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How much payroll space do the Twins have and will they actually spend it?

REUTERS/USA Today Sports/Jerry Lai
This season MLB teams that spent more than $100 million made the playoffs 47 percent of the time, while teams that spent less than $100 million made the playoffs 20 percent of the time.

In the Twins’ second season at Target Field their payroll rose to a franchise-record $113 million, but that dropped to $100 million the next year and then dipped below $90 million in each of the past two seasons as general manager Terry Ryan declined to spend a significant portion of the ownership-approved budget. Here’s what Ryan said recently when asked about the team’s lack of spending and self-imposed payroll decline:

Payroll will not be an issue. Our payroll is sufficient to [field] a winning team. There are playoff teams with lower payrolls than ours. We can’t use that as an excuse. … I spent plenty. Our payroll was pretty stiff, very respectable.

The payroll Ryan calls “pretty stiff” ranked 24th among 30 teams and, based on comments from Ryan and Twins president Dave St. Peter, will almost surely rank even lower in 2015. He’s right that the Twins’ payroll was enough to field a winning team, but suggesting their payroll should be low because “there are playoff teams with lower payrolls than ours” is like suggesting they should hit fewer home runs because “there are playoff teams with fewer home runs than us.”

This season MLB teams that spent more than $100 million made the playoffs 47 percent of the time, while teams that spent less than $100 million made the playoffs 20 percent of the time. All six division-winning teams spent at least $105 million and the average payroll of the six division winners was $147 million. When asked about next year’s payroll, St. Peter told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

We haven’t finalized a 2015 budget, [but] I can assure you, we don’t see it going down significantly.

So this is where the Twins are at heading into the sixth season of a publicly funded ballpark that was supposed to boost their spending relative to the other 29 teams: “Assuring” their fans who’re frustrated and disillusioned following a fourth consecutive 90-loss season that the team’s already below-average payroll won’t be “going down significantly” at a time when television and internet revenue is skyrocketing across baseball.

More than half of MLB teams exceeded $100 million in payroll this year, including 10 teams above $125 million and two teams above $200 million. After dumping various high-salaried veterans in trades, the Twins ended up spending around $86 million on payroll. St. Peter’s comments certainly make it seem likely that their 2015 payroll will once again be below $90 million, which won’t leave much room for offseason spending thanks to the following players being under contract:

Joe Mauer          $23.0 million
Ricky Nolasco      $12.0 million
Phil Hughes         $8.0 million
Kurt Suzuki         $6.0 million
Mike Pelfrey        $5.5 million
Glen Perkins        $4.7 million

TOTAL              $59.2 million

Beyond those guaranteed salaries, the Twins also have these players eligible for arbitration:

Trevor Plouffe      $4.3 million
Tommy Milone        $2.8 million
Brian Duensing      $2.5 million
Jordan Schafer      $1.5 million
Anthony Swarzak     $1.4 million
Eduardo Nunez       $1.2 million
Casey Fien          $1.1 million
TOTAL $14.8 million

Those salaries listed above are MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections. At least a few of those arbitration-eligible players should be non-tender candidates, so the Twins could cut them loose at no cost. But if they were to retain all seven arbitration-eligible players their payroll commitments would approach $74 million. Toss in the $7 million or so required to fill out the rest of the roster with minimum-salaried players and the Twins would already be over $80 million.

Front office mistakes led to losing teams, which led to attendance declining, which led to revenue decreasing, which led to payroll dropping. In their final season at the Metrodome they spent $65 million. Six years and one new ballpark later their payroll has settled around $85 million. Whether or not you think spending drives winning, unspent money isn’t set aside for future payroll and it’s hard to see how that money simply staying with the Twins’ owners benefits the team or its fans.

For a lengthy discussion of how preseason expectations translated to regular season success this year, check out this week’s “Gleeman and The Geek” episode.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 10/17/2014 - 01:42 pm.

    PLUS the huge revenue increases aorund the league

    someone should make a graph of Twins’ payroll relative to the rest of the league. how many millions of annual dollars are coming in now to the Twins that weren’t there 5 years ago? ( money, TV revenues, etc.)

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/17/2014 - 02:55 pm.

      See Forbes’ numbers on the Twins franchise since 2010…


      This doesn’t answer all of your questions, but it DOES show that, from 2010 to 2014,…

      …the franchise VALUE has gone from $405 million to $605 million;

      …the part of the franchise value ascribed to the STADIUM is only $130 million in spite of its cost;

      …the REVENUE has increased by about $50 million per year as of 2014, over 2010 revenue.

      So here’s what the Pohlads got: a $200 million bump in the franchise’s value, and at this point, a $50 million increase in annual revenue.

      What did the public get ? If you thought we were supposed to get a better baseball team, well….

      The Pohlads have simply pocketed this as a gift, their entitlement. What do you think the Vikings are going to do with all the new dough the stadium brings them ??

      • Submitted by frank watson on 10/17/2014 - 03:14 pm.

        What will the Vikingsdo with all the new dough?

        Probably pay off their $115 million racketeering and fraud fine in New Jersey.

        • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/17/2014 - 03:55 pm.

          I expect they’ll wriggle off the hook for most of that.

          At least that’s what their attorney, the former Attorney General of New Jersey, says. The same guy has assured us that insofar as the criminal RICO investigation mandated by NJ law upon civil RICO findings bearing fruit, it’s never materialized before, and won’t this time, either. He seems to think he knows how the wheels turn in New Jersey.

          The taxpayers have simply given a gift to these people – the Wilfs and the Pohlads. Let’s say it is dubious at best whether this causes these folks feel any obligation towards the public – even if that were to take the form of merely fielding better teams in return.

          They will pocket the money, thank you very much. If an improved team performance comes about, it probably won’t stem from the public subsidies given these teams.

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