There have been several excellent "how would you spend $x?" articles written this off-season. There is some point in the winter when the ice breaks and teams start signing players; there are often several points at which these occur, and I've often wondered how that math gets done, realizing that one would be criticized for either moving too quickly (gross overpay for Player A) or too slowly (completely missed out on Player A, you numbskull!).
It is one thing to say that the Twins' payroll for 2021 should be in the $125-140M range, take the existing (probable, considering Maeda's incentives) payroll in the low 90s, and figure out a way to spend the remainder, given the estimates of value on all existing free agents, or the +/- in dollars exchanged in any trade.
This year, however, presents a different set of possibilities. One can scour the team pages here and there, and come up with a list of teams that are either a)shedding payroll; or b)not going to spend any more than they have already. That limits the number of teams still in the race for the existing assets. For each of those teams, a little deeper dive can also unearth a relative number available to spend on any of the talent out there (the Twins' $30-35M figure, for instance).
But what happens when you combine all that? Take the Twins, and several high-budget (or "available money") teams and pool them all. How much is available to spend, total? Then take the existing free agents, and their potential salaries, and see where that number lands you, in a.a.v. It occurs to me that we are in a market where the "available money" is far less than the "potential salaries." In that economic circumstance, it changes the dynamic of the when and where and how much in the acquisition of players. If a team can (accurately) project the available space for spending of all the competitors, and (logically or illogically) evaluates those teams' greatest needs, one can whittle down the available market for players. And somewhere in that analysis, bargains can be found.
A couple of good examples exist in JT Realmuto and George Springer. Of the teams who possibly could afford a reasonable Realmuto contract, how many of them need a catcher? Of the teams who possibly could afford a reasonable Springer deal, how many need an outfielder? Carrying that further, once those players sign, and the teams who sign them have their available money evaporate, where does that leave the remaining teams with money to spend?
Yes, I realize there is no hard cap in baseball (though the luxury tax and certain teams' stated desire to get under it does add some clarity), and a team who signs a Realmuto or Springer might well decide to change their budget, or go all-in. But in most cases, that won't be true. Now, we're left with a smaller number of teams, with a smaller budget, scrambling to sign the remaining free agents - and yes, the agents for these free agents can also do the math and see that there is now, hypothetically, only 75% of the available money to sign these players to "market value" contracts, and advise their clients accordingly that they are going to need to sign (now!) for 75% of what they hoped, or fall further and further behind in the dollars-to-talent available pool.
This is where several teams will end up - those with relatively few dollars to spend are going to have to wait until all the big dogs have eaten before looking around for what remains available. Somewhere in between, before the scrounging occurs right up to and including spring training, there is a proper moment to strike.
We aren't there yet. Once Bauer signs, the market for Odorizzi, Tanaka, Paxton, and a few others will heat up. Teams desperate (public relations-wise or otherwise) might overpay for the next available tier, but that leaves arms available that are beyond the price of the teams who are cash-strapped, and almost no competition from teams who have already filled their rosters.
It makes business sense, though risky, as you are allowing other teams to snatch up the "best available" talent and contenting yourself with the best of what is left over. I don't have a perfect match for the Twins (though to me getting Sugano for 3 years ($9M/yr), Kluber for 3 years ($8M/yr), Kiki for 3 years ($5M/yr?), and then selecting the best non-Cruz DH candidate on a one-year deal in the $5-7M range, and a solid LH/RH relief tandem at $3-4M each) adds the most to the club and keeps us in the $125-$130 payroll range.
Who do you think will have to come off the board before the Twins will react? What do you predict the next move will be? I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on the subject.