October 10, 2011

How much payroll space will the Twins have this offseason?

Last week owner Jim Pohlad and general manager Bill Smith both indicated that the Twins' payroll for 2012 will be close to and perhaps slightly lower than this year's $115 million mark, which got me thinking about how much payroll space they'll have to spend. An official decision still needs to be made regarding the 2012 option for Joe Nathan, but assuming that's declined here's where the Twins' payroll and roster stand heading into the winter:

    LINEUP                                      BENCH
 C: Joe Mauer - $23.0 million                C: Drew Butera - $0.425 million
1B: Justin Morneau - $15.0 million          IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka - $3.0 million
2B: Alexi Casilla - $1.5 million            IF: Trevor Plouffe - $0.425 million
SS: [UNKNOWN]                               OF: [UNKNOWN]
3B: Danny Valencia - $0.425 million
LF: Ben Revere - $0.425 million
CF: Denard Span - $3.0 million

Alexi Casilla is arbitration eligible, so his salary is an estimate. I've also assumed that neither Tsuyoshi Nishioka nor Trevor Plouffe will be the Twins' starting shortstop, leaving that spot open while slotting them both into reserve roles. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are free agents, so I've left designated hitter and right field empty along with the fourth outfielder job. There are obviously plenty of internal candidates to fill those spots for the $425,000 minimum.

Assuming my projected roles above are correct the Twins would be spending about $47 million on position players while still needing to fill shortstop, right field, designated hitter, and fourth outfielder. Jason Repko, Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson, Rene Rivera, Chris Parmelee, and Brian Dinkleman are among the other in-house options currently on the 40-man roster.

    ROTATION                                    BULLPEN
SP: Carl Pavano - $8.5 million              LH: Glen Perkins - $2.0 million
SP: Scott Baker - $6.0 million              LH: Brian Duensing - $0.425 million
SP: Francisco Liriano - $5.5 million        LH: Jose Mijares - $0.75 million
SP: Nick Blackburn - $4.75 million          RH: Anthony Swarzak - $0.425 million
SP: Kevin Slowey - $3.0 million             RP: Alex Burnett - $0.425 million
                                            RP: [UNKNOWN]
                                            RP: [UNKNOWN]

Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Jose Mijares are arbitration eligible, so their salaries are estimates. I've also assumed Liriano and Slowey will be starters and Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak will be relievers, which are far from givens. Scott Diamond, Phil Dumatrait, Liam Hendriks, Jim Hoey, Jeff Manship, Lester Oliveros, Kyle Waldrop, and Esmerling Vasquez are among the other in-house options currently on the 40-man roster.

Assuming my projected roles above are correct the Twins would be spending about $32 million on pitchers, plus another $2 million on Nathan's buyout, while still needing to fill two bullpen spots. Non-tendering or trading arbitration eligibles like Liriano, Slowey, or Mijares would alter the salary commitments and roles considerably, but for now their projected payroll is around $81 million with shortstop, right field, DH, fourth outfielder, and two bullpen spots empty.

Subtracting that from their presumed $110-$115 million budget would leave approximately $30 million to spend. That's certainly more than they've typically had available most offseasons, but they also have many more significant holes to fill than usual. In other words $30 million is a lot, but not when you need three starting position players and some bullpen help while also trying to upgrade the rotation. It'll be a busy offseason, but don't count on big free agent splashes.


  1. I hope they add enough depth so they are choosing between Nishioka or Plouffe for the last bench spot, rather than keeping them both on the bench.

    Comment by Erik — October 10, 2011 @ 4:54 am

  2. Can’t see the Twins going with Butera as backup catcher again, given his own ineptitude and Mauer’s health. We’ll need a guy who can catch 70 games at a starting level. I’d add backup catcher to the list of holes to fill.

    Comment by David — October 10, 2011 @ 6:04 am

  3. Drew Butera’s name on there makes me want to watch Donovan McNabb play QB….

    Comment by mike wants wins — October 10, 2011 @ 8:13 am

  4. It also seems like a pretty expensive starting rotation for mediocore talent. Too bad they owe Blackburn 4.75 mill, what a waste of money. If I was GM, I’d role with Plouffe, sink or swim year. Dozier and Levi are in-waiting if he sinks then onto the next experiment.

    Comment by spoof bonser — October 10, 2011 @ 8:25 am

  5. My guess: $11MM for cuddeyer (2 year deal, with an option for 3rd year), $7MM for Nathan (I mean, you can’t go into the year w/o a proven, veteran, closer, right?), total payroll around $110MM. Tosoni is your 4th OFer. Two scrap heap guys signed for the bullpen for around $2.5MM total.

    That leaves around $8MM for DH, backup catcher, SS. Veteran catcher signed for around $2MM (I’d prefer they deal an OFer from their system for a minor league catcher they like….), leaving $6MM for DH and SS. That’s not enough money to fill one of those spots with a really good player, let alone both.

