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Twins Arbitration Eligibles: Who's Coming Back?

Analyzing the expected salaries for the Twins' arbitration-eligible players this winter. Will any of them be tendered an offer?

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When we've gone over the Twins' upcoming arbitration decisions in past years we've always had a player or two where we didn't really know if they'd be around the next season. Non-tendering arbitration-eligible players has become less shocking as player valuation has become more of a science. This season things are a little different, as we attempt to discern if any players should be tendered at all.

All estimated salaries are taken from Matt Swartz's salary projections found here.

Drew Butera, Arb 1
Estimated 2013 Salary: $500,000

Even for a player whose career line is .183/.232/.265, $500,000 isn't really that prohibitive for a third catcher who is likely to bounce back and forth between Triple-A and the Major Leagues as the organization sees fit. Ryan Doumit and Joe Mauer will share the primary catching duties. The real question is whether it's worth it. Next season Butera would be artibtration eligible again, at which point he would definitely be non-tendered, and the search for a backup or third string catcher begins anew.

A huge mitigating factor in the potential for Butera's return is whether or not he has any options remaining. My cursory look tells me he could actually be out of option years, which means that if the Twins want him they'll have to keep him on the roster all year. For a guy whose future is likely to be a swing man, as we just mentioned in the last paragraph, if he's out of options then bringing him back isn't pragmatic.

Brian Duensing, Arb 1
Estimated 2013 Salary: $1,300,000

Is $1.3 million too much to pay for a specialist reliever? We have a large enough track record now to show that Duensing isn't effective enough to start (.911 opponent OPS as a starter, .598 as a reliever), and that right-handers hit him too well (.808 OPS against right-handed hitters, .678 versus the left side).

He also has value as a pitcher who has the stamina to step in and give his team two, three or four innings in the middle of a game when needed, or to step in for an emergency start or two, but his upside is now established. If the Twins feel he makes their bullpen better, which he would do if he's utilized to his advantage, then they should pay him and re-evaluate him next year.

Alexi Casilla, Arb 3
Estimated 2013 Salary: $1,800,000

Steve did a great job of breaking down two of the Twins' middle infield options earlier this week, balancing Casilla's better assets against his inconsistent or just plain bad attributes. My opinion is that Casilla's longetivity with this team has had just as much (if not more) to do with timing and the lack of production from other players as it does his own contributions.

The real question for me is whether the Twins want to pay nearly $2 million dollars for a utility infielder who will not be around to help them in the long term, because if he's not a long term option then perhaps it's worth taking a flyer on another free agent middle infielder to see if you catch lightning in a bottle. There isn't much to lose by non-tendering Casilla, even though there are certain parts of his game which, when he's at his best, are certainly an asset. I recommend checking out Steve's article.

Jared Burton, Arb 3
Estimated 2013 Salary: $2,100,000

Of the four players we know the Twins will be dealing with, Burton is the only player whose offer is guaranteed. He emerged as a competent, confident and effective late inning reliever this season, and there's no doubt that he'll be one of the arms that next season's bullpen will be constructed around.

The MLBTR article on estimated arbitration salaries for the Twins also includes this about reliever Alex Burnett:

Unless the MLBPA's projected Super Two cutoff of two years and 139 days proves high, reliever Alex Burnett will fall a few days short and can be renewed at the minimum salary. Otherwise, we estimate an $800K salary.

If Burnett does qualify as a Super Two, I'd expect the Twins to tender him an offer. There were plenty of red flags in his peripherals this season, but no doubt his 3.52 ERA in 71.2 innings will be more than enough to earn him that $800,000.