MURPHY: Molitor feels like a 'free bird'
MINNEAPOLIS -- Paul Molitor walks like a lame duck, talks like a lame duck and will be paid next season as the lame-duck manager of the Minnesota Twins. But he approaches his third year in the dugout feeling free as a bird.
MINNEAPOLIS - Paul Molitor walks like a lame duck, talks like a lame duck and will be paid next season as the lame-duck manager of the Minnesota Twins. But he approaches his third year in the dugout feeling free as a bird.
Security is having the full-throated support of owner Jim Pohlad, the wisdom of recently turning 60, plus votes of confidence and pledges of collaboration from the ballclub's nouveau executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
Pohlad made it clear in July when Terry Ryan was fired as general manager that Molitor was his guy and the new regime would have its field manager in place.
Molitor will fulfill his three-year contract after debuting in 2015 with a 83-79 record that had the Twins in wild-card contention until the final weekend before bottoming out this year at 59-103.
Nothing is promised beyond 2017. Molitor is on the clock with his new bosses, just like everyone else at Target Field.
"I'm excited about it; it's energized me," Molitor said Monday. "It makes you a little bit ... anxious is not the right word, but to look at things a little bit differently. I'm fully prepared to do what I need to do to incorporate the things they think are going to be critical for us to get moving in the right direction."
Day-to-day is the new long term in Twins Territory, as executive vice president Falvey and his general manager Levine implement fresh strategies for acquiring and developing talent while simultaneously vetting inherited baseball bureaucrats, players and coaches to determine who will share the journey.
Molitor laughed off a question about whether his authority is compromised because he does not have a contract extension while Falvey, 33, and Levine, 44, are decades younger and flush with power.
"No. If I wasn't as peaceful as I am about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, and understanding that I turned 60 last year and these guys are young guys ... we've talked a lot about going forward together here," Molitor said.
"I'm prepared to do that. We'll just have to see where that thing goes. In the short term we're going to work on trying to get this thing going, and that's what's most important."
Molitor's paramount concern is the fate of his eight-man coaching staff, which has been in purgatory since the 2016 regular season ended five weeks ago.
Pitching coach Neil Allen likely is out given the Twins' perpetual woes on the mound and Falvey's aggressive work scouting opposing pitchers and building up the Cleveland Indians' staff in the front office of the reigning American League champs.
More sweeping changes seem inevitable following last season's atrocity.
"It's been talked about extensively," Molitor said about getting answers for his staff. "I think they both understand and respect my feeling of this being one of the more urgent things we need to address here in the short term. I'm sure it's tough for those guys to be out there."
Falvey said the coaching staff will be resolved by the end of this week's general managers meetings in Arizona. He also lauded Molitor's open-mindedness about performance expectations, communication with the front office and being a valued part of what Falvey and Levine hope is a short-term transition into a long-term contender.
"I think Paul has every expectation of trying to build this team into a winner," Falvey said. "Whether it's one year or three years, as we've seen in other organizations, a three- or a five-year deal may not necessarily protect you in the long term. It's fair to say we're going to evaluate everything in this organization and make any necessary change we think is relevant to making the Twins a successful organization again."
Molitor has communicated with Falvey via text and telephone but has barely interacted with Levine. They mostly have talked in broad strokes about sustainable success but have yet to peel back layers and evaluate the 25-man and 40-man rosters for 2017.
"Derek's got some great ideas for bringing out more with the roster we currently have, and those are the things I'll be excited to work on this offseason," Molitor said. "If they see some potential moves that might benefit us more through the next three, five, seven, eight years than it does in '17, I don't have a problem with that."
There should be no sacred cows on this roster, especially when it comes to acquiring viable starting pitching.
Second baseman Brian Dozier is a homegrown, all-star, proven run producer with a team-friendly contract that makes him a blue-chip trade asset.
This year's free-agent pitching crop is considered lean, and as the 2016 postseason reinforced, there is no limit to the premium on reliable starting pitching and versatile relievers.
"There's no one way to attack," Falvey said. "We will commit to being collaborative in our approach to pitching development. That's something I feel very strongly about. We wouldn't shut out any avenue to acquire a player or to develop a player. I expect that will be some slight change from how we've operated here, but I look forward to leading that."
Meanwhile, former interim GM Rob Antony is poised to find a new role working under Falvey and Levine after succeeding Ryan but failing to win either of the new jobs outright. His nuts-and-bolts background on current player histories and contracts make him a valuable partner during the offseason transition.
"It's really not about titles," Antony said. "It's about inclusion and wanting to be part of the solution, wanting to win. I grew up 15 minutes from here. I just want to win again. Would I have loved to be the one? Sure. Was I little disappointed? Sure, for about a day or two.
"Then, when I talked to both of these guys, I was excited about it. They have a lot of ideas. We can do some things differently. Really, the end goal is the same as when Terry was here."
The incumbent tryouts have begun.