    Other than mauer’s outrageous salary, I cannot figure out how they can’t build a better team for $110MM. They aren’t paying too much for SP (they are relative to the production, but that total is not out of line for 5 legit starters). First base is a really big number, but not totally out of line with other elite 1B. No expensive bullpen arms now (except when they re-sign Nathan). You would think you could get more for $110MM….

    Comment by mike wants wins — October 10, 2011 @ 8:56 am

  6. I can’t imagine any scenario where Kevin Slowey remains on this team. between his injury history, inability to pitch deep into games, and “attitude issues” he’s a goner. This frees up another $3M…and puts another hole in the Twins roster, since there’s no obvious choice to fill int he rotation in the minors right now (I really thought we’d be seeing Gibson next season, the Tommy John surgery really hurts. Would have been a great staff for him to join: he wouldn’t have had to be a savior, would have had some veteran pitchers to learn from…)

    Comment by Josh — October 10, 2011 @ 9:34 am

  7. I think they’ll end up giving Slowey away. Which is a shame, because he would seem like the kind of pitcher you’d want in Target Field if you have Span and Revere in the same OF.

    My only reservation with Revere is that you know Gardy will want to bat him leadoff or 2nd.

    Comment by hansob — October 10, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  8. Mild correction to your list of other position players – I don’t know if Repko is actually under Twins control for next year. He was up for arbitration and got a $600k deal this year, and Cot’s lists that as the fourth “avoided arbitration” contract, although I don’t know whether the fact that he’s been released and the Twins signed him to a minor league deal changes anything. Regardless, he’s not a minimum-salary guy, so making him the fourth outfielder would cost an extra $250k or so (assuming $700k-ish to sign him) over a minor leaguer.

    Comment by BeefMaster — October 10, 2011 @ 10:03 am

  9. I think they’ll offer Arb to both Cuddy and Kubel but only end up with one, at the most. I could see the Phillies making a play for Cuddy this off season, before the Howard injury I was strugling to see which contender was going to go for larger dollars with him… Maybe the Phils… outside of them I’m not sure. I think they’ll play it the same way they did with Pavano last year.

    I think they’re going to have to look for scrap heaps otherwise… It’d be nice to bring in a catcher FA and some BP FA help but not much…

    I’m more concerned about developing replacements for the Starting Pitchers otherwise we could be in a tough spot in the years to come… The Cheap and productive SP has allowed them to spend on their premier talent but they need to have replacements in the pipeline and the Priemier talent needs to perform in that manner.

    Comment by MC — October 10, 2011 @ 10:36 am

  10. As others have said, Slowey is headed for nontender, which reduces our commitment to $78 million. Not sure if that makes that big of a difference in the scheme of things. It’s worth a decent reliever anyway.

    Comment by cmathewson — October 10, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  11. Please don’t resign Cuddyer, Kubel or Nathan. Shop Liriano, Yankees and Red Sox desperate for starting pitching but would want to get one of their catching prospects. Talk to Florida about Logan Morrison and Toronto about Travis Snyder. Shortstop? Brendan Ryan would be fine. Exchange Slowey for some skinny jeans.

    Comment by bill — October 10, 2011 @ 11:28 pm

  12. Most expensive bunch of bums ever?

    Comment by Son of Shane Mack — October 10, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  13. A lot of things depend on Morneau, Span, and most of the starting rotation getting healthy first. It has been suggested moving Justin to DH which may be a good option if Kubel is not resigned. Who is new 1B? Cuddyer if he is brought back and/or Parmelee would get a long look in ST but really think he could use a year at AAA first.
    Lots of big decisions for the Twins coming up, I hope they make the right ones to get this team back in contention in 2012.

    Comment by scot — October 11, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

  14. I don’t think it will happen, but the team needs to collect insurance on Morneau if he is unable to play. He needs to be pushed hard in the pre-season, I unfortunately think he will have a relapse, and then won’t be able to play during the season. The key is for him to have this relapse BEFORE the season starts, collect insurance, and work with a much larger payroll, instead of him playing 20 games and then sliding into second, having PCS again and being out for the next 75 games.
    If he’s having PCS at 18 months, there’s a real possibility that he’s completely finished and I don’t think enough people realize this.

    Comment by BM Berry — October 12, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  15. my main thought reading that list is, wow, that’s not a very intimidating team. There are only three position players that would start for most other teams, and they all have serious health concerns. There aren’t any sure thing pitchers, though Baker and Liriano at least are good pretty much of the time. And there are only two relievers that another team would probably want to trade for. Mauer, Morneau, and Span all better have great years next year, or it could be 2011 redux. Otherwise it just looks like the same team, but without Kubel, Cuddyer, and Nathan. Hard to see 30M changing that enough to do much more than replace those three, and if lucky, some of the missing relievers from 2010.

    Comment by by jiminy — October 14, 2011 @ 9:59 am

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