No drama here, folks.
As Joe Christensen noted yesterday, and remained unchanged as the story updated this morning, all three of the Twins' impending free agents who were offered arbitration are expected to decline. None of this necessarily comes as a suprise, but to see it actually reported is another thing altogether. It means, of course, that the Twins will garner sandwich picks for all three, in addition to either a first or second-round pick for Carl Pavano depending on whether the signing team's first rounder is protected or not. Regardless, it will be four additional draft picks, because none of these three will have trouble finding work.
It also means that the Twins may have a bit more money to spend. Joe C. noted in his chat last week that the Twins may actually expand payroll to the $120 - $125 million range, and even if that's slightly excessive it's higher than our conservative $110 - $115 million estimates from a few weeks ago.
We also have the benefit of Bill Smith's recent comment, where he pointed out that if the team couldn't have kept those three players then they wouldn't have offered them arbitration. Take that with a grain of salt, but there isn't much to be gained tactically by blowing smoke in this context. So if Smith's sentiment rings true, if the Twins would have happily agreed to contracts with Orlando Hudson, Jesse Crain and Pavano, then 2011's payroll would be sitting in the $120 - $125 million range without Smith doing anything else all winter.
I know that declining arbitration doesn't mean the Twins can't re-sign any of these players, but it's highly unlikely. Jorge De La Rosa situations don't happen everyday. Barring something unforeseen, these three guys will be wearing different jerseys next year. So where does this leave the Twins?
From where I'm sitting, J.J. Hardy sounds like the most likely candidate to benefit. In a market that has very few (if any) good, available shortstops, if the Twins don't receive a trade offer they like on Hardy then suddenly it's no risk to keep him and his $6 million dollar arbitration salary on the books. It also means they might be able to go after one of the market's relief pitchers (I think this is unlikely, but you never know when they'll break tradition and pursue a guy like Grant Balfour), but it definitely means they'll continue to be players in the market for a starting pitcher.
Today's player decision deadline is a big date in every off-season, because until these guys make their intentions known teams can be stuck in a bit of a holding pattern. But once we get through today and the market swells with a few more free agents and teams have a better understanding of how much money they have to work with, things will get a bit more interesting.
Bring on Thursday.