Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Financial Crunch

Yesterday I searched for beams of light within this gloomy season. A quick spin through the comments section showed that the most controversial aspect of the column (aside from the very notion of injecting positivity into this wretched mess) was my suggestion that the Twins would face a "financial crunch" as they plan for next year.

Several commenters bristled at the notion that the Twins, in their third year at Target Field, could be up against budgetary constraints that might prevent them from improving in areas of weakness. Let's examine the claim a little further…

In early August, John Bonnes took a preliminary look at the team's 2012 payroll. He found that, with current locked-in obligations accounted for, we're looking at a $74 million base.

Even if you haven't taken online accounting classes, it's clear that's a lot of money.

That's about $50 million short of their 2011 payroll, so they'll seemingly have ample room to maneuver during the offseason, right?

Maybe. First, they'll have to make decisions on Francisco Liriano, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. Liriano will be entering his final season of arbitration eligibility, while Cuddyer and Kubel will both be free agents.

Bringing back all three players would probably cost around $25 million next year. Letting one, two or all three walk is an option but would be tough to stomach, since each offers a trait that is in short supply for the Twins.

Liriano might be the organization's only pitcher outside of Scott Baker with the upside to effectively hold down a spot at the front end of the rotation next year, while Cuddyer and Kubel are the only players with a realistic shot at hitting 20-plus home runs (together they've combined for a third of the team's long balls this season).

The Twins are already hurting for strikeouts from their starting pitchers and home runs from their lineup. If they want to try and contend next year, they're going to either need to bring these three back or find players who can replace what they provide, which won't be cheap.

Then, there's the bullpen. It basically needs to be rebuilt from scratch, with Glen Perkins looking like the only reliable arm who will carry over from this season. Free agent relievers aren't cheap -- at least not the good ones. What's a fair allotment for a decent bullpen? Ten million? Fifteen million?

If you bring back Cuddyer, Kubel and Liriano at $25 million while putting a modest $10 million into the bullpen, you're looking at a $110 million payroll, which is close to where I expect them to land next year. That leaves little room for upgrades in the starting rotation, middle infield or catcher.

Which is why I said that the Twins would hugely benefit from being able to use Ben Revere and Trevor Plouffe in starting roles. It would prevent the front office from having to go outside the organization to fill vacancies in the lineup left by Delmon Young and (hopefully) Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

As for the other holes and depth issues that have become appararent this year? Well, Bill Smith is going to need to get creative.

I'm only scratching the surface of a multitude of difficult decisions that will face the front office in the approaching offseason. You'll be able to get a much more comprehensive look at all these issues in the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, which should be available shortly after the season concludes. Keep your eyes peeled.


Big Dawg said...

Concerned about the finances? Yes. More concerned about the off season plan for guys like Mauer, Span and Morneau. As fans I don't want Twins management to give away the whole off season strategy for making the team better. But, for the players we know are coming back: what is the plan? Who needs surgery? Who needs to lose weight? Keeping us in the dark about the returning players make me wonder who is driving the bus.

Anonymous said...

So the Twins have financial flexibility because a lot of money is coming off the books, but if they spend it all they'll have a "financial crunch"? Got it!

Anonymous said...

15 million on a bullpen? The Twins bullpen has been horrific this year and guess what? The bullpen has cost them probably 3-4 wins. Whoopee, why go out and sign guys to multi-million dollar contracts, that based on the amount of innings they pitch might be a total letdown, as seen by almost every relief pitcher picked up this year that was signed to a decent contract. This is how much I’d pay on the bullpen: 5 million. The Twins are about to lose 100 games. The bullpen is not the problem. If everything else is working and your bullpen is your weak link THEN you go out and get arms for it through trades at the deadline. As for Kubel and Cuddyer they are POSSIBLE 20HR guys. Who cares? They have played frequently this year and been mediocre and with them the Twins stand to lose close to a 100 games. Why are they worth multi-year deals and close to 20 million? Obviously, Bill Smith might agree with you and make the mistake of signing one if not both of these guys instead of offering Arbitration and getting a supplemental pick for each. I do agree that Ben Revere would be a good guy to play in the outfield with Benson. I’ve said it provides you with the best outfield defense in the league. So, you are getting something the Twins need (defense with a fly ball pitching team in a big park) for the minimum and Denard Span’s 3 million next year. Why have Kubel, Cuddyer and Span sucking in the field and hitting at an average clip for corner outfielders while making probably 23 million combined? Not needed.

Anonymous said...

Denard Span - LF - 3
Ben Revere - CF - .4
Joe Mauer - C - 23
Justin Morneau - 1B - 15
Lance Berkman - DH - 12
Danny Valencia - 3B - .5
Joe Benson - RF - .4
Omar Infante - 2B - 5
Alexi Casilla - SS - 1.5

Ramon Hernandez - C - 6
Chris Parmelee - IF/OF - .4
Tsuyoshi Nishioka - IF 3
Trevor Plouffe - OF/DH - .4

CJ Wilson - SP - 15
Scott Baker - SP - 6.5
Carl Pavano - SP - 8.5
Nick Blackburn - SP - 4.75
Liam Hendriks - SP - .4

