• Why the Twins Will Spend This Offseason

    Will the Minnesota Twins increase payroll?There is a widespread assumption among Twins fans that the team will maintain its conservative approach this offseason and avoid making any big financial splashes. One could hardly be blamed for holding such a belief; that expectation has been engrained throughout the history of a franchise that has fostered a well deserved reputation for being extremely risk-averse.

    But when you take a look at the landscape of the organization and the circumstances being faced this coming winter, it's pretty tough to make a case that the Twins will not take at least one or two significant plunges, unless you have completely lost faith in the desire of this front office to compete.

    The key question is this: What makes this coming offseason different from the last one, in which the Twins took a very Twins-like approach, signing cheap low-upside veterans to plug gaping holes in the rotation while relying on internal reinforcements in a number of other areas?

    The answer is, well, a lot of things.

    For one, there is going to be much more money available. It's well established at this point that Terry Ryan came in far below that budget that was made available to him last offseason, perhaps by as much as $10-20 million. This year, the spending limit set by ownership would figure to rise, considering that that Ryan left plenty of money unspent this season and -- although the Twins probably won't see any rise in their own revenues with attendance dropping again -- they will be receiving a cash windfall as part of the league's new cable deal.

    Plus, with Justin Morneau's $14 million, Nick Blackburn's $5.5 million and Mike Pelfrey's $4 million coming off the books, the Twins have very few notable payroll commitments going forward. In 2014, they will owe a combined $46 million to Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia, Glen Perkins, Ryan Doumit and Jared Burton. Beyond that, it's all league-minimum salaries and modest arbitration raises, none of which are likely to exceed one or two million tops.

    That gives the club immense room to add payroll, even if they are just aiming to get back to this year's $82 million mark. Since their needs are relatively focused -- the bullpen is fairly set and the offense is already beginning to receive help from a robust pipeline of minor-league talent -- the Twins can fully direct any funds toward improving their shoddy rotation.

    Of course, many of us were saying the same thing a year ago, when the starting pitching corps was in similarly dire straits with ample financial flexibility available. It is possible that Ryan and Co. will follow the same path, further frustrating those of us who have grown skeptical of the organization's willingness to do what's necessary to dig out of this deep hole. But I don't think so.

    Three straight years of steady losing creates more urgency than two straight years. The fan base is growing more and more apathetic and season ticket sales are declining as the new-stadium grace period wears off. As I mentioned last week, the Twins don't have much of anything to tout from a pitching standpoint, given that essentially every guy they've trotted out this season has failed. Granted, the free agent market is far from a surefire method of drastically improving the rotation, even if you're willing to open the wallet, but as Parker pointed out last week there will be some intriguing names out there that could shake up the composition of this absurdly contact-heavy staff. Spending on a high-profile name would at least create some buzz and reassure fans that an earnest effort is being made.

    The All-Star Game is coming to Minneapolis next year, leading some to believe that the Twins will keep their foot off the pedal, relying on this national attraction -- rather than improvement on the field -- to drive ticket sales and interest. I tend to think the opposite is true. This is an opportunity, and the club will seek to take advantage.

    Don't forget that leading up to Target Field's inaugural season, the Twins could have stayed the course, having reached the playoffs in their final year at the Metrodome. Instead, they attacked the offseason as aggressively as ever before. In addition to signing Mauer to his historic contract extension, they paid to keep Carl Pavano, traded for J.J. Hardy, and signed Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome.

    Obviously, it's a different situation when you're adding the final pieces to a proven contender. But if the Twins ever want to return to being a proven contender, they need to start taking some more purposeful steps than we've seen recently. That means acquiring established talent that can actually make an impact.

