Mackey: Twins likely to shed nearly $30 million in dead payroll weight
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
When discussing the Minnesota Twins payroll situation heading into 2013 -- or any year -- it seems the conversation tends to center around the contract of MLB's fifth-highest paid player, Joe Mauer, and his heavily-compensated teammate Justin Morneau.
But even with Mauer and Morneau set to earn more than $35 million in combined salary next season, the Twins appear to find themselves with a fair amount of money to spend, should they choose to, heading into an offseason where acquiring starting pitching is the top priority.
With several albatross contracts coming off the books, the Twins will likely shed $27 million in dead weight, leaving them responsible for approximately $74.5 million in payroll obligations for 2013.
The list of departures includes Carl Pavano ($8.5 million), Jason Marquis ($3 million), Tsuyoshi Nishioka ($3.25 million), and possibly arbitration-eligible Alexi Casilla ($1.38 million). Matt Capps ($4.5 million) and Scott Baker ($6.5 million) are also likely to become free agents.
Pavano missed the entire second half of the season with a strained shoulder, Baker underwent Tommy John surgery in March, Marquis was released in May, Nishioka was a bust from the start, and shoulder problems limited Capps to only 29 1/3 innings.
Only three players on the Twins roster are guaranteed to make more than $5 million next season. And as of right now, about half of the players on the 25-man roster are likely to be paid less than $1 million in 2013.
Over the past three seasons the Twins have hovered near the bottom of MLB's top 10 in payroll, which is about where they should be based on market size, TV revenue and other factors. The Twins spent $100 million on their opening-day roster this season, $113 million in 2011 and $97 million in 2010.
The most ever spent on an opening-day roster by the Pohlad family inside the Metrodome was $71 million in 2007.
The Twins drew nearly 2.8 million fans to Target Field this season despite losing 96 games, but that figure is down from 3.1 million in 2011 and 3.2 million in 2010. Falling attendance equates to lost revenue, so it's entirely possible the payroll could drop from its $100 million starting point in April.
Jim Pohlad, Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter declined to provide an exact payroll figure for 2013 in their postseason media session last week. But even if the payroll dips into the $90 million to $95 million range, Ryan and company should have plenty of money to pick up some quality starting pitching.
Free agency officially opens on the sixth day after the World Series ends.
Payroll breakdown (25 players)
Mauer -- $23 million ($23 million per year through 2018)
Morneau -- $14 million (free agent after 2013)
OF Josh Willingham -- $7 million ($7 million per year through 2014)
OF Denard Span -- $4.75 million ($6.5 million in 2014, $9 million team option in 2015)
INF Jamey Carroll -- $3.75 million ($2 million team option in 2014)
C Ryan Doumit -- $3.5 million ($3.5 million in 2014)
LHP Glen Perkins -- $2.5 million ($3.75 million in 2014, $3.75 million in 2015, $4.5 million team option in 2016)
Players under team control (salaries estimated):
LHP Scott Diamond -- $500,000
RHP Liam Hendriks -- $490,000
RHP Alex Burnett -- $500,000
RHP Anthony Swarzak -- $500,000
RHP Kyle Waldrop -- $490,000
RHP Casey Fien -- $490,000
OF Ben Revere -- $500,000
3B Trevor Plouffe -- $500,000
1B Chris Parmelee -- $490,000
MI Brian Dozier -- $490,000
SS Pedro Florimon -- $490,000
OF Darin Mastroianni -- $490,000
Starting pitcher TBD 1 -- $500,000 (minimum)
Starting pitcher TBD 2 -- $500,000 (minimum)
Starting pitcher TBD 3 -- $500,000 (minimum)
• Nick Blackburn -- $5.5 million (no longer on 40-man roster, but Twins still owe the full salary)
• Capps -- $250,000 buyout (Capps has a $6 million team option that is unlikely to be exercised)
• The Twins are off the hook for Nishioka's $3 million salary.
• There's a good chance Casilla will be non-tendered. He earned $1.38 million in 2012 and will be in line for a raise in his third year of arbitration. It seems unlikely the Twins will want to pay Casilla $1.5 million to be a backup infielder when they already have several options at shortstop and second base.
• The Twins have a $9.25 million team option on Baker, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery. The team will likely decline that option, but there is mutual interest to rekindle the relationship at a reduced, incentive-laden price.
• Players such as Eduardo Escobar, Kyle Gibson, Tyler Robertson and Esmerling Vasquez could wind up cracking the 25-man roster, but they have been left off for now. Each of them would earn approximately $500,000 as members of the 25-man roster.