From The Handbook: Twins Payroll
With a competitive team on the upswing, and a new management team in place, could this be the year that the Twins leverage the free agent market for their ultimate push to a championship level team? An analysis of the Twins’ committed payroll suggests... probably not.
1. We don’t know exactly how much they’ll spend, but payroll likely won’t increase much.
Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Twins opening day payroll has been stuck in the $105-108M range for spending the last three years. Plus, the MOST this franchise has ever spent was $113M, back in 2011.
Also, Twins General Manager Thad Levine has already told us not to expect a sudden change in payroll. This August, at Baseball Prospectus’ event at Target Field, Levine said, “We all know where Minnesota’s payroll ranks among the 30 clubs. We’re not going to be in the top 10, and we’re fine with that.”
Yes, they should see their revenues increase next year, so maybe they’ll be able to increase payroll a bit, but there is no indication that they will significantly. Forbes estimates that even in the midst of this decade of futility, the Twins gross revenues increased from $223M to $247M from 2015 through 2017. But we didn’t see any movement in payroll during that time. In fact, maintaining their same level of payroll moved the Twins downwards in spending compared to other teams as markets inflated.
I’ll be optimistic and predict a very moderate increase of $110-$115M next year.
2. That doesn’t give them a lot of payroll room this offseason; perhaps an additional $15-20M.
The Twins have about $96M committed to their 2018 roster, even if they don’t sign anyone as a free agent. The estimates are in the table after the story. Despite having many young and cost-controlled players, they have six commitments that account for over $72M of that $95M. $23M of that is the much-lamented Joe Mauer deal, but another $19.2M looks even worse: Phil Hughes is owed $13.2M and Byung-Ho Park has guaranteed money (for both him and his Korean team) of about $6M. And both of those deals will be in force in 2019, too, unlike Mauer’s contract which expires next year.
3. Speaking of bad contracts expiring, wait ‘til next year. (Maybe.)
This is the offseason before two consecutive big years of expiring contracts. Next year, the Twins could have as many as $45.5M come off the books when Mauer’s contract and two others expire. Unfortunately, those two belong to Brian Dozier and Ervin Santana (if they decline his 2019 option), but the good news is that $45.5M can add a lot of talent to replace them. Eduardo Escobar’s $5 million will also come off the books unless you extend him or re-sign him as a free agent.
Similarly, after 2019, the Twins could have as many as four contracts expire. Hughes’ and Park’s terrible contracts will come off the books, Jason Castro’s deal will end, and Kyle Gibson (if the Twins continue to offer him arbitration) will become a free agent. This year those four players are responsible for ~$31.7M in contracts.
Add them all up, and of the $95.2M that we estimate is committed for 2018, $82.2M could be freed up for the 2019-20 offseason. If you’re pumped about this offseason, that is little consolation. But it should free up the new management team to be more aggressive in the future on the free agent market, even more so if ownership unties the purse strings a bit more. But all of that is unlikely to take place this offseason.
The Twins late season surge gave fans a glimpse of what their team will look like for the next five years. But the familiar mantra – “Wait ‘til next year” – will likely apply regarding the team’s offseason spending, unless you get creative or get the uncharacteristic go-ahead on a big increase.
This is part two of a five-part series of excerpts from the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook we published earlier this year. You can also check out Part 1 or just download the Handbook at whatever price you deem fair.