    With so much money begging to be spent this offseason, they almost have no choice.
    This article was originally published in blog: Why the Twins Will Spend This Offseason started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 173 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Only question I would have is where are you going to spend the money? Don't want to spend big on 3B with Plouffe being there short-term and Sano likely up sometime before June. 2B isn't a need. 1B doesn't seem like a place to spend, especially if Mauer's going to be there. Outfield should include Hicks and Arcia sometime during the season, and Willingham is still going to be there with plenty of fourth OF options. Who knows, Eddie Rosario may be in the Twins outfield by the middle of next year too. Bullpen isn't a place to spend money.

      So, it does all come down to Starting Pitchers... the question has to be asked, how many do you want, and how many current starters should be in the 2013 rotation. We know Correia will be. We'd like to think Gibson should be, or will be soon. There is hope that Alex Meyer woudln't be too far off. Will Deduno be healthy and has he earned a spot? I'd like a spot for guys like Diamond, Worley, Albers, Hendriks, to win. So, I see two spots.

      Signing a name just to sign a name is never good. They could sign Johan Santana, and give him whatever contract they like, but he likely won't pitch much, certainly not until the second half. I'm good with going after a make-good pitcher like Lincecum, but at this point, he's just part of the crap shoot that is free agent starting pitching.

      I'm not pretending to know what the answer is. I would rather trade for good arms than sign some #4s.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      There are plenty of interesting names beyond Santana and Lincecum. Indeed, the Twins are going to have to pay more to get these pitchers than most would judge that they're worth. But I think we need to cast aside those notions, because A) a player is "worth" whatever it takes to sign them, and B) the very definition of what any player is worth is transforming as more and more revenue flows into the game.

      As ever, no one is suggesting that they "sign a name just to sign a name" or target No. 4s. There are going to be plenty of pitchers hitting FA that have shown the capability to be top-tier pitchers, and recently. Garza, Ervin Santana, Nolasco, Lincecum, Jimenez, Haren, Josh Johnson, the list goes on.

      Yeah, you're going to have to spend more than you'd like, but you've got to pay to play. What else are they going to do with that money? Sit on it? They're headed toward a payroll that is like $25 million below this year's oft-criticized figure.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Baker, Santana, Pelfry, Hughes, Colby Lewis, Randy Messenger are some of the names I can see the Twins pursuing none are too expensive.

      Tanaka (the Japanese pitcher who should be posted this offseason) is the only potential starter they could go after that will cost a fair amount of money.

      I just don't see the Twins going after someone like Lincecum, Garza (again), Josh Johnson...
    1. MichiganTwins's Avatar
      MichiganTwins -
      The problem with saying what are they going to do with the money? sit on it? is the fact that the Twins did sit on it this year. I realize we have to spend some money and they likely will, but it really is getting hard to be optimistic about the FO spending money.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Only question I would have is where are you going to spend the money? Don't want to spend big on 3B with Plouffe being there short-term and Sano likely up sometime before June. 2B isn't a need. 1B doesn't seem like a place to spend, especially if Mauer's going to be there. Outfield should include Hicks and Arcia sometime during the season, and Willingham is still going to be there with plenty of fourth OF options. Who knows, Eddie Rosario may be in the Twins outfield by the middle of next year too. Bullpen isn't a place to spend money.

      So, it does all come down to Starting Pitchers... the question has to be asked, how many do you want, and how many current starters should be in the 2013 rotation. We know Correia will be. We'd like to think Gibson should be, or will be soon. There is hope that Alex Meyer woudln't be too far off. Will Deduno be healthy and has he earned a spot? I'd like a spot for guys like Diamond, Worley, Albers, Hendriks, to win. So, I see two spots.

      Signing a name just to sign a name is never good. They could sign Johan Santana, and give him whatever contract they like, but he likely won't pitch much, certainly not until the second half. I'm good with going after a make-good pitcher like Lincecum, but at this point, he's just part of the crap shoot that is free agent starting pitching.

