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The Twins have given us yet another offseason story to follow up on revolving around change. Like the Brewers, the Twins are also losing out on the benefit of playing in a terrible division, thanks to the more streamlined and balanced schedule of 2023 and beyond: no longer will Minnesota—when they’re one of the good ones, anyway—be able to feast on the dregs of the American League Central 19 times per year each. While Milwaukee got a write-up for dumping salary (with more dumping to come) in reaction to or in spite of this change, the Twins haven’t actually done anything different yet. But we should pay attention to how they behave all the same, because of a change in executive and ownership leadership.
While Jim Pohlad will remain the contact from ownership with MLB, he has stepped down as the executive chair of the franchise, and the role will now be filled by his nephew, Joe Pohlad. Jim, the elder Pohlad at 69 years old, took over the franchise for his own father, Carl Pohlad, following his death in 2009. Joe Pohlad is just 40 years old, so, presumably, he’s going to be in this role for a considerable length of time, and is also likely being groomed for taking over as the point person with the league once Jim has decided it’s time to retire.
The question is what the Twins decide to do with their money, their long-term commitments, their desire to compete, and so on now that a different Pohlad is running the day-to-day operations. Joe Pohlad has experience in different parts of the organization, including baseball operations, and joined up in his 20s while Carl Pohlad was still alive, so he might very well leave some fingerprints on future Twins’ rosters. Or, things will remain as they are, since he’s the executive chair but the franchise is still clearly a family business.
That the Twins have offered Carlos Correa long-term deals is certainly something—when the shortstop inked a three-year-deal with the team prior to the 2022 season, it was designed much more like a one-year pact given the opt-out, and it wasn’t clear if it was a tryout for something longer or if the Twins were just taking advantage of a market that didn’t pan out like Correa and his agent, Scott Boras, hoped it would. Then again, a six-year offer for a 28-year-old shortstop like Correa maybe isn’t a long-term deal, either, in this specific context: there could still be a bit of “we tried” here even if the trying looks pretty good. We’ll have to see how aggressively they pursue Correa the rest of the offseason, or a replacement for him should Correa decide to sign elsewhere. Xander Bogaerts is out there, for instance, and while he won’t come cheap, he’s just two years older, has improved defensively as he’s aged, and has a 133 OPS+ over the last five years, including a 131 mark in 2022. Like Correa, he would be a force in the middle infield and in the lineup for years, but would a Joe Pohlad-led Twins seek him out if Correa goes elsewhere? That remains to be seen.
Per Joe Pohlad’s own words, business should look like the usual — he’s not here to blow things up, but to succeed his uncle in the role he established some pretty clear patterns for. Still, there’s room to grow, and the fact Correa has six-year offers at all might signal that Jim’s nephew has a different sense of how to operate, and has already had a voice in the proceedings before any official transition was announced. When the Twins signed Ervin Santana for four years and $55 million in 2014, that was the largest free agent deal in franchise history, and also represented the longest deal any free agent would receive under Jim Pohlad’s leadership. A few other free agents would also receive four-year deals, but no one inked a longer one than that — the organization ranked toward the bottom in free agent spending for much of their time under Jim Pohlad, and it’s notable that even with Correa’s comparatively massive average annual value in place in 2022, Minnesota’s franchise-high payroll still came in at just $134 million on Opening Day. Correa’s three-year, $105 million contract was notably bigger on the money side of things than all of those four-year deals, but again, unless Correa completely cratered, there was little chance he was going to spend more than a year in town, with both sides being very aware of that fact.
The Twins often operate like an aw shucks we’re just getting by franchise, a sentiment that was surely bolstered by their being one of the likely clubs to be contracted back when Bud Selig was bandying about that idea in order to gain sympathy for the plight of the UwU smol bean owners against those big bad players. Carl Pohlad was, at one time, the wealthiest owner in all of MLB, however, and something tells me that the family business is still doing well thanks to all of that inheritance — from what I can tell, the Pohlads still own the entire franchise, so they can invest as much money as they want into the club without diminishing the value of outside minority ownership stakes in the process, and don’t have to answer to a slate of stakeholders in the same way as other clubs if the whole family is fine with going for it with a big free agent signing or what have you, at the possible expense of smaller profit payouts in for the year.
So, it’s worth keeping an eye on how the Twins operate under sort-of-new management: will there be more of a push in free agency, instead of only going legitimately big with contracts for when a homegrown star like Joe Mauer is developed and wants to stick around? Will the Twins seek out an expensive but comparable alternative at shortstop if Correa decides to go elsewhere? Will they increase spending now that simply being in the Central alone isn’t enough to work with toward a postseason spot? We’ve got all kinds of questions to consider and no answers yet, but this offseason should at least give us an indication of where things are going under new-ish leadership.