After cutting player payroll by more than $35 million from last year, the Twins entered this season with the 20th-highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

The Twins are carrying an estimated payroll around $126 million, according to luxury tax payroll figures for Opening Day rosters. Their payroll reached a team-record $164 million in 2023, according to the Associated Press, when they won an American League Central title and won their first postseason series in two decades.

Following a two-year surge in payroll, the Twins dropped their Opening Day figure below $130 million for the first time since 2021. The last time the Twins carried an Opening Day payroll that ranked in the top half of the major leagues was 2012.

The Twins were one of nine teams that dropped payroll entering 2024. They cited the uncertainty of their local TV contract as one reason for their payroll reduction during the winter. They announced in February a one-year extension with Diamond Sports Group, Bally Sports North's parent company, but they did not reveal financial terms after their previous contract paid them $54.8 million in 2023.

Despite ranking in the bottom third of the major leagues in payroll, the Twins rank second in the AL Central Division behind only the Chicago White Sox ($147 million). The Cleveland Guardians, who lead the Central with a 7-2 record, hold an estimated payroll around $100 million.

There were eight teams that surpassed the $233 million competitive balance tax threshold last year, according to the Associated Press. The New York Mets had the highest payroll at $374.7 million, and they paid a league-record $100.8 million in luxury taxes after missing the playoffs. The threshold increased to $237 million for the 2024 season.

Slow start for Kepler

Max Kepler was arguably the Twins' most consistent hitter in the second half of the 2023 season, posting a .306 batting average and .926 on-base plus slugging percentage after the All-Star break, but it's been a slow first week for the club's longest-tenured player.

Kepler is 1-for-20 (.050 average) with one walk and six strikeouts through his first five games. He missed two games after he fouled a ball off his knee on Opening Day.

"What do we have left, 150-something [games]?" Kepler said. "I think the numbers will look different at the end of the year. Hopefully, otherwise, it'll be a … depressing year. Yeah, it's early and I'm eager to get to work. It's baseball. Baseball throws challenges at you, otherwise it wouldn't be fun."

Kepler hit .175 through his first 12 games last April, though that included a stint on the injured list.

"I try not to dwell on the past if it's a good year or bad year," he said. "I try to stay present."


* Simeon Woods Richardson allowed seven hits and seven runs in 3⅓ innings and the St. Paul Saints were doomed by an eight-run fourth inning during their 8-1 loss at the Nashville Sounds on Sunday.