If you think back about the Twins over the past five years, which player would you think of as the predominant face of the team? Justin Morneau? (I wish.) Kevin Correia? (No.) All-Star Kurt Suzuki? (Probably not.) Brian Dozier? (Maybe...?)
Let’s get real—we all know the actual answer. The fifth ever Twin to win the AL MVP award, the winner of the most batting titles as a catcher in the history of MLB, the guy who’s currently pretty much tied with MLB Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett in career bWAR—Joe Mauer. To most people, Joe Mauer is still the face of the Twins.
So how has the face of the Twins changed over the past five years? Strictly speaking, it’s gone from an old Joe Mauer to an even older Joe Mauer.
And therein lies the problem with the Minnesota Twins.
It’s not Joe himself, or his $23 million-a-year salary. A lot of teams have over-paid veterans helping fill out their roster, and the Twins can afford to pay Joe, their home-town man and marketing machine. The problem is, and has been, that Twins fans are still waiting for one of their many young, highly-touted players to step-up and clearly take over for Joe, and none of them have been able to do so.
At least not yet.
Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano. Jose Berrios. These guys have had their names thrown around so much in baseball circles it’s easy to forget that they’re all only twenty-three years old. They are still babies. Add in other young guys like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Tyler Duffey, and more, and you can maybe see something happening here with the Twins, though you might have to relax your eyes and look through the photo for the magic picture to emerge.
Perhaps that is exactly what Derek Falvey—the Twins’ brand new Chief Baseball Officer—is trying to do. By far the biggest change the Twins went under this off-season was the complete re-do of the front office, with bringing in CBO Derek Falvey, new GM Thad Levine, and adding a bigger emphasis on analytics. The previous GM for the Twins, Terry Ryan, was fired last summer after working for the organization for nearly thirty years. The Twins have always been known for their extreme loyalty and insularity, so to bring in two complete outsiders to help run the ship is actually pretty remarkable.
But don’t think that means the Twins have completely forgotten their character. After being hired as the CBO, one of Falvey’s first moves was to bring in former Twins Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins, and Michael Cuddyer as special scouts and advisers. All three were members of the so-called “Contraction Kids” and highly respected former MLB players around the league, making the move an easy slam dunk for the Twins.
The question now before the Twins is if the the new round of kids can step up, or if this sorry excuse for an MLB team (they lost 103 games last year!) should have actually just been contracted fifteen years ago anyway.
That being said—I think the future for the Twins is pretty bright.
This piece runs as a part of SB Nation’s MLB Preview 2017: The Changing Face of Baseball.
Twins 2017 Season Preview Coverage:
Twins 2017 Season Preview: Five biggest off-season changes
Twinkie Town Community Prospect Ranking 2017
Twins 2017 Season Preview: The position players
Twins 2017 Season Preview: The pitchers
Twins 2017 Season Preview: AL Central enemies and frenemies
Twins 2017 Season Preview: The new food at Target Field
Twins 2017 Season Preview: Target Field promotions
More to come...