Twins' Payroll Points to Six Big Decisions
Still, through the crud, we can see the Twins wrestling with six big decisions. The first is the biggest, and everything else is dependent on it:
Decision 1: How much will the Twins budget in player payroll next year?
This is always a small mystery, but we usually have an idea within $10 million or (at most) $20 million. This year? It could be as much as a $60 million swing between the lowest and highest number.
Last year’s payroll was about $138 million. If it increases by 10% or so (which would be expected in a normal year), it could be as high as $150 million. If they anticipate zero fan revenue and being stuck with a full season of paying players, it’s possible it could be as low as … yikes. Your guess is as good as mine. Anything under $90M would be disastrous, so let’s set the floor there.
The difference is even bigger than it looks, because $87 million is pretty much committed, so they could have anywhere from $3M to $63M to spend. Here’s a breakdown. For more on these numbers, make sure to watch last night’s Offseason Live.
My best guess? It is reduced to $115-125M, leaving them $28M to $38M to spend. But they need to fill five pretty large holes that weren’t included in that $87M.
Decision 2: How much to spend on a designated hitter?
Nelson Cruz is a free agent. They can try and bring him back, but he’s going to cost $13-$15M. Or they can search for someone cheaper on the free agent market. Or they can plug in one of the Twins’ prospect bats, like Brent Rooker, Alex Kirilloff or Trevor Larnach, and save the money for another spot.
Decision 3: Bring back Eddie Rosario?
If the Twins offer Eddie Rosario arbitration, he will make around $10M. (That $10M is not included in the $87M figure.) Or they can sever ties and play some combination of prospects plus Jake Cave or Lamonte Wade Jr in left field for less than $1M, and save that money for another spot.
Decision 4: How much to spend on a starting pitcher?
Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill (and Homer Bailey) are all free agents. The starting rotation next year still has Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and Randy Dobnak, but that leaves a spot open. If you believe the Twins need an ace, Trevor Bauer will be a free agent, but he could cost $30M. Is this where they should spend their money, or budget less for a back-end-of-the-rotation starter?
Decision 5: Who must be paid in the bullpen?
Trevor May is a free agent, and likely to earn $4-6M. Taylor Rogers will be eligible for arbitration and be due a raise up to $6-7M if the Twins offer it. Sergio Romo has a $5M team option. None of those are included in the committed $87M, so bringing them all back boosts the payroll almost $17M, or a little more than paying Nelson Cruz to return. Or should the Twins feel comfortable relying on their existing bullpen depth?
Decision 6: How much to invest in a utility player?
Both Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza are free agents this offseason, and together they played 97 games (in a 60-game season). Should the Twins roll the dice with cheaper internal options, right after they went through a season depending on utility players due to injuries to Josh Donaldson and Luis Arraez, and as Jorge Polanco undergoes offseason surgery? How important is that compared to the other decisions?
I’d encourage you to answer these questions yourself. Keep track of the totals. See where your payroll ends up. See if you can hit a number you’re comfortable with.
I think you’ll find that tough choices are going to need to be made. Difficult priorities will need to be set. How brutal those choices are depends on a lot on the budget, and oddly enough, it doesn’t appear the Twins (or several other MLB teams) really know the answer to that question yet. Like a lot during the pandemic, the answer is to keep one’s head up and adjust.
But those adjustments will still depend on payroll and its crystal ball. Even if it is cloudy.
- NoCryingInBaseball, mikelink45, nclahammer and 4 others like this