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Spending the Twins' Excess Cash

After inking Blake Parker to a one-year deal worth just north of $3 million, the Minnesota Twins 2019 projected payroll looks to be somewhere near $97 million. In 2018 Derek Falvey and Thad Levine fielded a team that cost $129.56 million as of Opening Day. Right now, there’s projected to be $30 million shy of that number, and if that isn’t cause for concern, it should be. Knowing that, it’s time to figure out how the money gets spent.
Image courtesy of © Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Payroll and spending are significant points of contention for small and mid-market clubs across Major League Baseball. Fans should always implore billionaire owners turning exorbitant profits to dole out more cash. Spending for the sake of doing so isn’t wise but asking for more talent to be acquired during competitive cycles is certainly a fair ask. Right now, the Twins find themselves amid a terrible division with a leading team that has taken substantial steps backwards. Given the internal talent and proximity of prospects, a window of opportunity has certainly begun to crack.

Thus far the organization has acquired the services of Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, Nelson Cruz, and Parker this offseason. That’s a nice foursome of talent and there’s no denying the roster is in a better place now than it ended a season ago. Given the amount of deficit between year over year payrolls however, there’s real need for the dollars to be put to work.

On the free agent front there’s a dwindling number of options for Minnesota left to explore. Offensively things look all but set, and there should be plenty of reason to be content with that notion. If we’re talking about pitching additions, then there’s still opportunity to do more. Right now, Rocco Baldelli has four of the five rotation spots all but set in stone, with ample possibilities when thinking about how to round it out. That group could be bolstered with the depth addition of a veteran starter, and that’s an area to explore. A more pressing need still would be in the form of a reliever capable of possessing a high amount of reliability.

Assuming the Twins won’t be vying for the services of Adam Ottavino or Craig Kimbrel, the duo of Cody Allen and Brad Brach are plenty intriguing to this writer. Allen is just 30 years old and while he’s coming off a down year, the numbers prior to that are all promising. Dating back to 2012, the Indians former closer had never posted an ERA north of 2.99 until he was hit with a 4.70 mark in 2018. The strikeout stuff is there (11.5 K/9 career) and his 3.5 BB/9 rate is hardly a concern. Velocity loss was a real thing for Allen last season, but his durability remained in- tact and a bounce-back year could be in store. If he could be had on a one-year deal worth something like $10 million that’s a contract Minnesota should sign up for.

Another former closer, Brad Brach is nearly three years older, but should be available on a bit lesser of a deal. His strikeout rates aren’t as high (9.5 K/9 career) and his 4.0 BB/9 is a tad high. However, he too has shown an ability to be a durable back-end option, and his 1.52 ERA down the stretch for Atlanta helped to calm some questions about what went wrong in 2018 with Baltimore (4.85 ERA). Pairing Brach with Parker and Addison Reed would give the Twins a trio of established vets that all have an ability to emerge as better than they’ve recently been. Coming off a $5.16 million payday in 2018, netting Brach at $6 or $7 million on a one-year pact seems doable.

Should Falvey target either of the relievers, Minnesota’s payroll creeps up near $110 million. Adding a starter probably does a bit more for the overall total, and a Keuchel acquisition would certainly push things near the $120 million total. It’d be a shock if the Twins were in on the former Astros ace, but this could be a situation in which they emerge as somewhat of a surprise suitor. Keuchel would represent a boost to the rotation, and a $20 million average annual value wouldn’t break the Twins bottom line. He’s not the 2015 version of himself at this point, but he’d be an anchor in the rotation and has long been a command wizard while giving up a bit on the strikeout front. The Twins could offer Dallas a three-year $60 million contract and feel good about what they’d be getting.

Any way you cut it, I’m coming up with a number somewhere between the $110-120 million range should the organization add another free agent. A desired step back in payroll from the highest in history is a fair ask, but relative to revenues, it’s much more sensible to at least continue with the same water mark. In closing whatever deficit would be left, Minnesota has three key internal options that could be looked at in terms of spending.

