Two Weeks May Determine Twins’ 2012 Fate

Now that the Twins front office has had a chance to let their Thanksgiving feasts settle, it’s time to go to work. The next two weeks should pretty much let everyone know whether the Twins will put a competitive team on the field in 2012 or whether Terry Ryan has opted to go in to full “rebuild” mode with his sights set on 2013 and beyond.

The atrium of Dallas' Hilton Anatole will be buzzing next week

MLB’s Winter Meetings kick off next Monday, but as FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi indicates in his November 28 column, the week before the Winter Meetings are often just as critical as the few days the meetings are held.

Of course, this period is not traditionally a busy period for the Twins’ front office. Their reputation is one for sitting out the swap meet that the Winter Meetings can become for many teams, in favor of picking over the Free Agent leftovers after the first of the year.

Then again, it hasn’t been often that the Twins have had so many needs to fill.

Projecting a 25-man roster from the players currently holding spots on the Twins’ 40-man roster is all but impossible. It would appear, however, that Ryan currently has at least nine spots that are completely up in the air. Based on existing contractual obligations, projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players, and ownership’s contention that payroll should be slashed more than 10% to somewhere south of $100 million, the GM would appear to be heading in to this critical two-week period wearing some pretty tight financial handcuffs.

If we assume the Twins will carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers on their Opening Day roster, I count four open pitching spots and five open position spots to fill… with about $13 million with which to do so.

Mauer, Morneau, Casilla, Valencia, Carroll, Span, Nishioka and Doumit will collectively pull in just over $53 million, while leaving two starting OF spots and three bench spots yet to be filled.

The pitching corps looks like Pavano, Baker, Liriano, Blackburn, Slowey, Perkins, Duensing and Mijares. Those eight arms account for just over $32 million. Tack on the $2 million the Twins paid to buy out Joe Nathan’s 2012 option and you’ve got $34 million committed to pitching with four more spots to fill.

To my mind, this leave Terry Ryan with two current options:

  • He can spend the next two weeks making deals to shed enough of his existing contractual commitments to be able to afford to add, either through trade or free agency, an outfielder or two that can hit and a couple of pitchers who can miss bats; or
  • He can sit back and wait while those teams who expect to contend in 2012 fill out their rosters with the best players available, then sign a couple of leftovers to compete with the large group of “may or may not be ready for the Big Leagues” prospects that we all watched try to fill Twins uniforms toward the end of the 2011 season.

It’s a tough choice for the GM to make. It’s made even more dicey by the reality that the chances of the Twins being competitive, regardless of which path Ryan chooses, are going to be determined more by the health and productivity of half a dozen or so core players already wearing Twins uniforms than by the players who fill those final nine spots on the active roster.

The question we’d all like an answer to, I think, is, “what do the Twins really believe they’ll get out of Mauer, Morneau, Baker, Span, Liriano, etc.?”

So far, we’ve heard the Twins brass say they haven’t given up on fielding a competitive team in 2012. Of course, they’re still trying to sell season tickets, so they wouldn’t say anything else.

As is almost always the case, actions will speak much louder than words… and actions (or lack thereof) over the next two weeks may speak loudest of all.

- JC

10 thoughts on “Two Weeks May Determine Twins’ 2012 Fate

  1. I don’t think the Twins really have nine spots “completely up in the air”. Does anyone really think Ben Revere isn’t going to be on the roster? The only two positions the Twins are almost certain to fill from outside the organization are right field and closer. They have multiple candidates for all the other roster spots.

    They may add a starting pitcher and some additional options for the bullpen. And a couple of those may still be works in progress after the new year. In fact, the bullpen will likely still be a work in progress come the July trading deadline.

  2. Revere will be on the roster, so will Luke Hughes and Plouffe because they are out of options. Mijares still has another option left, so I would not write his name in stone quite yet. Same as Nishioka’s (and with TR as the GM, it is ok to admit BS’s mistake and have him in AAA for seasoning…)

  3. Another thing on this: “I count four open pitching spots and five open position spots to fill…” The magic number is actually 2, as the number of openings in the Twins 40-man roster. So, unless there are trades, waivers, etc, only 2 players can come outside the organization.

  4. Could Nishioka and Mijares open the year in the minors? Sure. But their pay is still going to count against that $100 million cap that Ryan is working with. So just having an extra open roster spot doesn’t free up any more money to spend… it just means he has to spread the remaining payroll even thinner.

    I’m also not too concerned about the 40-man roster spots since the Twins have demonstrated that they’re more than willing to risk sending players through waivers, if necessary, to make room for acquisitions. Doesn’t make some people happy when they do that, but they do it anyway.

