The MLB offseason is upon us, and things are happening fast. Free agents have always been available to sign now, but players and teams are coming to agreements quickly with the impending lockout set for Dec. 1.
The unprecedented offseason isn’t just crucial for the Minnesota Twins because it’s accelerating things for an organization with a patient winter approach. No matter what unfolds, this offseason will define Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s tenure in Minnesota.
Since taking over after the 2016 season, the duo known as “Falvine” has been put in an interesting position. After a 103-loss season in 2016, they had a chance to reset. Instead, they made the playoffs in their first season running the team. After missing the playoffs in 2018, they fired manager Paul Molitor and brought in Rocco Baldelli and more scouting staff. Falvey and Levine had started to craft the franchise in their vision.
That trend has continued into the present day. Falvey and Levine have moved on from Ryan Pressly, Brian Dozier, Brusdar Graterol, and most recently José Berríos. All left via trade and netted the Twins some nice pieces in return. However, Falvey and Levine were criticized for trading away well-liked players in the attempt to make this Twins team truly theirs. They won the AL Central in 2019 and 2020, but the major core was built on an old body of prospects they inherited.
Keep in mind, only a handful of players this current front office has brought in has made it to the major leagues. Of those who have, many of them have only been up for short stints. But as Falvine’s prospects work through the farm system, it is starting to become their roster from top to bottom. Even crucial players this front office brought in, like Nelson Cruz, were traded at the deadline. It was a sign that the last crop of players led by Berríos, Cruz, and others are now on other teams, and the Twins are moving forward with players Falvey and Levine drafted, signed, or traded for.
This offseason will tell us if they will build around those prospects now or if they will take a more patient approach and look to get back into contention in 2023 or 2024. The Twins front office has been vocal that they are looking to compete, with Falvey telling the Star Tribune earlier this fall that they were looking to be back in the playoff mix again next year.
“We’re going to find a way to invest in next year’s team,” Falvey said. “This is not with an eye toward five years down the line.”
Well, if the Twins are going to do that, they will need to speed up their offseason plans. December is almost a week away. Given the circumstances, free agents are coming off the board early, and the team’s patient approach needs to be altered for this season.
Another reason this offseason is big for Falvine is that the fanbase has become increasingly frustrated with the front office duo, given how they’ve constructed the roster lately. Last year they brought in Andrelton Simmons, Alex Colomé, and Matt Shoemaker, and it turned out to be a disaster.
However, the seven-year, $131 million extension Berríos signed with the Toronto Blue Jays has made fans most upset with the Falvine regime. It seemed well within the Twins’ payroll capacity to keep him around instead of shipping off the team’s best homegrown pitchers. The news irritated more fans because, at the time, the belief was that Berríos wanted way too much from the Twins. Instead, he wanted a market-rate contract.
With the trades, most of those transactions came slowly throughout their tenure as the roster slowly turned over. That all changed when the Twins shipped Berríos out in late July. The trade showed that Minnesota is willing to trade anyone if they feel like they have to.
Now the focus is on Byron Buxton, Minnesota’s biggest tradable asset who’s entering a contract year. This offseason, Falvey and Levine’s success hinges on what they do with him because his ceiling is higher than Berríos’, and the Twins boast a 100-64 record with his name penciled in the lineup.
It’s not like the Twins don’t have the money. In 2021, the team had a $118.7 million payroll, and they currently have just under $69 million committed for 2022, according to Spotrac. Because they did not meet Berríos’ salary demands, they need to make sure they can pay Buxton. Even if they don’t, they need to take that money and give it to his replacement in center or use it to acquire one of the shortstops in the market, including Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, to field a competitive roster.
Fans have become used to a more patient approach to the offseason. But confidence in the front office and their plan for the Twins has been questioned after the past year. If the team stands pat again — or worse, trades Buxton — it could be the final straw for the Twins’ faith in Falvine. It will be the beginning of the end for them in Minnesota if they have another poor offseason.
Twins ownership may have given Falvine an A, but that doesn’t mean everyone is as upbeat about how last season went.
This offseason has brought loads of speculation and intrigue for Falvine’s plans when it comes to the future of this team. They could bring Buxton back and build around him to compete. They could trade him and use those assets to compete. Or Falvey and Levine could trade Buxton and others for a rebuild. Buxton has become the big chip, but he’s not the only valuable player they’ve had to make a decision on over the years. Whatever Falvine does this winter, the fruits that come from the transactions will determine how their tenure in Minnesota is perceived.