A brief look ahead to 2010 and the first season in Target Field, with the Twins' final regular season off-day in 2009 on the horizon.
This year the Minnesota Twins opened their season with a payroll of approximately $65.3 million dollars. No Carl Pavano, no Orlando Cabrera, but that total does include pro-rated signing bonuses. It wasn't the franchise's record-setting number of $71.4 million from 2007, but it was still an eight million dollar bump from last year.
With Target Field opening up in April it's widely speculated that the organization will take advantage of what should be an increased profit margin in order to spend a bit more. That the payroll will increase for next summer really isn't the point of debate though, it's exactly how the Twins will choose to add to the payroll. As things stand currently, this team is already committed to about $62.2 million for just eight players. Here are the seven guys we knew we had under contract coming into the year.
Add to this Jon Rauch's $2.9 million dollar deal for next summer, and the last $100,000 owed to somebody named...wait, let me check this...Mike Lamb? Anyway, that's your guaranteed payroll right now. Now we have to deal with the nine guys who are eligible for arbitration this year.
Seven players will become eligible for arbitration for the first time, while just two will move into their third and final year of being under team control. I'll list each player's salary for 2009 to help us get a better estimate of what they'll be worth next year.
|Player||Arb Year||'09 Salary||'10 Estimate|
Crain is actually coming off of a three-year contract, putting him in a silimar situation to Young last season; something which is becoming more popular as teams attempt to lock up talented younger players for a predictable dollar amount. Gomez and Perkins each have a shot at becoming Super 2 players, and we'll assume they'll each make the grade.
Each salary assigned is fairly arbitrary, but is done with a little research used in conjunction with what we know of the player from the last couple of years. Both Neshek and Bonser, after spending so much time on the disabled list, get $500K. From there it's a slight scale upward until you get to Gomez and Harris, each of whom has been with the team all season the last two years. Young, Crain and Guerrier are best guesses.
Combining our arbitration estimates with the contract figures, we're getting a number north of $71 million, and in fact we should just round it up to $72 million just to be on the safe side. Which means this is what we have so far:
Catchers (1): Mauer
Infielders (3): Morneau, Harris, Punto
Outfielders (4): Cuddyer, Kubel, Gomez, Young
Starters (4): Baker, Liriano, Bonser, Perkins
Relievers (5): Nathan, Guerrier, Rauch, Neshek, Crain
That leaves eight spots. With payroll already going up without adding a free agent, it's hard to speculate as to how much this team will spend on the market when A) their number one off-season priority will be to extend Mauer and B) there's still a lot of holes to fill. If we can speculate as to which holes will be filled in-house, it will become easier to imagine what kind of free agent pool dipping the front office will be doing during the cold winter months ahead.
So what are the needs?
Backup Catcher: This is a no-brainer, right? Jose Morales, easy.
Third Base: Brian Buscher will lead the list, while Matt Tolbert, Daniel Valencia and maybe even Luke Hughes will give the team a few options.
Second Base: Harris and Punto are already on the roster, but Alexi Casilla will still be the young option here. Steve Tolleson has been bounced around defensively in Rochester this season.
Shortstop: Trevor Plouffe might be the only player available here, although as we know both Harris and Punto are available.
Outfield: Denard Span leads this list. That fills the outfield.
Starting Pitching: With Perkins' future with the team in doubt, and Liriano and Bonser not exactly sure shots for the rotation at this point, it almost looks like we're starting from scratch. But in addition to Baker, there's Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak and the newest stud on the block, Brian Duensing. As usual there will be a few battles for these last four spots.
Bullpen: This one is already almost full. Jose Mijares will have a spot, and then you're left with the one space usually reserved for the emergency starter.
For now I'll let everyone sit on this, think about it and talk it out. On Wednesday we'll start to put it all together--estimating how much money this team will have available on top of the $72,000,000 they'll already be spending to fill out the roster, filling out that roster with in-house options to figure out the weakest points to determine how many "holes" there really are, and finally to see what kind of players this team could target all things considered. Naturally two holes with X dollars means better players could be targeted than if, say, there were four or five real points that need improvement.
Already we know the drill: same old, same old. Third base and shortstop, and of course the rotation.
Who fits the bill? How do you see it all playing out?