    As for Revere, Ryan’s comments earlier this month that he’s not planning to trade either Span or Revere certainly indicate he’d like to put them in the same OF and I agree that should help the pitchers’ ERAs. Despite that, I don’t believe Revere’s offensive numbers warrant an assumption that he should be on the Opening Day roster as long as Span is still around. With Span hitting lead off, Carroll 2nd and Casilla 9th, Revere’s unproven bat (and questionable on-base skills) doesn’t have a clear spot in the batting order. Again, I’m not saying it would be a terrible thing, just that I’m not all that certain it will happen.

    If you project Ryan spending even $4 million on a closer and even if you hand Revere a roster spot for minimum wage, that leaves very little to spend on the remaining players. Sounds like a lot of Red Wings and Rock Cats (including Hughes and Plouffe) wearing Twins uniforms, to me… and pretty much the same group of starting pitchers that filled the rotation a year ago.

  5. “If you project Ryan spending even $4 million on a closer and even if you hand Revere a roster spot for minimum wage, that leaves very little to spend on the remaining players. Sounds like a lot of Red Wings and Rock Cats (including Hughes and Plouffe) wearing Twins uniforms, to me… and pretty much the same group of starting pitchers that filled the rotation a year ago.”

    I think that there is no way that Ryan gives up on Plouffe. Very similar situation with Cuddyer (1st round pick, sucked on the IF) who got a chance in same situation. I think that Plouffe will figure in the OF/DH situation in 2012.

    As far as the rotation goes (and the spending limits) the team has about $13.5 M “invested” on Pavano and Blackburn. If they find takers for those 2, a lot will change. Despite that, the rotation will probably be Baker, Liriano, Slowey (in alphabetical order – btw did you hear any of the anti-Slowey propaganda of the Twins after BS left?) and then maybe a new person or Pavano (hope not) and Swarzak/Hendricks/De Vries (if still around). Different rotation and the key is to have them all healthy and for Gardy to not cut his nose to spite his face (see: Slowey)

    A quick calculation with the current commitments for 2012 has the payroll at $84M (incl. Doumit and expected arbitration payouts for all per MLB trade rumors.) That’s $16M. Plenty to sign someone like Broxton to an incentive ladden contract, to sign Andrew Jones to add to the OF/DH pool and get a couple real relievers. Frankly I see trades happening though…

    I am pretty optimistic for 2012 (or as optimistic as I can be with Gardenhire and his buddies still around…)

  6. “Mauer, Morneau, Casilla, Valencia, Carroll, Span, Nishioka and Doumit will collectively pull in just over $53 million”

    How did you get there?
    Mauer 23
    Morneau 14
    Doumit 3
    Nishioka 3
    Span 3
    Carroll 2.75
    Casilla ?
    Valencia ?

    Do you really think Valencia and Casilla are going to cost over $4 million? I don’t.

    Valencia is going to get about $.5 million. I don’t think an arbitrator is going to give Casilla $3.5 million and make him the team’s third highest paid position player. He got less than $1 million in his first year of arbitration and I am not sure he raised his value at all last year given the Twins’ record.

    Your guess on the pitching seems high too. It will depend on how much Liriano, Perkins, Mijares and Slowey get in arbitration, assuming its offered. Again, with the Twins poor record, it seems unlikely they are going to get big raises. You seem to have them getting almost $14 million. That’s $3.5 million a piece. I think Liriano is the only one who will reach that level.

    More to the point, that $100 million figure was an off-the-cuff comment by Terry Ryan at his introductory news conference, not a firm number. Even within that number, it looks to me like the Twins have plenty of money for a closer and right fielder.

    The budget may be a real constraint on adding a starter and proven arms for the bullpen. But I don’t think that is going to be the biggest issue.

  7. Not sure how this is going to copy and paste here, but this is my spreadsheet about 2012 commitments:

    Player 2012 contract
    Mauer 23000000
    Morneau 14000000
    Nathan 2000000 buyout
    Pavano 8500000
    Baker 6500000
    Liriano 5500000 estimated
    Blackburn 4750000
    Nishioka 3000000
    Slowey 3500000 estimated
    Span 3000000
    Casilla 1250000 estimated
    Perkins 1500000 estimated
    Duensing 1000000 estimated
    Mijares 800000 estimated
    Valencia 450000
    Butera 450000
    Hughes 450000
    Swarzak 450000
    Revere 450000
    Plouffe 450000
    Doumit 3000000
    Carroll 2750000

    Total 86750000

    (and I did not have Carroll in the previous estimation)

  8. Jim -

    It looks like the chart is pro-rating whatever bonus was paid. I don’t think Casilla is going to get $2.5 million. You don’t triple your salary by playing less than 100 games on a team that lost 99 games. Especially when you didn’t play all that well.

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