Twins chairman Jim Pohlad stepped aside as the franchise’s executive chair yesterday, turning day-to-day ownership responsibilities over to his nephew Joe Pohlad (relayed by Aaron Gleeman of the Athletic). President of baseball operations Derek Falvey and president Dave St. Peter will report to Joe Pohlad moving forward.
It’s not a complete ownership overhaul, as Jim Pohlad will remain the Twins’ official control person and continue to work with Major League Baseball, writes Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. However, it does mark a notable step for the organization, as 40-year-old Joe Pohlad will take on a significantly more meaningful role. Jim Pohlad, who’s now 69 years old, has held the lead role since the passing of his father Carl in 2009. The Twins have been owned by the family for nearly four decades. Carl Pohlad purchased the organization from Calvin Griffith back in 1984.
Joe Pohlad, a graduate of Stonehill College, has worked for the Twins since 2007. He had held the title of executive vice president of brand strategy/growth for the past four years. Souhan notes he’s gotten some experience in baseball operations in addition to his work in the marketing department, presumably in preparation for eventually assuming control of the franchise.
In an interview with Souhan published at the Star-Tribune, Joe Pohlad downplayed the potential for any major changes relative to his uncle’s leadership. He expressed his support for the front office duo of Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, as well as for manager Rocco Baldelli. “It’s not like how we’re going to operate as a business is going to change on Day 1 because I’m in this chair,” Pohlad told Souhan. “To this point, we are having all of the same conversations. Dave, Derek and I are operating in the same way. I am certainly not one to all of a sudden blow things up because I’m the guy in this seat.”
While there may not be any immediate overhauls in the franchise’s daily operation, any ownership change is certain to lead to questions among the fanbase about the payroll outlook. Minnesota opened the 2022 season with a team-record player payroll just above $134MM, in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That ranked 18th in the majors, and they’ve opened each of the past 10 seasons with a payroll that sat between 16th and 21st among the game’s 30 clubs.
Predictably, Joe Pohlad didn’t delve into specifics about the franchise’s long-term payroll trajectory. He reiterated the team’s interest in re-signing Carlos Correa, to whom the club has reportedly made a number of six-plus year offers. Joe Pohlad told Souhan he “(knows) that Jim was not a big fan of long-term contracts” but didn’t elaborate as to whether he’s similarly averse to those kinds of commitments.
The Twins haven’t signed a free agent to a guarantee longer than four years ($92MM for Josh Donaldson, $54MM for Ervin Santana and $49MM for Ricky Nolasco) since Jim Pohlad took control. The organization did go beyond four years on extensions (most notably for Joe Mauer and Byron Buxton) and they handed Correa the largest per-year salary for a free agent position player in MLB history over a three-year guarantee last offseason.
Jason Martinez of Roster Resource projects the Twins’ 2023 payroll commitments around $98MM. Buxton and Randy Dobnak are the only players on guaranteed deals beyond next season, providing the franchise plenty of long-term flexibility to reload after a second straight underwhelming season. Beyond shortstop, Minnesota has some question marks in the bullpen and the corner outfield. Falvey has also noted a desire to add another catcher to somewhat evenly split duties with Ryan Jeffers after the organization watched Gary Sánchez hit free agency.
Levine recently expressed a similar sentiment, telling Dan Hayes of the Athletic the Twins “feel the best roster will include two catchers really capable of delivering about 100 games started.” Jeffers is currently the only backstop on the 40-man roster, so it’s inevitable the club will add some help from outside the organization. Hayes suggests that’s likelier to be via free agency than trade, with the Twins believing teams with trade candidates behind the dish (i.e. the A’s with Sean Murphy and the Blue Jays with Danny Jansen) may prefer to wait out the free agent market.
Free agency doesn’t offer a ton of certainty. Willson Contreras is easily the top catcher available, although he’s likely to require a four-plus year commitment the Twins seem unlikely to dole out with Jeffers in the fold. Christian Vázquez is the next-best option, followed by Omar Narváez, Tucker Barnhart and Sánchez. The lefty-swinging Narváez and switch-hitting Barnhart would make for more natural complements to the right-handed Jeffers, although Falvey has previously suggested the team doesn’t intend to relegate Jeffers solely to the lesser side of a platoon.