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  1. As the Twins navigate a rough stretch while privately considering how to upgrade the team in advance of the trade deadline, we fans continue to publically look at all the options. Bullpen help? Give me a couple. Upgrade in the rotation? We’ll take that too.On Wednesday, a series was introduced that will look at this trade deadline, but from the perspective of next year’s Opening Day. While it wasn’t meant to be a projection - we know that the team is going to make many moves between now and then - it was meant to see how things would look if they didn’t. Some brief conclusions: The lineup should be great. The bench could use some tweaks. The rotation has an engine, but no cars. The bullpen… well, there’s some work to do there. While we looked at how the team could look next year, we neglected to consider a very important part: the financial aspect. From here, we’ll start to narrow in on the deadline that is less than two weeks away: who could go, what teams could sell, what players the Twins could make a move on, and, finally, what I would do if I sat in the GM seat. ---- In regard to payroll, we’re only going to consider the 25-man roster. The same 25-man roster that was presented on Wednesday will be used. (Yes, that means Magill and Duffey instead of Littell and HIldenberger, even though the latter seems to be a more realistic pair to be difference-makers in next year’s bullpen.) (Edit: Magill was DFA'd Thursday afternoon.) Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, Jason Castro and Jonathan Schoop are all free agents, which removes $41,125,000, roughly one third of this season’s payroll. Here’s what we know right now: The Twins are likely, barring something unforeseen, to pick up DH Nelson Cruz’s $12m option. SP Martin Perez also has a team option and based on his innings projection, it will be increasing from $7.5m to $8m. The only players guaranteed a certain amount for next year are UTIL Marwin Gonzalez ($9m), RF Max Kepler ($6.25m) and SS Jorge Polanco ($3.83m). Going through arbitration will be 10 players. All of these figures are rough estimates. In their final years of arbitration are 1B C.J. Cron ($8.5m), RP Blake Parker ($2.7m), bSS Ehire Adrianza ($1.5m) and RP Trevor May ($1.6m), Entering their second-to-last round of arbitration are LF Eddie Rosario ($8.3m) and 3B Miguel Sano ($5.1m). CF Byron Buxton ($5.2m) and RP Taylor Rogers ($3.7m) all got a Super-2 bump last year but will have three more off-seasons of arbitration. SP Jose Berrios ($3.7m) and RP Tyler Duffey ($900k) will both receive their first arbitration raise. C Mitch Garver, bOF Jake Cave, RP Ryne Harper and RP Matt Magill all will slot in above the minimum but haven’t reached arbitration yet, so we’ll use $750k as placeholders for them. Rounding out the roster are players at or near the minimum. Though that figure hasn’t been released yet (it’s based on cost of living increase), we’ll use $570k as a placeholder. This will include 2B Luis Arraez, bC/3B Willians Astudillo, SP Devin Smeltzer, SP Lewis Thorpe, SP Sean Poppen and RP Fernando Romero. Before you get hung up on any of those figures - they admittedly may be way too high or way too low on any individual - the point of this exercise was to get an idea of what payroll would look like on Opening Day. The math works out to $86,700,000. (EDIT: We'd need to replace Magill's $750K with either Hildenberger or Littell, but the bottom line wouldn't change more than a couple hundred thousand dollars.) Though we don’t know what the team would be comfortable spending, it would not be out of the question to see a payroll approaching $135 million. That would allow the team to spend nearly $50 million between now and next March. The core of Rosario, Buxton, Rogers and Berrios will be even more expensive the following year, without the relief of over $40 million in expiring contracts. Cruz, Cron, Perez and Gonzalez figure to be the only pending free agents on a multi-million dollar deal. It’s not a certainty that the Twins wouldn’t be willing to take on players with more than just one year left on their contract, but at this point in time, it’s obvious that the team - would have said publicly that they aren’t interested in rentals - would have payroll both this year and next year to add impact players. Popular names on the trade market that have one more year of arbitration before free agency - think guys the Twins could easily take on from a payroll perspective without impacting their 2021 payroll - include starting pitchers Blue Jay Marcus Stroman, Diamondback Robbie Ray and Indian Trevor Bauer. Padres Kirby Yates and Robbie Erlin, Blue Jays Ken Giles and Aaron Sanchez, Diamondback Andrew Chafin, Gian Sam Dyson, Royals Ian Kennedy (expensive) and Jake Diekman, Tiger Shane Greene and Alex Colome of the White Sox are all relievers with one more year of control. Click here to view the article
  2. On Wednesday, a series was introduced that will look at this trade deadline, but from the perspective of next year’s Opening Day. While it wasn’t meant to be a projection - we know that the team is going to make many moves between now and then - it was meant to see how things would look if they didn’t. Some brief conclusions: The lineup should be great. The bench could use some tweaks. The rotation has an engine, but no cars. The bullpen… well, there’s some work to do there. While we looked at how the team could look next year, we neglected to consider a very important part: the financial aspect. From here, we’ll start to narrow in on the deadline that is less than two weeks away: who could go, what teams could sell, what players the Twins could make a move on, and, finally, what I would do if I sat in the GM seat. ---- In regard to payroll, we’re only going to consider the 25-man roster. The same 25-man roster that was presented on Wednesday will be used. (Yes, that means Magill and Duffey instead of Littell and HIldenberger, even though the latter seems to be a more realistic pair to be difference-makers in next year’s bullpen.) (Edit: Magill was DFA'd Thursday afternoon.) Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, Jason Castro and Jonathan Schoop are all free agents, which removes $41,125,000, roughly one third of this season’s payroll. Here’s what we know right now: The Twins are likely, barring something unforeseen, to pick up DH Nelson Cruz’s $12m option. SP Martin Perez also has a team option and based on his innings projection, it will be increasing from $7.5m to $8m. The only players guaranteed a certain amount for next year are UTIL Marwin Gonzalez ($9m), RF Max Kepler ($6.25m) and SS Jorge Polanco ($3.83m). Going through arbitration will be 10 players. All of these figures are rough estimates. In their final years of arbitration are 1B C.J. Cron ($8.5m), RP Blake Parker ($2.7m), bSS Ehire Adrianza ($1.5m) and RP Trevor May ($1.6m), Entering their second-to-last round of arbitration are LF Eddie Rosario ($8.3m) and 3B Miguel Sano ($5.1m). CF Byron Buxton ($5.2m) and RP Taylor Rogers ($3.7m) all got a Super-2 bump last year but will have three more off-seasons of arbitration. SP Jose Berrios ($3.7m) and RP Tyler Duffey ($900k) will both receive their first arbitration raise. C Mitch Garver, bOF Jake Cave, RP Ryne Harper and RP Matt Magill all will slot in above the minimum but haven’t reached arbitration yet, so we’ll use $750k as placeholders for them. Rounding out the roster are players at or near the minimum. Though that figure hasn’t been released yet (it’s based on cost of living increase), we’ll use $570k as a placeholder. This will include 2B Luis Arraez, bC/3B Willians Astudillo, SP Devin Smeltzer, SP Lewis Thorpe, SP Sean Poppen and RP Fernando Romero. Before you get hung up on any of those figures - they admittedly may be way too high or way too low on any individual - the point of this exercise was to get an idea of what payroll would look like on Opening Day. The math works out to $86,700,000. (EDIT: We'd need to replace Magill's $750K with either Hildenberger or Littell, but the bottom line wouldn't change more than a couple hundred thousand dollars.) Though we don’t know what the team would be comfortable spending, it would not be out of the question to see a payroll approaching $135 million. That would allow the team to spend nearly $50 million between now and next March. The core of Rosario, Buxton, Rogers and Berrios will be even more expensive the following year, without the relief of over $40 million in expiring contracts. Cruz, Cron, Perez and Gonzalez figure to be the only pending free agents on a multi-million dollar deal. It’s not a certainty that the Twins wouldn’t be willing to take on players with more than just one year left on their contract, but at this point in time, it’s obvious that the team - would have said publicly that they aren’t interested in rentals - would have payroll both this year and next year to add impact players. Popular names on the trade market that have one more year of arbitration before free agency - think guys the Twins could easily take on from a payroll perspective without impacting their 2021 payroll - include starting pitchers Blue Jay Marcus Stroman, Diamondback Robbie Ray and Indian Trevor Bauer. Padres Kirby Yates and Robbie Erlin, Blue Jays Ken Giles and Aaron Sanchez, Diamondback Andrew Chafin, Gian Sam Dyson, Royals Ian Kennedy (expensive) and Jake Diekman, Tiger Shane Greene and Alex Colome of the White Sox are all relievers with one more year of control.
