Twins fire Molitor, eye new manager to 'grow a young team'

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins fired Paul Molitor on Tuesday, one season after he won the American League Manager of the Year award, in pursuit of more productive development by their younger players.

"This wasn't about our record this year. This is about what we think is best as we continue to grow a young team in the direction toward being a championship contender," said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey.

Molitor has been offered an undefined position in baseball operations with the organization. Falvey and other club executives expressed confidence that Molitor would accept it and remain with the Twins.

"I fully respect that decision," Molitor said in a statement distributed by the team. "I will forever be grateful for the opportunity they gave me to serve in the role as manager for these past four years. I'm going to consider their genuine offer to serve in a different capacity to positively impact the Twins from a different role."

The Twins went 305-343 under the 62-year-old Molitor, with one appearance in the playoffs in 2017. They were 78-84 this year, long out of postseason contention after a series of early setbacks to several key players.

Falvey and general manager Thad Levine inherited Molitor when they were hired two years ago, when owner Jim Pohlad said keeping him would be a prerequisite for the job. After the Twins went 85-77 and reached the wild-card game, Molitor was given a new three-year contract.

"I don't really think that that was a huge roadblock to them," Pohlad said. "I mean, everybody wanted the situation to work out, and I did too, because Paul's a personal friend and he's done so much for our organization and is so important to our community. So I feel good about that decision."

Executives often prefer to pick their own managers, though, and Falvey and Levine will now undertake that task. They're willing to wait until after the World Series to decide, they said, in case a candidate is still participating.

The Twins acquired relievers Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zach Duke, starting pitchers Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi and designated hitter Logan Morrison over the winter, but Rodney and Duke were the only additions who couldn't be considered disappointments on the field.

Shortstop Jorge Polanco was hit with an 80-game suspension to start the season for a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance, and starting pitcher Ervin Santana's recovery from surgery on his middle finger was painfully slow. Catcher Jason Castro suffered a season-ending knee injury. Second baseman Brian Dozier labored through the summer with substandard production before being traded to the Dodgers. Center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano, long lauded as the future cornerstones of the franchise, continued to struggle and spent long stretches rehabbing injuries and in the minor leagues.

Molitor, who spent the final three seasons of his Hall of Fame playing career with his hometown team, held several roles within the organization before he was named the 13th manager of the Twins for 2015.

Molitor was a roving minor league instructor, focusing on baserunning and infielding, from 2003 through 2013 with a one-year stint as hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners in between. He was bench coach for the Twins under manager Tom Kelly in 2000 and 2001 and then an assistant coach under manager Ron Gardenhire in 2014 with emphases on baserunning, bunting, infielding and in-game strategy.

"What we're aspirational of controlling is identifying that young core of players we've talked about for years, in this community, and applying ourselves this offseason to try to have those guys collectively take a step forward," Levine said. "And I think if we do that, the wins and losses will probably take care of themselves, and the gap we see right now between ourselves and the Cleveland Indians will start closing pretty rapidly."

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