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"Winning" the offseason


South Dakota Tom

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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.

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Yeah, from the fans’ standpoint, this is a guessing game. When Darvish was the top free agent a couple years ago, the market was extremely slow. However, I would bet that the next guys down had offers, like I assume Paxton, Tanaka and Odorizzi have soft offers right now, if they don’t want to play that game of chicken and try to squeeze out every penny.

 

My prediction is I don’t think the Twins are shopping for starting pitching.

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Agreed, the Twins are sitting in a solid position with a payroll around $90 million and a competitive team already rostered. Dobnak, Thorpe, Smeltzer, Duran, Balazovic, Colina and a few others can fill their pitching needs quite ably. Likewise, the field players are solid with reasonable reserves, especially if Adrianza would return in his role as a reserve/coach.

This does allow the Twins to wait. If there is a budget from $ 110-150 million, the decisions still must be made and I am hoping that the Twins take at least one gamble.

Wait too long and the player you want may be gone. Trades are an option too.

Personally, I would like to see the payroll expanded or at least match last year, but adding Liam Hendriks and Cory Kluber or James Paxton along with getting Adrianza back in our uniform would be minimum additions if something near $120 is required.

 

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Do you expect trades or do you think the Twins will roll with what they have?

I just think it’s more likely they are looking for vets on one-year deals. Kluber might fit that bill after all his injuries now; I’d be intrigued by him.

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I just think it’s more likely they are looking for vets on one-year deals. Kluber might fit that bill after all his injuries now; I’d be intrigued by him.

This would be a smart move, especially if the Twins could sign two, perhaps Kluber and Garrett Richards or even a return of Hill. We shouldn'r forget that Dobnal, Thorpe, Smeltzer, Duran, and Balazovic are in the wings; these players are valuable. Kluber is throwing on Wednesday.

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This would be a smart move, especially if the Twins could sign two, perhaps Kluber and Garrett Richards or even a return of Hill. We shouldn'r forget that Dobnal, Thorpe, Smeltzer, Duran, and Balazovic are in the wings; these players are valuable. Kluber is throwing on Wednesday.

I was thinking they will start with Berrios, Maeda, Pineda, and two more veteran reclamation projects plus maybe a minor trade, and whatever young guys like Dobnak and Alcala.

 

Where did you hear about Kluber throwing?

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