With Orlando Hudson signed, the Twins' projected Opening Day payroll has reached $96 million, an increase from $65 million last season.

That's in base salary for the projected 25-man roster, not counting incentives for players such as Jim Thome, who can make an additional $750,000, depending on his number of plate appearances. The Twins wound up spending more than $70 million on payroll last year after adding Carl Pavano, Orlando Cabrera and others,, but the focus here is on the Opening Day number, which is referenced throughout the season.

Last year, a $96 million Opening Day payroll would have tied the Twins with the White Sox for 12th highest out of 30 MLB teams. (The Twins' actually ranked 24th.)

We've been tracking this all offseason, and I'll repeat again that this isn't my suggestion for the 25-man roster. It's designed to give you a look at where the money is being spent.

(One reader noticed that we are including pro-rated signing bonuses for Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. That is true. Morneau's actual salary is $14 million this season, for example, but he received a $6 million signing bonus when signing his six-year, $80 million contract. MLB uses the pro-rated signing bonuses for payroll calculations, for luxury tax purposes. By the way, this year's luxury tax threshold is estimated to be $170 million, so the Twins aren't in any danger of paying. Basically, this is MLB's "Yankee Tax.")

I realize this projection makes predictions about the 25-man roster. Because Alexi Casilla and Francisco Liriano are out of minor-league options, I'm putting them on the team for now. If the Twins don't make a trade, they're more likely to protect these players and send Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Matt Tolbert to Class AAA Rochester.

I'm also putting catcher Jose Morales on the disabled list, and not counting his salary in the 25-man projection. The best part of this is putting a potential lineup, rotation, bullpen and bench together in one spot. As LaVelle keeps saying, this is the best Twins team on paper in his 13 years of covering the team.

1. CF -- Denard Span: $450,000 (estimate)
2. 2B -- Orlando Hudson: $5,000,000
3. C -- Joe Mauer: $12,500,000
4. 1B -- Justin Morneau: $15,000,000
5. DH -- Jason Kubel: $4,100,000
6. RF -- Michael Cuddyer: $9,417,000
7. LF -- Delmon Young: $2,600,000
8. SS -- J.J. Hardy: $5,100,000
9. 3B -- Brendan Harris: $1,600,000
Total (9 starters): $55,767,000

DH -- Jim Thome: $1,500,000
INF -- Nick Punto: $4,000,000
INF -- Alexi Casilla: $440,000 (estimate)
C -- Drew Butera: $400,000 (estimate)
Total (4 bench players): $6,340,000

1. RHP Scott Baker: $3,000,000
2. RHP Carl Pavano: $7,000,000
3: RHP Nick Blackburn: $450,000 (estimate)
4. RHP Kevin Slowey: $450,000 (estimate)
5. LHP Francisco Liriano: $1,600,000
Total (5 starters): $12,500,000

RHP Joe Nathan: $11,250,000
RHP Jon Rauch: $2,900,000
RHP Matt Guerrier: $3,150,000
LHP Jose Mijares: $420,000 (estimate)
RHP Jesse Crain: $2,000,000
RHP Clay Condrey: $900,000
RHP Pat Neshek: $625,000
Total: (7 relievers): $21,425,000


TOTAL (25 players): $96,032,000

C -- Jose Morales: $410,000 (estimate)


LHP Brian Duensing: $410,000 (estimate)
LHP Glen Perkins: $460,000 (estimate)
RHP Anthony Swarzak: $410,000 (estimate)
RHP Jeff Manship: $410,000 (estimate)
RHP Robert Delaney: $400,000 (estimate)
RHP Anthony Slama: $400,000 (estimate)

OF -- Jason Pridie: $400,000 (estimate)
INF -- Matt Tolbert: $415,000 (estimate)
C -- Wilson Ramos: $400,000 (estimate)
INF -- Luke Hughes: $400,000 (estimate)
INF -- Trevor Plouffe: $400,000 (estimate)

(The Twins have to remove someone from the 40-man roster to make room for Hudson. No word yet on whom that will be. But it's worth noting that besides a potent 25-man roster, the Twins appear to have solid depth.)