• 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. LastOnePicked's Avatar
      LastOnePicked -
      "No one wants them to build a WS contender out of FA"

      I might be alone, but I'd be 100% okay with this. It would signal at least some commitment to success from ownership. But, of course, it won't happen, and it probably IS better to build a deeper, longer-term contender. I don't have the faith that we have the leadership to do that, but I guess it's good that a few others do.

      To me, the larger issue is the club's myopic vision and static approach. Ryan's quote speaks to his belief that there's ONE right way to do build a contender, and for some reason, he still seems to think he knows what that way is. Evidence continues to point to the contrary.

      Personally, and this probably belongs on another thread, but I'd rather the team throw $30-$40 million at signing up some of the Cardinals / Rays / A's pitching scouts and coaching talent. Overpay for good infrastructure, I say.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Targeting the cheapest possible targets for the shortest amount of time to fill vacant holes...or, basically, using the same failed strategy as last year. I'm waiting for him to again tell us that he'll do everything he can to significantly improve the rotation.
      Left unexplained even in the longer quote, and I wish the interviewer Paul Allen had followed up to ask for clarification, was the disarmingly fuzzy term "free agent". Terry Ryan probably would say he went out and got two free agent starting pitchers in Correia and Pelfrey. Is that what he means when he said "And there will be people out there, we'll be aggressively pursuing"? Because to me that level of acquisition wouldn't be very acceptable toward improving the 40-man roster. I expected more last off-season.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      You can be hopeful that he means what he says about "World Series ready"
      No. My lingering optimism was killed earlier today by my rationality after reading your post.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      No. My lingering optimism was killed earlier today by my rationality after reading your post.
      Then that makes two of us, . I don't like feeling hopeless, but I don't see any other way to feel after reading that comment. Even in context.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      INo one wants them to build a WS contender out of FA, but if you are waiting for that magic moment to add a FA - I worry about that mentality. If 2015 or 2016 are legit targets to start contending, there is no reason not to add talent now. It would be foolish not to build a team in anticipation of those players developing well, not wait until you see the results.

      To me this just sounds like the same Ryan refrain. They will aggressively pursue players insofar as they are willing to accept contracts less than 4 years in length and the dollar cap he feels comfortable with. Then, he will bow out as soon as the price tag gets past his very meager standards for acceptable length and total dollars - a totally forseeable and preventable problem.
      It seems highly unlikely the young core, most of whom are not even here yet, is going to make this team world series compeitors in 2015. Sano will likely be here mid 2014 and Buxton 2015. Rosario might be here sometime next season. Meyer is likely mid 2014 or start of 2015. Now, think about how long it took KC's young core to be ready to compete. Even if all goes well, 2016 is the very earliest the young core is going to compete.

      The #1 goal for top FA players and their agents is to get a number years where the last couple of years the player is no longer playing at a "top" level. This is no secret. That type of contract makes it impossible to move the player and their huge contract will severly impede any middle of the pack (in terms of revenue) team in going out and adding other top FAs until that contact has expired. History is quite clear in terms of the risk associated with FA SPs across the entire term of the agreement and espeically the last couple years.

      CC Sabathia is a great example. He opted out of his long-term deal so that he could stretch the number of years out long after the point where he was a top of the rotation pitcher. His decline appears to be here and quite rapid. His ERA this year is 4.78 and 6.08 after the all-star break. I think he is signed through 2017. How would you like to have that anchor when the upcomming Twins core is entering their prime?

      In my opinion, it would in fact be foolish to add talent in anticipation of the Buxton/Sano and others. It is highly probably the players getting 5-6 year deals will have declined substantially by the time our core has developed. This would be a very good way to lose a couple years where the could have had FA dollars to fill-out a compeitive roster. They do however have a window where they could spend significant dollars on 2-3 or even a 4 year contract for the right guy.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      In my opinion, it would in fact be foolish to take on 5+ year contracts right now. It is highly probably the players getting 5-6 year deals will have declined by the time our core has developed. This would be a very good way to lose a couple years where the could have had FA dollars to fill-out a compeitive roster. They do however have a window where they could spend significant dollars on 2-3 or even a 4 year contract for the right guy.
      With the extra money I think we will have to go 4+. The contracts are going to be higher IMO. With our situation we can afford it 5+. Not to mention, if you wait two years to make significant adds then your contracts butt heads with the end of key arb years from Sano, Arcia, etc. There will be negatives any way you cut it.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      With the extra money I think we will have to go 4+. The contracts are going to be higher IMO. With our situation we can afford it 5+. Not to mention, if you wait two years to make significant adds then your contracts butt heads with the end of key arb years from Sano, Arcia, etc. There will be negatives any way you cut it.
      Well, yes, the TV money is going to mean more spending. It really could not be a worse year to play in free agency. The question is how exactly it will impact the spending or more to the point, the contract terms. I am wondering if teams might start to say it is not worth it to extends these elite players out. New York is praying they can get out of the final years of A-Rods, deal. Sabathia's deal looks like it could be a real clunker for the next 4 years. The Pujlos contract could end up being an absolute disaster. Hamilton's deal is going to be a real stinker unless he rebounds in a big way. And, of course, there are many other examples over the past decade.

