Updating the Twins' Payroll Situation

Last night, we officially learned that Carl Pavano, Orlando Hudson, and Jesse Crain had each decided to forego arbitration with the Twins in order to enter free agency. While not surprising, it does add some certainty to the Twins current payroll and roster situation.

The next deadline facing the Twins is Thursday, when they must decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players under team control. This list includes J.J. Hardy, Matt Capps, Delmon Young, Francisco Liriano, Pat Neshek, Kevin Slowey, and Alexi Casilla. In addition, the team has until December 26 to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Now that we're between these two important deadlines, I thought it'd be useful to update the Twins payroll situation, to help put some perspective on the decisions the Twins must make later this week.

The chart below summarizes the Twins payroll situation using the best information we have available. The first two columns represent the players currently under contract for 2011 that I would consider to be locks for the roster if the season started today. The columns on the right side represent the arbitration-eligible players the team must offer contracts to by Thursday evening, along with estimates of what they could get in the arbitration process. I've included Nishioka in this list as well, even though his situation is unique.

Signed

Salary

Arb Eligible

Estimate

C

Mauer

$23.00

1B

Morneau

$14.00

2B

Nishioka

$3.00

SS

Hardy

$6.50

3B

Valencia

$0.50

LF

Young

$6.00

CF

Span

$1.00

RF

Cuddyer

$10.50

DH

Kubel

$5.25

Bench

Butera

$0.50

Bench

Casilla

$0.90

Bench

Bench

SP1

Liriano

$5.00

SP2

Baker

$5.00

SP3

Slowey

$3.00

SP4

Duensing

$0.50

SP5

Blackburn

$3.00

CL

Nathan

$11.25

SU

Capps

$6.00

RP

Mijares

$0.50

RP

Neshek

$0.70

RP

Perkins

$0.80

RP

RP

TOTAL

$75.00

$31.90

If the Twins tender contracts to each of the arbitration-eligible players identified above, and sign Nishioka to a $3 million a year deal, they would be sitting at a payroll somewhere in the neighborhood of $107 million. As you can see, the chart includes four empty spaces - two on the bench, two in the bullpen - which if we filled with players earning the league minimum would bring the 25-man roster payroll to roughly $109 million. If we factor in the Punto buyout and the remainder of the Harris contract, the number edges up to $111 million. Of course, these are all fuzzy numbers, as we're simply putting together our best guesses on the arbitration awards these players would receive.

As Jesse noted yesterday, Joe Christensen has speculated that the Twins arbitration offers to Pavano, Hudson, and Crain signified that they may be willing to move payroll up to the $120-$125 million range. That would mean that if the Twins do sign each of the players listed above, they would have somewhere around $10 to $15 million to spend on the free agent market. That could include going after any of the former Twins hitting the market (Thome, Pavano, Hudson, Punto, Crain, Guerrier, Rauch, Repko), or perhaps some of the "buy-low" free agents identified by Mister_S.

What's clear is that the Twins are going to have to be very smart over the next couple months as they prepare their team for 2011. The team detailed in the chart above is awfully good, but it's not without some pretty big question marks in both the starting rotation and bullpen.

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