FanPost

Not Looking For a Big Bump

Reading through the TwinsGeek's latest essay, "Looking for a Bump?", I found myself intrigued at the sort of double-standard being displayed. On the one hand, the Geek seems to presume, as others have, that with Target Field now open for a full year and with various revenue enhancements more solidly demonstrable, the Twins would use that additional revenue to increase their payroll. On the other hand, the evidence presented by the Geek from previous stadium openings suggests an average that is far smaller, with the largest positive outliers having additional complicating factors that make them less useful as examples of what the Twins might do in a similar situation.

I tried putting together a quick response, but Blogger ate my response (as happens sometimes), so I decided to throw in some additional research and post my reply here. Quick summary for those uninterested in making the jump: It's probable, in my view, that payroll will increase only slightly, by about 10%.

[Edit - a sharp commenter noted that I misread the entry for Joe Mauer's new contract, and that his +$10M+ bump is coming next year, not this year. This pretty much raises the expected Twins payroll bump right into TwinsGeek's predicted range of $20M, or possibly even more, which means my whole premise is shot. On the other hand, it's a bit sobering to realize that Twins' payroll obligations could rise by $20-25M because of just three players [Mauer, Liriano, Young], none of whom are new free agents and any of whom could fall off in 2011.)

(Note: all contract info taken from the incomparable Cot's Baseball Contracts)

There are basically four ways that a team can find payroll going up:

  1. Guaranteed raises to players under contract,
  2. Exercising options for players at the end of their contracts,
  3. Having to make large payouts to players in arbitration, and
  4. Adding new players via free agency.

The Twins front office has set up its recent contracts in such a way that factor #1 is not going to result in large increases in payroll: the three largest contracts the Twins have at the moment (Mauer, Morneau, Nathan) are due a combined increase of zero dollars -- Mauer will be making $23M per year through 2018, Morneau $14M through 2013, and Nathan $11.25M through next year. The largest salary increase due to a player who isn't entering a team option year is going to Nick Blackburn, who's getting a $2.25M bump. Adding in just about everybody else I can find who's under contract, including those the Geek refers to as being in their 'serfdom' years, totals about $7M in increases, which is between 5-10% of the Twins' 2010 payroll.

Factor #2 is interesting in that some players are due for bumps as part of the team option if the club exercises it, but if the team takes the buyout on enough players, the club's overall payroll could easily end up going down, especially if the team replac20Nathan) are due a combined increase of zero dollars -- Mauer will be making $23M per year through 2018, Morneau $14M through 2013, and Nathan $11.25M through next year. The largest salary increase due to a player who isn't entering a team option year is going to Nick Blackburn, who's getting a $2.25M bump. Adding in just about everybody else I can find who's under contract, including those the Geek refers to as being in their 'serfdom' years, totals about $7M in increases, which is between 5-10% of the Twins' 2010 payroll.

Factor #2 is interesting in that some players are due for bumps as part of the team option if the club exercises it, but if the team takes the buyout on enough players, the club's overall payroll could easily end up going down, especially if the team replac20Nathan) are due a combined increase of zero dollars -- Mauer will be making $23M per year through 2018, Morneau $14M through 2013, and Nathan $11.25M through next year. The largest salary increase due to a player who isn't entering a team option year is going to Nick Blackburn, who's getting a $2.25M bump. Adding in just about everybody else I can find who's under contract, including those the Geek refers to as being in their 'serfdom' years, totals about $7M in increases, which is between 5-10% of the Twins' 2010 payroll.

Factor #2 is interesting in that some players are due for bumps as part of the team option if the club exercises it, but if the team takes the buyout on enough players, the club's overall payroll could easily end up going down, especially if the team replaces the bought-out player with someone making the league minimum. A quick-and-dirty rundown of the players who have team options for 2011, in the order in which I think it is likely that the club will pick up the option:

- Michael Cuddyer ($10.5M club option -- +$2M over 2010 salary)

There's basically zero chance that the Twins don't pick up Cuddyer's option. Cuddyer is a team captain and clubhouse leader, he's having a season which is pretty much right in line with his career norms (2010 - .274/.342/.768; career - .270/.343/.453), and he's pretty much the only guy the Twins have who can fill in for Justin Morneau's increasingly common injury absences -- he hasn't been a great defensive first baseman, but he's clearly a better option than Kubel, Young, or Thome there, and if the Twins slide an infielder over instead to leave Cuddyer in right, they take a big bite out of their offense. Cuddyer is definitely back.

- Jason Kubel ($5.25M club option -- +1.15M over 2010 salary)

I expect Kubel to be back as well, but less based on his own production and more based on the value of his contract; Fangraphs has Kubel being over twice as valuable as his contract over the past two years, and there's little reason to expect that to change given that Kubel is going to be 29 next season -- he should still be in his baseball prime.

- Nick Punto ($5M club option -- +$1M over 2010 salary)

You might find it a crazy world where Nick Punto is due to make about the same money as Jason Kubel two years running, but that's the world we live in. I also expect Punto to be back, if only because his defensive versatility makes him valuable to both the manager and the front office.

Total expected increase from club options = $4.15M. That brings the total expected increase to just over $11M, which is between 10-15% of current payroll.