  3. My Theoretical Mindset during the week; The status quo surrounding the Twins all offseason was their stubbornness and inability to commit to any outside assets (in free agency or on the trade block), yet until recently did the Twins finally break that narrative. But… they were in-house pieces. By committing to two sprightly and talented yet unproven stars, have they overplayed their hand on their future plans? The Twins right now are waltzing into what I would define as, a free-agency sweet spot. Where every added contributor would stabilize a liability, and boost their win total, which are at such a premium. The roster right now looks to be somewhere around the ballpark (lame pun not intended), to a potential spot in the postseason. Granted if nothing goes wrong (i.e injuries, supensions, curses) we could be staring towards a roster destined to secure a playoff, and readily prepared to be supplemented during the trade deadline. The added emphasis on a win or two or in the Twins case, blown-save-catastrophes-galore might end up sinking the ship when it comes to contention. If last year's bullpen collapses weren’t enough for you, I would say by far the Twins weakest position group lies in the most erratic, fragile and frail baseball clusters in all of baseball; the relievers. I spoke about this briefly in my last article, but what Keuchel or more importantly in Kimbrel possess is a semblance of stability so unprecedented that the last guy to be a stabilizer for us, is being inducted into our hall of fame. If we focus on Kimbrel in depth, the guy is as rare of a breed your ever going to find in the relief pitching industry. I’m not going to speak about Kimbrel in depth, but what really matters is that they both (Kimbrel and Keuchel) have walked the walks, and might play that kickstarter-trailblazer kinda player to get this steam boat sailing. Somehow the Twins front office has managed to finagle towards a somewhat competitive roster, and despite not committing to any external assets, keeping the books dry of anything, and keeping the payroll at or equal to ≈ 100 million is a remarkable feat, no doubt about it. But is it time for the Twins front office to relent and issue a blockbuster contract? That’s very debatable. Into the Nitty Gritty with Kepler and Polanco Here’s a basic 101 on how rookie contracts work: This rookie contract system is a focal point of the Collective Bargaining agreement and is tweaked and polished constantly, but it goes as follows; Typically ameuteur hitters agree to a contract with major league clubs coming out of school, or out of the states globally and major league clubs are given a 5 year window on either promoting the player, or releasing him. That promotion would then start the ticking on his 6-7 year free agency departure clock, and would stay with his team through his prime and peak years on a cheap deal, until he would reach free agency (expectedly after he would be years past his best seasons*). During his 3-4 year seasons, the players earns close to nothing on a athletic player scale (I say this because 500k seems like money heaven to me). If the team elects to let the player stick around, when the player hits his 5-7 year season he can contest for a slight raise, provided if both sides agree to a compromise. Until his 7th or 8th year does the player final get his rights to a free departure, and test the market for his free agency rights. *there are exception to this (Nelson Cruz etc). We’ve seen this philosophy catch some steam in the present, with several clubs purchasing the rights of players who aren’t “seasoned or proven”, and maybe haven’t even made it to the league in some cases. What this leaves fans to savor is team friendly-contracts sculpted to buyout years of arbitration, for a couple years of free agency. Theoretically, this consumes the prime or peak years from a player, but is it really worth it. Let’s take a look. *Tabulated according to Spotrac For Kepler and Polanco, we’re seeing a hike in annual pay, over the arbitration years that somewhat amount to as what the players would earn in full amount in free agency. Both Kepler and Polanco have received somewhat mildly-risky contracts. Both have underachieved in their time on the major league spectrum, and in Polanco's case been busted for doping with PEDS. These contracts (5yr, 35 mill & 5yr, 25 mill) aren’t going to hinder or cripple the Twins in the future. What I find to be quite interesting is that the Twins have a healthy and expanding prospect pipeline coursing with talent, and yet they still inclined to purchase the underwhelming services of Kepler and Polanco. According to my fortune predictor (oh boy I’m talented fellow, yeet) these are the scenarios I see turning out. When the Twins finally open the window to a championship pursuit, either… Polanco and Kepler are shrewd bargains Or they both continue to lag Twins lineup, and logjam the outfield rotation (with prospects + Cave) I decided to input Scott Kingery, because I thought his situation with the Phillies is an excellent example of when jumping the gun isn’t as picture perfect as it might seem. His contract is nearly identical in terms with Polanco and Kepler, mainly because they have the same backfire caveats and loopholes in dispatching Kingery once he gets old. Kingery hasn’t developed as rapidly as one would expect his minor league numbers would indicate, and played to the tune of a NEGATIVE W.A.R!!! (-1.5). The Phils thought he would form a dynamite paring with Hoskins and the future skeleton of that team. Instead, Manager Gabe Kapler is juggling at-bats between Maikel Franco and Kingery, who are competing to “win or earn” third base. This just hits me clear in the head as when this doesn’t work as anticipated. Just some added insight…. Both of these scenarios have their pros and cons. You might have to shuffle playing time between the chain of prospects and the fitful likes of Kepler, and/or Polanco. In this case you unload Kepler and/or Polanco for equitable return values, and propel prospects to replace them. Or both Kepler and Polanco emerge as building blocks and thrive, and you yield for a established major league chip, and supplement for an immediate push (hopefully sooner rather than later). The time tables are rough and tweakable, but both the former and latter are good problems to have. In my mind the extinction of the concept for paying someone for what they’re worth is truly baffling me. It strikes me as that teams are playing with fire and lottery tickets, and trying to pull a quick on the player/(s). The truth to the matter is they aren’t premising the agreement toward constructive proof but rather on whim, Lady Luck, and canniness. Even with the comprehensive and elaborate analytics (which I’m all for, frankly) I don’t think it’s plausible in the right shape of mind to predict someone future who hasn’t set a baseline for what their ascension might be. For all I know, Kepler could go and revert into a complete shell of himself and morph into the eternal spirit of Nick Punto. That might be a little far-fetched, but the guy hasn’t established himself as any kind of consistent regular. He isn’t a ‘proven’ left handed vs left handed hitter (granted he improved from his abysmal marks from a year ago, but there’s a lot more left to be desired). He could turn into a complete sponge against lefty’s, and be relegated to an exclusive platoon role against righties. He’s an admirable right-fielder whose play is fairly consistent, but nothing out-worldly ala The Buck. Could he be in line for a regression? I guess that’s up to him. Typically young players similar to Kepler and Polanco both experiences growing pains, and excruciatingly painful rough patches, but what usually leaves with people is that semblance of promise and hope that a player instills into a fanbase. Kepler and Polanco are by no means generational cornerstone players, but what Kepler and Polanco possess is that consistency a team as inconsistent as the Twins desperately needs. Every position has been a constantly rotating carousel of prospects, and the Twins decided to shore this up, by agreeing to terms with Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco each on intriguing multi year contract that speak to the mindset of the Falvine Front Office. I guess I’m playing Devil’s Advocate right now, because I’m sputtering trying to unravel their rationale. There aren’t many other motives for Kepler &co and Polanco &co not to reject these deal like this. This is guaranteed money your dealing with, and the signals and indicators in this suppressed markets wouldn’t sway them that they would command much more (or any offers at all) in the open market. I wanted to take a closer examination at Kepler’s logic in this, because I find much more faith in Polanco, RF is a much more vital to Target Field, and granted he got the more lucrative contract. In Kepler’s case, in some ways your betting with yourself; do you believe that Kepler would turn into a monster player and demand a lucrative contract, or do you settle with what in turn is an appealing and secure the offered multi year deal. It’s as playing with fire in the Twins perspective, and in light of him settling you could deconstruct this in either two way: 1. I’m concerned that Kepler would settle with a buy-low contract like this and is satisfied with staying average 2. Or the Twins got an absolute steal of a player. The downsides and upsides are obviously staring us in the eyes. The guys looks he’s a got plenty of a Major League regular’s tools, but the intangibles are worrisome to me. He looks flustered, and stoic at the plate. His demeanor is “I’m under radar, so don’t notice me”. But he’s got those flashes of phenom and potential like he could rake, on an at bat to at bat basis. He got a great, pretty left handed stroke (if that’s worth anything). During 2018, we saw, provided if he hunkers down and locks in that he could hit lefties and for power. 2018 was the year he exorcised those demons and the knocks of his same handed ineptness, and not to mention he’s an above average right fielder. That’s what scares me locking into a promising yet unproven commodity. I have hunch that Kepler’s in for a breakout, quasi- bounceback campaign. I conjured up 7 imperative objectives, if Kepler wants to exponentially improve, and turns his contrast into a bargain. Don’t regress Don’t becomes injured (is that harsh?) Rake and Clobber Don’t flail to back-foot breaking ball Keep Smoking the Ball (Guy is getting better over career) Keep hitting lefties, Let development take its course (don’t rush it) - I literally had this stray though, but what if players get mad at their annual salary and if they’re not getting due compensation, play below their abilities. In this case, does Kepler play to the boundary of his abilities? Just on a side tangent, I stumbled on something interesting when looking through Kepler’s Numbers….. I recall times last year that Kepler had his extreme cold spells and fits at the plate, and I wanted to see how much of this was a byproduct of bad luck. wOBA is simply a synthesized linear statistic where singles/walks are considered as a the primary building block, and incrementally scales a hit as for it’s due result. Expected wOBA is as self-explanatory as it sounds, and just express the quality of contact and how it yields to on field results. Their are some flaws to this that might apply to Kepler (for being left handed), but if a player scorches a frozen rope and persists to label it INTO THE SHIFT, xwOBA would flag that as an unlucky hit, even though the entire left side of the infield is just begging for a bunt down the left field line. This is what hinders the stat, and I haven’t found a way to quantify