      I'm not pretending to know what the answer is. I would rather trade for good arms than sign some #4s.
      I mean yah Correia maybe, but really, 5 million shouldn't guarantee him anything. He's been better than expected but if someone else earns it there's no reason Alex Meyer, Deduno, May, Worley, etc. wouldn't kick him out of a spot if they show up in the spring. I figure the Twins should plan on maybe two or three rotation spots being filled from the current roster. That's assuming Gibson steps it up and shows he's a big league guy, then one or two from the list you named. I really hope they don't just hand Correia a job because of his contract.

      With the free money it really makes sense to go after some guys with top end upside because really the only top end upside we have is Gibson and Meyer right now (maybe May) but none of them have proven a thing at the big league level. None of the upcoming free agents will command 5-6 year deals right? So they can be signed for 2-4 year deals and won't cripple this franchise especially when you look at current long term commitments. If they work out, great, if not, well you deal with it and hope you can find a use for them in the bullpen etc. There are no amazing starting pitchers coming up in 2015 so really it does make sense to spend this off season on some lottery tickets.

      Lots of guys who have done it before and could do it again. Pick up three of them and hope 2 work out. Then fill the rest of the rotation as best you can.
    1. MichiganTwins's Avatar
      MichiganTwins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Only question I would have is where are you going to spend the money? Don't want to spend big on 3B with Plouffe being there short-term and Sano likely up sometime before June. 2B isn't a need. 1B doesn't seem like a place to spend, especially if Mauer's going to be there. Outfield should include Hicks and Arcia sometime during the season, and Willingham is still going to be there with plenty of fourth OF options. Who knows, Eddie Rosario may be in the Twins outfield by the middle of next year too. Bullpen isn't a place to spend money.

      So, it does all come down to Starting Pitchers... the question has to be asked, how many do you want, and how many current starters should be in the 2013 rotation. We know Correia will be. We'd like to think Gibson should be, or will be soon. There is hope that Alex Meyer woudln't be too far off. Will Deduno be healthy and has he earned a spot? I'd like a spot for guys like Diamond, Worley, Albers, Hendriks, to win. So, I see two spots.

      Signing a name just to sign a name is never good. They could sign Johan Santana, and give him whatever contract they like, but he likely won't pitch much, certainly not until the second half. I'm good with going after a make-good pitcher like Lincecum, but at this point, he's just part of the crap shoot that is free agent starting pitching.

      I'm not pretending to know what the answer is. I would rather trade for good arms than sign some #4s.
      Signing a name to sign name would still be better than the Twins rotation.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Only question I would have is where are you going to spend the money? Don't want to spend big on 3B with Plouffe being there short-term and Sano likely up sometime before June. 2B isn't a need. 1B doesn't seem like a place to spend, especially if Mauer's going to be there. Outfield should include Hicks and Arcia sometime during the season, and Willingham is still going to be there with plenty of fourth OF options. Who knows, Eddie Rosario may be in the Twins outfield by the middle of next year too. Bullpen isn't a place to spend money.

      So, it does all come down to Starting Pitchers... the question has to be asked, how many do you want, and how many current starters should be in the 2013 rotation. We know Correia will be. We'd like to think Gibson should be, or will be soon. There is hope that Alex Meyer woudln't be too far off. Will Deduno be healthy and has he earned a spot? I'd like a spot for guys like Diamond, Worley, Albers, Hendriks, to win. So, I see two spots.

      Signing a name just to sign a name is never good. They could sign Johan Santana, and give him whatever contract they like, but he likely won't pitch much, certainly not until the second half. I'm good with going after a make-good pitcher like Lincecum, but at this point, he's just part of the crap shoot that is free agent starting pitching.

      I'm not pretending to know what the answer is. I would rather trade for good arms than sign some #4s.
      They could spend the money on 5 (or even 1 or 2) guys that give you a chance to win consistently and look at short term contracts to immediately improve any defensive positions. Depending on what they do with Mauer the only other position I'd say is locked down would be 2B so there's plenty of needs to throw money at. They're pretty crappy.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Many consider the Twins returning to be a proven contender as practically a done deal, the only questions being when, and how far will this rebuild take us. Are we going dominate the Central as we have in the past or with the help of the Gods of Baseball will we win another World Series title?

