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Spending is Coming, Right?

Ted Schwerzler



Going into the offseason the Minnesota Twins had more free cash flow than any point in recent memory. Multiple free agents inked to one-year deals are gone, Joe Mauer’s mega contract ended (as well as his big-league career), and the front office is left with something like a $60 million gap between current dollars and the 2018 Opening Day mark. From this we should be able to deduce a windfall of dollars being spent right? Maybe not.


On Friday local columnist Patrick Reusse was a guest on the Mackey and Judd show at 1500 ESPN. The discussion turned to the Twins and he noted hearing that the hometown nine are aiming for a payroll below $100 million to start 2019. This would be a $25 million step backwards from 2018, and with the considerable gaps to fill, a barrel scraping blueprint in order to fill out the active roster. You can bet that Reusse is more plugged in than this lowly blogger, and he’s forgotten more baseball contacts than I’ve ever made. There are some reasons to pump the brakes, however.



First and foremost, C.J. Cron’s addition to the organization suggests a willingness to commit some uncertain dollars. Robbie Grossman was always headed towards a non-tender with a $4MM-plus price tag, and an inability to do much of anything outside of getting on base. That type of player is extremely replaceable, but the safe assumption would’ve been to do so at a lower valuation. Minnesota tendered Cron a deal at $4.8 million, and that’s plenty trusting for a guy coming off a career year and 30 home run production out of nowhere.


Looking at the current structure of the roster, there’s no denying that the Twins need at least one middle infielder, no less than two relievers, potentially a starting pitcher, and maybe another bat. By those assumptions, you’re looking at no less than four more additions to this squad. While acquisitions can come through the trade market (which would still carry obvious contract obligations), four players averaging $10 million pacts over any period seems like a tough ask. Staying below the $100 million threshold from a numerical standpoint would take a concerted effort.

Ok, so now that we’ve outline this reality being a difficult ask, it’s time to question why this would be a reasonable decision. As the Cleveland Indians continue to take steps backwards this offseason, it’s becoming more apparent that opportunity is beginning to present itself for the Twins in 2019 and beyond. While there’s reason to wait for a full explosion with Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff in 2020, prospects are unpredictable and getting the most from both Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano should remain the chief concern. No matter what waiting game is played, marrying upcoming talent with producers currently in the fold is an absolute must.


Should the front office decide to sit out of the market this winter, the largest counter argument would be an effort to lock down arbitration eligible talent to long term deals. Getting commitments out of Sano, Buxton, Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler then all becomes a “must do” type of strategy. If you aren’t willing to spend money on the open market, but also aren’t paying for the control of your own internal talent, you’re visibly announcing a lack of care to improve or compete.


That’s really where we find ourselves should this scenario play out. For far too long, there’s been griping about the Twins payroll. Looking back over the recent landscape however, you’ve got plenty of losing seasons and even less controllable talent. Spending big dollars on one player here or there would have never advanced the envelope enough for Minnesota to make any real mark. We are no longer in that period. Top prospects have graduated, the division presents opportunity, and money is plentiful for the proper allocation. Should the Twins fail to be in the same tier of payroll when 2019 kicks off, the front office, organization, and all involved are deserving of the lashing they’ll take.


We haven’t yet reached a point of concern given the lack of market movement thus far. The hopes would be that the Winter Meetings would blast the stove to hot, and we wouldn’t see players grasping at last minute deals well into spring training. Should Derek Falvey and Thad Levine welcome the Cleveland Indians to Target Field on March 28th with a payroll less than $110 million though, forget the cold and just burn it all down.


For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz


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I would be shocked if payroll isn't reasonably close to last season. 


The only one I would offer a commitment to at this time is Rosario. 

I agree with you. The Twins got to a point where they should be payroll wise last season, and now entering a competitive window, it should hover or rise. I do know Pat is plugged in somewhat though, so if this has any merit, it's an egregious misstep.


I tend to agree on Rosario, though this may be your last window to get a team friendly deal on either Sano or Buxton.

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I agree with you. The Twins got to a point where they should be payroll wise last season, and now entering a competitive window, it should hover or rise. I do know Pat is plugged in somewhat though, so if this has any merit, it's an egregious misstep.


I tend to agree on Rosario, though this may be your last window to get a team friendly deal on either Sano or Buxton.


Buxton for sure, Sano not so much (for a number of reasons). How about Kepler though? Probably could get him to sign for less than Sano would, then we’d be able to use whatever’s leftover on a Berrios extension.






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Extensions for Rosario and Berrios yes. Buxton and Sano no. I'm not sold on Kepler either. 

The Twins will do their usual. Sign the cheapest Free Agents they can get while passing over the true difference makers and they'll tell the fans that the window for this team will begin next season. Nothing new here.

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If Sano and Buxton don't become the elite hitter, and elite all around player, they were projected to be, the Twins can't "buy" enough players to be competitive. While Rosario has some two way talent, most of the rest of the roster is blah. Either the defense is washed out by poor offense, or vice versa. Pretty much up and down the roster. I tend to believe that given the approach both desired, and enforced due to Pohlad/Molitor, on Falvine they will continue to build the orginisation to be more self sustaining. By that I mean manning a roster with internal draft choices, development, and trades. if they are analytical enough to figure out someone will hit a 3-1 curveball to the left side 72% of the time, they are analytical enough to know that the MN Twins will never spend/afford enough payroll to compete on a monetary basis with the big dogs. Spending money and wasting playing time on mid level FA's without the basis of a competitive roster is a fools errand, at best.

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Sano and Buxton are perfect buy-low extension candidates. Berrios has all the leverage in negotiations, making him a tough sign. As crazy as it seems, the only guy I'm not ready to extend is Kepler. He plays solid defense, but his bat really hasn't improved over three seasons. I'm not opposed to extending him, and like Sano/Buxton, he could be a buy-low candidate. We just haven't seen the elite flashes in Kepler like we've seen with Sano and Buxton.

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It's such a tough call. Do you sign on Buxton and Sano and Kepler long term, or wait and see and they either become considerably more expensive or you escaped throwing money after replacement players.


I see the Twins being cheap again this season. Sure, they made an overture towards Yu last season. But somehow...call it Pohlad madness or low expectations...I don't see any spending on major free agents. Even the three rotation arms...I almost doubt that any will be extended beyond 2019 (although I have hopes that Gibson and the Twins might reach an agreement).


I still wonder if we are seeing the remaking of the Twins in an image of Falvey and Levine, which is still looking at the pieces from the past with hopes for the future and the desire to avoid any major commitments until they get a total handle on what they want to do with the team on the playing field.


But the question remains, how do you sell the Twins in 2019? No superstar player. "Hey, we came in 2nd! In 2018" might look good to the casual fan. Until they see the ticket prices and the St. Paul Saints play on the field.


Anyone excited about TwinsFest, or will the Twins stack the player appearance rooms with Mauer and Hunter and Morneau and Cuddyer? Talk about old timer weekend.


I'm not against what the front office is doing. But they do have revenue to spend and, as we all know, what isn;t spent is never carried over for future seasons...instead goes into some money bin, or to pay off sooner the Target Field debt so the team's worth looks great on paper to borrow more money for something other than baseball.



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The front office was still adding multi million dollar contracts in spring training to get to last years high payroll.  In terms of trusted sources I do remember a deal a few years ago was going to be done in 24 hours bringing back multiple prospects for Dozier.  Mud repeated.

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