January 21, 2010

Twins Avoid Arbitration With All Eight Eligible Players

Despite having an MLB-high eight players eligible for salary arbitration this year the Twins will avoid the process altogether after agreeing to pre-hearing contracts with Carl Pavano, J.J. Hardy, Matt Guerrier, Delmon Young, Francisco Liriano, Jesse Crain, Brendan Harris, and Pat Neshek. The vast majority of arbitration-eligible players never get to a hearing because submitted figures are typically close enough for a compromise near the midpoint and neither side wants to engage in what can be an ugly process.

Pavano is a special case in that he's actually a free agent who accepted the Twins' arbitration offer last month, guaranteeing a return to Minnesota via a one-year deal at a price to be determined later. At the time my prediction was that he'd get "at least $6 million" and he ended up accepting $7 million, so the only surprising aspect is the contract including zero incentives for the oft-injured starter. Essentially the Twins signed him to a one-year, $7 million deal and can offer Pavano arbitration again next winter.

Hardy gets the second-highest salary at $5 million, which was exactly my guess at the time of the trade with Milwaukee. He'll be arbitration eligible again next season and then becomes a free agent. Guerrier gets $3.15 million in his final year before free agency, which is perhaps $500,000 more than expected. Young gets $2.6 million, which is a ton for a player's first crack at arbitration and suggests that he'll be very expensive in 2011 and 2012 whether his production improves or not.

Liriano getting $1.6 million for his first year of arbitration is also steep, whereas Neshek signed for just $625,000 in his first round of eligibility. Crain made $1.75 million in 2009 as part of a three-year, $3.25 million deal signed before he was even arbitration eligible, and he'll earn $2 million in his final season before free agency. And last but not least is Harris, who unlike the other seven arbitration-eligible guys avoided the process by agreeing to a two-year contract worth $3.2 million plus incentives.

Because this is Harris' first season of arbitration eligibility I'm unclear why the Twins would bother with a two-year deal. He was already under team control through 2012 anyway, so like Crain now that his three-year contract has expired Harris will still be arbitration eligible when the two-year pact is finished. Signing him for two years gives the Twins cost certainty, but Harris is hardly a threat to earn a big raise following a breakout and there's room to question whether they should even want him around in 2011.

He's been disappointing offensively and defensively since being included in the Young-for-Matt Garza swap two offseasons ago, hitting .263/.319/.379 in 943 plate appearances while proving to be a liability at shortstop and second base. He's been productive against left-handed pitching with a .303/.360/.425 line over the past three seasons and has a solid glove at third base, but with awful range up the middle and a .257/.313/.387 mark against righties I'm not sure why they needed to lock Harris in for 2011.

In all the Twins committed about $25 million to their eight arbitration-eligible players, raising the overall payroll commitment for 2010 to approximately $90 million. That represents a huge increase over their $65 million payroll last year, but a) with the new ballpark opening in April that was expected, and b) the payroll was already as high as $72 million in 2007. My hope is that there's still enough room to add an infielder for about $5 million since they're apparently willing to waste that much on Jarrod Washburn.

Once you're done here, check out my NBCSports.com blog and Twitter updates.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.