Assessing 2023 MLB front offices: Derek Falvey, Thad Levine and the Minnesota Twins finally broke the curse

The Falvey-Levine front office rode a good trade for the Minnesota Twins and the game's best rookie class to first place in the AL Central in 2023.
Minnesota Twins scoreboard
Minnesota Twins scoreboard / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

Derek Falvey/Thad Levine front office WAA impact for Minnesota Twins: +1.6 games. Rank in MLB: 12. Rank in division: 1.

Team president Falvey and GM Levine provided one-half of the winter’s biggest trade news when they got together with Marlins GM Kim Ng for a swap of front-line players. The Twins surrendered AL batting champ Luis Arraez in return for pitcher Pablo Lopez.

From a strictly statistical standpoint, Miami probably got slightly the better of the deal. Lopez, 11-8 with a 3.66 ERA in 32 starts, was worth a solid +1.6 Wins Above Average to his new team. But Arraez added the National League batting title to his 2022 AL title in a season that added up to +2.9 WAA.

WAA is used in this series of front office evaluations because it is a zero-based version of WAR, therefore enabling valid approximations of impact against wins and losses.

The more accurate assessment of the Arraez-for-Lopez swap goes deeper because of its ramifications. From the Twins standpoint, sending Arraez to Florida opened up left-side playing time for rookie second baseman Edouard Julien, and that turned out to be a very good thing indeed. In 408 plate appearances, the rookie produced an .839 OPS, didn’t hurt the defense too badly, and generated +1.3 WAA.

It also opened space for the Twins to sign free agent first baseman Donovan Solano, late of Cincinnati. Solano’s .282 average and .760 OPS were modest pluses and, in concert with Julien’s work, drove the effective impact of the Arraez trade into positive territory for Falvey and Levine.

The art of winning at face-to-face deals is a challenging one. With a net improvement of +2.1 games via the players they acquired from other teams, Falvey and Levine were one of only three front office teams to work as much as a two-game short-term improvement via that method. 

Lopez was the big catch, but not the only one. Wary of Byron Buxton’s future as a middle outfielder, in January the Twins acquired Michael A. Taylor from Kansas City for a minor leaguer and a fringe major leaguer.

Taylor only hit .220, but his positive defensive contributions were enough to raise his overall value to +0.6. 

From a name standpoint, the big offseason arrival was actually a retention. Shortstop Carlos Correa opted out of the deal he had signed with Falvey and Levine, agreed to terms with San Francisco, then saw that deal blow up amid concerns about Correa’s physical condition. After the same thing happened with the Mets, Correa returned to Minnesota on a new deal that locks him in through 2032.

Correa’s season itself was a disappointment. He hit a career low .230 with a career low .312 on base average, all of that adding up to -0.5 WAA. Presumably, that performance will turn around in the long term.

Overall, Falvey and Levine made 41 moves involving major league talent since the conclusion of the 2022 postseason. Seventeen of those moves worked to the Twins’ benefit, 21 went against them and three neutral. The net WAA of those 41 personnel moves amounted to +1.6 games.

Here’s the full short-term and long-term statistical profile on the 2023 performance of the Falvey-Levine front office. Again, all figures reflect group Wins Above Average.

Acquired by trade, waiver claim or purchase:

  • Since October 2022, 7 players, +2.1 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 7 players, +4.1 net impact

Signed as a free agent or extended for multiple seasons:

  • Since October 2022, 11 players, -0.5 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 4 players, +2.1 net impact

System products:

  • Since October 2022, 8 players, +3.9 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 13 players, +1.2 net impact

Traded away, waived, sold, released or lost to free agency

  • Since October 2022,  21 players, +1.3 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 9 players, +5.8 net impact

Julien was one of three rookies who contributed to Minnesota’s return to primacy in the AL Central. But the biggest arrival probably came in late May, when Royce Lewis was activated from the injured list, where he had spent several months recovering from a 2022 bone bruise. Lewis hit .309 with 15 home runs in 239 plate appearances, good for +1.7 WAA. He hit four home runs in the Twins’ postseason run.

With Julien, Lewis and Matt Wallner (+1.3) providing most of the lift, Minnesota’s farm system generated +3.9 WAA to the team’s playoff push. Among rookie classes, that made the Twins tops in 2023.

Falvey and Levine have been a duo in Minnesota since prior to the start of the 2017 season. The relationship has had its ups and downs, but the Twins are 48 games to the good side of .500 during their joint administration. They’ve won three division titles and played in as many postseasons.

And it certainly appears that the Twins front office is on solid, if not dominant footing, looking ahead to 2024.