After Willingham, how much do the Twins have left to spend?

Assuming the Twins finalize the rumored 3-year, $21 million deal with Josh Willingham, the front office will turn towards improving the team’s pitching staff, which compiled the second-highest ERA in the Majors last season.

But how much money will they have to spend? The Twins appear to be trimming payroll this season, after spending a franchise-record $118 million in 2011. Some reports have the team shooting for a $100 million payroll this season, though some guess it may get closer to $110 million when all is said and done.

Let’s do our best to figure out where we currently stand. Below I’ve laid out a chart that estimates our payroll commitments for 2012 based on our current projected roster. I’ve included rough estimates for arbitration eligible players (stolen directly from this page at MLB Trade Rumors), and assigned a generic $500,000 salary to each player that has yet to hit arbitration. Because these are just guesses and estimates, please keep in mind that the totals come with a reasonable margin of error.

The big chart, after the jump:

Starting Nine

Mauer

$23.00

Morneau

$15.00

Casilla

$1.30

Arb. Est.

Carroll

$2.75

Valencia

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Span

$3.00

Revere

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Willingham

$7.00

Best guess

Doumit

$3.00

Subtotal

$56.05

Rotation

Pavano

$8.50

Baker

$6.50

Liriano

$5.20

Arb. Est.

Blackburn

$4.75

Duensing

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Subtotal

$25.45

Bullpen

Capps

$4.50

Perkins

$1.50

Arb. Est.

XXXXX

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

XXXXX

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

XXXXX

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

XXXXX

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

XXXXX

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Subtotal

$8.50

Bench

Nishioka

$3.00

Plouffe/Tosoni

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Hughes

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Butera

$0.50

Pre-arb est.

Subtotal

$4.50

TOTAL

$94.50

The first thing you’ll notice is I’ve made no attempt to guess which of their team’s organizational guys would fill the bullpen if the season started today. Since any of those options would be paid (roughly) the same wage, it didn’t seem important to assign names for this exercise. And of course Duensing may very well be pitching out of the bullpen next season, but, again, that doesn’t really impact the totals we’re working with here.

There, at the bottom, is the grand (estimated) total: $94.5 million. If the team is truly committed to a $100 million payroll, that leaves with only about $5 million to spend the rest of the off-season. If the purse strings open a little wider, we may have somewhere closer to $10 or $15 million to play with. And remember, if those arbitration estimates are low, the amount available in the Twins budget may actually be slightly smaller.

So, Twins fans, how should we invest $5 or $10 million? Will that be enough to make this team a contender again?

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