      There is every appearance of 2 strong drafts in a row, and we are currently earning another high pick in what is being touted as a deep draft. Our efforts in the International market have given us Arcia, Pinto, and Sano, with every indication that the pipeline will continue.

      I do believe Ryan will sign a high-profile name, but I don't see any real urgency until the winter of 2014/2015. No doubt they will be continuously looking, as always, between now and then. They will continue to make Butera and Morneau type trades, though far from sexy, will do a great deal towards shaping the team and adding the final pieces.

      While many may consider The Twin's Way to be extremely risk-adverse, I believe it to be cold, calm, and calculated.
    1. Wookiee of the Year's Avatar
      Wookiee of the Year -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Only question I would have is where are you going to spend the money? ...
      Yeah, that's sort of the problem I see, too--it's unlikely all the Twins prospects will develop into great major leaguers, but at this point, you don't know for sure which ones will and which holes you'll have to fill. That makes 2014 a tougher year for signing a big Free Agent.

      Obviously, the pitching rotation has room for improvement now. But I also worry some about signing a big pitcher deal when we're still multiple years from contention, what with the volatility of pitcher performance and health.

      All of that said, I support the notion that the time is right to surpass the Willingham Contract with a new Biggest Twins FA Deal of All Time by signing a pitcher. I wouldn't personally count one such contract as the Twins going big this offseason, but coupled with a few high-upside signings like Johan and bringing in maybe one solid everyday player, the Twins might be able to push payroll up to at least this year's level.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      After reviewing the FA starting class for not only this year but next year I have to agree with Seth. The best way to acquire a top arm most likely will be via a trade. Whom? Not sure. Only top end names I have heard floated are Lee and Price.

      I'm all for the Twins spending big, they really need to, but most of the "top arms" aren't exactly what you would normally call top arms. This quite possibly is the most sucky FA pitching class in 10 years. The only guy I personally really like is Tanaka.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      After reviewing the FA starting class for not only this year but next year I have to agree with Seth. The best way to acquire a top arm most likely will be via a trade. Whom? Not sure. Only top end names I have heard floated are Lee and Price.

      I'm all for the Twins spending big, they really need to, but most of the "top arms" aren't exactly what you would normally call top arms. This quite possibly is the most sucky FA pitching class in 10 years. The only guy I personally really like is Tanaka.
      I agree. Tanaka is the prize. I would spent the 90M-110M if he checks out with our scouts.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      Tanaka makes the most sense to me because he is 24 and he will most likely be looking for a longer term contract which means he will be here when the reinforcements arrive.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Spend what it takes to win the Tanaka posting, and sign him.

      Spend what it takes to sign Josh Johnson to a three year deal. You might get nothing. You might hit a home run.

      Find one more cheap-ish reclamation project with upside, as opposed to low ceiling, low talent signings like Corriea.

      There is "salary cap" space to do all of that, and more. And if it were me, and I could sign even more pitching, I would. I wouldn't give even a second thought to blocking any starters in 2014, including Gibson. If I could end up with five pitchers better than Gibson, so be it. If Correia can't crack the rotations, fantastic.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      My point isn't that they shouldn't sign a guy or two, but I think everyone needs to ask themselves how many starters they need (who from the current options WILL and how many do you think SHOULD be in the 2014 rotation or have a spot open to compete for). It's easy to say that others will be better, but will they be?

      I mean, if Josh Johnson is healthy... I can't even finish that sentence... but he's a guy who has missed a lot of time 3 straight years and has not yet had any surgery. It's just a matter of time. So, I'd be fine with taking a chance on a guy like that, but I'd still want to be smart with the dollars because the odds of him being healthy are not good and that should factor in.

