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  • Top '13 Stories: #3 - Twins Spend On Free Agents

    Following their third straight year of having their season torpedoed by a dismal starting rotation, the Minnesota Twins went on a free agent spending spree like Twins fans had never seen before. Within a month, they committed $86M to four players, including handing out their two largest contracts in team history.

    Those increases were not just a result of the inflated price of free agents. The top contract, a 4-year, $49M commitment to Ricky Nolasco, more than doubled the biggest contract the Twins had previously paid to a free agent, which was signed by Josh Willingham for 3-years and $21 million. Within a week, they topped that contract again, enticing Phil Hughes to ink a 3-year deal for $24 million.

    But this isn’t just about the amount of money. This also ran contrary to the Twins historical attitude towards signing free agent starting pitchers. Their biggest FA pitcher contract before this year was their much maligned 2-year, $10M deal with Kevin Correia. Other than that, they’ve never paid more than $5M – and that was to Livan Hernandez in 2007. So the deals with Nolasco, Hughes and a subsequent 2-year, $11M deal with Mike Pelfrey represent the three biggest contracts they’ve ever given to starting pitchers – and they all happened within a month.

    During the press conference in which they signed Nolasco, Terry Ryan was asked by Wally Langfellow of Minnesota Score magazine whether or not this reflected a change in philosophy for the Twins.

    “No, This isn’t a change in philosophy. We’ve always said, if we need to do something... Now we have the resources to do it. There’s no doubt, if we were still in the Metrodome, this probably wouldn’t happen. But we’re in Target Field. We’ve got more revenue and resources, certainly. This is a nice opportunity. We need pitching. We went out and got it.

    As people recall, we tried to retain [Johan] Santana or retain Torii Hunter. To some extent, we just didn’t have the wherewithal. We would not hesitate to jump into free agency. I don’t think it’s the greatest path, because it is risky. We all know that. Free agency is not the answer. It’s a help and a supplement to a roster. But if you’re relying on free agency year-in and year-out, it’s not gonna work.

    Now we’re in a situation where we need help. We need immediate help. And this is the reason Ricky is sitting here. But I don’t see this as a big change.”


    I don’t know if it’s a change in philosophy, but something sure changed. Hopefully, 2014 will show it is a change for the better.
    Comments 35 Comments
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      It's a change and it also isn't a change.

      Even with the "spending spree", the Twins payroll is about the same as it was in 2013. They haven't actually spent more money - they just relegated more of it to the starting rotation than they have previously.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Correct, with the new money coming in from the tv contract, they have effectively cut payroll again. All they did was take money freed up, and spend it. Nothing new here at all, yet. There is still time to prove the naysayers wrong.......
    1. TwinsTerritory's Avatar
      TwinsTerritory -
      In my opinion there is a fine line between the Twins spending money because they have it and working to improve the team. When it comes to starting pitching, the Twins have spent some money and have clearly upgraded their options, however they only need 5 starters at a time (obviously depth is important too). I personally liked the Nolasco signing, if he becomes or #2 or #3 in the near future. I'm not as convinced that we needed to sign Hughes and Pelfrey. With the new TV money, I would have liked to see the Twins sign one of those two and bring in a bigger name either this offseason or next. There is a lot of talk about playoff contention on this site and the year 2015 seems to be the consensus of many. I'm not sure that this 2015 rotation puts the Twins in playoff contention:
      1. Nolasco
      2. Meyer
      3. Hughes
      4. Gibson
      5. Pelfrey/Deduno/Worley/Diamond

      On the other hand, 1 more big name would look a lot more like a playoff-contending rotation.

      1. Tanaka/Garza/Jimenez/Bailey/Scherzer/Shields
      2. Nolasco
      3. Meyer
      4. Hughes or Pelfrey
      5. Gibson/Deduno/Worley/Diamond
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I guess I choose to think about it like this: They're also deciding to give opportunities to some very talented young players with good upside at league minimum. When you do that at several positions, it affects payroll.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Correct, with the new money coming in from the tv contract, they have effectively cut payroll again. All they did was take money freed up, and spend it. Nothing new here at all, yet. There is still time to prove the naysayers wrong.......
      While it may be true the Twins aren't spending a higher percentage of their financial resources on their payroll, it's unequivocally true that the Twins have far and away spent more on free agency (both in terms of overall dollars and of percentage of payroll/resources) than at any point in the clubs history--which, of course, is the point.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      This is another one where being upset makes no sense. There was no SS version of Robinson Cano to spend the money on. I think the pitchers they went after are the ones also most likely to succeed. The only one out there that I think might have been a better get was Garza in my opinion, and I'm not sure that's shared here. Santana makes me nervous personally. Garza is also waiting till after the Tanaka thing happens, so I honestly think the Twins were smart in waiting. People would be complaining on how the market passed them by when suddenly Garza is getting the big money deal from everyone who lost out on Tanaka.

