Hartman: Pohlad ready to spend for free-agent players

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2013 - 12:14 AM

Don’t expect the Twins CEO to sign off on pricey long-term deals, but he realizes personnel needs upgrading.

When I asked Twins Chief Executive Officer Jim Pohlad if he still believes the payroll of his baseball team should be 54 percent of the gross revenue, a figure many clubs operate under, he said he doesn’t believe that will be the case for the 2014 season.

The Twins payroll has gone from $65.3 million in 2009, their last year in the Metrodome, to $97.6 million in 2010, the first year at Target Field. It grew to $113.2 million in 2011, then dropped to $100.4 million in 2012 and $82 million this year.

I don’t know if those figures were around the 54 percent Pohlad talks about, but the Twins have only $46 million on the books for next season. Half of that money goes to Joe Mauer. Starter Mike Pelfrey could leave as a free agent.

So will that 54 percent figure be the same going into next year?

“I don’t think so,” Pohlad said. “I think we know that that is always going to be a range every year, and we’re well below that this year. That will not be a limiting factor, I don’t think, this year.

“[Spending] is going to be up to Terry” he added, referring to General Manager Terry Ryan. “He has not asked for a number [of how much he can spend]. He doesn’t historically ask for a hard and fast number. He brings to us the opportunities that are available and he’s reasonable and we’re beyond reasonable [for next season], I think. We want this to be better.”

Willing to spend

Pohlad was asked if it troubles him when fans say his family is rich and that the team takes in a lot more money now that it has a new stadium but nothing is done to sign high-salaried free agents to improve the team.

“I’m sure fans are frustrated; people are frustrated as a result of losing, and we’re frustrated, too,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s a result of us not spending money. We’re willing to do that. We’ll do whatever we can in 2014. We’re not going to be ridiculous. You’re not going to see us doing seven- to 10-year contracts for players later in their career. You’re not going to see that happening, but long-term contracts we’re open to, within reason.”

Yes, the Pohlads are willing to spend money, but Ryan, whose overall record as a successful general manager ranks with the best, has said that signing free agents doesn’t win pennants and that the best way to build winning teams is through the draft and farm system.

However, I am convinced Ryan will turn to free agency and spend some big money to sign a couple of pitchers who can win, because with the present pitching staff, the team will finish near the bottom.

Pohlad added that he has complete confidence in manager Ron Gardenhire, who will win if he has the talent. What was the process like in deciding to bring him back?

“We didn’t take a vote, but it was unanimous between Dave [St. Peter, team president], myself and Terry and my family,” Pohlad said.

Michigan not great

While Michigan is 4-0 and a 20-point favorite to beat the Gophers on Saturday in Ann Arbor, the team is not without flaws. The Wolverines were praised in beating Notre Dame 41-30 in their second game, but it turns out the Irish are not the team they were predicted to be. Then Michigan struggled with inferior opponents, defeating Akron 28-24 with a goal-line stand and edging Connecticut 24-21 after trailing 21-7 late in the third quarter.

Still, the Wolverines are a dangerous offensive squad. The Detroit Free Press noted that in the second half against Akron, Michigan had three touchdown drives that covered 213 yards in only 17 plays.

But the Gophers defense will have an opportunity to make some plays against quarterback Devin Gardner. Coming into this year, Gardner had averaged an interception per game and it has only gotten worse this year with eight interceptions in four games. Last year in helping beat the Gophers 35-13, he went 12-for- 18 for 234 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed for a TD.

Minnesota hasn’t won the Little Brown Jug since 2005, and it will take a great effort by the Gophers on the road to reverse that trend.

Fletcher excited

For years the Wild has been hoping that the NHL would realign the divisions so that the team could cut down on its extensive travel to the West Coast and Canada and play more of its former rivals in the Midwest. That finally starts this year with the Wild moving to the Central Division.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher was asked how competitive he believes the new Central Division will be. “There are some very good teams in the division,” he said. “Competitively it’s going to be a good challenge for us. Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champions, is in our division, the St. Louis Blues were arguably as good as anybody during the regular season last year and look poised to be a top team again this year.”

He also pointed out the historical context: “Geographically it’s great because from a historical standpoint, it’s a lot of the old teams that the North Stars used to play against and it’s going to mean a lot less travel for us. We’re really excited about it.”

Jottings

• It was impressive to see the Gophers basketball coaching staff land Josh Martin as their first recruit for the class of 2014. Richard Pitino was able to get the three-star recruit from Seattle to commit to the Gophers despite offers from Washington, Washington State and other major West Coast programs such as Gonzaga, California and UCLA. Martin, a 6-8 power forward, averaged 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds last year at Bothell High School.

• The 2014 Timberwolves Shootout will happen Jan. 4 before the Wolves’ games against Oklahoma City. Local teams competing will be Apple Valley, DeLaSalle, Lakeville North, Grand Rapids and Cretin-Derham Hall, so fans can get a glimpse of high-profile recruits such as Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones, DeLaSalle forward Reid Travis and Lakeville North guard J.P. Macura.

• Everett Williams, a two-star linebacker from Mansfield (Texas) Legacy, recently became the seventh commitment for the class of 2014 for Jerry Kill and the Gophers. But Williams is not only a standout player. In a recent interview with GopherHole.com, he said he’s carrying a 3.9 GPA and scored 1,490 on his SAT.

• With the news that author Tom Clancy died Wednesday, I was remembering his failed bid to purchase the Vikings in 1998. Clancy was flying into town to be named the new team owner, but questions about his finances put the news conference on hold. Eventually Clancy’s bid was rejected and Red McCombs bought the team.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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