how much this action has tainted Kepler’s stat value. But other than that, the stat has enlightened me with some tell-tale suspicions that Kepler slumps have accentuated because of the fact he is inducing himself into slumps. I added Trout’s statistic because quite honestly, the guy is the poster boy of hitting and is a golden standard benchmark stat. The reason why we don’t see the traditional pronounced periodical slumps in Trout, (IMO) is because Trout has found a way to amplify his stretches of success, and mask the monstrosities of his slumps and skids, which help maintain sparkling wOBA’s. (Or maybe he’s just too good to be bad????) This is an excellent inherent trait to have, because... It’s a great sign of a confidence booster It reinforces & enhances your overall stat... (Solid+Amazing=Really Good) This all might be baloney, but I find it interesting that Kepler’s more distinct patches of droughts tend to follow the Expected wOBA. The thing is, events like this are very common young hitters, (Heck, in real life too). Kepler rides the Hot-Hand like a wave, but when he hits his lows he virtually touches rock bottom. I just find it intriguing that this kinda-gives us a view to Kepler’s psyche during this plate appearances, to my understanding. Is it that Kepler’s gloom and doom approach at the plate is making that his Expected wOBA mimics and dampens his wOBA? That’s the real question…... I bet my theory will get invalidated, but I think this hints toward some better and consistent productions from Kepler in this upcoming season. Maybe just a little forward thought, the vote of confidence upstairs, in this new contract, encouragement from the staff, and some years under the belt will aid Max in carving-it-up in the Bigs. But if Kepler gets better (which I’m all inclined to believe), and if his performance does ride along an expected course, Kepler’s 8th and 7th year salaries are at complete bargain bottom prices. I also believe to some minuscule or macroscopic level (or really anything in between), that this instills some motivation into players. Disregarding why people rip players who pale in comparison near nothing to the owners, it’s a vote of confidence from the Front Office. It’s not like them handing contracts is routine kinda thing, and it issues sort of closure or something close after all summer people were calling for their collective heads. I do like these contracts, if that’s what you came to read this for, but still believe (no matter how much the PR department iterates it), where Buxton and Sano go, so do the Twins. I do hope success for all these player because they will take the fall if everything crashes and burns. Both Sano and Buxton in my mind aren’t ever going to have a year of this magnitude to prove doubters and/or the FO they were destined for stardom. To make the postseason I think the Journey runs right square through Buxton and Sano cascades, and to qualify to the playoffs I think it’s unequivocally contingent if Sano and Buxton rise to the occasion. This all surmises to probably befuddling you more prior to reading my tyrade/spiel but let’s simplify into simpler terms; if Kepler plays at or near a 4-5 WAR per year,(which is roughly fringe all-star level) this contract is a boon for the Twins. It's a bust if Kepler plays to a 1-3 WAR level (because the Twins have plenty of role players to insert). This also applies to some degree with Polanco.
  4. How often does spending big in free agency actually result in winning more games the next year? Thank you for asking this question, voice in my head, because I was wondering the same thing. What I want to look at are the teams that spent the most money in the offseason and then how they did the year following with their new toys.Given that we’re Twins fans here, payroll has never been a topic of discussion. No one has ever been annoyed at the lack of big spending in free agency and is always perfectly OK with how the front office allocates their resources, especially this year. Free agency is supposed to be an opportunity to right the sinking ship through veteran additions to a low-talent roster (Texas), to fortify a good roster to take their team over the top (Boston), or to sit around and talk about how good the farm system is (San Diego). Every year, we see the offseason as a chance for teams to flex on small market franchises by throwing money at players like drunken pirates. Nowadays it isn’t as prevalent, but teams are still paying players for their services for the next year or beyond. But is that a recipe for success? The process is quite simple: Find the top 10 spending teams in an offseason over the last five years and then see where they ended up the following year. I’ll rank them by total money spent so that the Padres’ brilliant Eric Hosmer contract screws them over a lot because they deserve to be ridiculed. Information will be used from Spotrac, let’s see what it says! 2018 offseason shopping sprees Download attachment: Spending1.png A few things are already looking interesting here! The Cubs slide into the top spot because they handed out contracts to pitchers like Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood who both probably are sleeping in their beds of money, grateful for their agents, while the Ricketts continue to try to print money in order to scrape together a hitting coach that they won’t throw under the bus. Other than that, a great number of the top teams are up there because of financial promises to a single player. Some were great (J.D. Martinez with Boston), some were very good (Lorenzo Cain with Milwaukee), and some were terrible the second they were signed (everyone with the Rockies). Altogether, the top 10 in spending netted +6 wins overall or +34 if you want to ignore Baltimore, which is a good plan for just about everything. Only 3 teams went negative in wins the year after spending like a redneck at a gas station with one of them being, of course, the Twins... great luck there. Let’s go back one more year now. 2017 offseason shopping spree Download attachment: Spending2.png Ah, 2017, a simpler time, a time where Dexter Fowler received the third-most expensive contract of the offseason and Ian Desmond got the fifth. I have to say, I like seeing the spread of typically smaller spending teams here like Miami, Cleveland, and Colorado. It really just warms my cold, frozen heart. Overall the top ten spending teams netted a whole -1 more wins than the year prior but that number becomes +22 if you throw out the massive outlier in the Giants. The Dodgers were by far the biggest spenders but most of it was them keeping players they already had like Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and Rich Hill, leaving Sergio Romo and his $3 million payday as their highest paid free agent who came from another team. All in all, this list translates fairly well to success when considering the context of which players were brought in for which team. Houston added a few veterans who turned them into a World Series champion, Cleveland added Edwin Encarnacion to legitimize their lineup and lead them straight into and out of the playoffs after the first round, and the Yankees added back Aroldis Chapman after swindling the Cubs into trading yet another top prospect for pitching. Although, someone should have told St. Louis not to invest over $110 million into Brett Cecil and Dexter Fowler, yikes. 2016 shopping spree Download attachment: Spending3.png The first obvious thing to note, what the hell was going on in this offseason? Are you guys seeing the amount of money that teams were spending here? We talk about the horrible offseason in 2018, but it looks like free agency actually started going downhill a year before that. Maybe it was a fluke year, but teams were dropping money like upper-class toddlers at Toys R' Us on their birthday. All for elite names like Chris Davis, Jason Heyward, Ian Kennedy, and Jordan Zimmermann. Freakin' Jeff Samardzija got $90 million this offseason. What was going on back then? Luckily, there isn’t some massive outlier team, so adding up the wins gained/lost results in a cool +9 overall. I do love how the Twins biggest signing that offseason was David Murphy, who decided that he would rather not play baseball the rest of his life than play for the Twins. And this was after an 83 win season! The next biggest acquisition was Carlos Quentin who you definitely forgot was technically a Twin, leaving the only impactful addition being Fernando Abad who was signed to a minor league deal, great stuff Terry Ryan, it’s a wonder that it took him that long to be canned. Despite that Heyward contract looking like the albatross to end all albatrosses, the Cubs dropping nearly the GDP of the Republic of Palau that offseason brought them to the promised land thanks to other veteran signings like Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, and John Lackey. 2015 shopping spree Download attachment: Spending4.png We finally reach the infamous 2015 offseason where Max Scherzer and Jon Lester got paid handsomely and actually provided good value for their team while Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez also got paid well and did whatever the opposite of providing value would be. Overall, the top spending teams netted +38 wins overall which still stays a +14 even if you throw out the outlier Cubs. There isn’t too much to really report here, spending was about what it typically is. The Royals added some garnish to their eventually World Series-winning club with the signings of Edinson Volquez and Twins legend Kendrys Morales. Hell, they even gave Alex Rios $11 million that offseason to kind of just hang around and do Alex Rios things. This was also the year where the Twins handed out their biggest contract ever to Ervin Santana which went pretty well and they also decided to bring back Torii Hunter for old times sake, which went less well, but who cares? Torii was back! 2014 shopping spree Download attachment: Spending5.png What a strange offseason this was, the Mariners absolutely shocked the world when they gave a 31-year-old Robinson Cano a 10 year, $240 million contract and then later shocked no one by not keeping him through the whole deal. The Rangers gave Shin-Soo Choo $130 million and then lost 24 more games than the year prior. The Yankees decided to back the dump truck of money up for veterans like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran and I’m sure that they would still do that Ellsbury contract again if they could. The Twins slot in as the fourth-highest spending team mostly thanks to the elite three-headed Nolasco-Hughes-Pelfrey starting trio. They also tried to bring back Kubel, Bartlett, and Guerrier, all of whom failed miserably and proved that you do in fact become the villain if you live long enough. Kurt Suzuki was a nice cheap find here who made the All-Star Game despite being signed for less than $3 million in the offseason and is still kicking after getting a nice deal from the Nationals this offseason. Overall the top 10 spending teams netted +16 more wins than the year prior and there is something kind of hilarious about the second highest spending team going +26 while the third highest went -24. Interestingly enough, the Giants won the World Series that year despite their biggest signing that offseason being a Tim Hudson who was collecting social security at that point and needed a walker to get to the mound. All right, that’s a lot of information, but what narratives can we draw from this? Overall, through five years of data covering 50 individual team seasons, the top 10 spending teams netted 68 more wins or an average of 1.36 more games won than the year before. Throwing out any season that ended in a +20 or -20 