Team Direction, Payroll, Rebuilding, Target Field, and Discontent
by, 03-13-2014 at 12:57 PM (988 Views)
For years, the Twins were a money ball team that had a very good track record. Payroll fluctuated in the $50-60M range, yet the team made the playoffs in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2010. That was about the ceiling, as the team made the second round just once in the six appearances. The villain that kept this team from advancing was always the metrodome. If the Twins had a stadium, payroll could go up and we could compete and make a serious run. Or so the through process went.
Target Field opened in 2010 and the Twins increased payroll to $98M payroll (from $65M in 2009). The team made the playoffs and boosted payroll to $113M in 2011. It was time for a run. In 2011, the team totally flopped, going 63-99. Many things went wrong. Joe Mauer only played 82 games and was replaced by Drew Butera, who finished with a .449 OPS in 250 plate appearances (not a typo). Justin Morneau played in only 69 games. Liriano and Duensing has ERAís north of 5.00. By any measure, it was a disaster year for the Twins.
Nobody I know was at the table, but after the season the story goes that Bill Smith wanted to re-sign all the veterans and make another run, ownership was not interested. I canít blame them, why spend $115M on a 63 win team? Why would 2012 have been any different? He was fired and Terry Ryan was brought back. I was more than giddy that Terry was back. Terry Ryan with an bigger checkbook seemed very appealing.
Rebuilding and Team Direction
I believe the Twins were caught in no manís land. We let a slew of veterans go for nothing (or draft picks) and had a relatively weak farm system. This set up two additional 90+ loss seasons. Here we are, year three in what has to be described as a rebuilding effort. Las Vegas odds have the Twins winning 71 games, just a five game improvement over last year. Progress has been painfully slow.
Outside of signing Miguel Sano, the Twins have boosted their farm system primarily through drafting #2 (Buxton) and #4 (Stewart), which is simply a function of having a bad record. The approach over the first two years has basically been wait and see. In 2011, the Twins only had four prospects in baseball Americaís top 100 (Gibson 34, Hicks 45, Sano 60, and Benson 100). Why was wait and see the right approach for this situation? Letís see what we have in Scott Diamond, Chris Parmelee, Vance Worley, Plouffe, etc. After a historically bad pitching staff in 2013, the Twins spent $85M on Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey. The approach for the lineup appears has not changed.
Of the 25 guys who will break camp with the Twins, how many are likely to be on a 2016 team? Ricky Nolasco, Joe Mauer, Phil Hughes, Glen Perkins, Brian Dozier, and a few bullpen guys. You would expect Meyer and Buxton to be up at some point this year and Sano next year. Other guys are likely to push their way through, like Gibson, Hicks, and potentially Trevor May. But is this all we have to show after 2-3 rebuilding years? Five locks, 2-3 more over the next year, and a few maybeís?
Personally, I think the Twins were way to slow to address their roster. Had we signed a pitcher or two as good or better than Ricky Nolasco in 2012, this team would be in a much better position. And why has the team done nothing to address a lineup that was 13th in the AL in 2013? Why are we watching Suzuki, Fryer, Florimon, Escobar, Pressley, Pelfrey, Correia, Mastroanni, Parmelee, Collabello, and Worley? I understand why the Twins would have not have wanted to sign a 3B or CF, but why have we not addressed SS, C, or DH? We have not had a top prospect at any one of these positions.
The Twins were very active early on this offseason, signing Nolasco and Hughes. I was pretty excited. But that was about it. The only other MLB signings were Mike Pelfrey and Kurt Suzuki, which were less than exciting. Payroll should be about $82M this year. However, base payroll will fall to $70M in 2015 (assuming Correia and Willingham leave). Three rookies are close locks to lock down roster spots (Sano, Buxton, and Meyer). Two more, Arcia and Pinto are odds on favorites. It is a good bet at least 2-3 more will push their way through from the group of (Gibson, May, Rosario, and Santana). Translation, this team should have a payroll in about this range for the next few years.
Stadiums and Fulfilling Promises
The Twins usually cite 52% of revenue as a guide-post for payroll, as a number they wonít exceed. At under 40% of revenues in 2014 and the near future, are the Twins holding up their end of the bargain? Roughly $350M of the $550M stadium was paid for by the tax payers. The stadium has increased the value of the team by almost $300M, which is over $100M more than the Twins contributed (note the Forbes value was $580M prior to the cable deal, which pushed the value of the Twins to $700M). So it would be hard to argue that the stadium hasnít been a transfer of wealth from the tax payer to the Pohladís. They get $300M and I get the right to spend $100 dollars once a year to bring my family to a game. Honestly, I would not care if I felt like the ownership group was doing everything they could, within reason to turn this team around and compete. But in year three, to see our DH role filled by a guy that will be 32 in May, coming off a terrible year, and signed on a minor league deal as well as a the short stop battle will be between a AA player (Florimon) and a 34 year old player that has been hurt and out of the league, also on a minor league contract? That is a tough pill to swallow.
Well where does that leave someone like me? Like the quote in the movie Brokeback Mountain, I wish I knew how to quit you. But I canít. I have been sold on the farm system and the hope of the future. I do vote with my feet to an extent. If we had an ownership group that wanted to break even each year and ratched up payroll to $115-$120M and field a more competitive team each year, I would probably be a 10 game a year guy. In the meantime, another year of I hope Corriea, Willingham, and Pelfrey start out hot so we can trade them and build for the future!
Is it me, or is this getting a little old?