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There’s Still a Limit

  • Blog Post by: John Bonnes
  • July 22, 2010 - 12:04 PM

Update: My apologies. Apparently I pasted in the wrong payroll detail last night when I posted it. The story now has the correct back-of-the-napkin numbers.


There's been an inordinate amount of talk lately about the Twins acquiring Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren, which I candidly feel is impossible because of what is listed below. That's why I'm publishing this, which is also two pages of the 170+ Trade Deadline Primer which you can find here. Or, which you can download 1/4 of here.

If you disagree - great. That's what comments are for. Just PLEASE don't tell me that the Twins are going to fine $25 milliion dollars under their sofa cushions when all indications are that they stretched their payroll to get to the $97 million they're spending this year, and which is likley the high-water mark of the franchise considering they opened a new stadium. If you're going to come up with more, you're going to need to show me where they are going to get more revenues.


The Twins have moved into their outdoor palace and the revenues are pouring in. USA Today reports that the Twins Opening Day payroll soared $32 million, or almost 50%, over last season. Does this mean they can be a more serious player at the trade deadline, actually taking on significant salaries?

 
Kind of. The Twins are well-positioned to take on some salary this year, in part because a portion of injured closer Joe Nathan’s salary was reportedly covered by insurance. However, they likely will not be able to afford an expensive multi-year contract, limiting their ability to chase someone like Roy Oswalt. There just doesn’t appear to be payroll room next year.
 
That’s not entirely bad news. Or rather, that bad news is really a by-product of a pair of positive developments. First, you may have heard that the Twins re-signed this hometown catcher they’re fond of. And second, a couple of questionable players are having huge years, making themselves indispensable and in position to cash in during their offseason arbitration hearings.
 
Let’s start with the specifics and work our way to the conclusion. On the left are some back-of-the-napkin figures on where the Twins payroll (and team) will sit next Opening Day.
 
Check out that bottom number. It is $10 million dollars higher than the Twins Opening Day payroll. It is highly questionable whether or not the Twins can expect to increase payroll by $10 million next year – a new ballpark only opens once.
 
But even if the Twins CAN bump up payroll that much, check out the blanks. Orlando Hudson (a free agent) is gone. Carl Pavano (also a free agent) is gone. And I haven’t even budgeted any money to replace them. And unless Jim Thome is willing to accept the $2 million for the 4th OF spot, he’s gone too. Finally, if you look at that bullpen, Jon Rauch’s name is missing. 
 
The $10 million increase can be traced directly to Joe Mauer, who will be getting a $10.5 million raise next year. But there are three other salaries on the books that, with Mauer’s, combine for $60 million of the total payroll. Justin Morneau’s salary is huge but steady. Michael Cuddyer’s $10.5 million salary is guaranteed. And if Joe Nathan is able to pitch (and he should, though maybe not effectively), the Twins won’t get any of his $12.5 million back from insurance.
 
There aren’t a lot of places to cut that money at the next level, either, because some of the guys who are candidates are having big years. The Twins don’t HAVE to offer arbitration to Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano, and that might save them about $11 million, but they are arguably two of the top five players on the team this year. Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn’s salaries are guaranteed. So is Jason Kubel’s. Kevin Slowey’s isn’t, but the Twins are already short one starter in the above scenario.
 
The one player that the Twins have an option on and who could lower payroll significantly? JJ Hardy. That might open up a spot for Nick Punto (who is also a free agent and not on the list above) to return to the Twins. I’m sure that will make some fans giddy. And others suicidal.
 
As you can see, the 2011 Twins already have plenty to overcome. They will have lost their closer, their starting second baseman, and their best starting pitcher. Also, their difference-making bench bat and either their starting third baseman or shortstop. And even with all of that, they are going to spend anywhere from $5 million to $10 million over this year, which is likely to be their high-water mark for the foreseeable future.
 
So you tell me? Are they going to be able to chase Oswalt, who is making $16 million next year? Or Dan Haren, who will be making almost $12 million over the next two years?
 
The Twins will need to make sure that any player they acquire doesn’t have a multi-year commitment for any significant money attached. And if the Twins do acquire an impending free agent, Twins fans need to embrace the reality that they likely won’t be re-signed.

 

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