I think that many people are missing the point about payroll. It's more about investing when the time is right.
First, if the Twins get $260 million/year in revenues and plan to spend 50% of that, theoretically they should spend $130 million a year and therefore should spend another $30 million or more on payroll. Thus, people are looking at that single number and wondering why the Twins aren't spending more now, in an apparent belief that the $30 million will disappear into the ether.
But that $30 million does not disappear. If the Twins are smart, and I'm going to assume that they are, then they will have that to spend in another year. Thus, if things work out right this coming season, they can spend more on the roster next year and theoretically can spend $160 million in 2020.
The two single biggest questions going into this season are named Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. If you as a GM are looking at those two players, are you confident they will come back and reach their potential? They are two, massive "ifs." Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler are also question marks. The base of this team is uncertain.
That means spending a lot of money this year on payroll is a risk. I can buy the idea of the Twins holding off on spending IF they spend when the time is right.
What I do NOT want to happen is this: The Twins do start contending and the team holds off on payroll to that 50% standard -- which would keep them at $130 million. A payroll of $130 million for a contending team with a core of players going into their primes is awfully restrictive.
In the 2000s, when the team was in contention year after year, the previous regime did very little to bolster the roster by spending on a player or two to push the team over the top. They did not invest in the stud starting pitcher or the middle-of-the-order bat, either at the trade deadline or in free agency. And a team that at points was talented enough to win a World Series never even got there.
So think of revenue not as a resource that disappears after a year but as ammunition that can be put to use when you are in best position to win the battle. If you were at war, you would not use up all of your ammunition if you were not in position to win. You would hold off until you had a good position. That's what the Twins should do.
The Pohlads have earned this skepticism by holding down spending for so long and threatening to contract the team. And they have also earned that right by taking public money on a new stadium.
I will reserve judgment until they do start contending. If Buxton and Sano return to form this season and the team starts winning games and the team doesn't make moves to bolster the roster at the deadline and then does nothing but peruse the bargain bin next offseason, then I'll be at Target Field with a pitchfork.