October 9, 2013

How much payroll space do the Twins have and will they spend it?

ron gardenhire and terry ryan

During their final season at the Metrodome in 2009 the Twins had a payroll of $65 million. Their spending rose to $98 million in 2010 as they moved into Target Field and then increased again to a franchise-record $113 million in 2011, but the payroll declined to $100 million in 2012 and fell even further to $82 million this year. And now, unless the Twins do some unexpected free agent shopping this winter, their 2014 payroll could resemble those final Metrodome days.

Heading into the offseason the Twins have just six players with locked-in contracts for 2014:

Joe Mauer          $23.0 million
Josh Willingham     $7.0 million
Kevin Correia       $5.5 million
Glen Perkins        $4.0 million
Ryan Doumit         $3.5 million
Jared Burton        $3.3 million

TOTAL              $46.3 million

In addition to six players with locked-in salaries totaling $46.3 million there are also three players eligible for more than the minimum salary via arbitration, with the following rough estimates:

Brian Duensing      $2.0 million
Trevor Plouffe      $1.5 million
Anthony Swarzak     $1.2 million

TOTAL               $4.7 million

None of the three arbitration-eligible players are in any danger of costing big money for 2014, but the Twins could non-tender them to avoid handing out modest raises (which they already did with Josh Roenicke). If all three are tendered 2014 contracts the Twins' total payroll commitment would be around $51 million. Toss in the required $500,000 minimum salary for the remaining spots and the baseline for a 25-man roster would be approximately $59 million.

Since spending $113 million in 2011 the Twins sliced $13 million off their payroll for 2012 and another $18 million off their payroll for 2013. And this offseason they'll need to add at least $23 million in new contracts just to avoid lowering the payroll again. To get back to their 2011 payroll they'd have to add $54 million this winter, which ... well, sadly that notion actually seems sort of absurd at this point. (Also absurd: Grousing about Joe Mauer's salary limiting them.)

Revenue is skyrocketing across MLB, with huge lump sums going to every team before a game is played thanks to national television and internet contracts, and the Twins enter the offseason with plenty of money to spend and plenty of roster flexibility. And coming off three consecutive 95-loss seasons there's no shortage of obvious weaknesses to address. Will they actually spend significant money? Early indications from Terry Ryan suggest they won't, which isn't surprising.

Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal is the largest free agent contract in Twins history. To put that in some context, last offseason alone 17 free agents signed deals for more than $21 million. There's no doubt that Ryan would prefer improving via trades rather than free agency and perhaps he has plans to add salary that way, but in the meantime the Twins have gradually gone back to Metrodome-style spending while the rest of baseball goes the opposite way.

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  1. Before people (rightfully) bash Ryan, to be fair it’s yet another gruesome free agent crop. If they were to even spend more than $20m on a few free agents this offseason it probably would not be a good idea.

    Comment by McGivey87 — October 9, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  2. Agree totally. With the end of the steroid era, worthwhile free agents are going to be far rarer than they used to be. All teams are going to have to increasingly rely on drafting and player development.

    The Twins drafting and development of starting pitchers over the past decade has been particularly terrible. Nothing can change that going into 2014. Even if they were to spend $40 million to try and shore up the staff, I doubt they could put a playoff caliber rotation together.

    Comment by Evan — October 9, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  3. I disagree, most the pitchers in FA have more upside than the dregs that
    the twins have. There are a few with potential upside that could be
    around for the next winning team. Sure money needs to be spent-but its
    not like the Twins are banking all of this savings for a future
    year-budgeting a business does not work that way-its going into pockets
    never to be seen again. Personally i would be ecstatic if the Twins threw money at the following pitchers: Feldman (30), Floyd (31), Gaudin (31), Hammel (31), Hughes (28), Johnson (30), Kazmir(30), Lincecum (30), Nolasco (31), Santana (31), Volquez (30). However all are young enough and have a K/9 rate that makes them non-targets for the twins.

    Comment by Lemko — October 10, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  4. WAITING WITH BAITED BREATH!!! Actually, I’m enjoying watching good teams play meaningful October baseball and letting my Twins worries melt away. Who’s with me?

    Comment by mackypinky — October 9, 2013 @ 10:40 am

  5. I want to know where/when this picture was pulled of Terry Ryan. I like the guy but didn’t think he had a any sense of humor – especially not to be laughing as hard as he is in the background. Must have been a pretty good joke…

    Comment by steve — October 9, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

  6. This is the perfect picture for the post.

    Comment by haplito — October 9, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

  7. you would be laughing that hard too if you worked for a MLB team who’s main goal is too turn a profit, not win therefore all you need to do is not spend money and ownership is happy.

    Comment by JC — October 9, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  8. If you think of the Twins as being more like a Country Club rather than a MLB team their decisions make more sense.

    Comment by joeyk22 — October 9, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

  9. The Twins’ playoff window is unlikely to reopen before 2015. They know it, we know it, and free agents know it. Why should we expect worthwhile free agents to want to sign with the Twins in 2014? The Twins have the best farm system in all of baseball right now. Letting our prospects grow, avoiding multi-year deals with mediocre players to save MLB roster space for those prospects when their time comes, and accepting that a poor record in 2014 will come with the silver lining of a high draft pick: that is the Twins’ strategy, and it’s sound. Cheap free agents willing to sign one-year deals with a losing team are cheap and willing for a reason. So next year will be tough, but the Twins are on the right track.

    Comment by GagneWithASpoon — October 10, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  10. I agree with this with my whole heart. I am unfortunately a Twins fan stuck in Chicago and this has been “sold” to the Cubs fans where it is accepted. If they would just admit that they are planning for 2015, I wouldn’t mind. After all I wouldn’t trade a couple of our A prospects this off season for two years of David Price, would you? Look what Kansas City did. Trading for James Shields got them competitive, but are they closer or further away from the World Series by losing Wil Meyers in the deal.

    The Twins just have to embrace a plan that goes all in for 2015.

    Comment by andy4butler — October 11, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

  11. The Pohlad’s seem to be profit-taking and recouping their outlay on what they spent on Target Field. The good news is that we’ll — oops, I mean you’ll — have Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson next year. The Twins are dead to me.

    Comment by TC — October 10, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

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