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Updated: January 27th, 2013 5:51pm
Twins' president: 'We're not just going to sign players just to spend'

Twins' president: 'We're not just going to sign players just to spend'

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins aren't just fighting to return to relevance after back-to-back 95-loss seasons.

They're also fighting against fans who perceive the organization as cheap due to a decrease in payroll.

Since moving into Target Field prior to the 2010 season, the Twins have had payrolls of approximately $97 million. $113 million and $100 million. If the 2013 season started today, the payroll would sit right around $80 million -- still much higher than any single-season payroll the Twins had at the Metrodome, but significantly lower than in previous years at Target Field.

The argument for scaling back is simple -- why throw extra money at a roster that has lost nearly 200 games the past two seasons? Aside from Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, there weren't any No. 1 or No. 2 starters on the free agent market. Yet, most of the No. 3, 4 and 5 starters on the market cost between $5-8 million per year.

But many fans view the scaling back of payroll as an unwarranted cost-cutting move.

"Of course, we're not going to agree with that," owner Jim Pohlad said Sunday on 1500 ESPN's Talkin' Twins Show. "Every year at the end of the season, as you start planning for the next year, Terry (Ryan) comes to us -- we know what kind of contracts we're committed to, so that's the starting point -- and then he goes through the process of starting to find out where he can add.

"It doesn't go to reach a number. We don't say, 'This is the number you've got to reach -- go out and find a $7 million player, go to the store and find a $7 million player.' It doesn't work that way. (Ryan) tells us what he thinks he can add and how much it might cost, and we go, 'OK.'"

Do the Twins have any payroll restrictions this offseason compared to last year?

"No," Pohlad said. "There are no payroll restrictions. I mean, within reason."

Ryan said last week the Twins might still add another pitcher before spring training begins in mid-February. But Ryan also wants to leave a door open for young pitchers such as Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, Alex Meyer and Trevor May, and he doesn't want to lock multiple veteran pitchers into multi-year contracts.

"Certainly Terry in his heart is an evaluator, so he evaluates a player and then equates a dollar number that he thinks that player is," president Dave St. Peter said. "And he's very disciplined with that approach, as is the balance of our baseball staff. And I think that's one of the reasons we've been able to be successful with far less payroll (in the past). Terry understands that he has some flexibility, and I can tell you, organizationally, I think we're very comfortable with where we're at in terms of that process.

"We're not just going to sign players just to spend money. We want to sign players that are a fit here."

Over the past eight seasons, four teams have won the World Series with a payroll under $100 million, and other teams like the Chicago Cubs have consistently failed despite spending more money than all but a few teams.

Payroll matters, but it doesn't always correlate directly with winning.

The Twins feel as if payroll is not the problem, and they also insist there is plenty more to spend when the time is right.

"We expect to be competitive (this year), and it's certainly our vision and our goal to be playing meaningful baseball games in the months of August and September this year," St. Peter said.

"We have some payroll flexibility. I don't tend to focus on payroll where you start, I tend to focus on where you end. We think we have a pretty good lineup one through nine, so I can tell you our expectations are to compete and to contend. Certainly we believe the future is bright, and ultimately we went out and signed some players to help bridge to that future."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Liam Hendriks