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  • 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. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      These aren't terribly unreasonable positions to take, but Nick lays out a pretty good case for why that won't be. Is there anything else to support your views outside of 'TR has never done it'?
      Not to speak for others, but I think "not terribly unreasonable" undersells their positions by a lot.

      "TR has never done it" is quite reasonable at this point, IMO. In fact, I'd go so far as to say its what I expect.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Is there anything else to support your views outside of 'TR has never done it'?
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Not to speak for others, but I think "not terribly unreasonable" undersells their positions by a lot.

      "TR has never done it" is quite reasonable at this point, IMO. In fact, I'd go so far as to say its what I expect.
      So.... no?
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      "Is there anything else to support your views outside of 'TR has never done it'?"

      Isn't the reverse the real question? Is there anything that Ryan has ever done to support the idea that suddenly he will spend money?
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      "Is there anything else to support your views outside of 'TR has never done it'?"

      Isn't the reverse the real question? Is there anything that Ryan has ever done to support the idea that suddenly he will spend money?
      The ideas laid out in the article that this thread is attached to?

      You're correct that he hasn't done anything yet, but the whole premise is to show why the scenario isn't the same. I'll be happy to eat crow if payroll is $50m next year, but I just don't see how that'll be.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      The ideas laid out in the article that this thread is attached to?
      How do the ideas in the article translate into action likely taken by Ryan when Ryan has never acted that way before?

      It may be that Ryan will change his ways this winter, but what is more likely he stays the course and continues doing what he has for 15 years or suddenly change how he operates?
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      How do the ideas in the article translate into action likely taken by Ryan when Ryan has never acted that way before?

      It may be that Ryan will change his ways this winter, but what is more likely he stays the course and continues doing what he has for 15 years or suddenly change how he operates?
      So again, is there anything else to support your views outside of 'TR has never done it'? If the answer is no -- that's perfectly fine, and you're entitled to that opinion. Factually, the only way payroll isn't $50m (or in that range) next year is for Ryan to do things differently either through free agency, the int'l market, or taking on salary in trade. I think it has to happen.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      This is a make or break offseason for Terry Ryan. He has the ability to spend money and improve the club and there is talent available to do it. If he fails, he has to be fired. There is no other option. I'm hopeful, but at the same time have pretty low expectations. I'm ok if he fails and is fired, I'm not a fan of his one bit (I actually think he is a pretty terrible GM).

      Looking at youtube of Tanaka, he looks alright. I have to wonder if his control of the FB is good enough to succeed in the MLB. Darvish was a different type of pitcher, which why he has succeeded so much. I'd much rather get guys like Lincecum that have shown success and might just need a little change to return to form.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I also think the ulcers it would cause him will keep Ryan from the bidding wars on the bigger (medium) named free agents. I suppose it's my nature to believe in historical trends as opposed to hope and faith.

      But perhaps he could get a pitcher through trade. Ryan does have a history of this in the off season.

      One trade came to mind, does everyone think CC Sabathia is completely washed up? He's owed about $100 million over the next four years including a 2017 vesting option. If the Yankees want to clear some payroll so they can both stay under the luxery tax threshhold AND retain Robinson Cano, it's reasonable to think a buyer likely could get the Yankees to eat around half of that salary if the Yankees become motivated to move him.

      He's big, he's fat but he's still only 33 and only one year removed from seven consecutive years of an ERA+ of 125 or more. If he was on the free agent lists, he would likely still be near the top.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      It's true that Ryan will have a lot of money to work with... but I'll believe it when I see it. I could see potentially another trade for a pitching prospect, and another Pelfrey-type signing, but I've been a Twins fan for too long to believe that Ryan will sign a starting pitcher who is better than a Correia or Pavano.
    1. OldTwinky's Avatar
      OldTwinky -
      When someone shows you who they are, believe them. Jim Pohlad, Terry Ryan, Dave St. Peter and the rest of the people controlling the Twins have shown us exactly who they are and that's why my educated guess is that they won't bring in any expensive/game changing players via free agency. It'll be more AAAA players that have washed out in their previous org. and low walk no stuff having starting pitchers. It's ALWAYS the same thing with Terry Ryan.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Nick, I think you've laid out a good case for why the Twins SHOULD do something different this offseason, but I'm with those who don't feel you've convinced me it WILL happen. Many of us have made similar cases every year for the past three or so as to why pitching needs to be shored up and why there's plenty of room in the budget to do so.