to control for outliers brings the number to 93 more wins total, or an average of 2.07 more games won than the prior year. So, there is a very slight positive correlation between spending money and winning more games than the year before. Let’s get even more specific here: The top spending team over each offseason overall won eight more games than the year before, or an average of 1.6 more games won. Teams that were top three in spending in a given year won 41 more games than the year before overall, or an average of 2.73 more games. Teams that spent more than $200 million in an offseason overall netted 45 more wins the next year, or 4.5 more games on average. For me, this data is certainly interesting, but nothing really groundbreaking or astonishing. Spending more does indeed have a general slight positive correlation with winning the next year, but the numbers weren’t exactly eye-popping to me. Just an average of one to two more games won than the year prior. That total is certainly an improvement, but not such an incredible one that spending becomes such an obscene advantage over other teams that it isn’t even fair. I also find it hilarious that the top spending team on average barely won more games than the year before... so much for a competitive advantage. I suppose if I had any other major conclusions, it would be that spending more than $200 million in an offseason without being the highest spending team would be the best plan of attack for teams who are inclined to do such things. As it pertains to the Twins, spending more would improve the team, but context is more important when considering how much a team spends. Yes, in general spending more will win a team more games, but it has been and will always be about how that money is spent more than how much of that money is spent. Spending will never save a bad team from the depths of irrelevance, but it can certainly lift a team up into the glories of the Postseason. Click here to view the article
  5. Given that we’re Twins fans here, payroll has never been a topic of discussion. No one has ever been annoyed at the lack of big spending in free agency and is always perfectly OK with how the front office allocates their resources, especially this year. Free agency is supposed to be an opportunity to right the sinking ship through veteran additions to a low-talent roster (Texas), to fortify a good roster to take their team over the top (Boston), or to sit around and talk about how good the farm system is (San Diego). Every year, we see the offseason as a chance for teams to flex on small market franchises by throwing money at players like drunken pirates. Nowadays it isn’t as prevalent, but teams are still paying players for their services for the next year or beyond. But is that a recipe for success? The process is quite simple: Find the top 10 spending teams in an offseason over the last five years and then see where they ended up the following year. I’ll rank them by total money spent so that the Padres’ brilliant Eric Hosmer contract screws them over a lot because they deserve to be ridiculed. Information will be used from Spotrac, let’s see what it says! 2018 offseason shopping sprees A few things are already looking interesting here! The Cubs slide into the top spot because they handed out contracts to pitchers like Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood who both probably are sleeping in their beds of money, grateful for their agents, while the Ricketts continue to try to print money in order to scrape together a hitting coach that they won’t throw under the bus. Other than that, a great number of the top teams are up there because of financial promises to a single player. Some were great (J.D. Martinez with Boston), some were very good (Lorenzo Cain with Milwaukee), and some were terrible the second they were signed (everyone with the Rockies). Altogether, the top 10 in spending netted +6 wins overall or +34 if you want to ignore Baltimore, which is a good plan for just about everything. Only 3 teams went negative in wins the year after spending like a redneck at a gas station with one of them being, of course, the Twins... great luck there. Let’s go back one more year now. 2017 offseason shopping spree Ah, 2017, a simpler time, a time where Dexter Fowler received the third-most expensive contract of the offseason and Ian Desmond got the fifth. I have to say, I like seeing the spread of typically smaller spending teams here like Miami, Cleveland, and Colorado. It really just warms my cold, frozen heart. Overall the top ten spending teams netted a whole -1 more wins than the year prior but that number becomes +22 if you throw out the massive outlier in the Giants. The Dodgers were by far the biggest spenders but most of it was them keeping players they already had like Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and Rich Hill, leaving Sergio Romo and his $3 million payday as their highest paid free agent who came from another team. All in all, this list translates fairly well to success when considering the context of which players were brought in for which team. Houston added a few veterans who turned them into a World Series champion, Cleveland added Edwin Encarnacion to legitimize their lineup and lead them straight into and out of the playoffs after the first round, and the Yankees added back Aroldis Chapman after swindling the Cubs into trading yet another top prospect for pitching. Although, someone should have told St. Louis not to invest over $110 million into Brett Cecil and Dexter Fowler, yikes. 2016 shopping spree The first obvious thing to note, what the hell was going on in this offseason? Are you guys seeing the amount of money that teams were spending here? We talk about the horrible offseason in 2018, but it looks like free agency actually started going downhill a year before that. Maybe it was a fluke year, but teams were dropping money like upper-class toddlers at Toys R' Us on their birthday. All for elite names like Chris Davis, Jason Heyward, Ian Kennedy, and Jordan Zimmermann. Freakin' Jeff Samardzija got $90 million this offseason. What was going on back then? Luckily, there isn’t some massive outlier team, so adding up the wins gained/lost results in a cool +9 overall. I do love how the Twins biggest signing that offseason was David Murphy, who decided that he would rather not play baseball the rest of his life than play for the Twins. And this was after an 83 win season! The next biggest acquisition was Carlos Quentin who you definitely forgot was technically a Twin, leaving the only impactful addition being Fernando Abad who was signed to a minor league deal, great stuff Terry Ryan, it’s a wonder that it took him that long to be canned. Despite that Heyward contract looking like the albatross to end all albatrosses, the Cubs dropping nearly the GDP of the Republic of Palau that offseason brought them to the promised land thanks to other veteran signings like Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, and John Lackey. 2015 shopping spree We finally reach the infamous 2015 offseason where Max Scherzer and Jon Lester got paid handsomely and actually provided good value for their team while Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez also got paid well and did whatever the opposite of providing value would be. Overall, the top spending teams netted +38 wins overall which still stays a +14 even if you throw out the outlier Cubs. There isn’t too much to really report here, spending was about what it typically is. The Royals added some garnish to their eventually World Series-winning club with the signings of Edinson Volquez and Twins legend Kendrys Morales. Hell, they even gave Alex Rios $11 million that offseason to kind of just hang around and do Alex Rios things. This was also the year where the Twins handed out their biggest contract ever to Ervin Santana which went pretty well and they also decided to bring back Torii Hunter for old times sake, which went less well, but who cares? Torii was back! 2014 shopping spree What a strange offseason this was, the Mariners absolutely shocked the world when they gave a 31-year-old Robinson Cano a 10 year, $240 million contract and then later shocked no one by not keeping him through the whole deal. The Rangers gave Shin-Soo Choo $130 million and then lost 24 more games than the year prior. The Yankees decided to back the dump truck of money up for veterans like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran and I’m sure that they would still do that Ellsbury contract again if they could. The Twins slot in as the fourth-highest spending team mostly thanks to the elite three-headed Nolasco-Hughes-Pelfrey starting trio. They also tried to bring back Kubel, Bartlett, and Guerrier, all of whom failed miserably and proved that you do in fact become the villain if you live long enough. Kurt Suzuki was a nice cheap find here who made the All-Star Game despite being signed for less than $3 million in the offseason and is still kicking after getting a nice deal from the Nationals this offseason. Overall the top 10 spending teams netted +16 more wins than the year prior and there is something kind of hilarious about the second highest spending team going +26 while the third highest went -24. Interestingly enough, the Giants won the World Series that year despite their biggest signing that offseason being a Tim Hudson who was collecting social security at that point and needed a walker to get to the mound. All right, that’s a lot of information, but what narratives can we draw from this? Overall, through five years of data covering 50 individual team seasons, the top 10 spending teams netted 68 more wins or an average of 1.36 more games won than the year before. Throwing out any season that ended in a +20 or -20 to control for outliers brings the number to 93 more wins total, or an average of 2.07 more games won than the prior year. So, there is a very slight positive correlation between spending money and winning more games than the year before. Let’s get even more specific here: The top spending team over each offseason overall won eight more games than the year before, or an average of 1.6 more games won. Teams that were top three in spending in a given year won 41 more games than the year before overall, or an average of 2.73 more games. Teams that spent more than $200 million in an offseason overall netted 45 more wins the next year, or 4.5 more games on average. For me, this data is certainly interesting, but nothing really groundbreaking or astonishing. Spending more does indeed have a general slight positive correlation with winning the next year, but the numbers weren’t exactly eye-popping to me. Just an average of one to two more games won than the year prior. That total is certainly an improvement, but not such an incredible one that spending becomes such an obscene advantage over other teams that it isn’t even fair. I also find it hilarious that the top spending team on average barely won more games than the year before... so much for a competitive advantage. I suppose if I had any other major conclusions, it would be that spending more than $200 million in an offseason without being the highest spending team would be the best plan of attack for teams who are inclined to do such things. As it pertains to the Twins, spending more would improve the team, but context is more important when considering how much a team spends. Yes, in general spending more will win a team more games, but it has been and will always be about how that money is spent more than how much of that money is spent. Spending will never save a bad team from the depths of irrelevance, but it can certainly lift a team up into the glories of the Postseason.
