MINNEAPOLIS — Paul Molitor has been invited to return as Twins manager in 2018, according to two sources with direct knowledge, but there was still work to be done to make that a reality early Thursday evening, Oct. 5.
"Nothing has been decided or agreed to at this point in time," a person with direct knowledge told the Pioneer Press.
Molitor and Twins coaches met with the front-office duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine the past two days after returning from Yankee Stadium and a season-ending loss to the New York Yankees in the American League wild card game. That appearance ended a seven-year postseason drought for the Twins franchise.
Molitor, at 61 the oldest manager in Twins history, finished out his original three-year contract while leading the Twins to a historic turnaround. After orchestrating a club-record 26-win improvement that made the Twins the first team to go from 98 or more losses to the postseason the following year, Molitor is considered the odds-on favorite for AL Manager of the Year.
While terms of Molitor's managing contract were never released, its total value is believed to be less than $4 million over three years. Predecessor Ron Gardenhire, who guided the Twins to six AL Central titles in his 13 seasons, earned a reported $2 million a year when he was fired after 2014 with a year left on his deal.
The Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets are looking for new managers, which raises the possibility Molitor could be in play elsewhere if he and the Twins are unable to reach agreement. The Phillies, where former Twins general managers Andy MacPhail and Terry Ryan now occupy key roles, would be an obvious potential landing spot.
Falvey and Levine, hired last fall from the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers, respectively, chose not to extend Molitor's expiring contract as he headed into 2017 off a 103-loss nightmare. Twins owner Jim Pohlad had made retaining Molitor, a St. Paul native and product of Cretin High and the University of Minnesota, a prerequisite in the search for new baseball operations leadership after firing Ryan in July 2016.
There were no outward signs of tension between the low-key Molitor and his new bosses this season, although a mid-year sell-off of veteran pitchers Brandon Kintzler and Jaime Garcia threatened to short-circuit a playoff run that happened anyway.
"He's our skipper; he's our leader," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said after Tuesday's 8-4 loss. "When you've got a guy like that, you feel lucky. One hundred percent, I speak for everybody else in here, we hope he's back."
Molitor became the first hall of fame player (as elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America) to manage a team in the postseason since Bob Lemon took the 1981 Yankees to the World Series.
Among AL contemporaries, only Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, 63, and Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles, also 61, are older than Molitor, who has a three-year record of 227-259 (.467).
While managerial salaries pale next to those of modern players, talks have broken down over anything from annual salaries to contract length to ability to retain certain coaches. The Washington Nationals reportedly reached an agreement in principle with Bud Black to become their manager after the 2015 season only to see talks break down before they turned to veteran skipper Dusty Baker instead.
Molitor earned more than $40 million during his 21 seasons in the major leagues, according to Baseball-Reference.com. His top annual salary was $4.5 million with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995 before finishing out his playing career on a three-year, $9.75 million deal with his hometown Twins.
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