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What will the 2018 Twins payroll look like?

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Before free agency kicks in to high gear, let’s look at how much the Twins might be willing to spend this offseason.

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The Twins will probably spend more than this. Hopefully.
Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The 2017-2018 offseason has been pretty dead so far. The Twins have yet to spend anything, though they undoubtedly will at some point. Once the dominoes begin to fall, how much will the Twins be willing to add to their 2018 payroll?

Let’s start by looking at what the Twins are already on the hook for in 2018. We can get an idea of where the Twins are at by look at the players under guaranteed contracts, arbitration estimates, the major league minimum salary, and applicable buyouts.

Guaranteed Salaries

With the recent departure of ByungHo Park, the Twins now have five players signed to contracts for 2018. Here’s what they will be owed.

  • Joe Mauer - $23,000,000
  • Ervin Santana - $13,500,000
  • Phil Hughes - $13,200,000
  • Brian Dozier - $9,000,000
  • Jason Castro -$8,000,000

Total = $66,700,000

Projected Arbitration Salaries

The Twins have six players eligible for arbitration this year, meaning they’ll get raises for 2018. We don’t know yet what exactly those raises will be, so we’ll use MLB Trade Rumor’s arbitration estimates for now.

  • Kyle Gibson – $5,300,000
  • Eduardo Escobar – $4,900,000
  • Robbie Grossman – $2,400,000
  • Ryan Pressly – $1,600,000
  • Ehire Adrianza – $1,000,000
  • Trevor May – $600,000

Total = $15,800,000

Note: The Twins could decide to non-tender any of these players for 2018, but I don’t suspect they will do so. If they did, Robbie Grossman or Ehrie Adrianza may be the most likely to go.

Major League Minimum Salaries

Of course, players not signed to a contract and not eligible for arbitration are still paid. Those players — the young Jorge Polancos and Byron Buxtons of the world — will make the major league minimum salary, which is $545,000 for 2018. Currently, the Twins would need 14 more players to fill out their 25-man roster. We’ll assume these are players making the major league minimum, though this can (and most likely will) change when the Twins trade for or sign other players.

  • Fourteen players at $545,000

Total = $7,630,000

Buyouts

Sometimes teams pay players not to play for them. The Twins have one such player for 2018.

  • Glen Perkins - $700,000

Total = $700,000


CURRENT GRAND TOTAL = $90,830,000

When we compare this number to the Twins’ payroll history, it looks like they have good amount left to spend. Last year, according to the Associated Press, the Twins had a Opening Day payroll of $104,837,500; so even if the Twins were to just match the 2017 payroll, they have $14,007,500 left to spend. The Twins’ highest Opening Day payroll ever was $112,737,000 in 2011; if the Twins matched that in 2018, they’d still have $21,907,000 left to spend.

But I think the Twins will probably go even higher than they did in 2011.

Why? Because payrolls have been increasingly dramatically since 2011, and the Twins haven’t been keeping pace. That’s mostly because the Twins have basically sucked since 2011, and they haven’t had a reason to spend. Yes, they could have spent more and made themselves suck slightly less during that time, but a smaller budget team like the Twins is never going to just buy its may out of suckdom and to a World Series. Instead, they need to wait until they have a core of young, cheap, and talented players to make pouring money into the team worth it, and the Twins haven’t had that... until now.

Surprising everyone to make the AL wildcard game in 2017 showed the Twins are now ready for that big investment, and if the front office is to be believed, that’s what they are looking to do. However, that doesn’t mean the Twins are suddenly going to become the Dodgers — who had an Opening Day payroll of $225,553,087 in 2017 — or the Yankees — who had an Opening Day payroll of $195,282,058. That’s crazy.

So how far will the Twins go? I don’t actually work in the Twins front office, nor do I have direct connections to them, so I don’t really have a way of knowing for sure. What I do have, however, is this Twins blog and the ability to wildly speculate, so let’s give it a whirl!

The Twins’ 2017 Opening Day payroll of $104,837,500 ranked 22nd in MLB. Back in 2011 when they were paying $112,737,000, they ranked 9th. I don’t think the Twins are going to jump back up to the 9th highest spenders now (in 2017, that was the Orioles at $164,261,299), but they should go up a few notches.

If we go up just two teams from the Twins in the payroll rankings for 2017, we find the Marlins, who doled out $120,191,297 (mostly to Giancarlo Stanton). That’s still just 20th in baseball. At 19th we find the 2017 World Series Champion Astros at $122,407,233, and at 18th, the 2016 American League Champion Indians at $125,808,029. I think it’s possible for the Twins to reach somewhere in that area.

Let’s just go with $122,000,000 for now. Yes, it’s a slightly educated guess I pulled out of my butt, but beggars can’t be choosers. Anyway, that figure would mean the Twins would have $31,170,000 left to spend in free agency or additional salary picked up in trades.

What could the Twins afford for $31,170,000? We’ll look at MLB Trade Rumor’s free agent estimates just for fun. They have Yu Darvish signing a six-year, $160 million deal. That would be around $26.7 million a year, so the Twins could afford that! But they wouldn’t be able to afford much more. They have Wade Davis — the top reliever on the market — going for four years, $60 million, which would be $15 million a year. So the Twins probably can’t afford to sign the best starting pitcher on the market and the best reliever on the market. Rats.

What about the best Yu Darvish and the second best reliever on the market? The second best free agent reliever is probably Greg Holland, who MLB Trade Rumors has at four years, $50 million. That would be $12.5 million a year, so the Twins couldn’t afford that, either. Shoot.

Of course, none of this should be a surprise — no one expects the Twins to sign the best starting pitcher on the market and the first (or even second) best free agent reliever. I’m not pointing this out to depress you, but just to prove it’s not that wildly out of line with current thought to think the Twins would hit a $122,000,000 payroll in 2018. Even I think that might be a little high — I’m used to the Terry Ryan days — but it’s possible.

Poll

How much do you think the Twins’ Opening Day payroll will be in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Over $130,000,000
    (51 votes)
  • 18%
    $125,000,000 to $130,000,000
    (91 votes)
  • 22%
    $120,000,000 to $125,000,000
    (111 votes)
  • 22%
    $115,000,000 to $120,000,000
    (109 votes)
  • 13%
    $110,000,000 to $115,000,000
    (64 votes)
  • 6%
    $105,000,000 to $110,000,000
    (32 votes)
  • 5%
    Less than $105,000,000
    (28 votes)
486 votes total Vote Now