      We might actually see this trend meet some resistance. That's a BIG might but the failures of LA, Toronto, and a number of specific contracts might finally start to make GMs really reluctant when the term takes players well past their prime. Ironically, that might actually be bad for us because the top markets would not be carrying so much dead weight in the future.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      All good points. I'm personally not advocating for mega 7 year deals, but I do think there is a happy medium that I am worried the Twins aren't considering that would still drastically improve the club.

      At the end of the day if you want to find reasons not to utilize FA there will always be some but that shouldn't rule out using it for significant additions.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      The 2006 season ended with the Twins being swept from the post-season by the Oakland A's. The Twins had won their division, a 23 year old kid named Joe Mauer had just won the AL batting title and Justin Morneau had just been crowned the AL MVP.

      It was also the last year of Brad Radke's career. To compete again the Twins would have to replace Radke. And who did Terry Ryan go out and sign to make this Division Champion even better, perhaps a World Series competitor?

      Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson.

      I understand you want to be optimistic, but some of us have watched TR too long to believe anything useful is at all likely.
      Could happen, but not likely.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN View Post
      The 2006 season ended with the Twins being swept from the post-season by the Oakland A's. The Twins had won their division, a 23 year old kid named Joe Mauer had just won the AL batting title and Justin Morneau had just been crowned the AL MVP.
      We also had the Cy Young winner, a top 3 closer, a gold glove 30 HR hitting CF, and a 20+ HR, 100 RBI RF....and, like you said, Ryan did absolutely nothing to try and get the team over the hump. I believe the goal has been, for a long time now, to try and build a competitive team within the division, with zero concern about building a team that could actually win the W Series.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      We also had the Cy Young winner, a top 3 closer, a gold glove 30 HR hitting CF, and a 20+ HR, 100 RBI RF....and, like you said, Ryan did absolutely nothing to try and get the team over the hump. I believe the goal has been, for a long time now, to try and build a competitive team within the division, with zero concern about building a team that could actually win the W Series.
      Unfortunately I believe you are right.

      It was that lack of effort, or concern for the Twins chances, that led Johan and Torii to suggest that the future was always down the road, that the Twins would not make the effort to really lock anything up.

      Ryan must have thought the Division Championship was the Promised Land. He certainly did nothing to help the club.

      And they were so close to being a really great team!
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN View Post
      The 2006 season ended with the Twins being swept from the post-season by the Oakland A's. The Twins had won their division, a 23 year old kid named Joe Mauer had just won the AL batting title and Justin Morneau had just been crowned the AL MVP.

      It was also the last year of Brad Radke's career. To compete again the Twins would have to replace Radke. And who did Terry Ryan go out and sign to make this Division Champion even better, perhaps a World Series competitor?

      Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson.

      I understand you want to be optimistic, but some of us have watched TR too long to believe anything useful is at all likely.
      Could happen, but not likely.
      You might be right but circumstances (revenue and other) have changed somewhat substantially. You and others are basing your conclusion on actions that took place when the Twins had just slightly more revenue than Kansas City and the other bottom revenue teams. I have nott seen enough post Target Field to assume anything. The actions mentioned were basically consistent with all of the other teams in a similar revenue position.

      The only intellectually fair or honest assumptions you can make now would be based on actions since revenues increased which there have been few. Personally, I will wait to see what they do in rebuilding this team until I judge if their philosophical changes matched the increase in revenue. I don’t expect Grienke. I just want to see a change that matches the revenue increase, if that makes sense. What would be fair would be to expect action that reflected a team that has more revenue than those very bottom teams but still significantly less than the top revenue teams. They did sign Mauer to an 8 year $23M/yr contract. That NEVER would have happened in the dome days.

      They did not resign 2 noteworthy free agents, Nathan and Cuddy. You can’t hardly blame them for Nathan given the circumstances. (age/Tommy John/money and the fact they replaced him for a fraction of the money. I loved Cuddy but you can’t complain the FO does not know how or refuses to rebuild and then complain about letting Cuddy and Kubel go. They got Berios and replaced Cuddy with Willingham who outplayed him last year. Of course, Cuddy is killing it this year but that move was consistent with rebuilding.
    1. BoBo71's Avatar
      BoBo71 -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      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.
      This sounds like a comment from the Twins F.O. What's so cold and calculated about their approach? This is a F.O. that essentially said they thought this team could compete in 2013. This is a tight-fisted GM that has posted 10 losing seasons in his 16 on the job, and who has personally posted three straight losing seasons.

      The approach doesn't make sense anymore. The game has changed, and TR has not changed with it. Good professional organizations (like the Cardinals, Patriots, Spurs, Red Wings, etc.) do indeed use draft and develop as a basis for their roster compilation. But those organizations also effectively mix in trading for big league talent and the signing of able free agents.

      I'm sorry, but your comment reads more like someone that has drank too much of the Twins' Koolaid than someone who is basing his opinions on the evidence at hand. Perhaps Terry Ryan's time has come and gone as a GM? Happens every day in sports. Why not here? Why not him? Why not now? Is it impossible to believe that he's way past HIS prime??? That his notions are tired and old and even apathetic at this point?

      This team will not move forward unless Terry Ryan is willing to spend on pitching, either via free agent dollars or by way of blue chip prospects. THAT is what seems so obvious here.
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