This past week the Twins made several notable moves that affected their payroll – signing free agent reliever Joel Zumaya and coming to terms with several arbitration-eligible players including Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano.
The Twins signed Zumaya to an incentive-laden deal that can be as little of a commitment as $400,000 if he fails to break camp with the team all the way up to $1.75 million if he reaches certain performance bonuses.
Shortly thereafter, the team agreed to deal with Perkins ($1.55 million) and Liriano ($5.5 million) while continuing to work on an agreement with their last arb-eligible player, second baseman Alexi Casilla. Casilla’s camp submitted a figure of $1.75 million while the Twins countered with a deal offered $1.065. Considering this organization does not enter arbitration with players regularly, it is assumed that the team and Casilla will eventually split the difference on a one-year contract.
Given those recent transactions, here is the current 2012 projected payroll based on the existing knowledge found at Cot’s Contracts and the Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen’s prior assumptions:
As of right now, the Twins are anticipated to spend around $98.5 million on the 2012 team. That is significantly under the $115 million that the 2011 team was paid out, however, given the ownership’s desire to lower than figure, the drop-off should not be surprising. A few months after La Velle Neal’s interview with Jim Pohlad, the team fired general manager Bill Smith and replaced him with Terry Ryan. During Ryan’s reintroduction press conference in November, he gave a few more details regarding the payroll number:
“I think it's going to somewhere around 100 (million)." Ryan added, "There's nobody up here that wants to hide anything. If it's 95, if it's 100, if it's 90, we're going to make due (sp) with what Jim (Pohlad) and the family and (team president) Dave (St. Peter) give us.”
At the $98.5 million mark, the payroll is right in that sweet spot of where Ryan was describing. Because of that, it isn’t necessarily a given that the team will seek to spend that $1.5 million remaining from the assumed $100 million payroll. If Ryan opts to close up shop right now and move forward with the present lot, no one could blame him.
Then again, that wouldn’t be in the best interest of the on-field product, especially considering the state of the bullpen.
Even though Zumaya could be a very capable arm, based on his injury history, there is no guarantee he can sustain the duration of the season (in fact, I would easily bet against him making the maximum of his contract). Outside of Zumaya, the Twins have a bevy of intriguing yet unproven right-handed arms. The most prudent thing would be to use that money towards signing someone like Todd Coffey or Dan Wheeler.
As I outlined recently, Coffey could be a valuable but inexpensive addition to the bullpen to stave off right-handed foes. Making just $1.35 million with the Nationals last year, Coffey figures to have his potential earnings diluted in the current plethora of relievers on the market and could easily be signed for $1.5 million or less. Meanwhile Wheeler, who is even more of a threat against right-handed hitters than Coffey, made a pretty penny in Boston a year ago ($3 million) but a shoulder injury at the end of the season combined with the deep market could also push him into that $1.5 million range as well. Either option would be a solid addition to deepen a fairly shallow bullpen.
For the Twins, who are down to their final few schillings, choosing to spend that $1.5 million to land a bargain bin-priced reliever would undoubtedly strengthen the pitching staff.