  6. You can listen directly here or download directly from iTunes here. Nelson Cruz Signing and Possible Extensions: 1:58 Martin Perez Signing: 10:07 Craig Kimbrel? Other Free Agents & Payroll: 23:07 25-Man Roster Predictions: 45:50 Question from the Audience (Perez, Media and the fans, Free Agents) : 1:11:10 Let us know what you think and thanks for listening!
  7. Let’s start off by clearing the air. There’s roughly a month left until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers for spring training. As was the case last offseason, free agents have been dealt an unnecessary blow in both offered and assumed contracts. The dollars for those agreed to are not there, and plenty more talent has yet to find new homes. Given that reality, there’s also the very real possibility that the Twins are not done spending (or adding through the trade market). Any additional acquisitions would cause the following discussion to be re-evaluated on a sliding scale, but the principles all still hold true. Now, when it comes to payroll, it’s less about a dollar figure than it is a percentage of allocated resources. In 2018, per Aaron Gleeman’s numbers, the average MLB payroll was roughly $135 million. At right around $129 million in 2018, Minnesota came very close to being at that mark. Where they are today puts them at a paltry 71% of that average and would be a throwback to the days of the Metrodome. Looking back to the last four teams standing in 2018, they came in with the 1st, 3rd, 11th, and 26th highest payrolls in baseball. While the Brewers were certainly an anomaly, the Athletics were the only other team to enter the postseason below the average spend. The expansion to a second wild card certainly incentivizes those fringe teams to win on a more frugal scale, but the best tend to separate themselves from the pack. Bringing this back to the Twins, Tony Wirt responded to me on Twitter as saying, “Money is a resource. Some teams have more, some less, but if you don't use the resources you have to the fullest, you're doing your organization a disservice.” This is exactly the issue when it comes to Minnesota’s payroll. It isn’t about dollars, but rather about sense. What opportunity cost is left on the table by failing to fully allocate all the resources at your disposal? In this space, as well as my personal blog, and Twitter, I have long defended the notion that the Twins haven’t needed to spend in recent years. Certainly, the opening of Target Field was seen (and pitched) as a new revenue stream. It is, but league- wide the greatest share of revenue still comes from lucrative TV contracts, which the Twins do not have. On top of that, doling out cash, err... resources, when the overall conditions (talent and competition) lack optimal opportunity for winning, is not ideal. That’s not to say I’m in favor of tanking but spending significantly while lagging behind the competition isn’t smart sports business. Right now, however, the contributing factors have changed. Going into 2019 the Cleveland Indians are the worst they’ve been in recent memory. Rocco Baldelli will field a team (as it sits now) that is substantially better on paper than it was at the end of 2018. Knowing full well that there are additional resources available, fans should be clamoring for them to be used. There are fringe players in the bullpen, and there are unknowns in the starting rotation. Can the front office improve upon Matt Magill, Tyler Duffey, or Adalberto Mejia? Can depth be improved by signing a player or two who pushes everyone else down a notch? With what’s left on the open market the answers would both seem to be a resounding yes. By failing to execute on that opportunity, the team is doing a disservice to those who are directly responsible for all the revenue streams. At the end of the day I don’t care if millionaires or billionaires make more money. The players certainly deserve a larger slice of the pie. What I do care about is that, as a fan, the team I’m invested in is operating within its means to utilize every resource available. At a payroll near $100 million, that’s not close to happening. Even at $130 million we have a debate. This isn’t about dollars though, it’s about sense.
  8. On Monday Seth did a great job of outlining where the Minnesota Twins were at as of January 14. His 25-man roster projection looks nearly spot on, and there are very few areas of contention. When the dust settled at the end of his article the 2019 payroll projection came in at $96.32 million. That number is a laughable sum, but if we were to reclassify it as an allocation of resources, how much additional hand-wringing would there be?Let’s start off by clearing the air. There’s roughly a month left until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers for spring training. As was the case last offseason, free agents have been dealt an unnecessary blow in both offered and assumed contracts. The dollars for those agreed to are not there, and plenty more talent has yet to find new homes. Given that reality, there’s also the very real possibility that the Twins are not done spending (or adding through the trade market). Any additional acquisitions would cause the following discussion to be re-evaluated on a sliding scale, but the principles all still hold true. Now, when it comes to payroll, it’s less about a dollar figure than it is a percentage of allocated resources. In 2018, per Aaron Gleeman’s numbers, the average MLB payroll was roughly $135 million. At right around $129 million in 2018, Minnesota came very close to being at that mark. Where they are today puts them at a paltry 71% of that average and would be a throwback to the days of the Metrodome. Looking back to the last four teams standing in 2018, they came in with the 1st, 3rd, 11th, and 26th highest payrolls in baseball. While the Brewers were certainly an anomaly, the Athletics were the only other team to enter the postseason below the average spend. The expansion to a second wild card certainly incentivizes those fringe teams to win on a more frugal scale, but the best tend to separate themselves from the pack. Bringing this back to the Twins, Tony Wirt responded to me on Twitter as saying, “Money is a resource. Some teams have more, some less, but if you don't use the resources you have to the fullest, you're doing your organization a disservice.” This is exactly the issue when it comes to Minnesota’s payroll. It isn’t about dollars, but rather about sense. What opportunity cost is left on the table by failing to fully allocate all the resources at your disposal? In this space, as well as my personal blog, and Twitter, I have long defended the notion that the Twins haven’t needed to spend in recent years. Certainly, the opening of Target Field was seen (and pitched) as a new revenue stream. It is, but league- wide the greatest share of revenue still comes from lucrative TV contracts, which the Twins do not have. On top of that, doling out cash, err... resources, when the overall conditions (talent and competition) lack optimal opportunity for winning, is not ideal. That’s not to say I’m in favor of tanking but spending significantly while lagging behind the competition isn’t smart sports business. Right now, however, the contributing factors have changed. Going into 2019 the Cleveland Indians are the worst they’ve been in recent memory. Rocco Baldelli will field a team (as it sits now) that is substantially better on paper than it was at the end of 2018. Knowing full well that there are additional resources available, fans should be clamoring for them to be used. There are fringe players in the bullpen, and there are unknowns in the starting rotation. Can the front office improve upon Matt Magill, Tyler Duffey, or Adalberto Mejia? Can depth be improved by signing a player or two who pushes everyone else down a notch? With what’s left on the open market the answers would both seem to be a resounding yes. By failing to execute on that opportunity, the team is doing a disservice to those who are directly responsible for all the revenue streams. At the end of the day I don’t care if millionaires or billionaires make more money. The players certainly deserve a larger slice of the pie. What I do care about is that, as a fan, the team I’m invested in is operating within its means to utilize every resource available. At a payroll near $100 million, that’s not close to happening. Even at $130 million we have a debate. This isn’t about dollars though, it’s about sense. Click here to view the article
