Dave St. Peter hasn’t requested that Twins employees wear name tags so he can keep track of all the new faces roaming the offices at Target Field.
“Not yet,” the team president said with a laugh. “We’re running out of office space, though.”
There’s more hustle and bustle in offices at 1 Twins Way, the result of a hiring spree by Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine. It’s the build-up the Twins promised when the pair were announced a year ago as new leaders of an organization looking for a better way to win.
Since then, departments have been expanded; new blood has been brought in to mix with holdovers from the Terry Ryan regime; walls have been torn down to make room for more desks; and a different vibe has been created.
Entering the fourth floor of the club’s offices at Target Field — where most of baseball operations is located — used to be like entering the dentist’s office. Now it’s like weaving through a supermarket.
“There are people everywhere,” said Mike Radcliff, vice president in charge of player personnel. “I’m like, who are you?”
When Ryan was fired as general manager in the middle of the 2016 season, the Twins decided to make across-the-board upgrades. It’s a project that is ongoing, as they continue to build their research and development department, scouting division, player development efforts and medical services.
The sea change has reached the clubhouse, where they have added an extra coach, advance scout and nutritionist. The vision Falvey and Levine share is taking shape. More voices. Fresh views.
“I know everybody associated with our organization is buying into that,” St. Peter said. “We believe in them, and we believe in the team we are putting together in the front office, as well as on the field.”
After going 85-77 last season and reaching the wild-card round of the playoffs, an organization that has been energized by change is optimistic. With an emerging core of position players, the Twins executives head to Florida this week for the annual winter meetings looking to make moves that could help them gain ground on American League Central champion Cleveland.
“I could not be more pleased with the way the last year has played out,” St. Peter said.
The Twins have assembled a staff with an eclectic mix of backgrounds.
Their new director of minor league operations, Jeremy Zoll, is 27 years old and attended Haverford (Pa.) College. Their director of baseball operations, Daniel Adler, was hired from the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. Their minor league pitching coordinator, Pete Maki, was the pitching coach at Duke. Josh Kalk, considered to be an expert in injury-modeling as director of pitching research and development for Tampa Bay, was named senior analyst by the team Friday.
And one of their major league scouts is former Baseball America editor John Manuel, one of the most well-known figures in the industry. Falvey was with Cleveland when the Indians hired two Baseball America staffers for their baseball operations department, and he considered Manuel a good resource. Falvey was on the phone with Manuel after the 2017 playoffs ended, talking about candidates for a scouting position when Manuel said, “How about me?”
“I said let’s definitely talk about it,” Falvey said.
Manuel is now with the Twins after a lengthy run at Baseball America.
Ryan’s firing was hard on the Twins staff emotionally. He was beloved by most of the staff, and many of his hires — from scouting, player development, the coaching staff and front office — have been let go.
But those who remain admit they have been encouraged by the influx of newcomers with fresh views and different résumés.
“That is one of the positives,” Radcliff said. “Even us old guys are invigorated by that and see that and feel that, and that is a good thing. Derek and Thad, for sure, thrive off that. That is one of the things they wanted to accomplish, to bring in a new energy. That has definitely happened.”
The extra step
Falvey and Levine have influenced the folks in uniform as well.
In spring training they overhauled the menu provided to the players. Healthier meals were served daily; soda pop was banned. On road trips, visiting clubhouse attendants were presented a list of food to serve the players.
“It’s the wave of the now in professional athletics and is certainly going to be a huge part of the wave of the future,” Levine said. “We’re becoming so much more attentive to the fuel we put into these fine automobiles we are driving on the field — hopefully taking us to a championship.”
Jeremy Hefner was hired as an advance scout, but not the kind that goes to the opposing team’s games the week before they face the Twins. Hefner travels with the Twins and scouts opponents by video. The combination of what Hefner sees on his screen and statistical analysis provides players with quality intelligence.
“I like to know what the pitch is before it comes,” second baseman Brian Dozier said. “Tipping pitches and that kind of stuff. I’ve always had to rely on myself to look for that. While I’m looking the opposing pitcher’s previous start, Hef will come over and go, ‘Hey, it look like he’s doing such-and-such with his glove on his slider.’ You can talk about it rather than see it on a sheet of paper.’ ”
Dozier noticed a change in the services — he’s pumped about having a massage therapist on road trips — and information provided to players in the first year of the Falvey-Levine regime.
“You’ll get left behind if you keep trying to do the same thing rather than adapting,” Dozier said. “I think Derek and Thad have done a phenomenal job of bringing the organization up to date.”
The Twins are not done expanding their infrastructure.
The club plans to increase its research and development department (statistical analysis) with two to three more hires. They want to add to player development and are looking for a couple more scouts. They also have interviewed candidates to become their first performance director, which will be a significant investment to their medical services department.
Justin Morneau has spoken to the club about a role, which means he could join fellow former Twins stars Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer as a special assistant to the GM.
What about new players? The Twins need at least one quality starter and a couple of power arms for the bullpen. They have in-house candidates who are returning from injury, but they have been in contact with clubs about trades and representatives about their free agents.
The hot stove could be heating up as teams head to Orlando next week.
“The winter meetings seem to be a dam-breaking moment, where we could start seeing more movement,” Levine said.
Falvey and Levine have yet to make an impact player acquisition, or a blockbuster trade. And the Twins have never held a news conference in the media center at the winter meetings. It’s the final frontier.
How they have reshaped the other departments at Target Field has many optimistic they will execute a big deal this offseason.
“I would say the energy level across our organization has been as high as it has been in a long, long time,” St. Peter said, “and I think it is all the result of what I would deem positive change.”