Twins Payroll Really is Resource Allocation
Image courtesy of © Denny Medley-USA TODAY SportsLet’s start off by clearing the air. There’s roughly a month left until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers for spring training. As was the case last offseason, free agents have been dealt an unnecessary blow in both offered and assumed contracts. The dollars for those agreed to are not there, and plenty more talent has yet to find new homes. Given that reality, there’s also the very real possibility that the Twins are not done spending (or adding through the trade market). Any additional acquisitions would cause the following discussion to be re-evaluated on a sliding scale, but the principles all still hold true.
Now, when it comes to payroll, it’s less about a dollar figure than it is a percentage of allocated resources. In 2018, per Aaron Gleeman’s numbers, the average MLB payroll was roughly $135 million. At right around $129 million in 2018, Minnesota came very close to being at that mark. Where they are today puts them at a paltry 71% of that average and would be a throwback to the days of the Metrodome.
Looking back to the last four teams standing in 2018, they came in with the 1st, 3rd, 11th, and 26th highest payrolls in baseball. While the Brewers were certainly an anomaly, the Athletics were the only other team to enter the postseason below the average spend. The expansion to a second wild card certainly incentivizes those fringe teams to win on a more frugal scale, but the best tend to separate themselves from the pack.
Bringing this back to the Twins, Tony Wirt responded to me on Twitter as saying, “Money is a resource. Some teams have more, some less, but if you don't use the resources you have to the fullest, you're doing your organization a disservice.” This is exactly the issue when it comes to Minnesota’s payroll. It isn’t about dollars, but rather about sense. What opportunity cost is left on the table by failing to fully allocate all the resources at your disposal?
In this space, as well as my personal blog, and Twitter, I have long defended the notion that the Twins haven’t needed to spend in recent years. Certainly, the opening of Target Field was seen (and pitched) as a new revenue stream. It is, but league- wide the greatest share of revenue still comes from lucrative TV contracts, which the Twins do not have. On top of that, doling out cash, err... resources, when the overall conditions (talent and competition) lack optimal opportunity for winning, is not ideal. That’s not to say I’m in favor of tanking but spending significantly while lagging behind the competition isn’t smart sports business. Right now, however, the contributing factors have changed.
Going into 2019 the Cleveland Indians are the worst they’ve been in recent memory. Rocco Baldelli will field a team (as it sits now) that is substantially better on paper than it was at the end of 2018. Knowing full well that there are additional resources available, fans should be clamoring for them to be used.
There are fringe players in the bullpen, and there are unknowns in the starting rotation. Can the front office improve upon Matt Magill, Tyler Duffey, or Adalberto Mejia? Can depth be improved by signing a player or two who pushes everyone else down a notch? With what’s left on the open market the answers would both seem to be a resounding yes. By failing to execute on that opportunity, the team is doing a disservice to those who are directly responsible for all the revenue streams.
At the end of the day I don’t care if millionaires or billionaires make more money. The players certainly deserve a larger slice of the pie. What I do care about is that, as a fan, the team I’m invested in is operating within its means to utilize every resource available. At a payroll near $100 million, that’s not close to happening. Even at $130 million we have a debate. This isn’t about dollars though, it’s about sense.
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