      I expect Ryan to see things the way Seth laid out... that there are young, inexpensive options and reason to believe one or more of them will step up their game. That being the case, TR will not see any reason to get in a bidding contest for what he sees as marginal SP talent.

      I also think Tanaka is getting so much support here primarily because none of us have actually seen him pitch so nobody has picked up his "flaws" the way we have with guys we've all watched pitch for years.

      I fully expect the Twins payroll to drop significantly and remain that way until the next wave of internal prospects start hitting arbitration and FA levels, several years from now.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      These aren't terribly unreasonable positions to take, but Nick lays out a pretty good case for why that won't be. Is there anything else to support your views outside of 'TR has never done it'?

      People (Seth was the earliest) have laid out other reasons that have nothing to do with TR. for example, in a lot of positions of need, the Twins have young players that are close or near ready. One position of need, 1B, may need to be kept open for Mauer.
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      With regard to qualifying offers and draft picks: The Twins first round pick would be protected. So, if the Twins could get a lower risk higher upside player that could help them now and in a couple of years when they are more competitive, it might be worth looking at. I'm not sure Lincecum is that guy, but I'd definitely keep that option open.
      Was not aware of that. Is that for one time only or can they sign multiple free agents with qualifying offers? Would they have to give up a later rd pick?
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      The ideas laid out in the article that this thread is attached to?

      You're correct that he hasn't done anything yet, but the whole premise is to show why the scenario isn't the same. I'll be happy to eat crow if payroll is $50m next year, but I just don't see how that'll be.
      So, 50M is where you draw the line? Why that number? If payroll is at 60M, that somehow backs up your thinking? It'd be a dropoff of another 20M off this year's payroll before even taking into account the extra 25M coming in.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      So.... no?
      I sincerely hope to be proven gloriously wrong and will gladly proclaim so.
    1. zenser's Avatar
      zenser -
      I like the idea Mike Wants Wins suggests with Ellsbury. If Hicks does hit at some point in time, then you could always trade someone not named Buxton. I know there are some mid level starting pitchers out there and I would be ok with Hughes and Tanaka. I am not high on Josh Johnson but if he comes cheap and we sign one or two other pitchers, I could stomach the risk. I just don't want him to be the only SP signing.

      Are the Twins content with Florimon as SS? Stephen Drew is available and Peralta. Personally, I am not a big fan of Peralta and I don't think they will touch him but he is a decent fielder and a better offensive upgrade. Drew interests me the most if they look to upgrade SS.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      So.... no?
      Historical trends are pretty compelling. Certainly more so than hypothetical scenario building. I hope it happens, but please don't portray sensible hypotheticals as anything more than that.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      I agree. Tanaka is the prize. I would spent the 90M-110M if he checks out with our scouts.
      I hope they aren't the same scouts that worked on Nishi....
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by pierre75275 View Post
      Was not aware of that. Is that for one time only or can they sign multiple free agents with qualifying offers? Would they have to give up a later rd pick?
      Not sure how multiples work, but because they pick in the top 10 they lose a 2nd Rd pick instead.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      I get really tired of hearing the "Twins won't compete until 2015 so there's no point in spending" refrain. Just a loser's mentality that I pray Terry Ryan does not share.

      Someone convince me that this could not be a decent team next year if the Twins got lucky on a couple FA starters. You add, say, an effective Ervin Santana + Ubaldo Jimenez on top of Gibson, Diamond (or whichever guy rises) and Correia (who is at some point hopefully replaced by Meyer) and you've got a rotation that could compete. They've already got a solid bullpen and I think an offense led by Mauer, Arcia, Sano, Willingham, Dozier and eventually Buxton can certainly do the job.

      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Not to speak for others, but I think "not terribly unreasonable" undersells their positions by a lot.

      "TR has never done it" is quite reasonable at this point, IMO. In fact, I'd go so far as to say its what I expect.
      This is totally fair, but I'd also note that we're looking at a unique situation so past precedence does not necessarily apply. When have the Twins ever been so far below their projected spending cap with salary commitments? Failing to sign at least one or two significant players would be like trotting out a $25M payroll in the Metrodome days.
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