to make their case, that’s for sure,” Pohlad said, “but it’s [Falvey and Levine’s] call.”
Pohlad, through a club spokesman Wednesday, reiterated that it’s Falvey’s decision on who manages the club.
While Molitor’s future is unclear, change also could come to the coaching staff, as Falvey and Levine search for a cohesive unit to help guide the team.
In what might or might not be a related development, according to a baseball source, the club has been in discussions with former Twin Justin Morneau about a role with the club.
Pitching coach Neil Allen’s future is up in the air again, despite progress made by young arms such as righthander Jose Berrios and relievers Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger. Allen also worked to distance himself from a DUI arrest in May of 2016.
During a phone conversation Wednesday, Allen said he was relieved to move on from that embarrassing time, and is optimistic about the future of the pitching staff.
“Based on where we were at last year, I could not be happier,” Allen said. “but [Falvey and Levine] are new guys, and they might decide to go in another direction.”
Jim Hickey, whose 11-year run as Tampa Bay’s pitching coach ended earlier this week, could interest the Twins.
Among other staffers, hitting coach James Rowson and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado are under contract for 2018. First base coach Jeff Smith and major league coach Jeff Pickler joined prior to this season. Assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez and third base coach Gene Glynn were hired along with Molitor before the 2015 season. Bench coach Joe Vavra has served various roles on the major league staff since 2006.
Since Falvey and Levine have joined forces, there has been personnel turnover in baseball operations, research, scouting and player development. Changes to the coaching staff could be next.