December 19, 2011

Reassessing the Twins’ roster and payroll

Where do we go from here? Where do we go?
And is it real or just something we think we know?
Where are we going now? Where do we go?
Cause if it's the same as yesterday you know I'm out, just so you know

- Fink, "Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us"

I examined the Twins' roster in early October to see which holes needed filling and how much money was available to fill them, but in the two-and-a-half months since then they've filled out the lineup with Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jamey Carroll, dumped Kevin Slowey and Jose Mijares, and indicated that the payroll will drop from $115 million to $100 million or so. With all that in mind, here's an updated look at where the Twins' roster and payroll stand:

    LINEUP                                      BENCH
 C: Joe Mauer - $23.00 million               C: Drew Butera - $0.48 million
1B: Justin Morneau - $15.00 million         IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka - $3.00 million
2B: Alexi Casilla - $1.50 million           IF: Luke Hughes - $0.48 million
SS: Jamey Carroll - $2.75 million           OF: Trevor Plouffe - $0.48 million
3B: Danny Valencia - $0.48 million
LF: Ben Revere - $0.48 million
CF: Denard Span - $3.00 million
RF: Josh Willingham - $7.00 million
DH: Ryan Doumit - $3.00 million

There's still some talk of the Twins re-signing Jason Kubel and I'm sure they haven't ruled out acquiring various other position players via free agency or trade, but it shouldn't shock anyone if the Opening Day roster includes the above nine starters and four bench players. Their three lineup holes back in October were shortstop, right field, and designated hitter, and those were filled by Carroll, Willingham, and Doumit for $12.75 million. Here's my projected batting order:

1. Denard Span, L
2. Jamey Carroll, R
3. Joe Mauer, L
4. Josh Willingham, R
5. Justin Morneau, L
6. Ryan Doumit, S
7. Danny Valencia, R
8. Alexi Casilla, S
9. Ben Revere, L

Terry Ryan also revealed that the Twins no longer plan to use Trevor Plouffe as an infielder and his switch to the outfield clears up the bench picture somewhat. Ben Revere can serve as the backup center fielder while starting in left field and Doumit is capable of playing an outfield corner, leaving Plouffe as the bench's lone outfielder. Tsuyoshi Nishioka sounds likely to get a second chance as utility man, Luke Hughes is out of options, and they still love Drew Butera.

If those are the 13 position players on the Opening Day roster they'll combine to earn around $60.5 million, depending on Alexi Casilla's raise in arbitration. That would leave approximately $40 million to spend on what is all but guaranteed to be a 12-man pitching staff, which at the moment still has at least a couple holes to fill (and makes it tough to envision Kubel returning unless his price really drops). Here's how the rotation and bullpen look right now:

    ROTATION                                    BULLPEN
SP: Carl Pavano - $8.50 million             RH: Matt Capps - $4.75 million
SP: Scott Baker - $6.00 million             LH: Glen Perkins - $2.00 million
SP: Francisco Liriano - $5.50 million       LH: Brian Duensing - $0.48 million
SP: Nick Blackburn - $4.75 million          RH: Alex Burnett - $0.48 million
SP: [UNKNOWN]                               RH: Anthony Swarzak - $0.48 million
                                            RH: Terry Doyle - $0.48 million
                                            RP: [UNKNOWN]

As the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft I'm assuming that Terry Doyle will make the Opening Day roster, in which case they'd have 10 of the 12 spots filled for around $33.5 million. They also bought out Joe Nathan for $2 million, which leaves just $4.5 million or so for a fifth starter and a seventh reliever. Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak are options to start, but Duensing is needed in the bullpen and the Twins have been linked to moderately priced free agents.

Presumably signing a starter like Jeff Francis or Paul Maholm to an inexpensive one-year deal would leave enough payroll space to add some right-handed bullpen help. Duensing and Glen Perkins are a solid duo from the left side, but relying on Swarzak and Alex Burnett to get key outs from the right side seems crazy. And the Twins had MLB's worst bullpen ERA in 2011, so merely losing Nathan and re-signing Matt Capps doesn't exactly address that huge weakness.

