The Twins’ six arbitration-eligible players received raises averaging 70 percent, now that Trevor Plouffe has a contract worth $7.25 million, but their Opening Day payroll actually figures to drop slightly in 2016. Well, depending upon your accounting.
With Plouffe agreeing Monday to take a 51 percent raise over his 2015 salary of $4.8 million (and not the 66 percent raise, or $7.95 million, he had been seeking), the 25 players expected to make the team in April are projected to earn roughly $104.3 million, a decline of about 4 percent over the Twins’ April 2015 payroll.
But the numbers don’t include the $12.85 million check that the Twins wrote in November to the Nexen Heroes, their bid to the Korean Baseball Organization team for the rights to sign slugger Byung Ho Park. Add that to the payroll, and the Twins’ outlays are up 7.8 percent this year; prorate them over Park’s four-year contract ($3.2 million a year), and the Twins are spending only 1 percent less than last year.
Subtract the nearly $7 million that Ervin Santana forfeited during his 80-game PED suspension, and the Twins’ actual payouts are already higher than last year.
Not that any of the numbers mean much to the general manager.
“I’ve said many times that money is not an issue for us. We have all the payroll we need,” Terry Ryan repeated last week. “Our roster isn’t necessarily finished yet, either. We’re still looking at some things. There’s another month before camp.”
Signing Plouffe was a major milestone toward spring, though, since his contract was the largest one the Twins had to negotiate this winter. Plouffe, originally offered $7 million by the Twins on the arbitration-filing day, just missed surpassing the $7.4 million salary that Justin Morneau agreed to in order to avoid arbitration in 2008.
Players not eligible for arbitration — generally, those with fewer than three years’ experience in the majors — will earn at least the major-league minimum of $507,500.
Wherever the payroll winds up, this season will mark the fourth time in franchise history that the Twins will spend more than $100 million on their 25-man roster, topped by their $113 million cost in 2011. Last year’s total was their second-highest ever, but ranked only 18th in the major leagues. The Dodgers, at $272 million, were the runaway leaders in player salaries.
The Twins’ small decline is partly due to the retirement of Torii Hunter (who earned $10.5 million last year), and the departure, at various times, of Brian Duensing, Blaine Boyer, Tim Stauffer, Shane Robinson and Jordan Schafer — each of whom made the team last spring — and Neal Cotts, acquired in August. Meanwhile, the Twins added only one notable free agent this winter: Park, who signed a four-year, $12 million deal.