Twins

Notebook: Baldelli wins Manager of Year, Falvey/Levine Extended and Odorizzi Accepts Qualifying Offer

Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Every manager employed by the Minnesota Twins dating back to the end of the 1986 season has won the Manager of the Year Award, and that trend continued when Rocco Baldelli edged out Aaron Boone as well as former colleague Kevin Cash to bring home the 2019 award as well.

Baldelli joined Paul Molitor (2017), Ron Gardenhire (2010) and Tom Kelly (1991) as the most recent — or more pertinent, only — winners of the award while managing the Twins.

Baldelli was named on all but two of the 30 ballots cast for the award. Here’s how the voting shook out, courtesy of the BBWAA:

(image credit: BBWAA.com)

In a bit of an oddity — and maybe just a coincidence — the only two ballots Baldelli didn’t appear on were cast in Chicago and Cleveland. Curious.

Baldelli was his typical deferential self when it came to credit as he appeared on MLB Network right after the award was announced.

“(I’m not) working in baseball or doing a job like this for personal accolades, and I mean that,” Baldelli said. “I mean, you take these types of roles because you want to do everything you can for your group, and for your players, for your staff, and for your front office and for the organization. I do everything I can, but it doesn’t matter necessarily what I’m going to do every day when I come to the ballfield. You need an entire group. From the Pohlad family, to Derek and Thad, Shelty (bench coach Derek Shelton) my right-hand man…our staff was incredible. We needed everybody to come together.

Then it really comes down to the players going out there and doing it. You need great players; we have great players. We have leadership in our clubhouse. We had a lot of things going really well this year, and it’s because of our group. I know that Kevin (Cash) and Aaron (Boone) would say the exact same thing. I want to congratulate both of those guys and I’ll talk to them very soon. It was a pretty amazing year. Thank you for everybody out there who voted for me.

“I don’t accept this award as an individual. I accept it as a member of the Minnesota Twins.”

Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli (5) looks on during batting practice before the start of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the New York Yankees at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Baldelli admitted he was never totally sure he’d become an MLB manager until it actually happened.

“Well, that’s a good question,” Baldelli told the MLB Network studio crew. “I always tried to do whatever it is that I was doing and do it to the best of my ability. I didn’t really look ahead to something like managing much before it actually played out. I actually had to really think about it last offseason and make some really big life decisions as far as what I wanted. I’ve had the opportunity to work with great people and learn from people — managers, people within the game — there’s so many that I’d love to call out right now.

“But I’ve been lucky, because I’ve been exposed to a lot. I’ve been in great situations with great people, people who treat people well from the top down. That’s what lets us do our jobs as best as we possibly can.

“When did it start? You always maybe think about it maybe in non-realistic terms, but when the question is actually posed, then you really have to think about it. That was really last year for me.”

Ultimately, and it won’t surprise anyone who paid attention last year, Baldelli emphasized the importance of communication — and what that looked like for him the first calendar year he held the job.

“In this role, for me, the way I approached it after getting a lot of advice from a lot of people to push me in this direction, it came down to an offseason of discussions and communication, and getting on the same page and forming plans. Literally it’s sometimes days on end where you’re just sitting there on the phone. It doesn’t feel overly glamorous, but it’s really, really helpful and effective at getting everything lined up. The more you talk and the more you communicate — we use that word all the time, and it is the right word, but what does it look like? It looks like sitting on the phone, and sometimes going to visit and spend time with people and making time for those discussions.

“That’s where you actually make the progress you want to make going into the spring.”

Dan Hayes of The Athletic reported mid-week that the Twins had agreed to extensions with general manager Thad Levine and president of baseball operations, Derek Falvey. In fact, the agreement with Falvey also included christening him with a new title:

Ultimately, the new deals mean, if fulfilled, the power duo will spend at least eight seasons shaping the Twins under their watchful eyes — ones which led to the team’s first 100-win season since Sid Hartman was in his mid-40s, along with the team setting the all-time home run record while making a 23-win improvement from the 2018 season (78-84).

This is Thad Levine. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 offseason will be one to watch, as the team’s competitive window is now clearly open — which was less true after winning 85 games in 2017 — with considerable young impact talent on the big-league roster as well as a farm system teeming with near-ready players like Brusdar Graterol, Royce Lewis (the first draft pick under the current regime), Alex Kirilloff, Jordan Balazovic and quite a few others.

Between Baldelli, Falvey and Levine, it’s clear the Twins have a power structure in place that they believe can win — not only now, but for a long, long time.

Jake Odorizzi has accepted the qualifying offer from the Minnesota Twins of one year, $17.8 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Rumors swirled much of the day among national reporters that Odorizzi was mulling accepting the offer, and news broke just under a half-hour before the deadline.

Odorizzi, who was an All-Star for the first time in 2019, finished with a 3.51 ERA — his best since 2015 (3.35) — with 178 strikeouts in 159.0 innings. The righty, who’ll be spending his age-30 season with the Twins next year, will receive a nice raise from the $9.5 million he earned in 2019.

As noted on Twitter, there were a lot of layers to unpack as it pertained to Odorizzi’s upcoming free agency.

Odorizzi told Zone Coverage candidly at the end of the postseason that while he was more than happy to return to the Twins, he also was intrigued by the idea of being a free agent. “I’ve worked hard my whole life for this,” he said, while noting that there were a lot of layers, including family, to be considered.

The last point is one that will still have to be fleshed out over the offseason. Fellow qualifying offer recipient Will Smith signed a three-year deal worth a reported $39 million with the Atlanta Braves just before the deadline to accept, meaning that the San Francisco Giants will now receive compensation.

Frankly, the case for Smith to accept was stronger. A reliever getting $17.8 million would be quite a coup — according to USA Today, only Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Wade Davis made more in 2019 among players who signed deals as bullpen guys — but his agent used the offer as leverage by telling teams if he didn’t have a good enough offer in hand by the 5 p.m. Eastern deadline, his pitcher was headed back to San Francisco.

But would three years and $39 million have been enough for Odorizzi to make the jump? It’s hard to say, and only he really knows. Once we see and can analyze the rest of the contracts signed by starting pitchers, it’s fair to wonder if Odorizzi wasn’t thrilled about what he was being shown by other teams and opted to take another year with the Twins, a team he’s familiar and comfortable with under the tutelage of a pretty good pitching coach in Wes Johnson.

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