  9. According to google, one definition of the word paradox is "a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities." Looking back on it, thinking the Twins were going to end up with Yu as their Opening Day starter was quite the paradox. History tells us that the Minnesota Twins and huge contracts are quite the contradiction. Of course there are some who won't ever let us forget the counterexample which would be the Joe Mauer contract that he never lived up to. Outside of that lone example the Twins have rarely given a player whether through an extension or through free agency their big payday. I'm writing this to deliver one message: It's okay for you to feel frustrated, disappointed, let down, [enter whatever adjective you want] by the Twins not landing Darvish. It's okay. It really is. Furthermore, it's okay to feel that way and still be a diehard Twins fan. You're not a bad person or a bad fan for having this opinion. Contrary to what others say, it is completely fair and logical for this "narrative" to exist and for fans to share this opinion. At the end of the day, we are all allowed to have our own opinions. This is America after all! Here's my opinion on the "narrative", which you may have seen stated in the comments of a different article. I will say that I agree that there are endless amounts of example of players who get big paydays and then never live up to it. I'm aware of that. But saying that big contracts are "risky" and/or "irresponsible" in Major League Baseball is a complete and utter fallacy in my opinion. Baseball has no salary cap. Missing on a big contract doesn't hinder your ability to hand out another big contract to another star. After all, the Yankees are the "evil empire" for a reason. As of 2015, the Pohlad family was worth $3.8 billion. That's A LOT of money. Furthermore, they bought the Twins for $36 million and the franchise is estimated to be worth $1.025 billion which amounts to a profit of $989 million. As much as people want to talk small markets and television contracts, money is of little concern to the Pohlad family. Of course an argument to the second point is that the only way you are worth that much money is by being financially responsible. To which I would say that since giving out the Mauer contract the Minnesota Twins increased their net worth from $405 million to the $1.025 billion mentioned above. That is, they got no where near the production they were hoping for and increased the net worth of the franchise $620 million since then. Not to beat a dead horse, but again there seems to be absolutely no "risk" and/or "irresponsibility" in handing out a big contract. It would be very one-sided of me to not address the 100% possible case that maybe we offered Yu a key to the city, a 15 year $1 billion contract, and whatever else he wanted but it all still wasn't enough to lure him to the bold north. If it were the case that he just didn't want to come here, then that would obviously be out of control of the Pohlad family. To which I would say, if not now...when? We have so much potential and talent, some of which isn't even in the big leagues yet, and if that can't draw a superstar looking for a ring then when will we ever be able to appeal to a superstar? Not only is our organization at a great spot in potential and talent, but we were just able to show off how great Minnesota can be with the international coverage of the Super Bowl. We were able to show people that, despite the frigid temperatures, Minnesota is a great place to live with great people. So the thought that our organization being where it is and our city recently being surrounded by some major hype can't appeal to a superstar is a saddening reality. Maybe the reality is that Minnesota won't ever appeal to non-homegrown superstars no matter how much money the Pohlads offer them. So yes, I am frustrated. I'm disappointed. I'm sad. I'm [enter whatever adjective you want] that the Twins weren't able to sign yet another superstar to bring them to the next level. But I love the Twins and will continue to cheer them on. I will continue to follow them once this crop of talent is gone. I'm not only here when things are good, but I'm also here when things are bad. I may not be happy with every decision made, but that doesn't make me (or you) a bad fan. That's just my opinion, at least. What do you think?
  10. Baseball fans around the country are ready for another exciting MLB free agency free-for-all. Especially excited are Twins fans. Coming off a Wild Card season, the Twins and their new management look to become a power in the AL. Lets first look at what the Twins already have: Solid starting outfield Infield depth/flexability Strong offensive prospects And what we need to be successful: Stronger rotation Reliable bullpen One more solid bat in the middle of the lineup For the last bullet point in the "needs" list, some of our own guys have shown the ability to be that guy. Byron Buxton was very impressive in the second half of the season, but I think his defense makes him a valuable piece anyways. The player I was impressed with was Jorge Polanco. Polanco's offensive numbers through June were .242/.290/.346. Not impressive at all, but from July 1st till the end of the season he produced a much better stat line at .268/.333/.467. That is a huge jump not only in average and on-base but his slugging percentage jumped up 121 points! Hopefully he can continue his second half success at the plate and be a threat in the middle of the lineup. Another reason why Polanco can be valuable is because finding a solid shortstop is tough. An everyday shortstop who is dangerous at the plate is a scarce commodity. For a comparison, here are the number of players with at least 500 PA and wOBA greater or equal to 0.330 by position: 1B ----> 15 2B ----> 9 SS ----> 6 3B ----> 10 OF ----> 24 So having players like Polanco and Escobar that can play SS and do damage at the plate are valuable if they continue to produce. Now onto the wishlist. Here are my top 5 pitchers that I want the Twins to sign: 1. Yu Darvish RHP The obvious #1 here is Darvish. He's one of the best Pitchers in the MLB and at age 30, still has a nice chunk of career left. At around 6 years/$150M, Darvish will cost a lot to get, but he would be the best pitcher the Twins have had since Johan Santana. 2018 predictions: 75 Runs / 200 IP 2. Lance Lynn RHP At $56M over 4 years, Lance Lynn is a solid starting pitcher with lots of experience with over 970 major league innings pitched in his career. Lynn missed the 2016 season to have Tommy John surgery but didn't miss a beat last season. Lynn has a full repertoire of pitches and mixes them well. He has never been a huge strikeout guy but with his movement and control, he gets a lot of weak contact. In 2017, Lynn ranked 14th in the league with 21.1% of his batted balls hit softly. (Darvish - 20.5% Arrieta - 20.0% Scherzer 19.5%). 2018 predictions: 78 Runs / 200 IP 3. Alex Cobb RHP Alex Cobb is my number two pitcher at around 4 years/$48M, Cobb is a steal. He's got the stuff to be a 1 or 2 in the rotation. He has a fastball and slider both in the low to mid 90s, and a curveball in the low 80s. Something interesting about Cobb is his windup delivery, which can only really be described as herky jerky, but it can mess with hitter's rhythm. 2018 predictions: 69 Runs / 170 IP 4. Yusmerio Petit RHP Last season, Petit threw over 85 innings in relief with a WHIP of 0.96. Petit would be a great addition to the bullpen as a guy who can come in and eat up a couple innings per game. Holding onto a lead in the 6th - 8th innings is obviously important, which is what Petit can help the Twins pitching staff do. 2018 predictions: 22 Runs / 70 IP 5. Brandon Morrow RHP Morrow came into last season with just 43.2 innings pitched after a stint in AAA. Morrow has an exploding fastball that can reach 100mph. What I like most about Morrow is not only his incredible velocity, but his ability to hide the ball from hitters till the last second. Its hard enough for a hitter to pick up a 98mph fastball, and its that much tougher when they don't know where its coming from. Morrow is a strikeout machine and can really help the Twins in the later innings of ball games. Morrow would be higher on this list had it not been for his asking price of around $24M over 3 years. 2018 predictions: 11 Runs / 60 IP Obviously the Twins need pitching, but here is a quick rundown of free agent fielders that I wouldn't mind seeing the Twins sign: 1. Logan Morrison 1B/DH 2017 Stats: .246/.353/.516 wOBA = 0.363 2. Jay Bruce RF/DH 2017 Stats: .254/.324/.508 wOBA = 0.350 3. Yonder Alonso 1B/DH 2017 Stats: .266/.365/.501 wOBA = 0.366 4. Welington Castillo C 2017 Stats: .282/.323/..490 wOBA = 0.344 5. Lucas Duda 1B/DH 2017 Stats: .217/.322/.496 wOBA = 0.341 Basically I want another Jim Thome circa 2010, or Welington Castillo to split time with Jason Castro for more offensive production behind the plate. If the Twins make some moves this off season and buy during the trade deadline, this is a team that could make a run in the postseason.