      I like Ubaldo Jimenez because he can miss some bats, but how much is too much? It's easy to say sign him, but he's far from a sure thing as well. Lincecum is better than Jimenez, but he'll also get paid a lot more too.

      Of the injury or struggled for a couple of years guys, maybe one of them will return to old form (maybe), one of them will be alright, and a couple of them will be injured or continue to struggle.

      I'm not saying I'm right, and there are obviously a couple of examples of free agents who prove worthwhile, but it just feels to me like such a crap shoot. I thought signing Correia was terrible, and he's been pretty decent, surprisingly so. I thought Joe Blanton would be a good guy for the Twins to sign. Oops. I liked the idea of the Twins signing Liriano in the offseason, but I guarantee if the Twins would have signed him, most comments would have been upset.

      That said, I'm NOT against the Twins spending some money wisely... I just know that with all of the young players on the roster, that's a lot of $500K players on the roster that automatically brings down the overall team salary.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      I don't think they will make a big splash--unless you think re-signing Pelfrey to a 2-year contract a "splash". They will sift the discard bin just like last year to sign one SP. The Twins have an abundance of "SPs" who have "been there" to shuttle between Rochester and Minneapolis and will use the draft(s) to rebuild from the bottom-up. The plan is slow and steady. Experience has shown that attendance will bounce-back quickly if a contender is assembled. Twins fans have been way tolerant of losing (even for extended periods) and with a low payroll combined with the way generous revenue sharing of MLB makes slow and steady plan very profitable and safe.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      The Twins will spend, but I have zero confidence that they will spend the right way, instead of overpaying for mediocrity, with Ryan at the helm. He has never done it. Never.

      I would not mind if the Twins spend $30 million a year for Tanaka and Abreu and Guerrero (that takes care of 1B and SS). Then they should spend another $20-30 for 2 top FA SP. Trade Willingham/Doumit/Correia. Give Sano every chance to win the 3B job in ST.

      Then maybe they will have a competitive team.

      But with the people who are ru(i)ning them these days, I just don't see it happening.

      There are bigger fish to fry than spending: Changing the Front office and the field management is necessary before spending.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Does anyone else think he possible increase in FA money available to everyone will drive salaries to the point where Ryan can't stomach it?
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      I don't think they will make a big splash--unless you think re-signing Pelfrey to a 2-year contract a "splash". They will sift the discard bin just like last year to sign one SP. The Twins have an abundance of "SPs" who have "been there" to shuttle between Rochester and Minneapolis and will use the draft(s) to rebuild from the bottom-up. The plan is slow and steady. Experience has shown that attendance will bounce-back quickly if a contender is assembled. Twins fans have been way tolerant of losing (even for extended periods) and with a low payroll combined with the way generous revenue sharing of MLB makes slow and steady plan very profitable and safe.
      Not a fan of the new slow and steady narrative I've seen pop up. It's possible to put an interesting team on the field without waiting a half decade or more. For prospects to mature.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      The Twins will spend, but I have zero confidence that they will spend the right way, instead of overpaying for mediocrity, with Ryan at the helm. He has never done it. Never.

      I would not mind if the Twins spend $30 million a year for Tanaka and Abreu and Guerrero (that takes care of 1B and SS). Then they should spend another $20-30 for 2 top FA SP. Trade Willingham/Doumit/Correia. Give Sano every chance to win the 3B job in ST.

      Then maybe they will have a competitive team.

      But with the people who are ru(i)ning them these days, I just don't see it happening.

      There are bigger fish to fry than spending: Changing the Front office and the field management is necessary before spending.
      Ryan isn't going anywhere and the parade starts in 19 months. Do you really believe the Pohlads are going to hire some cowboy who spends like a drunken sailor?
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Ryan isn't going anywhere and the parade starts in 19 months. Do you really believe the Pohlads are going to hire some cowboy who spends like a drunken sailor?
      Is a 100 million team salary spending, drunken? I don't think so.
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