The Minnesota Twins formalized what had been rumored for a few days on Tuesday, as they extended manager Paul Molitor on a three-year deal that’ll keep him at the helm of the club through the 2020 season.
Financial terms were not made available, but Molitor — who addressed media in the clubhouse on Tuesday morning at Target Field — noted that the Pohlad family has always treated him well, and that continues to this day.
“What the Pohlad family has done for myself over the past 20 years is something that I’m very grateful for,” Molitor said. “We talked about it three years ago, about having this opportunity as a native Minnesotan and coming full circle coming back here to manage the team I idolized as a young child growing up in St. Paul. This year brought a lot of positive things that we are trying to move forward in as we try to attain our goal of getting back to being a World Series champion — something I talked about three years ago. I’m very grateful with Thad (Levine) and Derek (Falvey) that our relationship has continued to grow throughout the year, and that (following the conclusion of the season) — after New York — we got on the same page moving forward.”
While the decision was not immediate, the work on the negotiations more or less was. The team landed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport around four or five in the morning following the loss to the Yankees last Tuesday night, and within a few hours both sides were already at the negotiating table.
Molitor estimated it was 10 hours after the plane touched down that he was back in their company to try hammer something out. Falvey laughed, and added that it might have been even less than that.
“I think Paul had said it was less than 10 hours, but I think it had been less than eight,” Falvey said. “I’m not sure we had that much sleep after landing that morning.”
The one concession made by Molitor that is publicly known is that pitching coach Neil Allen was dismissed. That wasn’t a decision taken lightly, but ultimately the overarching decision by the organization was to take it in another direction.
“Changing coaches is a hard thing,” Molitor said. “We experienced that last year. You do build friendships, trust and all those types of things. I feel that Neil and I had a good relationship. I consider him a “late in life”-found friend. It’s difficult to make those calls. I think collectively we’ve decided that we’re going to try pursue someone in that role that will help push our pitching forward. I have a lot of gratitude for what Neil’s input was. I think I can go through the list of people he coached at this level over the past few years, and I know there was a lot of positive impact. But we decided we wanted to make a change in that regard. We’ve had some discussions about where we might go and people we might have interest in, but that obviously takes time as that process unfolds.”
Falvey declined to offer much in terms of specifics as far as who the new pitching coach may be, but did say the team has already started cobbling together a list of what they’d like to have in addition to perhaps a list of people to consider.
That’s not atypical even in an offseason where movement in a coaching staff is not expected, he added.
“We’ll evaluate,” Falvey said. “We’ve gone down the path of putting lists together. It’s something you are always thinking about and should be prepared for at the end of the season. You don’t know if sometimes you’re going to lose a coach to another organization for other opportunities — such as a manager or bench coach or otherwise — so it’s our job to be prepared going into the offseason every year with lists of different people. I would say we’ve started that process and those conversations over the last couple days around potential replacements for our pitching coach in particular, but also just to be prepared in the event that something else were to occur through the course of the offseason. We want to make sure we know who those candidates are.”
The word Falvey kept coming back to was partnership, and how it was important that his partnership with Levine as a unit could have that sort of a dynamic with their field manager, as well.
“I use the word partnership, and I think partnerships are not automatic,” Falvey said. “When you start working with different people, you get to know them and each pace is different. I think as Paul and I started to have conversations, first starting before I officially got the job here and through the course of the winter and into spring training…you get through a season — and I’ve said this before — everything we did this year, we did for the first time together. Right up until the last day of the season, including that game in New York and shaking Paul’s hand and a moment of disappointment but at the same time, recognition of a lot of things we should be proud of. That moment in time, I guess for us, was the final conclusion that we had done everything. Now we start the offseason again together. In my mind, as we built that relationship, it just got stronger and stronger.”
“Paul’s our guy”
The elephant in the room — in addition to Molitor’s status on a one-year deal — was the potential temptation to hand-pick their own guy. That was a question Falvey and Levine adeptly fielded all season long, and ultimately came to find out a lot about Molitor in the process.
“What stands out to me is how thoughtful he is — how engaged he is in each conversation,” Falvey said of Molitor. “How open he is to different levels of dialogue around team and planning and minor league conversations. There’s never a conversation he’s not willing to have. I hope that it continues moving forward; I expect that it will, and we’ll continue to be open and honest with each other. I can tell you — with the backdrop of this year and the challenges of the recognition of transition in any organization — I can’t imagine anyone handling it more professionally than Paul did.”
With that partnership, Falvey said it plainly and bluntly regarding that temptation: “Paul’s our guy.”
If a three-year deal didn’t cement it enough — Falvey’s words surely did.