  11. I want to talk about the Twins and payroll, and how we talk about the Twins’ payroll. It’s been about a month since Jack Moore wrote the excellent and scathing The Minnesota Small-Market Con over at Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee. The points it makes are numerous and wide-ranging -- the most important, I think, is “f the billionaire Pohlads had been willing to take a short-term loss, they could have made their way out of the Metronome years earlier without taking the public for such a ride” -- but being published as it was in the latter part of an offseason in which fans have watched the team take very few substantial visible steps toward getting better, most seemed to take it as a chance to complain about the team’s unwillingness in recent years to spend on free agents. And I get it. Having taken the public for said ride and secured a stadium that is maybe the most appealing in baseball, the Twins (per Cot’s Contracts) ended their first two seasons in Target Field with top-ten payrolls, but then fell back to 13th in 2012, and haven’t been out of the 20s since. While attendance predictably declined from 2011 to 2015, it seems a safe bet that they could generally have spent more money than they did in those years and still turned a nice profit. The problem I’ve always had, though, is that this (at the most) is generally where the fan’s analysis stops. They could have spent more money, but they didn’t, and they should have. The obvious next questions that get left on the table, though, are “on what?” and “why?”: what could that money have gotten them, and what makes it a good idea? The 2011 Twins had a $115 million payroll and were coming off a 94-win, first-place year, but with injuries to almost literally everyone -- only Danny Valencia and Michael Cuddyer would play as many as 120 games for the Twins in 2011 -- they lost 99, finishing a whopping 28 games out of a wildcard spot, and it was pretty clear their window had slammed shut. They lost 96 in both 2012 and 2013 (22 and 26 games out of the playoffs, respectively), and 92 (18 out) in 2014. Their season-ending payroll declined, meanwhile, from 9th in 2011, to 13th, to 24th. But, again, what could and should they have spent more money on, and what could we have expected it to bring them? In a league in which the very best player might be worth about nine wins and four is a typical All-Star, the Twins would’ve had to add the equivalent of four or five All-Stars, two Mike Trouts, or some combination thereof (assuming each of them takes the place of true replacement-level players, to boot) in order to have had any chance at a postseason berth in any of those years. That’s not the kind of thing that’s ever happened via free agency--teams have tried, typically with disastrous consequences (check out the turn-of-the-century Devil Rays sometime). But what if the postseason isn’t the goal? What about just putting a marginally more entertaining product on the field? I question whether that’s a thing, personally--it’s the competing that draws the crowds, the Timberwolves are as entertaining as a bad basketball team can get right now and not drawing substantially more than their terribly depressing squads of the last couple years did--but I get that, too. It’s not as though a team puts those savings in an interest-bearing account and adds them to the pot for next year. They would, in a perfect world, but they don’t; those savings go to the owners, and the next year’s budget is its own thing. So to the extent you’re concerned only about this season, yes, you as a fan should want the team to spend as much money as they can possibly get away with, because that money’s gone for your purposes after the season either way. The problem with that is that the one-year deal for a good (or even just “entertaining”) player exists in baseball only when that player comes with huge risks. Most free agents worth signing as anything more than filler in this game demand commitments of three years, or four or five or more. Most free agents are also in their 30s, which means almost without exception that they’re likely to get worse over those three to five years, not better. What that means is that most of the free agents the Twins could’ve signed to make them marginally better or more fun in 2013 or 2014 would still be getting paid as Twins in 2016, and would be less good or fun now than they were then (but probably making at least as much money). When you don’t expect to win, you probably shouldn’t (and can’t, to field a team that avoids challenging the ‘62 Mets) stop spending entirely. But your focus in spending, way ahead of getting better for the now, has to be to avoid hamstringing the team in future seasons, when -- if your prospects pan out and you’re not too bogged down by aging players’ contracts -- you might be positioned to spend to fill more immediate needs and make a run at it. In that light, I tended to think the Twins’ spending from 2012 through 2014 was just about perfect--a weird thing for me to say, as I’ve never been one to go easy on the front office (Tony Batista and Ruben Sierra? Seriously?). In 2012, there was just a long, black-dark road ahead, and nothing to do but fill a couple of the gaps to try to be interesting and wait it out. And that’s exactly what they did, bringing in Josh Willingham (who worked) and Ryan Doumit (who didn’t) to fill in for the departing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and otherwise just stayed put and take their lumps. Heading into 2014, with Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others now on their way, it made sense to take a look at some relatively low-risk, 30-or-younger free agents who could reasonably be expected to be contributing at about the same level a couple years down the line, and they did that, bringing in Phil Hughes (who I’d argue worked) and Ricky Nolasco (who thus far clearly hasn’t), along with more stopgaps like Mike Pelfrey and Kurt Suzuki. For whatever else the Twins have done right or wrong, this is exactly how a non-contending team should spend its money. Should they have spent more of it? Perhaps--but it’s on the one arguing they should to identify where they should’ve spent it and why. Whining that they’re cheap and run by billionaires just doesn’t cut it; they’re losing ninety-plus either way. Show your work. I’ve left out 2015 so far, of course, and that’s a tough one because we know how it ends: the Twins win 83 games, surprising everyone, and miss the wildcard play-in game by just three wins. They entered the last week with a real shot, and as it turns out, even one modest upgrade in the offseason could have gotten them there. That’s cheating, though: the Twins didn’t know how it would end, and I really think they were looking at 2016 or 2017 as their next legitimate chance, and so they stayed the course, bringing in 32-year-old Ervin Santana to add to their stable of average starters who seem likely to still be about average by the next time they thought they’d be competitive. Were there moves that not only could have put them over the top as things turned out, but that they should have made in December or January 2014-15, knowing and believing what they reasonably did then? Maybe! But I’d like to know what those specifically were. (Note also that a first half from Santana might itself ultimately have put them in the playoffs.) So that gets us to today. I’ve been as frustrated as anyone with the lack of activity: Byung-Ho Park is certainly interesting, but hardly fills a glaring need, and there’s not much else that’s even worth mentioning. It feels much like a team with two third basemen and three or four 1B/DH types, which seems to suggest moves to be made, and I would’ve loved to see them land, say, Darren O’Day, an elite reliever who signed a four-year deal to stay with the Orioles similar to the ones the Twins gave Santana and Nolasco. But: O’Day is 32 years old, and at his very best -- at any modern reliever’s best -- is worth about three wins. The Twins had a lot of luck last year, and while I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in 2016, there’s good reason to believe they’re not quite there yet, with or without the upgraded bullpen. If, as Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA expects, they go 79-83 and miss the playoffs by seven games, O’Day probably wouldn’t have made a difference, and neither would most anyone else. And then what about in 2018, when Buxton and Sano are MVP candidates, but O’Day is 35 and ineffective, while his $9 million salary helps prevent you from signing that year’s Darren O’Day, who could be the difference between an LDS loss and a world championship? I have no answers. I thought they should have done more this offseason, and I sure hope that they do well enough that there’s a worry it might come back to bite them. But too often, we collectively seem to want the team to spend more money without considering (a) the limits of what that spending can actually do, or ( the risks down the road of imprudently committing money now. Fans can complain that the team is cheap all they want -- and why not, it’s just baseball, it’s all in fun, you do you -- but without an idea of how they should spend that extra money, why they should and what might happen if it goes bad, all it is is whining for whining’s sake. Seems to me it’s more fun, more instructive, and, at least in this case, harder to argue with the plan, if you show your work.
