Word Is Twins Falvey Wants Long Stay
With the emergence of the 2019 Twins as one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, the franchise’s front office leader, 36-year-old Derek Falvey, could be coveted by other organizations—and soon.
Falvey grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts near Boston. His home town is about a 20 minute car ride from Fenway Park, the historic home of the legendary Boston Red Sox organization that is looking for a new leader of its baseball operations. Twins president Dave St. Peter was asked by Sports Headliners if he expected the Red Sox to request permission to talk with Falvey, who received a five-year contract with Minnesota after being hired as chief baseball officer in November of 2016.
“I don’t know that,” St. Peter said. “What I do know is Derek and his wife (Meghan) love Minnesota. They’re incredibly committed to this community and what we’re trying to build with the Twins. Derek will speak for himself but I know that based on my time with him, his 100 percent focus is on Minnesota, and that’s where he wants …to be for a long, long time.”
Falvey will be a favorite to win the MLB Executive of the Year. The Twins, who finished with a 78-84 record last season, are among the biggest of surprise stories in baseball this year. Minnesota has a 101-60 record heading into today’s final regular season game against the Kansas City Royals, and can tie the 1965 team’s record of 102 wins in one season. The club has won a near franchise record number of games, led the AL Central for most of this season, shown both a remarkable consistency and resiliency, and hit a MLB record number of home runs, 304.
Other organizations will now look at the Twins when contemplating how to fill their staff needs on the big league and farm system levels. That doesn’t necessarily mean Falvey, GM Thad Levine or manager Rocco Baldelli will be leaving Minnesota but personnel further down on the organizational chart almost certainly will.
“The more success that we have, the more likely it is we’re going to lose some people to other organizations,” St. Peter acknowledged. “It’s just part of the deal. I’d much rather have that problem than have an organization that nobody is seeking anybody from.”
When Falvey was hired he quickly brought Levine to the Twins. The two have formed a close partnership. Their ideas, vision and personnel hires have changed the culture and the way the Twins operate. The franchise has invested in people, technology, systems and processes that have paid off and indicate future success, too.
“Derek is (an) incredibly intelligent, very relationship-focused individual,” St. Peter said. “In many ways we think he is the perfect leader for a modern baseball team.”
When St. Peter and the Pohlad family were looking for a new front office leader they learned from talking with candidates there was a high regard for the younger players in the organization. Falvey benefitted from the start in having developing talents like Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Taylor Rogers and Miguel Sano under contract. They have been among the most signicant contributors to the surprising turnaround. But Falvey and helpers have brought in impact talent, too, including Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo, Jason Castro, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Odorizzi and Nelson Cruz, the veteran team leader and a popular choice for Twins MVP.
The decision by Falvey and Levine to fire manager Paul Molitor after last season was risky. Popular with the fan base and media, Molitor had been voted AL Manager of the Year in 2017. The decision to terminate him didn’t make sense to Molitor admirers and with the move Falvey and Levine positioned themselves for public ridicule in 2019 and beyond if Baldelli and the club failed on the field.
The 38-year-old Baldelli, who never managed before, took control of the Twins like he was a professor of the dugout and clubhouse. Baldelli has been unflappable in public, never berating players on the field or in the media. He and his staff, a reorganized group of coaches, have built trust with the players who are a diverse group with varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
“I think he (Baldelli) realizes that every player is different,” St. Peter said. “He has to have maybe a little different approach with one guy versus the next. But he also recognizes playing this game is hard and playing it over the course of 162 games in 180 days is really hard. There’s going to be ups and there’s going to be a lot of downs.
“There’s going to be some success but there’s going to be a lot more failures for every player. I think…Rocco understands that his role as the leader in this organization is to support those guys, to put them in a position to be successful.”
That success will have the Twins opening the postseason in New York against the Yankees on Friday. Minnesota’s road record, 55-25, is better than its 46-35 record for the home season in Minneapolis. “We’ve played incredibly well on the road so starting on the road in the postseason is not much of a concern,” St. Peter said. “It may even be an advantage.”
The Twins hope to have most of their injured players available for the postseason but reliever Sam Dyson, acquired in a trade with the Giants in July, may not even be with the club until 2021. He had shoulder surgery last week, and there is controversy whether he was injured when the Twins dealt for him. St. Peter doesn’t expect his club will receive future compensation from the Giants.
St. Peter is “bullish” about the Twins’ chances of competing for championships beyond this year. Despite a long list of expiring contracts, he expects the personnel core to return next season and that group could be blended with prospects the organization is optimistic about. That has the Twins president hopeful regarding competing for championships the next three seasons and beyond.
Owner Jim Pohlad was with the team last week when the Twins clinched the Central Division title. St. Peter believes the success was vindication for Pohlad who he thinks has been unfairly criticized by fans over the years as unwilling to spend money.
“It’s quite the opposite,” St. Peter said. “Jim has invested mightily in people, in process systems and facilities.”
St. Peter sees the support of the Pohlad family as providing a competitive advantage for the franchise. “Jim does not set a hard and fast budget (payroll) for our players. Derek Falvey has the autonomy to run our baseball operations. If you asked Derek, I think he would tell you that never once had Jim told him he could not do something.”