MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears both St. Paul boys are leaving the Twins.
Two days after Joe Mauer played what will likely be the last game of his 15-year major league career, Paul Molitor has been fired as manager, a year after he was named American League manager of the year for leading the Twins back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
"One of the most difficult conversations of certainly my career, and maybe of my life," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said.
As with Mauer, who has left open the possibility of returning next season, Molitor has the option to stay in a different capacity, and Falvey hopes he accepts it. He just doesn't want him to be the Twins' manager.
“A lot has transpired over the past 12 months with our club, and where we are, and we are not where we need to be right now and we know we have to take different steps moving forward, and some of that’s going to be with an eye toward the development of a long-term future,” Falvey said.
“I think Paul generally understands that part of this. We need to continue to do evolve and grow and develop. But at this stage, I felt like this was the right long-term decision despite some of the short-term difficulty.”
Molitor, like Mauer a St. Paul native and graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall, was the AL manager of the year after leading the Twins to a wild-card player berth in 2017. The Twins still owe him about $3 million on that deal.
Molitor, 62, was unavailable for comment.
Falvey said negotiations for his extension also included what Molitor’s future with the Twins might look like if he weren’t managing. “We felt like now was the time to have that conversation,” he said.
The Twins were expected to contend for a Central Division title this season but stumbled out of the gate and never recovered, in large part because key players such as Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton missed significant time because of injuries early.
Offseason acquisitions such as designated hitter Logan Morrison, and starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn, were major disappointments, as well. The Twins ended their season with a six-game winning streak to finish 78-84.
Molitor told reporters last month he was eager to return, and he expressed optimism that the team could rebound next season.
“I’m disappointed,” Molitor said before Sunday’s season finale, a 5-4 victory over the White Sox at Target Field. “I don’t get wrapped up in the automatic ‘next year will be better and we’ll pick up where we left off and take the next step,’ but you do think those things, and you imagine that it could happen.
“I don’t make any excuses for where we are; we have to claim that. There have been things that have been good and things that we need to get better at, but I think my biggest reaction to the entire year is we’re not where we want to be.”
Molitor was a Hall of Fame player who finished his 21-year career with three seasons with the Twins. After graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall, he played baseball with the Gophers until being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round. He finished his major league career with 3,319 hits, 530 of them as a member of the Twins.
Molitor’s coaching staff has been given permission to look for employment with other teams, but Falvey said some are still under contract, and some of them could be retained. The Twins let go of longtime strength and conditioning coach Perry Castellano and assistant Erik Beiser on Tuesday, as well as a number of lower-level minor league coaches.
Because the decision to fire Molitor wasn’t final until Tuesday, Falvey said the search for a new manager is just kicking into gear. He promised it will be “exhaustive,” and team president Dave St. Peter said the team has “an impressive list of candidates.”
“I think it's going to be important that we be aggressive, but we have to be realistic,” St. Peter said. “Some of the candidates that are likely to rise to the top are probably going to be involved in the postseason, so we're going to need to be respectful of that, as well.
“I also think there are number of managerial openings, and that it’s going to be competitive for the top talent, and that's why we're prepared to start on immediately.”