Mackey: Twins might have up to $40 million to spend, if they choose
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Here's the bad news: The Minnesota Twins are probably going to lose 90 games for the third consecutive season. They'd need to go 8-3 the rest of the way in order to avoid 90 losses, and the remaining schedule is pretty brutal.
The good news is the offseason begins soon, and the Twins -- with Justin Morneau, Nick Blackburn and Mike Pelfrey coming off the books -- could have up to $40 million (in average annual value) to spend this winter, should they choose to.
Money owed to players on 25-man roster in 2014:
Joe Mauer: $23 million
Josh Willingham: $7 million
Kevin Correia: $5.5 million
Glen Perkins: $3.75m (+ estimated $1m in performance bonuses, per MLB source)
Ryan Doumit: $3.5 million
Jared Burton: $3.25 million
Brian Duensing: ~$2 million (arbitration estimate)
Trevor Plouffe: ~1.5 million (arbitration estimate)
Anthony Swarzak: ~1.2 million (arbitration estimate)
*Salary information per multiple sources, including Baseball Prospectus
If we fill the rest of the roster out with pre-arbitration players who make around $500,000 (near league minimum) - guys like Josmil Pinto, Casey Fien, Aaron Hicks, etc. - we get a 25-man roster that adds up to approximately $60 million in payroll.
All signs point to an approved payroll of somewhere between $90 million and $100 million in 2014, according to people within the organization.
Now, the big question is how much of it will the Twins spend?
Historically, the Twins have not handed out large contracts in free agency. Willingham's $21 million, three-year deal is actually the largest free agent deal in team history.
Even with the Twins' historical aversion to big free agent contracts, it fascinates me how many people still continue to believe "the Pohlads never spend any money." Or my personal favorite, "The Pohlads lied about spending more after Target Field was built."
Put down the Natty Ice and pay attention.
In the Twins' final year at the Metrodome, the team payroll was $65 million. It jumped up to $97 million in 2010, the first year at Target Field. It then jumped again to $113 million in 2011 because the Twins (mistakenly) believed they were on the verge of a World Series push. The Twins flushed $100 million down the toilet on the 2012 payroll, then scaled back to $82 million in 2013.
According to all parties involved - owner Jim Pohlad, president Dave St. Peter and general manager Terry Ryan - the payroll being scaled back in 2013 was strictly a front office, baseball-driven decision. Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez were being offered $147 million and $88 million, respectively, by contending teams. They weren't coming to Minnesota, and it didn't make sense to overspend on mid-rotation guys who wouldn't make much of an impact on a team in transition.
The Twins should have framed 2013 as a rebuilding year, but they chose not to. In a transition/rebuilding-year sense, Pelfrey's contract (one year, $4 million) was worthwhile. Correia's (two years, $10 million)? Meh...
Beyond that, Edwin Jackson signed for $52 million over four years with the Cubs. He is 8-16 with a 4.75 ERA. Brandon McCarthy (two years, $15.5 million) has a 4.58 ERA in the National League. Ryan Dempster (two years, $26.5 million) has a 4.64 ERA with the Red Sox. Dan Haren (one year, $13 million) owns a 4.88 ERA in Washington. Joe Blanton (two years, $15 million) is one of the worst pitchers in baseball. The list doesn't get much better as we go down.
You be the judge of this winter's crop of free agent pitchers, which includes Tim Lincecum, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Jason Vargas and even Johan Santana. Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese phenom pitcher, could also be up for bid this offseason.
There are two important questions to ask when headed into the offseason with only $60 million tied up in payroll:
Assuming he still has permission, how much of it will GM Terry Ryan spend?
And how comfortable is Ryan when it comes to spending?
Remember, from 1995 through 2007, when he stepped down after his first stint, Ryan operated under strict budget constraints. He chose - wisely, in my opinion - not to go crazy in free agency last offseason. But with top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano on the horizon, the Twins have a chance to supplement their in-house talent with some free agent pick-ups - or, perhaps via trade(s) -- as long as those additions help the team beyond 2014.
It's also worth noting this is really the first time Ryan has ever had this much cash in his pocket as GM heading into the offseason.