Factor #3 has been one the Twins have controlled almost fanatically; the number of players listed under Cot's with the tag (avoided arbitration) seems much higher than for other, less budget-conscious ballclubs. Still, the Twins have basically three categories of player entering arbitration in 2011:

- Guys who can't expect a bump at all based on lack of playing time.

That would include Pat Neshek (recovering from Tommy John surgery) and Alexi Casilla (played in less than half of the Twins' games thus far this season, and on pace for only about 200 PAs). If these guys get increases at all, it'll be solely on the basis of service time, which isn't huge at their amount of service time. Let's call it +$1M total for all players involved.

- Guys who have no choice but to go through arbitration.

This includes guys like Clay Condrey and Jason Repko, who have enough service time to be out of their 'serfdom' years, but not enough to be full free agents. Guys like this can expect bumps based on playing and service time, but not so outlandish that the team can't see it coming. Let's call this one +$3M total for all players involved.

- Guys who could break the bank in arbitration.

The main guy to watch here is Delmon Young. Young has already set career highs in batting average and homers in his breakout 2010, and he'll likely add doubles and RBI to that list before the season is out. Based on comparisons with players in similar age/service/production groups, Young can expect a sizable bump to his $2.6M 2010 salary. I expect the Twins will offer Young arbitration, Young's agent (Arn Tellum, a veteran) to accept, and the two sides to avoid the hearing by agreeing to a one-year deal worth about $9-9.5M.

The other guy to look out for in arbitration is Francisco Liriano. With the sole exception of won-loss record, Liriano's numbers in 2010 look very much like those of a staff ace, and young staff aces tend to do very well in arbitration. On the other hand, an arbitrator isn't restricted to looking just at the 2010 numbers, and Liriano's 2009 numbers, when he was clearly still recovering from his own TJ surgery, may put a damper on the arbitrator's zeal. Let's split the difference and say Liriano comes out with a one-year, $8M deal, still a sizable bump over his 2010 salary of $1.6M.

Total possible increase due to arbitration = +$17M, for a sum total of +$28M, which easily gets us over TG's 20% bump.

But wait...

Factor #4 has traditionally been a place where the Twins have shed payroll rather than adding it. Whether it's letting go of veterans like Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva, or trading soon-to-be-expensive free agents like Johan Santana for cheap contracts, the Twins have seldom indulged in expensive free agent derring-do. This year is likely to be no different, and there are a number of contracts the Twins could dump to save on their salary bumps. In order:

- Carl Pavano ($7M)

The Twins went out and got Pavano in 2009 when it seemed they needed a veteran presence at the top of the rotation. Pavano's won-loss record and ERA make him look as much the staff ace as Liriano, and that perception will only increase if Pavano performs better than Liriano down the stretch of the pennant run and into the post-season. If that happens, expect Pavano to ask for a big bump in salary, and expect the Twins to look elsewhere.

- JJ Hardy ($5.1M)

A highly anticipated arrival when traded for Carlos Gomez during the 2009-2010 offseason, Hardy has spent much of 2010 injured and what he hasn't spent injured he's spent underachieving offensively. Advanced defensive metrics seem to show that Hardy has been very good with the glove when he's been in the lineup, but you could have said the same thing about Joe Crede in 2009 right before the Twins declined to offer him a 2010 contract. I expect Hardy to be gone.

- Orlando Hudson ($5M)

Hudson's been a very solid defensive second-baseman with good on-base skills for hitting at the top of the order. Which is to say, he's basically the 2010 version of Orlando Cabrera, who also wasn't offered a contract after likely expecting a big raise. Even more to the point, according to Cot's, there's a clause in Hudson's contract that, if he qualifies as a type-A free agent, the Twins won't offer him arbitration, making him a full free agent by default. That all bt guarentees that Hudson won't be back.

- Matt Capps ($3.5M)

Capps may stay on the roster for 2011, if he can come to terms with Joe Nathan's return, which means that the Twins won't be giving Capps many save chances or much of a bump in salary. Otherwise, Capps is gone after this season.

- Matt Guerrier ($3.15M)

The Twins had two different opportunities to promote Guerrier to closer and declined both times; on the other hand, unless some other club decides to take a flyer on Guerrier as an untested closer (and with both Capps and Rauch being former closers entering free agency, that seems unlikely), I'd expect Matty to be back at about the same salary.

- Jon Rauch ($2.9M)

Rauch has gone from being the closer at the start of the season to not even being the default set-up guy now; I'd expect that he's already got a call to his agent asking to put him back into a closer's job for 2011, and that won't be with the Twins.

- Jesse Crain ($2M)

Crain has pitched well lately, but his early season struggles will keep his numbers from killing the Twins if they offer him arbitration -- I'd expect Crain to be back and making about what Guerrier made this year.

- Jim Thome ($1.5M)

There's no question but that Thome has helped the Twins in 2010. The question is, will Thome take another below-market contract to help the Twins in 2011? Fangraphs says Thome has been worth $9.5M just for what he's already done so far this year, and that number is only likely to increase. I'd be shocked if the Twins brought him back for that much, or even half that much.

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