Minnesota Twins: Grading 1st Year GM, Thad Levine

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Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Twins general manager Thad Levine during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Twins general manager Thad Levine during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Minnesota Twins decided that after a mirage of 2015 season (83-79) and a disappointing 2016 season (59-103) it was time for a change in the front office.

The Minnesota Twins ousted longtime GM Terry Ryan (1994-2007 & 2011-2016) and brought Thad Levine in to fill the void. Levine was brought over from the Texas Rangers, where he had been serving as the assistant GM since 2005. He was tasked with rebuilding a Twins organization that was coming off of a franchise worst 59-103 record in 2016.

Levine didn’t have as active of an off-season as many Twins fans might have liked, but maintained that he had graded the roster to be much better than the 59 wins that they posted the season before his arrival. The Twins entered to 2017 season with virtually the same team that took the field on most days in 2016.

Levine has been correct in his analysis of the roster to this point in the season as the Twins (19-15) sit atop the AL Central. This should be an encouraging sign for Twins fans, and points toward brighter days ahead for a franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2010.

Additions:

C Jason Castro; signed a 3 year $24.5MM contract.

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The Twins were clearly in the market for a starting catcher this off-season, as it was clear they were ready to move on from Kurt Suzuki.

Castro has proven to be a valuable addition for the Twins lineup, as well as the pitching staff. He is currently hitting .188 with 3 home runs and 10 runs batted in. Castro, who has long been thought to be one of the better defensive catchers in the game has thrown out 33% of base runners this season.

Finally, the Castro signing gets a B. While his stats  aren’t impressive, Castro has done exactly what he was brought in to do; stabilize the pitching staff.

RP Matt Belislesigned a 1 year 2.05MM contract.

The Twins bullpen was a mess last season, and was a clear need headed into the 2017 season. The Twins attempted to address the need by signing Belisle late in the off-season. Belisle currently sports an unsightly 8.36 ERA in 17 appearances.

I’ll give Belisle a based entirely on how badly the Twins needed to add a piece to the bullpen. He has plenty of time to work on the ERA this summer. The Twins need him to return to his 2016 form (1.76 ERA in 40 appearances) badly if they want to stay in contention.

Losses:

3B Trevor Plouffesigned a 1 year $5,250,000 contract with the Oakland Athletics.

Plouffe was a fan favorite and it was hard to see him go, but letting him walk was necessary as the Twins needed to see what Miguel Sano could do at third base.

Plouffe is currently hitting .233 with 6 home runs and 12 runs batted in. Sano, on the other hand, has established himself as the everyday third baseman and is enjoying a career year at the plate as well.

C Kurt Suzuki signed a 1 year $1,500,000 contract with the Atlanta Braves.

The Twins were looking to upgrade offensively and defensively behind the dish, as a result they decided to let Suzuki walk this off season. Suzuki signed with the Braves as the backup catcher and is currently hitting .204 with 1 home run and 8 runs batted in. Suzuki has thrown out 38% of base runners.

Levine made the right choice in both cases because it was time for the Twins to move on from both veterans.

Overall:

The best call Levine made this off season was holding on to Twins all-star second baseman Brian Dozier. Hence, he’s clearly the leader of the team, and is an invaluable piece to the puzzle. I’ll give Levine an A- overall, after his first winter and spring as the Twins GM. It’s clear to me that he is an above average talent evaluator, and is willing to be patient with young hitters and pitchers alike.

Looking ahead:

Furthermore we’ll learn a lot more about Levine in the months to come. The Twins hold the number one overall pick in next months first year player draft. With the Twins in contention, will Levine be inclined to trade prospects for more pitching or a power bat? If the season goes the other way will he reconsider trading Dozier, or consider moving one of the outfielders?

Next: Who's Hot and Who's Not: Mid-May

In conclusion, it should be a fun and eventful summer in Twins Country.

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