Jose Berrios will soon embark upon his age 25 season and has already compiled just under 400 big league innings. He made his first All-Star game in 2018 and has the makings of a staff ace. The Puerto Rican native is in the final year of arbitration eligibility and can become a free agent in 2023. If I’m the Twins, now is the time to make sure you’ve got cost savings on this type of a talent. An extension buying out his arbitration years would give Berrios a nice payday, while giving the team some long-term savings. Another payday could then still happen as Berrios would be 29 when he hits free agency for the first time.

The two more polarizing options internally come in the form of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Both former top prospects have flashed what was once expected of them, but neither has put it all together. A new coaching staff in place, and yet another offseason of reset, this is probably the last time the Twins will be in an advantageous situation regarding either of their contracts. Both players hit arbitration for the first time in 2019, with Sano becoming a free agent in 2022 (with Buxton a year later due to his service time manipulation in 2018). Should the Twins have belief that the best is yet to come, now is the time to strike.

An extension for Sano would come on the heels of a season in which he posted just a .679 OPS, was demoted to Single A, and played in just 71 games. It would be reflective of a belief that there has been buy-in to the conditioning program this winter, and that the new manager would be able to unlock and develop his potential. Should the Dominican post another .916 OPS like his rookie year, or .859 mark as an All-Star in 2017, any chance of a team-friendly deal likely goes out the window.

The same logic applies to Buxton in that we saw 28 dismal games and there’s only room to go up from there. Byron was both hurt and ineffective for the majority of 2018. Coming off a September in which he felt scorned, a nice payday would likely help to smooth things over with the front office. Although he’s yet to display his September 2017 performance over a long stretch, that type of talent is the thing MVP’s are made of. Should Baldelli be able to get even a high percentage of his potential from the Georgia native, Minnesota will be looking at a player excited about hitting free agency as soon as possible.

Putting a bow on all of this, Minnesota has a good chunk of change yet to dole out. Grabbing one more free agent and then allocating the extras to some expected cornerstones would be a nice way to wrap up the period in which there is no baseball. We have another month or so until players report to spring training, but how the front office decides to navigate that journey remains one worth watching.

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47 Comments

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ChrisKnutson
Jan 10 2019 04:20 PM
Just sign Allen and call it an offseason.
    • FargoFanMan likes this
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FargoFanMan
Jan 10 2019 04:56 PM

Cano has more than earned his money. It was a lot of bad decisions around him that hurt. Also, Houston becoming awesome fast. And LA falling into Trout.

Oooops! Oh look. Mike Trout!
    • Mike Sixel likes this

The Cano that was 30+ years old and still delivered 3 above solid years in Seattle? Are talking about the 29 year old Grienke that rivaled only his own teammate in LA at a modest 20M+. Or is it the 32 year old Grienke that has fared pretty damn well for his age it’s just the albatross annual salary that may be a bit much for anyone not named Kershaw? These two guys are I believe the exception and not the rule when it comes to FA’s. I’m talking about a guy who is 26. Plays 160+ games a year. Without injury is gonna put up at least 280/330/450. Embraces being the face of a franchise. Plays stellar 3rd base and very solid SS. Of course that is gonna cost you money. After 4 years and it’s not a fit then you trade him. He’s only 30 then if there’s not already an opt out somewhere in there. This guy has at least 4 more prime years barring major injury which is covered by an insurance I’m sure. If not this guy though then who? That’s my question. The answer? Nobody. Harpers close but injury prone and doesn’t provide the glove. I’d pay Manny a front loaded contract maybe in the 35-40M range over the first 5 of 10 years with a few opt outs. Then you have something to build around and he’s instantly the most recognized face of Minnesota sports and more. Who’s next? A retired Mauer? Parise? Guys who are either retired or washed up?


The Twins don't have payroll room to front load that deal.
No BamTech money this year, max payroll mandate is likely $103-106.

You can say there is no salary cap, but we have to deal in reality, not "coulds" or "shoulds". The FO has a hard payroll budget, whether we like it or not.
    • FargoFanMan likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 10 2019 07:41 PM

 

 

. Who’s the face of this franchise right now? Anybody? Who?