  12. The Twins have spent on free agent outfielder Torii Hunter, extended Phil Hughes and signed free agent pitcher Tim Stauffer. But the biggest addition was the four-year commitment the team made to pitcher Ervin Santana. Now the Twins have gone back over $100M. Let's take a closer look. Multi-year Deals** 1B Joe Mauer: $23M (3 yr/$69M remain for '16-'18) SP Ervin Santana: $13.5M (3 yr./$40.5M remain for '16-'18) SP Ricky Nolasco: $12M (2 yr./$24M remain for ’16-’17) SP Phil Hughes: $9.2M (4 yr./$48.8M remain for for ’16-’19) C Kurt Suzuki: $6M (1 yr./$6M remain for ’16) RP Glen Perkins: $4.65M (2 yr./$12.8M remain for ’16-’17 Commitments: $68.35M in 2015 ($201M in commitments through 2019) Pending Free Agents RF Torii Hunter: $10.5M P Mike Pelfrey: $5.5M P Tim Stauffer: $2.2M Commitments: $18.2M in 2015 Total commitments in 2015 to players with six-plus years of experience: $86.55M Arbitration-eligibles 3B Trevor Plouffe (second of four): $4.75M LRP Brian Duensing (third of three): $2.85M P Tommy Milone (first of four): $2.75M OF Jordan Schafer (second of four): $1.45M RP Casey Fien (first of four): $1.25M INF Eduardo Nunez (first of three): $1.05M Projected total: $14.1M in 2015. Commitments plus arbitration: $100.65M (for the above 15 players) That leaves 10 spots unfilled for the opening day roster. With nine pitchers already penciled in, there are three spots for pitchers: Kyle Gibson ($520,000), Caleb Thielbar ($520,000) and J.R. Graham ($507,500***). The seven fielders that could fill out the opening day roster are Brian Dozier ($580,000), Oswaldo Arcia ($525,000), Eduardo Escobar ($520,000), Danny Santana ($512,500), Kennys Vargas ($512,500), Aaron Hicks ($510,000) and Josmil Pinto ($507,500). These ten pre-arbitration players total $5.215M for a grand projected total of $105.865M, the second-highest total in franchise history. --- Some other things could affect this figure: --The Twins sign Brian Dozier to a contract extension. Jason Kipnis signed an extension as a 2+ player, which Dozier is now, and got $2M for his last pre-arb year and $4M/$6M/$9M to buy out his arbitration years. Signing Dozier to a similar contract would increase payroll by $1.42M. (The Indians also committed $30.5M for his first two free agent years with an option for the third year.) --The Twins don’t roll with those 12 pitchers, which is probably likely. There are many options for the fifth rotation spot and the loser(s) could be pitching successfully for the Pirates next year. --I’m not convinced the Twins break camp with Hicks and Nunez on the roster. If Hicks wins the CF job, Santana plays SS and Escobar is a utility player. Nunez is out. If Hicks doesn't win the job, Santana moves to CF, Escobar is the SS and Nunez is a utility player. Hicks heads to Rochester. Both scenarios leave Schafer as the fourth OF and opens up another bench spot. Chris Herrmann, at the minimum, is where I’d put my money. This decreases payroll, too. Of course, there’s still the possibility the Twins add another veteran or make a trade. **Future commitments don't figure in option years or their buyouts. ***The CBA calls for an increase in the minimum and reports have put that figure at $507,500 for 2015.
  13. When the Twins opened Target Field in 2010, they did so with a $97 million payroll. This was the highest payroll the Twins have had by a whopping $25M. They broke $100M the next year by spending $113M and fell back to just a shade over $100M in 2012. However, payroll fell to the mid-$80 million range in both 2013 and 2014. Enter 2015.The Twins have spent on free agent outfielder Torii Hunter, extended Phil Hughes and signed free agent pitcher Tim Stauffer. But the biggest addition was the four-year commitment the team made to pitcher Ervin Santana. Now the Twins have gone back over $100M. Let's take a closer look. Multi-year Deals** 1B Joe Mauer: $23M (3 yr/$69M remain for '16-'18) SP Ervin Santana: $13.5M (3 yr./$40.5M remain for '16-'18) SP Ricky Nolasco: $12M (2 yr./$24M remain for ’16-’17) SP Phil Hughes: $9.2M (4 yr./$48.8M remain for for ’16-’19) C Kurt Suzuki: $6M (1 yr./$6M remain for ’16) RP Glen Perkins: $4.65M (2 yr./$12.8M remain for ’16-’17 Commitments: $68.35M in 2015 ($201M in commitments through 2019) Pending Free Agents RF Torii Hunter: $10.5M P Mike Pelfrey: $5.5M P Tim Stauffer: $2.2M Commitments: $18.2M in 2015 Total commitments in 2015 to players with six-plus years of experience: $86.55M Arbitration-eligibles 3B Trevor Plouffe (second of four): $4.75M LRP Brian Duensing (third of three): $2.85M P Tommy Milone (first of four): $2.75M OF Jordan Schafer (second of four): $1.45M RP Casey Fien (first of four): $1.25M INF Eduardo Nunez (first of three): $1.05M Projected total: $14.1M in 2015. Commitments plus arbitration: $100.65M (for the above 15 players) That leaves 10 spots unfilled for the opening day roster. With nine pitchers already penciled in, there are three spots for pitchers: Kyle Gibson ($520,000), Caleb Thielbar ($520,000) and J.R. Graham ($507,500***). The seven fielders that could fill out the opening day roster are Brian Dozier ($580,000), Oswaldo Arcia ($525,000), Eduardo Escobar ($520,000), Danny Santana ($512,500), Kennys Vargas ($512,500), Aaron Hicks ($510,000) and Josmil Pinto ($507,500). These ten pre-arbitration players total $5.215M for a grand projected total of $105.865M, the second-highest total in franchise history. --- Some other things could affect this figure: --The Twins sign Brian Dozier to a contract extension. Jason Kipnis signed an extension as a 2+ player, which Dozier is now, and got $2M for his last pre-arb year and $4M/$6M/$9M to buy out his arbitration years. Signing Dozier to a similar contract would increase payroll by $1.42M. (The Indians also committed $30.5M for his first two free agent years with an option for the third year.) --The Twins don’t roll with those 12 pitchers, which is probably likely. There are many options for the fifth rotation spot and the loser(s) could be pitching successfully for the Pirates next year. --I’m not convinced the Twins break camp with Hicks and Nunez on the roster. If Hicks wins the CF job, Santana plays SS and Escobar is a utility player. Nunez is out. If Hicks doesn't win the job, Santana moves to CF, Escobar is the SS and Nunez is a utility player. Hicks heads to Rochester. Both scenarios leave Schafer as the fourth OF and opens up another bench spot. Chris Herrmann, at the minimum, is where I’d put my money. This decreases payroll, too. Of course, there’s still the possibility the Twins add another veteran or make a trade. **Future commitments don't figure in option years or their buyouts. ***The CBA calls for an increase in the minimum and reports have put that figure at $507,500 for 2015. Click here to view the article
  14. Forbes.com reported today that Major League Baseball league-wide revenues jumped from $8 billion in 2013 to $9 billion in 2014, mostly due to the league's new national TV contracts and revenue from MLB Advanced Media, the online streaming arm of MLB. This continues a trend.A look back: In 2001, revenue was $3.6 billion; adjusted for inflation, $4.66 billion in today's dollars, according to Forbes. That year, three MLB teams had payrolls over $100 million; the Yankees led the way with just over $112 million. Sixteen more had more than $50 million in payroll that season. Since then, revenue has doubled, more or less. The Dodgers had a $235 million payroll last year, and the Yankees nearly cleared the bar to $200 million as well. 14 other teams had payrolls of at least $100 million. $200 million is the new $100 million, when it comes to payroll. $100 million is the new $50 million. Since Target Field opened in 2010, the median MLB payroll has gone from $85 million to $107 million - right in line with revenue, which, just like the median payroll, has jumped 25% in that five-year span. During that same period, the Twins' payroll has declined, from $98 million to last year's $85 million. Don't let the Twins fool you; they will try to tell you that they've spent plenty of money. They haven't. Remember this the next time Terry Ryan or Dave St. Peter talks about being "fiscally responsible." Remember this the next time your neighbor complains about Joe Mauer's contract being the problem with the Twins. Remember that MLB's revenue explosion, and the great gobs of taxpayer money that funded Target Field, mean that the Twins are making more money now than they ever have before - indeed more money than they could ever have dreamed of. They're just pocketing it, instead of spending it on improving the team. Click here to view the article
  15. A look back: In 2001, revenue was $3.6 billion; adjusted for inflation, $4.66 billion in today's dollars, according to Forbes. That year, three MLB teams had payrolls over $100 million; the Yankees led the way with just over $112 million. Sixteen more had more than $50 million in payroll that season. Since then, revenue has doubled, more or less. The Dodgers had a $235 million payroll last year, and the Yankees nearly cleared the bar to $200 million as well. 14 other teams had payrolls of at least $100 million. $200 million is the new $100 million, when it comes to payroll. $100 million is the new $50 million. Since Target Field opened in 2010, the median MLB payroll has gone from $85 million to $107 million - right in line with revenue, which, just like the median payroll, has jumped 25% in that five-year span. During that same period, the Twins' payroll has declined, from $98 million to last year's $85 million. Don't let the Twins fool you; they will try to tell you that they've spent plenty of money. They haven't. Remember this the next time Terry Ryan or Dave St. Peter talks about being "fiscally responsible." Remember this the next time your neighbor complains about Joe Mauer's contract being the problem with the Twins. Remember that MLB's revenue explosion, and the great gobs of taxpayer money that funded Target Field, mean that the Twins are making more money now than they ever have before - indeed more money than they could ever have dreamed of. They're just pocketing it, instead of spending it on improving the team.
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