Since opening Target Field in 2010, the Twins have began each season with one of the top payrolls in team history. Four seasons, the top four payrolls - it's pretty much what we expected to organization to do, even if the wins haven't come along with the finances. This season's opening day payroll, according to Cots Contracts at Baseball Prospectus, was the fourth highest at $82,010,000.
The good news is that the Pohlad family is still committed to spending money on the payroll, as they should be. In a recent interview with the Pioneer Press' Charlie Walters, Jim Pohlad said it was "embarrassing to walk through the concourse and see all these people in Twins shirts and then look at what's happening in the field." The article goes on to say:
Pohlad, whose club could lose 90 games for a third straight season, was embarrassed enough to say he plans to infuse the Twins with enough free-agency capital in the offseason, if that's what it takes, to become competitive again.
"I am going to help Terry (general manager Terry Ryan) however he wants me to help," Pohlad said. "We made a couple trades last year; I'm not sure that we can rely on that this year. So if we're going to do something, it's going to have to be that way (free agency)."
Basically, ownership is willing to spend. By their own admission it won't be on dangerously long free agent contracts, but if the right player is available on a one, two, or three year deal it sounds like Minnesota will be ready to pony up the necessary resources.
The difference between this year's opening day payroll to 2011's top spot is roughly $31 million. It seems unlikely they'd grow payroll beyond that level ($113 million opening day), but to see how much money the team has to spend we need to take a look at what's on the books.
2014 Contract Commitments ($46,000,000)
|Player||2014 Salary||Signed Through|
|Glen Perkins||$3,750,000||2015 + option|
|Jared Burton||$3,250,000||2014 + option|
Arbitration Eligible ($7,200,000 million, estimated)
|Player||2013 Salary||Status||2014 Estimate|
|Vance Worley||$525,000||Arb 1||$1,200,000|
|Trevor Plouffe||$520,000||Arb 1||$1,500,000|
|Josh Roenicke||$505,000||Arb 1||$1,100,000|
|Anthony Swarzak||$502,500||Arb 1||$1,400,000|
|Brian Duensing||$1,300,000||Arb 2||$2,000,000|
I could be off by a few hundred thousand dollars either way on these five players, but it's also worth noting that not all five of these players will have their contracts tendered to them by the Twins. Worley, Plouffe, and Swarzak are pretty much locks to retain their roster spots, while the jury is still out on Roenicke and Duensing.
The Rest of the 25-Man Roster
If we want to be conservative and give roster spots to everyone listed, the Twins will have $53.2 million committed to their opening day roster for 11 players. Should ownership grant Terry Ryan and his front office the resources to match 2011's payroll, it means that Minnesota could spend about $60 million on the rest of their roster. That's a lot of dough.
If we assumed the rest of the roster would be filled by pre-arbitration players, that's 14 spots at more or less $500,000 a person. Take that $7,000,000 away and it basically means that there could be up to $53,000,000 to spend in free agency for next year.
I'm not sure that Jim Pohlad will go quite that far, but to be fair it would be almost impossible for the Twins to spend that kind of money in one off-season. There are so many issues that they'd run into. How many free agents would be worth those millions of dollars? How many of them would be willing to take a three-year deal instead of a four or five-year deal? Will the Twins have enough open roster spots to fill with players that would take up that amount of money?
We don't have a good grasp quite yet on exactly how much ownership will allow Ryan to spend this winter, which makes it difficult to really understand how big of a player the Twins can be. But by understanding that the Twins will have roughly $53 million committed to eleven players, and up to $7 million to pay for the remainder of the pre-arbitration roster, we have a great starting point from which to begin the free agent discussion: with roughly a $60 million payroll before the market opens.
Earlier this week, my guess was that the Twins had five roster spots for free agents. But how much will the team be allowed to spend? My guess is somewhere around $30 million.