 

 

 

And the answer is (drum-roll please) Willians Astudillo.

    • FargoFanMan, ken and Tomj14 like this

They received $50 million from the sale of BamTech last year. They spend roughly 50% on payroll, so $25 million.
They will open somewhere around $25 million less than last year.


Sorry for being dumb, but who is "they"?

100 Mil is the Twins sweet spot.I don't see them going much past that number.Especially with a team where it is hard to determine what players will step up or stay bad and this team full of those types of players.Player performance is anyone's best guess so I don't see the FO spending just to spend. 
 
I believe they have a plan but I don't think it includes spending a lot of money this year.As best I can tell they are still looking for a core.Until they find that it is hard to move forward with any certainty.So I don't see them breaking the bank this year but that is just my opinion.


You raise a very interesting point. The assumption is that the White Sox, the Royals and the Tigers will not be very good in '19. But, like the Twins they are, as you wrote, looking to build on a core. The question is whether the Twins' "wait and see" attitude in '19 with a drive for the division in '20 or even '21 will be eclipsed by those three teams as they advance their minor leaguers.
    • Dman and Tomj14 like this

Sorry for being dumb, but who is "they"?


They are the Twins, sorry.

 

You raise a very interesting point. The assumption is that the White Sox, the Royals and the Tigers will not be very good in '19. But, like the Twins they are, as you wrote, looking to build on a core. The question is whether the Twins' "wait and see" attitude in '19 with a drive for the division in '20 or even '21 will be eclipsed by those three teams as they advance their minor leaguers.

 

Yeah I think the division gets a lot more competitive in 20 and 21.Having our young core play poorly and not a lot of young high end pitching talent means we might be waiting for wave two which most likely arrives in 2021 and 2022.The longer we wait the better our rivals get as well.The thing is we still have to have a young core before we can plug the weak spots with vets.I guess I hope our talent and injury luck works out better than the other guys otherwise we will be good but not good enough to make the playoffs.

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Battle ur tail off
Jan 11 2019 02:34 PM

 

You raise a very interesting point. The assumption is that the White Sox, the Royals and the Tigers will not be very good in '19. But, like the Twins they are, as you wrote, looking to build on a core. The question is whether the Twins' "wait and see" attitude in '19 with a drive for the division in '20 or even '21 will be eclipsed by those three teams as they advance their minor leaguers.

 

Almost gua-ran-fricken-teed. You think Chicago is gonna sit on their hands when they are ready? They have a decent season this coming season they will go out and sign or trade for the best pitcher and position player out there. Twins should be stacking up 25-30 year old players with high end talent right now. Instead they are looking dumpster and old boys on 1 year deals. 

 

Like it or not, the Twins are gonna still hinge on Buxton and Sano. Don't expect anything out of the A ball wonder kids either for another 2-3 years either. They just won't be impact players until then if they are at all. You've seen what guys coming up through our system do. It takes a few years for them to get acclimated no matter the talent level. Our Minor league system just hasn't been any good at preparing them. Let's hope at least that part of the organization is changing, if nothing else. 

    • FargoFanMan likes this
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Channing1964
Jan 12 2019 06:25 PM
Id like to see us take a run at Marwin Gonzalez. Having him on the roster means you can keep 13 pitchers, Garver, Astudillo, and Austin on the bench.(okay not Astudillo) If Marwin plays every day, and he should, Cron, Sano, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, Schoop, and Polanco could each get one day off a week. Use the restf of the money for a veteran lefty starter and a proven closer and our payroll is about 120 million.

 

I wish everyone would stop assuming Cleveland is starting to backslide.

 

They are "backsliding" but they have a long way to fall to be with the rest of the division. They'll have little trouble next year until the playoffs.

 

Sorry for being dumb, but who is "they"?

