There’s been a lot of talk this offseason – or the past 50 years – about the Twins being too cheap.
Currently, the Twins have about $94 million committed to their 2019 Opening Day roster, which is a $35 million less than they committed to in 2018.
So what gives? Why the decline? Is it just a frugal club pinching pennies? Or is there actually a method to the madness?
What are they worth?
According to Forbes, the Twins were valued at $1.1 billion in 2018, which ranks 21st among MLB teams. Two-thirds of the league, through a variety of factors, are worth more than the Twins if they were to hit the open market.
What about revenue?
Minnesota brought in a revenue of $261 million in 2017. That ranks 20th in MLB. Even though they’re profitable, two-thirds of the league still generates more revenue than the Twins.
Ticket sales, TV deals, ballparks and other factors play a role in those numbers.
Big markets like New York ($619 million), Los Angeles ($522 million), Chicago ($457 million) and Boston ($453 million) made double or triple what the Twins did in 2017.
But aren’t the owners rich?
Yes, Forbes says the Pohlad family in 2015 was worth an estimated $3.8 billion. That's a lot of dough. However, they own about 30 different companies/entities, so it isn't all designated for discretionary baseball spending.
The Oakland Athletics – the inventors of frugal – have an owner who's valued at $2.6 billion and they find ways to regularly compete for a spot in the playoffs, albeit they haven't won a title since 1989.
There’s no salary cap in baseball, but to keep teams from overspending there’s the luxury tax. If a team spends more than $206 million on its roster in 2019, they'll receive a first-time penalty of 20 percent on all overages.
The Twins have never been close to the luxury tax threshold. It's also worth noting that because of the current luxury tax, teams have been less active in free agency in recent years.
Is Bryce Harper or Manny Machado the answer?
Does Harper or Machado makes this team a better club? Yes. Well then how come no other team has signed them? Think about it. If your argument is that the Twins are ”too cheap”, then that argument is technically valid for every team in baseball right now. Everyone’s being too cheap because their demands are too high.
Other free agents available:
- Dallas Keuchel
- Craig Kimbrel
- Mike Moose
- Marwin Gonzalez
What are the Twins doing if not going after big names?
The Twins are betting on their young core to carry them. They’re hoping the likes of Buxton, Sano, Rosario, Kepler and Berrios is enough to keep them competitive. Also, with Harper and Machado taking so long to sign, the whole free agent market has been in a wait-and-see mode.
At TwinsFest last weekend, Twins general manager Thad Levine told MLB.com that those kind of acquisitions are more likely when the Twins are the favorites to win the division, which they currently aren't.
Will it work?
The Astros used a similar approach earlier this decade. After losing 100+ games from 2011-2013, they bided time and watched Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer develop into cornerstone players. In 2017, they supplemented their roster through trades and free agency and added veterans Justin Verlander, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis to an already young, and up-and-coming core.
The result: a World Series title.
They went from a bottoming payroll in the earlier part of this decade to the sixth-highest in the league in 2018 and most importantly, a World Series crown.
The problem with this wait-and-see policy? Sano and Buxton don't look like becoming Altuve and Correa, though at least Rosario is shining and Berrios looks a solid starter. If it doesn't work out? Well then the Twins will have more than enough money for a rebuild.
But you want them to spend now...
If you want them to spend money for the sake of spending money they’ve done that before when they signed Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey to a combined $112 million. Were you happy with that?
With analytics and technology at a forefront, teams have information available like never before. Teams have to be smarter with their money.
Let's say everything goes to plan this season, are they a better team than the Red Sox, Yankees or Astros? They basically have to win their division to have a realistic shot to make a run, because going on the road for another Wild Card tilt is going to be too tall of a task for them.
However, in the event they do get off to a hot start, they'll be in a better position to give themselves a chance in the postseason because they don't have a ton of money committed longterm.
Then they would have the resources to be buyers at the trade deadline, whether it's acquiring a rental or a player who's under contract beyond 2019.
Even if you disagree with the Twins’ plan on relying on its young core to hit their stride before supplementing things in free agency or trades, it’s the smartest move there is right now.
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