Twins Chairman Jim Pohlad stepped down as CEO of the franchise yesterday, handing day-to-day ownership responsibilities to his nephew Joe Pohlad (transmitted by Aaron Gleeman from Athletics). Baseball Operations President Derek Falvey and President Dave St. Peter will report to Joe Pohlad.
It’s not a full ownership overhaul, as Jim Pohlad will remain the Twins’ official controller and continue to work with Major League Baseball, writes Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It’s a notable move for the organization, however, as 40-year-old Joe Pohlad will take on a significantly more prominent role. Jim Pohlad, who is now 69, has held the lead since the death of his father, Carl, in 2009. The Twins have been in the family for almost four decades. Carl Pohlad bought the company from Calvin Griffith in 1984.
Stonehill College graduate Joe Pohlad has worked for the Twins since 2007. He has held the title of Executive Vice President of Brand Strategy/Growth for the past four years. Souhan notes that in addition to his work in the marketing department, he gained some experience in the baseball business, presumably to prepare for eventually taking control of the franchise.
In an interview with Souhan, published in the Star-Tribune, Joe Pohlad downplayed the potential for major changes in his uncle’s leadership. He expressed his support for the front office duo of Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, as well as manager Rocco Baldelli. “It’s not like the way we work as a company will change on day one because I’m in this chair‘ said Pohlad to Souhan. “Up to this point we are all having the same conversations. Dave, Derek and I are doing the same thing. I’m certainly not one to suddenly blow things up because I’m the guy on this pitch.”
While there may not be immediate overhauls in the day-to-day running of the franchise, any change of ownership is sure to raise questions from the fandom about salary prospects. Minnesota opened the 2022 season as the team-record player with just over $134 million in wages, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts estimates. That finished 18th in the majors, and they’ve opened each of the last 10 seasons with a payroll ranging from 16th to 21st among the 30 clubs in the game.
Predictably, Joe Pohlad didn’t go into the details of the franchise’s long-term salary trend. He reiterated the team’s interest in signing Carlo Correa, to whom the club has reportedly made a number of offers for more than six years. Joe Pohlad told Souhan he “(knows) that Jim wasn’t a big fan of long-term contracts‘ but didn’t elaborate on whether he’s similarly averse to such commitments.
The twins have not signed any free agent for more than four years ($92 million for Josh Donaldson$54 million for Erwin Santana and $49M for Ricky Nolasco) since Jim Pohlad took control. Organization went beyond four years for renewals (particularly for Yeah Wall and Byron Buxton) and they gave Correa the largest annual salary for a free-agent position player in MLB history via a three-year guarantee last offseason.
Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez projects the twins’ salary obligations for 2023 to be around $98 million. Buxton and Randy Dobnak are the only players with guaranteed deals beyond next season, giving the franchise plenty of long-term flexibility to recharge after an underwhelming second season. Beyond shortstop, Minnesota has some question marks in the bullpen and corner outfield. Falvey has also noted a desire to add another catcher to somewhat evenly divided tasks Ryan Jeffers after the organization has watched Gary Sanchez meet free agency
Levine recently expressed a similar sentiment, telling Dan Hayes of Athletic the Twins, “Feel that the best squad will contain two catchers who are really capable of delivering around 100 games started.” Jeffers is currently the only backstop in the 40-man squad, so it’s inevitable that the club will add some help from outside the organization. Hayes suggests this is done via free agency rather than trade, with the twins believing teams with trade candidates are behind the court (i.e. the A’s with Sean Murphy and the Blue Jays with Danny Jansen) may prefer to wait and see the free agent market.
Free agency doesn’t offer much security. Willson Contreras is easily the best catcher available, although he’ll likely need a four-plus year signing, which the twins are unlikely to dish out with Jeffers in the group. Christian Vazquez is the next best option, followed by Omar Narvaez, Tucker Barnhart and Sanchez. Left-hander Narváez and switch hitter Barnhart would be more natural complements for right-hander Jeffers, although Falvey has previously indicated the team has no intention of relegating Jeffers to just the lower side of a move.