      The went and spent money on some of the top options available. I get that they could still spend more, but at this stage of the game, I'm not sure on what. They got 3 guys who all look like they should outperform the contract, they are staggered so as to open up one additional spot each year. They did this right.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      So will the Twins jump in and offer Garza something after Tanaka is signed or not? And is it really necessary to even do so? I think there are now enough potential starters either on the MLB roster or in the minor leagues.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      So will the Twins jump in and offer Garza something after Tanaka is signed or not? And is it really necessary to even do so? I think there are now enough potential starters either on the MLB roster or in the minor leagues.
      That's just it. I personally thought they were done after Hughes and Nolasco... Pelfrey was a bit of a head scratcher, as I think a case could be made for Meyer breaking into the rotation at some point next year, and Gibson, Worley, Diamond, and Deduno all getting another shot... I think they are done, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if TR has a KC trade lined up.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      It's a change and it also isn't a change.

      Even with the "spending spree", the Twins payroll is about the same as it was in 2013. They haven't actually spent more money - they just relegated more of it to the starting rotation than they have previously.

      Well... It is a huge change in mentality. Previously (in the Terry Ryan/Bill Smith years) the Twins extended their own guys or re-signed their own free agents instead of spending $ outside. This season they spent record $ on outside free agents (Nolasco, Hughes and Suzuki so far) and, potentially even more important, they gave an external free agent pitcher a 4+1 contract. This is the same Twins who would not sign pitchers to more than 2+1 contracts and preferred 1+1 contacts.

      If this change in MO is not huge news, I don't know what it is....

      (And they are not done spending yet; they still have about $50 M to spend to get to 52% of revenue so let it play for a while... I still think that they will get a couple more bats... But spending for spending's shake is nutty.)
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      While it may be true the Twins aren't spending a higher percentage of their financial resources on their payroll, it's unequivocally true that the Twins have far and away spent more on free agency (both in terms of overall dollars and of percentage of payroll/resources) than at any point in the clubs history--which, of course, is the point.
      Then they must be spending near a record low on their non-free agent players, for the modern era......
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      This offseason was a win the moment they went over 3 years and chump change for a FA. That gives me hope for the future.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Then they must be spending near a record low on their non-free agent players, for the modern era......

      Are you really saying that the amount they are spending on non-free agent players is the measure by which to determine if they spent money on free agents?
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Then they must be spending near a record low on their non-free agent players, for the modern era......
      Near record? Propably not. But you're right to remark that not many players on the current roster (beyond Mauer) deserve lucrative, long-term contracts. That's an indictment of the past, not the present, and certainly not the future.

      You might continue to tell me that I should not be encouraged by the Twins' offseason, and I will continue to contend that it's perfectly reasonable (and very pleasant) to be encouraged by the Twins' offseason. I don't mean to patronize, but dismissing the 'Good' for the 'Perfect' remains a horrible judgment.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Well... It is a huge change in mentality. Previously (in the Terry Ryan/Bill Smith years) the Twins extended their own guys or re-signed their own free agents instead of spending $ outside. This season they spent record $ on outside free agents (Nolasco, Hughes and Suzuki so far) and, potentially even more important, they gave an external free agent pitcher a 4+1 contract. This is the same Twins who would not sign pitchers to more than 2+1 contracts and preferred 1+1 contacts.

      If this change in MO is not huge news, I don't know what it is....

      (And they are not done spending yet; they still have about $50 M to spend to get to 52% of revenue so let it play for a while... I still think that they will get a couple more bats... But spending for spending's shake is nutty.)
      This is how I see it too. We're an organization that's known to covet and pay for promotion within, yet we've done such a poor job of drafting/developing/promoting for such a period that free agency has proven a necessity (whither our ****ing payroll).