Every major league team got this amount of money

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FargoFanMan
Jan 13 2019 01:39 PM
If we’re not spending cash then why are we not making deals? Adding prospects? Anything? We’re caught in the middle right now which is almost worse than rebuilding. Would the braves want Kepler? They have pitching prospects galore. Kepler and someone for a prospect or two. Maybe Teheran and Wright? Or someone else.

Who’s the face of this franchise right now? Anybody? Who?

  

And the answer is (drum-roll please) Willians Astudillo.


Astudillo is the face *and* the body of the franchise right now. Also, the hair.
    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

 

The Twins don't have payroll room to front load that deal.
No BamTech money this year, max payroll mandate is likely $103-106.

You can say there is no salary cap, but we have to deal in reality, not "coulds" or "shoulds". The FO has a hard payroll budget, whether we like it or not.

 

"I don't know how Terry Ryan got the impression he can't spend money. It's just not true. It's never been true." -- Pohlad at the firing news conference.

 

Baseball is less fun when your favorite team's owner is dishonest.

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Major League Ready
Jan 13 2019 04:14 PM

 

Id like to see us take a run at Marwin Gonzalez. Having him on the roster means you can keep 13 pitchers, Garver, Astudillo, and Austin on the bench.(okay not Astudillo) If Marwin plays every day, and he should, Cron, Sano, Rosario, Kepler, Buxton, Schoop, and Polanco could each get one day off a week. Use the restf of the money for a veteran lefty starter and a proven closer and our payroll is about 120 million.

 

Do you send Cave down in this scenario and use Gonzalez as the 4th outfielder? I would think they would be much more likely to cut Austin, keep Cave and they would need to cut Adrianza as well.

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Channing1964
Jan 14 2019 01:15 AM

Do you send Cave down in this scenario and use Gonzalez as the 4th outfielder? I would think they would be much more likely to cut Austin, keep Cave and they would need to cut Adrianza as well.

Until the need for 13 pitchers rears its ugly head why not have Adrianza, Gonzalez, Garver/Castro and either Cave or Astudillo on the bench. I think we already all know that Austin will be DFA-ed. They should be cool and do it now so he can go to Spring Training fresh. Gonzalez is gonna play every day, so the bench will be in constant state of flexibility.All the possible suitors for him are disappearing fast(Yankees, A's, Mets, Phillies, Nationals)
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Major League Ready
Jan 14 2019 08:27 AM

 

Until the need for 13 pitchers rears its ugly head why not have Adrianza, Gonzalez, Garver/Castro and either Cave or Astudillo on the bench. I think we already all know that Austin will be DFA-ed. They should be cool and do it now so he can go to Spring Training fresh. Gonzalez is gonna play every day, so the bench will be in constant state of flexibility.All the possible suitors for him are disappearing fast(Yankees, A's, Mets, Phillies, Nationals)

 

You are forgetting about Cruz.

The Twins will spend their excess cash in the Rule 6 draft, which is when the front offices get together to parse out which expensive bottles of scotch they can get from the Commissioner's stash. Pohlad likes to pick early in the draft as he considers himself a connoisseur, and it is after all a long season.

    • Mike Sixel likes this
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ashburyjohn
Jan 14 2019 08:56 PM

The Twins will spend their excess cash in the Rule 6 draft, which is when the front offices get together to parse out which expensive bottles of scotch they can get from the Commissioner's stash. Pohlad likes to pick early in the draft as he considers himself a connoisseur, and it is after all a long season.

There actually is a Rule 6. But it's not a draft, it just explains what is done subsequently to drafting players via Rule 5.

    • spycake and Doomtints like this

 

There actually is a Rule 6. But it's not a draft, it just explains what is done subsequently to drafting players via Rule 5.

And given the performance of most Rule 5 selections, it's not a stretch to imagine that Rule 6 might involve imbibing spirits, at least unofficially. :)

    • ashburyjohn, diehardtwinsfan and Doomtints like this

 

There actually is a Rule 6. But it's not a draft, it just explains what is done subsequently to drafting players via Rule 5.

 

Yes but that's not nearly as funny.

    • USAFChief likes this

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