UPDATE: Kubel got a two-year, $15 million deal from the Diamondbacks, which is an odd fit.

  • http://albethke.blogspot.com Al

    That’s a solid team if they’d resign Kubel and trade Revere for a SP. In LF, unless he’s the best defender to ever play the game, Ben is still well below average.

  • PK

    I agree with your analysis and hope for two reasonable additions to the pitching staff. If no free agents are signed or no trades made and the Twins must fill the roster with current players, my guess is Liam Hendriks will get a shot at the 5th starter slot and someone like Jeff Manship will be the 7th reliever to open the season. Depending on how some of the other recently signed pitchers perform in spring training, Manship could easily be out and Swarzak or Duensing could be the 5th starter allowing Hendriks to begin the year at Rochester.

  • Randy Crouton

    Al,
    If they trade Revere, they don’t have anyone else who can play CF, unless Benson comes up a little sooner. I don’t even know what kind of trade value Revere has.

  • Jake

    Why is Butera even on the 40 man? He needs to go back to Rochester. He’s not even backup-worthy. If Mauer is out I don’t want Butera in the lineup… Ever. Isn’t that why they got Doumit anyway? And I think the Twins org has more faith in their pitching than any other reasonable oxygen-breathing life form… Unfortunately…

  • Jon

    The 2 million from Nathan’s buyout shouldn’t be counted as the twins consider it part of his last deal ergo not a factor in this years payroll. Add that $2 million and I think they still might go after a mid tier rotation arm like Edwin Jax, assuming he’ll sign for 8-10mil/yr

  • Adam

    This is, of course, all if you assume they’ll actually hold to their $100 million mark, which nobody really seems to expect them to do at this point.

  • David

    Don’t rule out a trade of Denard Span for a decent starting pitcher, perhaps to Cincinnati or Washington, which are in need of leadoff hitters and/or center fielders. That would leave Revere and his speed and woeful arm to start in center, with a platoon of Rene Tosoni and Trevor Plouffe in RF.

  • http://tcsidewalks.blogspot.com Bill

    Your final sentence is priceless.

  • Ted

    Have the Twins announced that Willingham is slotted to play RF? Because his career 164 innings in RF and mediocre defense in left suggest that he might not be a great fit to replace Cuddyer in right.

  • TMW

    Nobody is putting Revere’s noodle in RF, so it would have to be Willingham.

  • Josh

    I really want the twins to go to a more sensible 11-man pitching staff and keep another bench bat. Tosoni is the most likely choice and would add a LH bat to the bench. (whether or not he can really hit at this level is a real question, but at age 25, it’s time to find out.) 12 pitchers is too many, even carrying a Rule 5 guy (who can certainly be the mop-up guy, right?). The pitching staff should be 5 starters, a closer, LH & RH set-up men, & LH & RH middle guys and a long man. That’s 11. let the Rule 5 guy be the long man and put a bat on the bench.

  • David

    Fat chance Gardy would go for an 11-man staff. No so very long ago, carrying 11 pitchers was seen as excessive. Now 12 is considered the bare minimum. Blame over-thinking, control-freak managers and the resulting specialization overkill for the staff-flation. LaRussa’s success using five or six pitchers every game won’t help matters.

  • David

    What other team in MLB has its left fielder batting ninth? What team in MLB history has EVER had its left fielder batting ninth?

  • TMW

    What do we know about Daryl Thompson? Good K and BB rates, but he is 26 and Cincinnati gave up on him. However Krivsky apparently liked him enough. Does he have a realistic shot at that last bullpen slot?

  • http://tenthinningstretch.blogspot.com/ thrylos98

    It’s a small detail, but the new CBA moved up the minimum to $500K, so that means about $200K more should be added to the calculations. As far as the pen goes, Oliveros is probably a pretty good bet (better than Burnett, depedning on ST) because he is out of options. I suspect they will take a long look at Jeff Gray at ST.

