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Twins, manager Molitor in 'holding pattern' on new contract

Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor speaks the assembled pitchers during the Minnesota Twins Spring Training at Hammond Field/CenturyLink Sports Complex in Ft. Myers, Florida on Monday, February 29, 2016. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Contract talks between the Twins and manager Paul Molitor have entered a "holding pattern," a person with direct knowledge said late Friday afternoon.

According to that source, as well as another person who had been briefed on the talks, it could take until early next week to sort through the remaining issues.

The 61-year-old Molitor, whose original three-year contract expired with Tuesday's wild-card loss to the New York Yankees, was invited to return in 2018 on Thursday by chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine. Hammering out the details of an extension, including any potential changes to Molitor's coaching staff, have proven more problematic.

Hired in November 2014 by former GM Terry Ryan, who was fired last July, Molitor was given a year to prove himself to his new bosses after they took over 11 months ago. Molitor wanted to retain his entire coaching staff but saw long-time hitting coach Tom Brunansky and first-base coach Butch Davis fired shortly after the new regime took control.

The St. Paul native and University of Minnesota product then orchestrated a 26-win turnaround that was the biggest in Twins history, ending a seven-year postseason absence for the franchise.

While churning through a club-record 52 players, including 36 pitchers (16 starters), Molitor managed to take the Twins from 103 losses in 2016 to 85 wins and a wild-card berth this year. He also avoided any major clashes with his new bosses, who publicly and privately made it clear they intended to wait until the season played out to explore continuing their partnership.

"You're talking about high-level positions," said a baseball person closely monitoring the talks. "The GM-manager dynamic is probably the biggest relationship dynamic in any organization. They'll figure it out."

Molitor's original deal was believed to be for less than $4 million total, according to sources familiar with its framework. Ron Gardenhire, the Twins manager from 2002-14, made about $4 million total over his final two-year contract before being fired with a year left on his deal.

While managerial contract information is often incomplete and parallels are hard to come by, it should be noted the Texas Rangers tore up first-time manager Jeff Banister's original below-market deal (three years plus a club option) and gave him a new contract after he oversaw a 21-win improvement in 2015 and was voted Al Manager of the Year.

Levine, who inherited Molitor last fall, spent the previous 11 seasons working in the Rangers' front office. Banister's current deal is believed to pay him slightly less than $1 million per season.

The top of the pay scale for modern managers is $6 million, the annual haul for Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels, Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants and Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs. That trio has five combined World Series titles, including four of the past seven.

The average player salary in the major leagues this season was $4.47 million.

At the lower end of the scale is Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria, who just completed the first year of a three-year, $3.6 million deal. Renteria, who had previous managerial experience with the Cubs, reportedly will receive annual salaries of $1.1 million, $1.2 million and $1.3 million.

Molitor, who 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, earned more than $40 million in his 21-year playing career.

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.

Molitor isn't the only manager to reach this year's postseason in the final year of his deal. Joe Girardi, finishing out his 10th season as Yankees manager, continues to work on an expiring contract but is expected to return after making $16 million over the past four years.

The same goes for Dusty Baker, who led the Washington Nationals to their second straight division title while working on a reported two-year, $4 million deal. Baker's prior deals with the Cincinnati Reds (2008-13) had reportedly averaged around $3.5 million.

Baker, 68, is a three-time manager of the year who has taken four different franchises to the postseason. He was a fallback choice for the Nationals after the 2015 season, when talks fell apart with Bud Black after he was initially offered the job.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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