Last week, we took a glance at all of the players that we may have to be willing to say good-bye to by Opening Day next season.Today, let’s try to figure out how we (or more specifically, Twins GM Bill Smith) can find room for at least some of those players on next years’ roster.
Unfortunately, the first thing we have to talk about is money. The Twins front office doesn’t like to talk about money. (Have you ever noticed, the people who HAVE money are always the people who don’t like talking about money?) The Twins’ reluctance (refusal?) to disclose details about their financial status makes the exercise of trying to figure out who they can afford to bring back (never mind add) to the roster this off-season.
This is when Bill Smith earns his paycheck
This season, the Twins had about a $98 million payroll to start the season and, with the midseason additions, apparently barely broke through the $100 million mark.I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect revenues to increase significantly (although I’m sure they’ll raise ticket prices) and if revenues don’t increase a lot, neither will payroll.
The bottom line is that the Twins are not going to allow their payroll to increase like it did this season. I’m hoping we see Bill Smith set a goal to open the season with a Major League payroll at or above $115 million, but that may be wishful thinking. (If you think the Twins are going to escalate payroll more dramatically, keep in mind that the Angels broke the $100 million payroll mark in 2004… and didn’t escalate past $120 million until just this year.)
Let’s see what that means in terms of who we can expect to see in a Twins uniform in 2011. To do that, we have to do some guesswork concerning the team picking up various player options and likely arbitration awards. Players in bold have guaranteed contracts.
Catchers: Joe Mauer ($23mil) and a back up ($500K) getting the league minimum. Total $23.5 million.
Infield: Justin Morneau ($14mil), Brendan Harris ($1.75mil), Alexi Casilla ($1mil), Danny Valencia ($500K), Matt Tolbert ($500K). Total $17.75 million. (We’ll talk about Nick Punto, JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson later.)
Outfield: Michael Cuddyer ($10.5mil), Denard Span ($1mil), Jason Kubel ($5.25mil), Delmon Young ($5mil). Total $21.75 million. (We’ll talk about Jason Repko later.)
Starting pitchers: Scott Baker ($5mil), Francisco Liriano ($4.5mil), Nick Blackburn ($3mil), Kevin Slowey ($3mil), Brian Duensing ($500K). Total $16 million. (We’ll talk about Carl Pavano later.)
Relief pitchers: Joe Nathan ($12.5mil), Matt Capps ($8mil), Jose Mijares ($500K). Total $21 million. (We’ll try to fill in the rest of the bullpen later.)
What do you do about Jason Kubel's option?
That’s exactly $100 million for those 19 ballplayers. If we use that $115 million figure as our “payroll budget”, we have $15 million to spend on the remaining half dozen players to fill out our roster. If they want to spend more than that, they can make room by trading one of these 19 (assuming the trade partner is willing to take on all of that player’s salary), by buying out Kubel’s option year (saving a little under $5 million), or not offering arbitration to Capps, Young, Liriano, Slowey or other lesser-compensated players and letting them become free agents.
Assuming the Twins would carry a 12-arm pitching staff, four of the remaining six spots would be pitchers and the other two would be somehow accounted for by an infielder, an outfielder and/or a DH.
If you’re going to shop first among the players who wore Twins uniforms this season, here are your options… and their estimated price tags:
Carl Pavano (likely to command a 2-3 year contract at about $10 million per year as a free agent)
Jesse Crain (made $2 million this year and likely to command a multi-year contract for at least $3 million per year as a free agent)
Matt Guerrier (made $3.15 million this year and likely to get at least that much next year as a free agent)
Glen Perkins, Pat Neshek, Ron Mahay, Randy Flores are probably going to cost somewhere just south of $1 million.
Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop would make the league minimum $500K.
Orlando Hudson (likely to command $6 million as a free agent).
JJ Hardy (likely to earn $6 million or more through arbitration).
Nick Punto (Twins have a $5 million option that almost certainly won’t be picked up. They could buy it out for $500K and try to bring him back for something closer to $1.5 million).
Jim Thome (likely to command $4 million as a free agent).
Jason Repko (likely available for something less than $1 million)
Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere would be options at the league minimum $500K.
Will the Twins be outbid for Jesse Crain?
So, you say you want to bring back Pavano, Crain, Guerrier and one of the rookies, along with Hardy and Thome? That’s $26.5 million… or $11.5 million more than you have available to spend.
Maybe you’re willing to let Pavano go and stick with the home grown rotation, if it means keeping Crain and Guerrier and filling out the rest of the pen with kids. That could leave you $9 million to spend on position players, perhaps allowing you to keep Hardy and Thome.
But you say you want to see Nick Punto stay in a Twins uniform? OK… which are you saying good-bye to, Jim Thome or JJ Hardy? (Not exercising Nick’s option wouldn’t necessarily preclude the Twins from signing him to a more reasonable “utility player” contract… maybe $1.5 million or so.)
Maybe you’d try to trade Jason Kubel. That’s fine, but that leaves you with just 3 outfielders, unless Punto or Hardy can move out there.
See… being a General Manager isn’t so easy, is it?
And we haven’t even discussed the possibility that there might be someone out there on the free agent market that you think might help improve your team.
I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to recommend to Bill Smith when he calls to ask for my advice. I want a top of the line starting pitcher for the rotation and I’d like to add an outfielder that can hit AND field a position. I just haven’t figured out how to pay for all that and bring back a couple of guys I don’t really want to lose.
But don’t wait for me. Feel free to use the comment section to play General Manager and let us know how you’d fill out the roster AND stay within your budget. – JC