As Twins fans, we must always be cognizant of the pennies and nickels falling out of Jim Pohlad’s pockets. Wait—this just in, we don’t. The Twins and Josh Donaldson came to a contract agreement that shattered the team record for an outside free agent. Not all of the contract details for Donaldson have come out, but we do have enough information to make some conjectures.
Donaldson’s deal is for a total of $84 million for the seasons prior to his option. That would be 2020-2023. The option year, 2024, is a team option for either an eight million dollar buyout that brings the total contract to $92 million guaranteed, or if the team picks up the option, its worth $16 million, which brings the contract to a nice, round $100 million. His contract’s average annual value is an ironically delicious $23 million (I’ll never stop bringing this up) but obviously has a bit more assigned to those first four seasons. The exact breakdown hasn’t been reported, so we don’t know for sure yet if the deal is front-loaded, back-loaded, or evenly distributed.
We also have a tweet from the occasionally-correct Bob Nightengale, which we can infer a bit of information from, if the blind squirrel did find a nut.
The #Twins currently have a $121.8 million payroll for their 20 signed players, the largest in the AL Central.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 15, 2020
Spotrac has 18 of these 20 contracts updated for the season. Those 18 contracts total about $97 million. The two players not yet listed are Miguel Sano and of course Josh Donaldson. Sano will be making seven million in 2020 under his new extension, which brings the total to roughly $104 million, and simple math suggest that if Nightengale’s information is right, that means Donaldson’s 2020 salary will be about 17.8 million. Either Nightengale is wrong, or the Twins will be paying Donaldson more in the latter years of his contract.
Prior to adding Sano’s extension or Donaldson’s contract, the Twins payroll was at just under $105 million for 2020, according to Spotrac (this includes pre-arbitration players.) Adding everything together, this puts the Twins at a total payroll of $129.8 million. That would be a new team record, but just slightly. The 2018 Twins hold the current record at $128 million.
All of that being said, if the Twins still wanted to add another pitcher, be it one of the few remaining free agents, or a trade acquisition, they could easily do so. While $128 million is the team record, the window is open, and the Twins could easily press past the record. Spotrac currently lists the MLB average payroll as $125 million, and that number will rise a bit before opening day. Other small-market teams like the Cardinals and Rockies are in the range of $150 million, and the Twins could easily reach that height for a season or two, if the team is competitive. Adding another $20 million per year to the payroll could add a pretty decent starting pitcher, although that may be a bit much to ask.