Joe Nathan - RP - 2.5
Glen Perkins - RP 1.5
Brian Duensing - RP .5
Alex Burnett - RP .4
Anthony Slama - RP .4
Anthony Swarzak - RP .4
Jim Hoey - RP .4
Payroll 115.6
Trading Liriano (gone after 2012) 2 B Level Prospects. 2 Supplemental picks for Kubel and Cuddyer (won’t be Type A because they are mediocre)
Top 5 1st Round Draft pick. CJ Wilson improves the club 4-5 wins. Ramon Hernandez improves the club 3-4 wins over Butera. Omar Infante and his defense improves the club 1-2 wins. Lance Berkman improves the club 3-4 wins. Mauer/Morneau if at least one of them (Most likely Mauer) can play like he has sine 2005 that’s another improvement of 4-5 wins. Revere/Span/Benson over all the injuries and Young/Kubel/Cuddyer/Span is a wash or more likely another win for the Twins. A somewhat healthy (though old) Nathan with Duensing in the pen probably improves the bullpen by a win. No area decreases win value with the lineup above. The team above would be projected at around 90 wins.

Nick N. said...

So the Twins have financial flexibility because a lot of money is coming off the books, but if they spend it all they'll have a "financial crunch"?

The point is that they will have to spend all that money just trying to maintain the status quo. Making legitimate improvements in areas of weakness will be a challenge, unless they want to create weaknesses in other areas.

Anonymous said...

To say the bullpen has cost them only 3-4 wins is ridiculous...Jim Hoey has cost the team 3-4 wins by himself.

Ed Bast said...

"Maintain the status quo"? I just threw up in my mouth. The absolute last thing this organization needs is to maintain the status quo. May we never hear that phrase again regarding the 2011 offseason.

Shane Wahl said...

What about letting Cuddyer and Kubel go (hoping on Type-A status for both right now!) since paying them a combined S50+ million for 3 years seems to be rather dumb, in my view? Then getting via trade and/or free agency Ty Wigginton and Bobby Abreu on one year deals for a combined $10 million or so? Abreu is one year removed from his last 20/20 season and Wigginton is a sure 12+ homer guy who can play the four corners. Some sort of platoon situation and you could get a lot of production for at most 3/5 the cost for one year and no subsequent year commitments unless desired by the team.

JimCrikket said...

Sean, while your roster suggestions aren't bad, there are a few factors I don't think you're considering:

Berkman is most likely going to re-sign with the Cards and if he doesn't, he'll go somewhere that will have a defensive position for him AND will be willing to give him multiple years. How far should the Twins go? I personally like the idea of adding him as a 1B/OF/DH option, but I doubt he'll be getable on a 1-yr deal as a DH. In the end, Berkman is probably just a more expensive version of Cuddyer and your chances of getting Cuddyer at a discount are better than getting Berkman at all.

Hernandez is a Type A free agent catcher and the Twins will not (and should not) give up a draft choice to get a backup catcher. Not to mention, there's no way Hernandez would sign a contract as a back up. He'll want and get a starting job and a multi-year deal.

The Twins will not get Joe Nathan for 2.5 mil. They have to pay him 2 mil to buy out his 12.5 mil option alone and he's certainly not going to re-sign for 500K. As a free agent, he'll command several million in addition to that buy out.

I don't see Joe Benson as being MLB-ready by April so you need another starting OF.

Matt said...

This thing is worth blowing up to some extent. The status quo will produce a major failure next year as well.
I'd really like to see them draft some hard throwers with upside. If you want to go with expensive old guys for another year or two, that's fine, but be sure to make room for youngsters sooner rather than later.
Expensive old guys like Abreu do nothing for the future of the club, which is what needs to be the focus.

USAFChief said...

"I don't see Joe Benson as being MLB-ready by April so you need another starting OF."

Probably not, but I'd sure rather see Benson starting than Revere.

Shane Wahl said...

"Expensive old guys" does not describe Abreu. He will be relatively cheap and provides a one-year replacement while Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni are refined at Rochester. To add someone in the outfield long-term is totally silly given that the Twins have about 8 OFs in the farm system who could be major leaguers in 1-4 years. If you have alternative suggestions, I would like to hear them.

Matt said...

Why try and put in some stop gap who will likely contribute little, like Abreu? I'd rather see them lose 90-100 with young guys than lose 80-90 with old guys...

Shane Wahl said...

Matt, I understand your point, but sometimes pushing players who haven't even been in AAA to the major leagues does more damage to them in the long run. The Mets may have totally ruined Carlos Gomez and the Rays did a lot of damage to Delmon Young. Both needed a full season at AAA. Look at what happened to Tosoni this year. Getting a taste is one thing, but when the taste doesn't go well it shows that more seasoning in AAA is needed. Then they kept calling him up. Benson, Parmelee, and Tosoni need more time. Meanwhile, it would be possible to get 1-year players instead of overpaying for Cuddyer for 3 years and (not over-) paying Kubel for 3+ years. Finally, Abreu was still very good in 2010. And even if he repeats 2011 numbers, that .355+ obp would be a vast improvement in the two spot,

Tomj14 said...

Sean has been pimping a Benson, Revere and Span here and on ESPN and if that happens the Twins will have the worst outfield in the majors and it won't matter who are pitchers and infielders are because those will be three dead spots in the lineup. The main problem this year was the total lack of depth at all positions.
Injuries happen but when you fill every injury with a triple A caliber player, you are SOL.
CJ Wilson isn't signing here and the Twins aren't going to pay a starting pitcher 15 million