  • http://aarongleeman.com aarongleeman

    What do we know about Daryl Thompson? Good K and BB rates, but he is 26 and Cincinnati gave up on him. However Krivsky apparently liked him enough. Does he have a realistic shot at that last bullpen slot?

    I wrote about Thompson when the Twins signed him last month:

    http://aarongleeman.com/2011/11/28/twins-notes-capps-perkins-cuddyer-kubel-glynn-valencia-and-chen/

    The 2 million from Nathan’s buyout shouldn’t be counted as the twins consider it part of his last deal ergo not a factor in this years payroll.

    This is false.

    What other team in MLB has its left fielder batting ninth? What team in MLB history has EVER had its left fielder batting ninth?

    Plenty of teams have had their left fielder bat ninth. This past season alone it happened 169 times with AL teams and NL teams hit their left fielder eighth another 172 times.

    It’s a small detail, but the new CBA moved up the minimum to $500K, so that means about $200K more should be added to the calculations.

    The new minimum salary is $480,000, just as my calculations show:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/11/19/minimum-salary-to-rise-to-480000-in-new-labor-deal/

  • http://jszym2write@yahoo.com jfs

    This team has lost its identity. Its brand. Until this year, I bought into the myth of “Twins Baseball.” Well, sell it to someone else.

    The franchise has one of the most loyal fan bases in baseball. It has a new ballpark (thanks largely to local taxpayers) and a very attractive revenue flow. And how have the owners responded?

    Start with an inept management team, including a field manager who doesn’t platoon and therefore does not take advantage of a player’s strengths. Also, if you are going to pay Mauer and Morneau huge sums, surround them with other good home-grown players and pay the supporting cast well. Cuddyer and Kubel were Twins from day one, and yet they were allowed to leave. Also, wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone with authority would be creative and think outside the box? For nearly two years, Twins hitters have been bitching and moaning about the dimensions of Target Field. Solution: move the outfield walls in a tad and swap out fly-ball pitchers with ground-ball inducing hurlers.

    After all is said and done, how is this new version of the Twins any different from boring, vanilla, run-of-the-mill teams like Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego, Miami, and Houston? Twins Territory is huge geographically. Why would anyone drive a ton of miles to see this team play?

    Sorry. Get back to me in a few years when some of the best minor league players make it to the show.

  • http://albethke.blogspot.com Al

    What am I missing that says Span could not play CF, as he often has in the past?

  • mikelkaz

    I think they just top last years 99 loses with that lineup. 100 loses here we come.

  • Katz

    “After all is said and done, how is this new version of the Twins any different from boring, vanilla, run-of-the-mill teams like Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego, Miami, and Houston”

    Uh, how about the fact that prior to last year’s train wreck the team won the division 6 of the previous 9 seasons?

    Everyone knows the wheels came off last year. Enough whining already.

  • http://fieldoftwins.blogspot.com/ Shane

    That lineup is solid 1-6 if 1,3, and 5 are healthy. While a big “if” indeed, if, on the other hand, total PAs for the three is <1200, then the Twins will be using the last third of 2012 as a tryout of 2013, and that will at least be something to talk about.

    Anyway, is there any possibility of Nishioka starting at AAA to actually play every day and try to improve offensively and defensively (at least to actually *become* a UTIL player as opposed to simply a backup shortstop)? Signing some cheap bat to add to the roster (Gomes?) would be much preferable than to roll out with that bench. Or even adding some guy like Aaron Bates instead of Nishioka to provide some sort of something to that bench . . .

  • Mike

    Great analysis. I’m looking forward to a much better season this year! TWINS FTW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.bestpaystubtemplate.com/ Joseph

    I can see lots of change that is coming into the play. I only hope these changes will make the game more interesting and exciting. Really looking forward for the real action.