The Twins’ vision of their baseball operations department isn’t just about crunching more numbers than ever before. It’s about crafting teams with heart, character, chemistry and fire.
And they have reached out to their recent past for help in those areas.
The club Monday announced that former Twins Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer have joined the organization as special assistants to baseball operations. They will assist Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and Senior Vice President/GM Thad Levine in various roles, roles that will take advantage of their strengths in the clubhouse while also challenging them to learn how a front office works.
“This is about as close as a no-brainer as it gets in this game,” Falvey said during a conference call. “When you talk with them and you get to know what they are passionate about, what they believe in. How they believe in organizational philosophy and consistency as a group. Those three guys really said everything about the impact they can make with young players, having recently played the game, the perspective they bring and the experience they bring.”
They were teammates in 2003 and 2004, seasons in which the Twins won the AL Central division championship. Those teams weren’t known for being loaded with top-end talent as much as they were known for being unified groups that were able to grind through a season.
Those are traits recent Twins teams appear to lack — except in 2015, when the Twins went 83-79. That year, Hunter returned for this final season.
It’s not the missing piece to the puzzle — good pitching can do wonders for chemistry too — but all three can help build the type of clubhouse culture that appears to be lacking.
Hunter, Hawkins and Cuddyer all retired following the 2015 season. They knew if there was one team they wanted to work for once their playing days were over, it was the Twins.
And they all feel they can help the organization return to its winning ways, using their experiences as prospects who moved through the farm system to reach the majors and eventually become productive players who appeared in double-digit playoff games.
“We all had the same personalities,” Hawkins said. “We loved our teammates. We reached out to our teammates. We engaged our teammates. I think that’s an aspect of the game that goes unnoticed that I know the young players don’t do.”
They will be in uniform during spring training as special instructors. During the regular season they will help with the development of the major league team in various ways. Cuddyer will help with position player development, Hawkins with pitcher development and Hunter will lend his expertise to the building of the right culture and environment in the clubhouse.
All three will hit the road to assess minor leaguers, help with scouting for the draft and offer opinions on player acquisitions. Being in the draft room or involved in trade discussions will expose them to a different side of the game.
“We’ll do whatever they tell us to do,” Hunter said. “At the same time, we want to learn the ins and outs [of baseball operations] because we have played for so long.”
Add bullpen coach Eddie Guardado and Class AA Chattanooga manager Doug Mientkiewicz, and that’s five players from the 2000’s who are involved in the organization.
“By no means are we miracle workers,” Cuddyer said. “We put in our work and have a good blueprint and an idea of what we think works. But this is a collaboration with everybody as we try to come up with answers.”