Twins' first order of offseason business: Determine future of manager Paul Molitor
MINNEAPOLIS — While Twins players looked forward to success they believe was kick-started by this season's postseason appearance, the team's first since 2010, a series of personnel decisions hovered close by.
Minnesota's season ended with an 8-4 loss to the Yankees Tuesday, Oct. 3, in New York, a wild card playoff appearance that made the Twins the first major league team to lose 100 games in a season and make the postseason the next.
Hall of fame player and St. Paul native Paul Molitor led the way in his third season as manager, but his status will be the first order of business for new front-office leaders Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Molitor, 61, is the odds-on favorite to be named American League manager of the year but does not have a contract for next season.
Falvey and Levine inherited Molitor when they were hired last fall and could have other ideas for next season after working around multiple managerial changes in Cleveland (Eric Wedge, Manny Acta, Terry Francona) and Texas (Buck Showalter, Ron Washington, Jeff Banister), respectively.
Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations, has commented on Molitor's contract situation this season only to say that it will be addressed at the end of the season.
"He's our skipper; he's our leader," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said. "He does so much for having his hands in on every single thing that helps us. Not just hitting, but base-running and pitching. When you've got a guy like that, you feel lucky. One hundred percent, I speak for everybody else in here, we hope he's back."
And yet, baseball managers are hired to be fired.
"You know what, I've been around the game for a little while now and I've seen a lot of things happen," Dozier said. "I don't know if I'm confident, because I've seen crazier things happen, but I do know we all love Mollie and we hope he's back."
With six players under contract for $70.4 million in 2018 and several veterans coming off the books — Hector Santiago ($8 million), Glen Perkins ($5.8 million after a buyout) among them — the Twins should be able to do some reconfiguring this offseason.
A seven-man arbitration class that includes key contributors Kyle Gibson, Eduardo Escobar, Robbie Grossman, Ryan Pressly, Chris Gimenez, Ehire Adrianza and possibly Eddie Rosario will have to be negotiated.
Decisions also must be made on veteran free agents such as Bartolo Colon, who turns 45 next May, and 37-year-old fill-in closer Matt Belisle. Dozier, who will make $9 million next year before heading to free agency, could prompt a new round of trade inquiries, as well, after spending the bulk of last winter on the shopping block.
"I've got one more year on my contract," Dozier said, "and I'm almost certain that we'll be back and we'll try to do this same thing again but be on the winning side."
He smiled when pressed on his choice of phrase.
"Almost certain," Dozier repeated.