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Article: Spending the Twins' Excess Cash

minnesota twins cody allen brad brach dallas keuchel miguel sano
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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 08:47 PM

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.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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#2 blindeke

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 09:55 PM

They should sign Ottavino.

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#3 Mike Sixel

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 10:24 PM

Coincidentally, Harper and Machado are looking for thirty million....

On a serious note, I expect them to add one more inexpensive relief pitcher..... And end at 100 or so.
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#4 nicksaviking

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 10:34 PM

I’m all for the Twins spending more then they have, but I wish everyone would stop assuming Cleveland is starting to backslide. They have one of the best rotations in the league and two of the game’s best young hitters. I think they are closer to the Red Sox and Astros than they are to the Twins. My money would be on 2018 being an outlier, I think rveryone’s in for disappointment if they assume the AL Central will be taken with 90 wins.
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#5 specialiststeve

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 10:59 PM

Would like them to go after Hunter Strickland... was dominant before he threw his tantrum and broke his hand. Should be fairly reasonable and a 2 year contract should get it done. Let him and Parker battle it out and loser gets set up man. 


#6 Twodogs

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 11:46 PM

Get a good reliever and save the rest of the cash for extensions for young guys and to have a lite cushion if they get someone big at the deadline.
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#7 akmanak

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 11:54 PM

They should of signed Grandal.

#8 h2oface

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 01:27 AM

 

Would like them to go after Hunter Strickland... was dominant before he threw his tantrum and broke his hand. Should be fairly reasonable and a 2 year contract should get it done. Let him and Parker battle it out and loser gets set up man. 

 

If he was on the Twins, at least he couldn't purposely throw the ball at our hitters.......


#9 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 06:46 AM

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.

#10 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 07:32 AM

I think Holland would make some sense here too for what it's worth. 

 

I'm not sure going after a starter makes sense, but they could still pick up a pretty good relief arm. 

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#11 Dman

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 07:36 AM

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.

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#12 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 08:44 AM

 

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.

 

I think you're right about that. Wouldn't be surprised if we saw one more RP signing that pushed us mildly north of that number...

 

That said, I have a right to not like that. Given Cleveland taking a step back, there's no reason not to have gone out and fix the pen at least. I can understand being hesitant in the SP market given our situation, but giving Rocco a few good options in the back of the pen should have been a priority. 

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#13 South Dakota Tom

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 10:29 AM

While I understand the thrust of the article, there is a persistent and incorrect notion at its base - "with a leading team that has taken substantial steps backwards."

 

It just isn't true. Cleveland has not gone backward; they still have a terrific starting rotation and signed Carrasco to an extension.They lost a couple of players, but have added others and saved money in the process.

 

Summed up pretty well https://calltothepen...-the-offseason/

 

Just the other day, there was an article on TD about the over/under for teams throughout the league.Twins 84; Indians 91 1/2.My sense is that Cleveland dangled those players to give the impression they were going to rebuild in order to compete one level higher against Houston/Boston/New York, but then shed salary via Encarnacion and Yan Gomes, picked up Santana, Jake Bauers, Kevin Plawecki, prospects, and financial flexibility. I might be proven wrong long-term, but as of today, we have neither improved sufficiently, nor Cleveland regressed sufficiently, to suggest anything other than a small dent in the commanding lead they possess.

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#14 bobs

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 10:31 AM

Of all the realistic names in FA/Trade discussions, Ottavino is #1 on my wish list.This team still has too many questions to answer regarding SP and position players to dive too deep into those pools, unless of course we think Harper or Machado have any desire to play in Minnesota.


#15 FargoFanMan

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 11:01 AM

Perfect way to spend it would be the superstar FA not named Harper. Beyond the same old Minnesota adage of not “wanting” to spend money on FA’s why wouldn’t you on this guy? Yeah it would take an exorbitant amount of money. Yeah you would be signing a guy to a supposedly lifetime contract. Or close to it. Yeah he has so called issues. But nothing even close to the former Manny. This guy just turned 26. Plays everyday. Entering his prime just now. Expects superstar from himself. The risk reward is a lot different in this case than signing a 30 year old player that’s seen his best years in the rear view. Barring a significant injury you make that bet. Who’s the face of this franchise right now? Anybody? Who? Oh that’s right. A guy who played platinum level CF and put up MVP numbers for half a season and just as well didn’t play at all in 2018 and consistently hits .200 when playing. Or maybe it was the guy who was an all star slugger in 2017 for half a season. The same guy who was demoted to A ball in 2018. A ball. Or the 38 year old slugger we just signed. He is surely the face of the franchise. Really?!?!? Well, there is this Berrios guy. He is pretty solid. Maybe a future star soon. Not an ace by any means yet but solid. Or maybe one of these prospects that did well in A ball last summer. A ball. Maybe want to look at the CFer and slugger I spoke of before. Oh wait. Maybe we should sign both of those guys that have proven nothing in the majors to long term contracts. I mean they are a year or two younger, have proven nothing and would come at a great price to continue faltering year after year. That will surely cost 30 million. Ahhh. Let’s just stand with our hands in our pockets and not do anything for a few more years. I mean it only took the royals 30 years to return to relevance. We’re a third of the way there. Maybe we get lucky and it only takes 10 years. Heck, I’ll only be 40 something by then. I’m not advocating going all in. But why not? Maybe it doesn’t work out. Give it a few years. If it doesn’t work out you could still get something for him. If not. What’s 350 million for a pro sports team that’s worth a billion? I just think we need to do something. If not. Fine. But if there was a time to spend why not on this guy? Let the firestorm begin. Aaaaaaand go.
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#16 spycake

