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Spending the Twins' Money... or Not

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Terry Ryan has been a busy boy. We may or may not be impressed by what he's been doing, but nobody can say he took an early holiday break from the office.

(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)

The Twins went in to the offseason needing starting pitching. Ryan told anyone who asked that he understood it was his job to improve the rotation. He also has, at various times, mentioned also wanting to add some bullpen pieces and someone to push Trevor Plouffe at third base.

He also consistently claimed that payroll would not significantly inhibit him from turning one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball in to a group that could compete in the AL Central.

Understanding that almost none of us actually believed that last part, I thought now might be a good time to tally up what the Twins' GM has accomplished so far and how much of the Pohlads' money he has spent. So, let's project what the 25-man roster might look like if there are no further additions to the roster. (For the sake of simplifying things, I'll assume all pre-arbitration eligible players will make $500,000... some will make a few bucks more, some a few less.)

Starting position players:

  • C Joe Mauer: $23,000,000
  • 1B Justin Morneau: $15,000,000 (inlcudes prorated bonus)
  • 2B Brian Dozier: $500,000
  • 3B Trevor Plouffe: $500,000
  • SS Jamey Carroll: $3,750,000
  • LF Josh Willingham: $7,000,000
  • CF Aaron Hicks: $500,000
  • RF Chris Parmelee: $500,000
  • DH Ryan Doumit: $3,500,000

That's $54,250,000 for the projected starting batting order. Ryan may still try to find a third baseman, but chances are he'll go dumpster diving even if he does find one, so I think it's safe to project that whatever four players Manager Ron Gardenhire will have keeping him company on the bench will be making somewhere close to the league minimum, so that's another $2,000,000 for some combination of Darin Mastroianni, Pedro Florimon, Eduardo Escobar, Oswaldo Arcia, Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann and/or whoever else claims a bench spot in Spring Training. (Butera is arbitration eligible, but it's unlikely he'll be awarded much, if any, above $500,000,)

That makes $56,250,000 for 13 non-pitchers. Let's take a peek in to the bullpen:

  • Closer Glen Perkins: $2,500,000
  • Set Up Jared Burton: $2,050,000
  • LHRP Brian Duensing: $1,300,000 (est. arb award)
  • RHRP Anthony Swarzak: $500,000
  • RHRP Alex Burnett: $500,000
  • RHRP Casey Fien: $500,000
  • RHRP Josh Roenicke: $500,000

Yes, pretty much everyone below Duensing on the above list is going to have to win a spot in Spring Training, but for financial purposes this projection works. It would seem unlikely that anyone currently with the organization who knocks one of the last four guys out of the bullpen would make much more money. That adds up to a $7,850,000 bullpen.

OK, we've put off projecting the starting pitching as long as we can, but let's uncover our eyes and take a look at the current state of the rotation:

  • Kevin Correia: $4,500,000
  • Mike Pelfrey: $4,000,000
  • Vance Worley: $500,000
  • Scott Diamond: $500,000
  • Liam Hendriks: $500,000

Once again, we could discuss the chances of Pelfrey being healthy enough to start the season in the rotation or whether Kyle Gibson will be there to open the season or whether someone like Pedro Hernandez might impress in Spring Training, but the net effect would just be swapping another "minimum wage" earner in to the fifth spot. So that's an even $10,000,000 for the rotation. Yes, in an era when mediocre starting pitchers are getting seven figure salaries, the Twins look to pay their entire rotation $10 million. And if that doesn't bother you enough, consider that Kevin Correia will make up 45% of that total.

That all adds up to a current Major League payroll of $74,100,000. Even if we have to add the $5,500,000 the Twins owe Nick Blackburn (yes, the Twins look like they'll pay Blackburn more money NOT to pitch for them in 2013 than they'll pay anyone else TO pitch), the total amounts to only $79,600,000... for the entire roster.

Rich Harden signed a minor league contract with the Twins this week and I haven't read yet whether his deal includes something more than minimum wage pay if he makes the Big League roster out of Spring Training, but it certainly wouldn't be surprising. That said, I think we will need to see Harden throw hard and stay healthy before we worry too much about what effect he'll have on the payroll.

Maybe Terry Ryan isn't finished. One would certainly like to think he's spending some time with the agents of a couple of the remaining starting pitchers on the market who have demonstrated some level of proficiency of getting batters out over the last year or two, but would you be willing to bet on someone like Shawn Marcum still being added to the roster? Yeah... me either.

The Twins' Opening Day payrolls during their three seasons at Target Field have been $97,659,167 (2010), $113,237,000 (2011) and $100,435,000 (2012)*, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. It's virtually assured, at this point, that the Opening Day payroll in 2013 will be the lowest since the final year the team spent at the Metrodome when they opened at $65,299,266.

