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Twins budget and ballpark plans offer a good test for math students

Ready for a little arithmetic, Twins fans?

Don’t worry. You don’t have to do a thing, except follow along.

Here we go:

Last year, the Twins’ payroll came in at about $70 million, ranking 19th among Major League Baseball’s 30 teams.

On Jan. 25, at the Twins’ annual media luncheon, top official Jerry Bell announced the Minnesota Twins were kicking in another $20 million for the new ballpark to cover additional costs.

With the trade of Johan Santana to the Mets, the Twins’ payroll going into spring training – even after Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer agreed to multi-year deals – stood at about $50 million, at least as of Monday afternoon.

The difference between last year’s payroll and this year’s? That’s right:  $20 million.

Twins deny a payroll tradeoff for stadium costs
Twins officials such as Bell and Jim Pohlad insist that the club did not dip into the payroll to pay for ballpark cost overruns, which the ballpark legislation requires the Twins to cover. Bell maintained that position Tuesday afternoon after updating the Hennepin County Commission on the rising construction cost of the ballpark, which he said stands at $412 million. That’s $22 million more than the original $390 million budget, and $2 million more than Bell said at the luncheon.

“Basically, it comes from the Pohlad family,” Bell said.

In this case, Bell said the Twins added some things that weren’t in the original plans – more women’s bathrooms, six to 10 heated shelters for fans to duck out of the April cold,  a bigger plaza across Interstate 394 to better accommodate pedestrian traffic from downtown, and work to enclose the bottom of the upper-deck canopy to prevent pigeons from roosting among the steel girders. The club also decided not to go cheap on the ballpark’s stone facing, using 100,000 square feet of yellow Mankato limestone.   

Strategic trades still possible

Bell understands why someone with a rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic might think the Twins are skimping on payroll to get the ballpark built right. “We’re still trying to add players to our roster,” Bell said. “Look: We’re not going to spend money just to be stupid about it. But if we can make a trade or find a free agent that can help us compete in ’08, we’ve got the ability to do that.”

Bell said this about an hour after the Twins announced that free agent righthander Livan Hernandez agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal, with incentives that could take it to $7 million.

Seamheads call Hernandez, who will turn 33 next week, an “innings eater” because he’s thrown at least 200 innings in nine of the last 10 seasons, and had 199 2/3 the other time. (Judging by his Boof Bonser-like girth, innings are not all he eats.)

A two-time All-Star, Hernandez last year was 11-11 with a 4.93 ERA and allowed 34 home runs. Since 2000, he has more complete games (32) and innings pitched (1,837 2/3) than anyone in baseball, while winning at least 11 games each season. He’s not Santana, but at least he gives the Twins a recognizable name with World Series experience who can pitch on Opening Night without the rest of the country going, “Who?”

The commission postponed approval of the revised ballpark plans and cost until Feb. 26. Infrastructure costs are capped at $105 million ($15 million from the Twins), and ballpark authority chairman Steve Kramer said that might not be enough to do all the beautification work required, unless a corporate partner or the City of Minneapolis contributes. We’ll see how that goes.

It will be interesting to see what else the Twins do from here, about personnel and the ballpark. Bell said he does not anticipate any more cost overruns, but that’s what team president Dave St. Peter said in September. Bell said workers will try to do the work on the plaza over I-394 at night, limiting the impact of lane closures.

For now, we’ll take Bell at his word. That payroll is at $55 million and counting.

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