It might not take long for the Twins to start making moves with 2019 in mind.
Early next week, the front office is expected to meet with manager Paul Molitor about the soon-to-be completed season and discuss the future of his coaching staff. Given that the club failed to build on last year’s run to an AL wild-card berth, changes are not out of the question.
“Typically, in the first week of the offseason you get everything, generally, cleaned up relative to what you think you are going to do moving forward,” Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said in an interview Wednesday. “Those are conversations that are going to happen internally with our group, with Paul and we will go from there.”
And will those meetings also might focus on Molitor’s status for next season. During an interview Wednesday, Twins owner Jim Pohlad would not give Molitor a vote of confidence, preferring to wait until he meets with Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine once the season ends.
“I have no idea what they are going to come with,” Pohlad said. “No matter if we win the World Series or have a disappointing season like this, they are going to come with recommendations. Some of those recommendations could be personnel changes, some could be methodology changes. I don’t know but I look forward to that.”
Molitor, who is under contract for next season, has said that he wants to return. Saturday, he expressed optimism that he will have the same staff to work with next season.
“I haven’t talked about it much,” Molitor said when asked if he thought all his coaches would return next season. “In my mind, when I have my exit meetings with our front office people this week, I’m sure we’ll discuss all those things. I don’t even know the status for who is locked in [contractually] next year. I think they’re on different schedules.
“I’m optimistic about us being able to stay together.”
The Twins entered Saturday having scored 725 runs, a drop offensively from the 815 runs they scored a season ago — which was the most since 2009. Their team OPS (on base-plus-slugging percentage) last season was ninth overall in baseball, at .768. This year the Twins were 20th at .722. Injuries to Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton and the 80-suspension handed to Jorge Polanco for performance-enhancing drugs definitely hurt run production. And the enigma that is Buxton’s hitting will be at the top of list of challenges for hitting coach James Rowson if he returns next season.
The pitching staff posted a 4.59 ERA in 2017, and the group entered Saturday with a 4.52 ERA. But the group showed some encouraging signs in Garvin Alston’s first season as pitching coach. Twins pitchers entered Saturday with 1,353 strikeouts, a jump from 1,166 last season, and the 198 home runs were 26 fewer than a year ago.
Defensively, the Twins were middle of the pack in defensive runs saved. They were among the better AL teams in defense at first base and right field, a tip of the cap to Joe Mauer and Max Kepler, respectively. But Twins shortstops ranked near the bottom.
Ultimately, the front office will have to decide if they need more from their coaching staff to get the most out of their players next season — and if they need to change things up to achieve that. In addition to Alston and Rowson, Jeff Pickler, coordinator of major league development, and bench coach Derek Shelton have been brought in by Falvey and Levine. Third base coach Gene Glynn, assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado were appointed by Molitor before the 2015 season. First base coach Jeff Smith was brought up from the minors before the 2017 season.
Will Falvey and Levine decide that more new blood is needed? Falvey would not drop any hints about what his plans are — although the Twins have made changes to their coaching staff in three of their past four offseasons.
“At this point, I’m not going to speculate on it,” Falvey said. “Until we have those conversations, I don’t think it is fair to put anyone in that position right now, and we have not had those conversations yet.”