*Charley Waters of the Pioneer Press Tweeted over the weekend that it appeared the Twins Opening Day payroll would be about $83 million, $11 million fewer than in 2012. The only thing I can assume is that Charley is not counting the $3 million owed to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the portion of Francisco Liriano's paycheck the team avoided paying by trading him. Perhaps the Twins had insurance that negated Scott Baker's salary? I don't know, but even his newspaper's published estimate of the Twins Opening Day payroll last year was about $100 million. Waters must also be assuming Terry Ryan is going to spend another $5 million somewhere because I can't come up with anything close to $83 million right now.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Here's my big take-away: Terry Ryan could have slashed Opening Day payroll by 10% to $90 million and still had over $20 million to spend on starting pitching. Instead he has pried less than $10 million out of the Pohlads' wallets to fix arguably the most glaring problem of any team in Major League Baseball.

Could this be a glimpse of what Target Field will look like during Twins games in 2013?

Personally, I think cutting payroll even 10% from last season's level when you've got an entire community of frustrated and distrusting fans is just bad business. The Twins brass keep talking about planning to compete in 2013, but talking that way while simultaneously cutting payroll by more than 20% is insulting our intelligence.

I think they're underestimating the baseball IQ of their fanbase and they will see far more empty seats at Target Field in 2013 than they are expecting. Of course, that's when we're likely to learn what "insulting" really is... because that's when someone in the organization is going to complain publicly about a lack of fan support.

You get the level of fan support you earn. Right now, I don't think the Twins front office has earned the right to expect a single fan to show up for a game.

Let's hope that changes over the next couple of months.

- JC

Updated 12-24-2012 at 12:44 PM by Jim Crikket

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  1. nicksaviking's Avatar
    Great article, it's cathartic to read eloquent articles that properly sum up our collective frustration.

    Mike Illitch and the Tigers spend money on the team and field a competitve product to prove their loyalty to the fans, and as expected, the fans buy tickets and spend money at the stadium.

    Contrarily, the Pohlads and the Twins ask the fans to prove their loyalty to the team in the form of buying tickets and spending money at the stadium before they'll spend enough money to put a competitve product on the field.
    Updated 12-24-2012 at 01:06 PM by nicksaviking
  2. old nurse's Avatar
    Open your eyed up some more. What front line pitcher has ever signed with a mid market last place team. Write all the articles you want bemoaning the spending. The reality you choose to ignore is that it takes two willing parties to make a contract. Sanchez used the Cubs to get the contract out of Detroit. The trade for Shields by KC is something the Twins could not pull of because they do not have the major league ready prospects to deal that KC did.
    Considering the Twin's needs this did not set up to be a good free agent class. No free agent help for the MI (Steven Drew as a defensive player was a negative, .250 as a hitter, 10 mill)

    What free agent pitcher other than Grienke was actually a number one starter? Sanchez and Dempster were used as number two. Marcum a three. The depth of the free agency this year was in bottom of the order starters. Precisely what you are complaining about them spending money on. see any of the thousand comments on Correia. Look back through the historical free agent signing. Top of the rotation pitchers do not sign with losing mid market teams they have no connection to. So is it that you expect a miracle to happen or what?
  3. Jim Crikket's Avatar
    Thanks for the comments.

    I don't expect Jim Pohlad to throw money around like Illitch does with the Tigers and I don't expect them to go out and sign the top "ace" on the free agent market.

    But this front office is responsible for the past two atrocious seasons and while the players and fans have suffered through this decline, the ownership has seen the value of their franchise rise (primarily because MLB has been so successful, not because the people running the Twins have done such a marvelous job). I really don't think it's too much to ask of the front office and ownership to demonstrate a greater sense of urgency about fixing the problem they've created.

    There were a lot of mid-rotation pitchers available this offseason. They weren't ALL "bottom of the order starters". They certainly were not bottom of the TWINS rotation starters! And I'm sorry, but I do not believe for one moment that guys will not sign with the Twins because they have lost a couple of years in a row. It may take a little more money than a contender would have to pay, but to suggest Terry Ryan get off the hook simply because the very best pitchers will want to play for contenders is just being an enabler. You're telling the team, "you failed to improve the team when they were contenders, which caused them to take, but it's ok if you don't improve them now because they aren't contenders."

    If you ever want this front office and ownership to change their ways, you have to call them out... keep them honest. To make up excuses for them just convinces them that there's no reason for them to ever make a serious attempt to win.
    Updated 12-26-2012 at 02:11 PM by Jim Crikket
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