New Minnesota Twins front office hits the ground running with Levine

Published 8:46 am Tuesday, November 8, 2016

When the Minnesota Twins hired Derek Falvey away from Cleveland to take over their baseball operations the day after the regular season concluded, they did so with the caveat that he would join the organization as soon as the Indians’ season came to an end.

Little did the Twins, or Falvey, know that the Indians would overcome several key injuries to make it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before falling to the Chicago Cubs. So five weeks after the Twins tabbed Falvey as their chief baseball officer, he was officially introduced as the new man in charge in Minnesota, and the Twins are hoping that he can one day bring the downtrodden franchise to the heights he helped Cleveland reach this fall.

Hours after Falvey and new GM Thad Levine held their opening press conference they were scheduled to fly to Arizona for baseball’s annual general manager meetings. There is no time to waste for a young duo taking over a team that won a majors-worst 59 games a year ago, has not been to the playoffs since 2010 and has not won a series since 2002.

Email newsletter signup

“The goal here is straight-forward and measurable,” Falvey said on Monday. “It’s to build a sustainable, championship-caliber team, an organization that Twins fans will be proud of.”

The Twins have long been considered behind the times when it comes to the analytics revolution in baseball, and both the 33-year-old Falvey and 44-year-old Levine, who was an assistant general manager with the Texas Rangers, have backgrounds in analytics. They are the latest in a wave of young executives who utilize analytic models to help make decisions, and they pledged to beef up the Twins’ staff in that department, and several others, to catch the organization up to speed in the modern MLB.

“We will root our decision-making in evidence-based practices, both objective and subjective in nature, which means a commitment to understanding the metrics, but always making human decisions,” Falvey said. “There is no substitute for the people and the input from our senior leadership group.”

That group includes manager Paul Molitor, who is returning for the final year of his contract, and Rob Antony, the longtime Twins executive who served as interim GM for the final three months of the season after Terry Ryan stepped down. The group planned exhaustive meetings over the next 72 hours to evaluate the roster and Molitor’s staff in hoping to arrive at some significant conclusions to allow them to start putting a plan in place to turn the team around.

“I think it represents the dawning of a new era for the franchise,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said, later adding that “both will bring vision and a strategic focus. And I think both, most importantly, are committed to achieving balance between what I would call the art and science of baseball.”

Falvey and Levine were able to do some homework on the roster and organization while they were waiting to officially join the franchise. Falvey is very close with Indians manager Terry Francona, who was able to broker the first meetings between Molitor and Falvey, who has stressed the importance of collaboration between the front office and field staff.

“I told him that he energized me,” Molitor said. “It makes you anxious a little bit to try to look at things through a little bit different lens, fully prepared to do whatever I need to do to try to incorporate some of the things they think are going to be critical to us heading in the right direction.”

But make no mistake, this is Falvey’s show. Owner Jim Pohlad said Monday that the first time he met Levine, who is clearly a major piece to the leadership puzzle for this franchise going forward, was on Sunday night. Pohlad left that process entirely up to Falvey and said that “he can make any kind of decision he wants to by himself.”

“It doesn’t stop with us,” Levine said. “If we’re doing our jobs as well as we can, our leadership team is going to be a robust group of people.”

Both said the big decisions in the immediate future will be focused more on the long-term health of the franchise than the short-term, though they would not put a timeline out there for getting back to competitiveness in the AL Central.

All-Star closer Glen Perkins said he sensed “a different kind of energy” in the room for an organization that has been known for having long-tenured staff in front office and through the minor leagues.

“It’s going to take some time,” Perkins said. “They have a big hole they have to dig their way out of, and we do as well. You win 59 games, you’ve got a long road ahead.”