      And let's face it. The Twins are actually buying low on every one of their acquisitions. From Nolasco to Gilmartin. The downside is the Twins get what they paid for. The club needs innings. And if Nolasco played in the nineties (when we were less pitching starved) we might have called him Radke. Hughes and Pelfry are both safe and bold bets. The bet of one year is safe, but the Twins are bold in committing three years to each pitcher (staggered by a year). Indeed, that the Twins payroll remains such a small percentage of revenue, speaks to the deft, if subtle, improvement to the current roster, and what room remains for the future one.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      This is another one where being upset makes no sense. There was no SS version of Robinson Cano to spend the money on. I think the pitchers they went after are the ones also most likely to succeed. The only one out there that I think might have been a better get was Garza in my opinion, and I'm not sure that's shared here. Santana makes me nervous personally. Garza is also waiting till after the Tanaka thing happens, so I honestly think the Twins were smart in waiting. People would be complaining on how the market passed them by when suddenly Garza is getting the big money deal from everyone who lost out on Tanaka.

      The went and spent money on some of the top options available. I get that they could still spend more, but at this stage of the game, I'm not sure on what. They got 3 guys who all look like they should outperform the contract, they are staggered so as to open up one additional spot each year. They did this right.
      Well said.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      And let's face it. The Twins are actually buying low on every one of their acquisitions. From Nolasco to Gilmartin. The downside is the Twins get what they paid for.
      A great point that too many ignore. I think Nolasco was less of a bet and more of a #3-ish guy but even he projects to do well in Target Field.

      Hughes, on the other hand, is a fantastic bet. Everything about the guy suggests that he's a much better pitcher in Minnesota.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      From what I have observed, many fans elect to ignore the strategies of rebuilding because as fans they are desperate for Cano, Tanaka, Ellsbury, Garza, E. Sanatana, or even Jimenez type signings. They ignore the demonstrated practices/principles teams follow when rebuilding, especially mid-market or smaller. They don’t give up draft picks. They don’t trade prospects for established players until their core is established and they believe a trade makes them a contender. And, they don’t sign guys to 5+ year deals. I have asked on two or 3 occasions for the posters who believe the problem is just that the Twins are cheap to post examples of teams in similar positions signing elite FA starting pitchers requiring 5+ year deals. The rarity or perhaps none existence ( I can’t think of one) demonstrates what GM’s think of this strategy.

      In addition, once again, we do not have all of the information. Is Garza really willing to come back? Of course, he is going to say he is open to returning publically but the Twins FO obviously has a much better take on his willingness to return. Do they believe they can move Correia if they do land Garza or even Tanaka. Do they expect Deduno to start the season on the DL?

      I give them credit for moving very aggressively to assure they had major league pitching this year. They could have waited around for Tanaka / Garza and Santana to shake out and lost out on Nolasco and Hughes. The Yankess, Dodgers or Mariners are going to probably going to make insane bids for Tanaka. Seattle’s new TV deal pays them $115M/yr + the national TV revenue adds up to about $100M additional annual revenue for Seattle. And, they proved their desperation with the ridiculous contract they gave Cano.

      Someone is likely to give Garza more years than makes sense for a rebuilding team. Santana and Jimenez are high risk and require draft pick compensation. People get negative on the Pelfrey signing but that signing presents no problems that can’t be easily resolved. They can trade Correia if they actually have excess. They could also trade Schwarzak and use Worley or Diamond in LR.
    1. twinsfaninsaudi's Avatar
      twinsfaninsaudi -
      Livan Hernandez was signed in 2008. Recall that he was signed to take Johan's spot in the rotation after he was traded.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      Are you really saying that the amount they are spending on non-free agent players is the measure by which to determine if they spent money on free agents?
      no, and you know that is not what I am saying. I am clearly saying that Ryan has not demonstrated any change in his willingness to spend money. The payroll is effectively down again, third year in a row since he took over. Until he shows that he is willing to go for it, there is no evidence he is willing to go for it. I continue to hope he will prove me wrong. And if they are rebuilding, what is the point of a two year deal for a mediocre.bad pitcher? How does the Pelfrey deal help with rebuilding? Adding him, and blocking one of Gibson, Worley, Meyer, May, Deduno, how does that help with the future?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      To be clear, I am happy they spent better, I hope, on free agency. My comments are about whether it shows that Ryan has really changed or not.
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