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 11:25 AM

Get a good reliever and save the rest of the cash for extensions for young guys and to have a lite cushion if they get someone big at the deadline.


FWIW, no extensions for young guys would pay much more than they are already projected to make in 2019.

Unless you are suggesting they should spend $X less than budget this season, so they could spend $X over budget in future seasons, but generally that doesn't seem to be how MLB accounting works. I would never trust it to actually happen.

#17 Thrylos

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 11:40 AM

I still like to see them add a starter and a reliever, and they will likely add the latter.  

 

Maybe the smart play here is to wait until the deadline and if they are in it, make substantial additions.

 

The point being is that there are several prospects that either need to be traded before they lose their value and/or become minor league free agents

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#18 mikelink45

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 11:57 AM

It really does not matter if Cleveland has stepped back or forward.The only thing that counts is whether we are moving forward and doing all we can do to win.Waiting years for two players to reach their potential should be a side issue, not the force that drives decisions.If we improve and so do Buxton and Sano we are great, but if we improve so that we contend whether they do or not is a better place to be.

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#19 Riverbrian

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 12:05 PM

I’m all for the Twins spending more then they have, but I wish everyone would stop assuming Cleveland is starting to backslide. They have one of the best rotations in the league and two of the game’s best young hitters. I think they are closer to the Red Sox and Astros than they are to the Twins. My money would be on 2018 being an outlier, I think rveryone’s in for disappointment if they assume the AL Central will be taken with 90 wins.


They are shedding all over the place. Cleveland hair in clumps on the furniture.

No new immediate hair growing back.
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#20 Tomj14

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 12:18 PM

 

Perfect way to spend it would be the superstar FA not named Harper. Beyond the same old Minnesota adage of not “wanting” to spend money on FA’s why wouldn’t you on this guy? Yeah it would take an exorbitant amount of money. Yeah you would be signing a guy to a supposedly lifetime contract. Or close to it. Yeah he has so called issues. But nothing even close to the former Manny. This guy just turned 26. Plays everyday. Entering his prime just now. Expects superstar from himself. The risk reward is a lot different in this case than signing a 30 year old player that’s seen his best years in the rear view. Barring a significant injury you make that bet. Who’s the face of this franchise right now? Anybody? Who? Oh that’s right. A guy who played platinum level CF and put up MVP numbers for half a season and just as well didn’t play at all in 2018 and consistently hits .200 when playing. Or maybe it was the guy who was an all star slugger in 2017 for half a season. The same guy who was demoted to A ball in 2018. A ball. Or the 38 year old slugger we just signed. He is surely the face of the franchise. Really?!?!? Well, there is this Berrios guy. He is pretty solid. Maybe a future star soon. Not an ace by any means yet but solid. Or maybe one of these prospects that did well in A ball last summer. A ball. Maybe want to look at the CFer and slugger I spoke of before. Oh wait. Maybe we should sign both of those guys that have proven nothing in the majors to long term contracts. I mean they are a year or two younger, have proven nothing and would come at a great price to continue faltering year after year. That will surely cost 30 million. Ahhh. Let’s just stand with our hands in our pockets and not do anything for a few more years. I mean it only took the royals 30 years to return to relevance. We’re a third of the way there. Maybe we get lucky and it only takes 10 years. Heck, I’ll only be 40 something by then. I’m not advocating going all in. But why not? Maybe it doesn’t work out. Give it a few years. If it doesn’t work out you could still get something for him. If not. What’s 350 million for a pro sports team that’s worth a billion? I just think we need to do something. If not. Fine. But if there was a time to spend why not on this guy? Let the firestorm begin. Aaaaaaand go.

I agree, if the Twins aren't trying at the least to get Manny what top free agent will be worth going after?

That means to get a top 10 player in the majors you a have to draft him, I am not a fan of those odds. 

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