Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said that while fans and players might be upset about their trade deadline deals, he knows he was brought in to change the organization for the better, and that’s what he and General Manager Thad Levine are going to do.
“I certainly can appreciate the perspective of the fans. Any time you trade away major league players who are impacting you right now, it’s tough,” Falvey said Tuesday. “But I think our job as leadership of this organization, and my job in particular around baseball, is to find opportunities to make this organization better moving forward, not just for now but in the future. We feel we did that over this deadline.”
There is no question that Falvey’s tenure in his two seasons has been aggressive.
Since arriving after the 2016 season, Falvey has made 15 trades, including eight this season and five at the trade deadline. Compare that to the eight trades the Twins made from the start of 2015 until Falvey’s arrival, when Terry Ryan was the GM before being fired in July 2016 and replaced on an interim basis by Rob Antony.
While there weren’t any big-name prospects acquired in the five July trades — to be expected since four of the players dealt will be free agents after the season — Falvey sees a lot of potential.
“I think the jewel of what we got back was the high-upside pitching,” he said. “I think that we’ve acquired at least two guys in these trades that we think have the chance to be upper-end starters in Jhoan Duran, who carried a no-hitter in Cedar Rapids into the seventh [Monday] who has real power stuff, and then Jorge Alcala, who is now one of our top prospects in terms of pitching at the Double-A level. Some impact, power arms. That’s what we’re going to need to compete with the best in the league.”
When it comes to infielder Eduardo Escobar, who was the first of the five players traded when he was dealt to Arizona last Friday for Duran and outfielders Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel, Falvey said the team will certainly try to bring him back in free agency. “I have every expectation we’ll have a conversation with him come the fall,” he said.
Looking to the future
Now that the Twins front office is looking toward next year, there is no question it’s going to be an exciting and wide-open offseason.
Neither Ervin Santana nor Logan Morrison figures to have his 2019 vesting options guaranteed, and the Twins figure to enter the offseason with less than $29 million in guaranteed payroll for four players — and that’s if they pick up the $4.25 million option on closer Fernando Rodney. The only other players signed for next year are catcher Jason Castro and righthanders Addison Reed and Michael Pineda.
Falvey was asked if that means the team will have a lot of free-agent movement.
“With the blessing of the Pohlad family, we have had real opportunities in the free-agent market over the last year-plus,” Falvey said. “I anticipate with some of the expiring contracts that we have and the flexibility that we have around payroll, we’re going to be creative in this free-agent market and see what opportunities present.”
And there is no doubt one move Falvey wants to make is bringing back Joe Mauer.
The Vikings have had a number of undrafted players who have turned out to be something special. On the current roster, this group includes Adam Thielen, Marcus Sherels, Rashod Hill, Nick Easton and C.J. Ham.
This year’s group of rookie free agents includes Holton Hill, a 6-2 defensive back out of the University of Texas. Hill has to be one of the biggest surprises of the offseason workouts and training camp so far.
The Vikings were high on Hill all the way through the predraft process. They brought him in as one of their top 30 prospects.
Hill was considered by draft experts to be a third- or fourth-round talent. However, his junior season ended Nov. 7 when he was suspended for a violation of team rules, and he didn’t play in the Longhorns’ final three games last season.
“A number of reasons,” Hill said of why he wasn’t drafted. “Basically my character issues off of the field, which I don’t blame them for not drafting me, now that I look back on it.”
Hill acknowledged he was upset he wasn’t drafted, adding, “But it added fuel to the fire and gave me much more of a reason to go out there and compete each and every day so I can prove myself.”
While he didn’t work out for the Vikings on a 1-on-1 basis, he said his top-30 visit gave him a chance for in-depth meetings with coaches.
“I decided to pick the Vikings because they had a good foundation as far as defensewise and they had good vets such as Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, [Everson] Griffen, a lot of others,” Hill said. “I decided they would be a good fit for me to mentor me and develop my game to the next level.”
Did the Vikings tell him he would have a real shot to make the team? “They did tell me that I have a really good chance to play for them,” he said. “But I just take that as motivation to make me go much more harder.”
One big connection on the Vikings for Hill is Jerry Gray, the defensive backs coach since 2014 and a former Longhorns player.
“Jerry Gray is a big motivation for me, because I’ve seen all of the achievements and awards that he did from Texas on to the NFL, and having him as a coach to help me develop my game, and [I’ll] hopefully follow that same path that he did,” he said.
Hill was a high school All-America in Lamar, Texas, and was one of six finalists for the 2015 Watkins Award, which honors the top black male high school scholar-athlete in the nation.
“I’m most definitely proud of that,” said Hill, who led the state of Texas with 11 interceptions as a prep senior. “Just because … even though I was good on the football field, I always relied on my grades to define my character.”
He said a big reason he chose Texas was a chance to help turn that program around, and also because of his relationship with then-coach Charlie Strong. “That was my dream growing up, ever since like the third grade when I saw Vince Young, a Houston native, win the [2005 national championship] for Texas,” he said.
At Texas, Hill started 26 games and made 121 tackles to go along with three interceptions, all returned for touchdowns. Last year against Maryland, he returned an interception for a score and also scored on a blocked field goal return.
“I try to take the humble route as far as preparing myself each and every week going into the game,” he said. “Basically, the harder you work, the more benefits and rewards you get out of the game.”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • firstname.lastname@example.org