Thursday, June 21, 2007

Crunching the Numbers

"You can't sign a 32-year-old player -- no matter how popular and productive -- for a deal like that when Justin Morneau, 27, and Michael Cuddyer, 28, will need big-dollar, multiyear contracts in the next couple of years."

Hmmm. I wonder if that's true about Torii Hunter. And while we're at it, let's throw Johan Santana and Joe Nathan in the mix, too. Oh hell, let's take a look at all the Twins and what the payroll situation looks like through 2010, the year the ballpark opens. We'll assume the payroll bumps up $10M over the next three year to coincide with a $100M payroll for 2010. Let's see exactly what Terry Ryan can keep, shall we?

We covered 2008 a couple of days ago, but to review, it looks like this:

The Twins have about $22M to spend next year on a CF, DH/LF, and maybe a 2B (or probably a veteran pitcher, sigh). That leaves plenty of money for re-signing Hunter if they don't look too far ahead.

Let's move onto 2009.

Things are quite a bit tighter in 2009. Ryan will be sitting with $40 million to spend and three big names to re-sign, and the numbers don't add up. Hunter will be $15 million, Santana will be $20 million and Nathan will likely be at least $9 million. And, of course, they still need someone to fill that DH/LF spot and the 3B spot. (BTW, a long term deal for Cuddyer or Morneau will help a little, but not much. Subtracting a million dollars or two will be about the max they'll save based on past deals).

Given the success the Twins have had picking up bullpen help, I suspect Nathan is the odd man out. I further suspect that the Twins won't bite on the length of the deal Santana will demand from other teams. That's probably not news anyone wants to hear, but it would free up about $20 million for some other players. Let's see what happens the next year...

Christ, things are murky at this point. You may have notice that Kubel drops off the chart even though he's not a free agent. I'm hoping by then he's hitting enough to keep, but I haven't seen enough to conclude he'll be around.

Anyway, things have become considerably tighter. There's $43 million, just $3 million more than the year before, except now Cuddyer is a free agent, too. Even if Nathan is gone, that leaves just $8M for Cuddyer, which is likely a couple million less than he deserves. Especially considering they have another half dozen player they're going to need to pay, in some shape or form.

(As I look at the numbers again, I wonder if a couple million couldn't be shaved here or there, a skill that the Twins have never been especially good at, but they have been good at finding backup in their minor leagues.)

But it looks like Reusse is right. Some choices are going to need to be made. I personally doubt whether that necessarily leads to losing Hunter, since Santana could be the most highly anticipated free agent to hit the market since Alex Rodriguez. But the Twins will have some decisions to make. AND they need to have their minor leagues continue to produce some offense if they want to stay competetive.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

OMDB (One More Damn Bat) - The Orioles

A few weeks ago, we started exploring what the Twins options were for adding one more damn bat. In case you missed it, we've already talked about the Rangers (Mark Texeira), Royals (Mike Sweeney, Mark Teahen, Ryan Shealy) and the Reds (Ken Griffey Jr., Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn).

Today I thought we might check out a team that has been in the news recently, the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles fired their manager Sam Perlozzo this week and will reportedly be interviewing Joe Girardi to replace him. More importantly for Twins fans, they added Andy McPhail to their executive team as Chief Operating Officer, who knows the Twins management team fairly well.

The Orioles are an intersting trading partner for the Twins. On the one hand, they were supposed to have lots of young pitching, but that talent hasn't developed as anticipated, with injuries playing a huge role. They also spent monster money this offseason on their bullpen, which has been absolutely terrible. But their biggest problem has been their offense, which is currently 13th in the American League in runs. The Twins won't be able to help them much with that.

It's also questionable just how much the Twins can gain from that kind of offense. There are plenty of 'names' on the Orioles offense, but there isn't a single player with an OPS of 800. McPhail's history doesn't suggest he's someone who tries to go young or dump salaries, and it's not like he's replacing the current general manager(s?), so the Orioles won't make a change for change's sake. Finally, none of the big players are impending free agents, so it's not like we know any of the players don't figure into the Orioles future plans.

But, of course, we won't let some little facts like that stop some fun speculation. Let's run possibilities down, starting with the biggest name...

Miguel Tejada - He's right-handed, he's only 31 years old, and he's average 113 RBI and 27 home runs over the last four years. But this year, the blame for the slumping offense rests squarely on Tejada's shoulders, as his power has dissappeared. Of course, he's still hitting .302, and there aren't any obvious changes in his approach at the plate, so is he just overcoming a slow start?

There's also his contract. In this market, it's reasonable, at $13 million per year through 2009. Monday we found out that it likely wouldn't fit into the Twins payroll if they also try and sign Torii Hunter this offseason, but it's a contract the Twins could handle, and if he hits like he has previous years he would more than replace Hunter's bat.

The cost? He ain't gonna be cheap and you better believe the Twins would be bidding against some other teams. Matt Garza might be a starting point, but a proven young starter like Boof Bonser would be a better one from the Orioles standpoint. It might also require a replacement shortstop, perhaps Jason Bartlett or Nick Punto. There's a lot of risk in moves like that for a team that is supposedly in a pennant race. Remember Rick Reed and Todd Jones?

Melvin Mora - Mora is the name Twins fans are most likely licking their chops over, seeing as he's a third baseman. He's also right-handed, but at 35 years old, he's past his prime, as his declining stats have shown. This year he's only hitting .245 (751 OPS) with 10 home runs. But I'll duly note that is still significantly more than the Twins have received so far from third base.

The problem with Mora is his contract. It's not onerous financially - approximately $17 million over the next two years, which the Twins might be able to handle even if they do re-sign Hunter. But that affordable contract was likely signed by Mora because of the no-trade clause he has built into it. As the father of quintuplets, it's unlikely he's using that as a negotiating ploy. He just wants to stay in Baltimore.

Aubrey Huff - For the last few years, Huff has provided a .260-.270 batting average with 20+ home run power, and is an interesting fit. If you're not too particular about your defense, he's flexible at several positions the Twins have holes, including third base, left field and designated hitter. He's only 30 years old, though his numbers have declined a bit over the last couple of years. And his contract falls just under that which the Twins can likely afford, having $16 million on it over the next two years.

On the other hand, he's left-handed, when the Twins would really like a right-handed bat. And those power numbers above are not what the Orioles have seen so far from him this year, with just four home runs. Both of which mean that Huff looks a lot like a better version of Jason Kubel, except he's in the decline phase of his career, and costs $8 million more. Why would the Twins pay for that, exactly?

Brian Roberts - His chances to be moved probably increased as he was publicly critical of the club's direction the last week. He's hitting .302 this year with a .393 OBP. That looks like the kind of professional hitter the Twins often covet. And like the other Orioles, his contract lasts another two years (think Orioles management has a plan here?) and fits under the Twins payroll at just $6.3 million next year. Finally, he's just 29.

But he's also not someone who will hit for power, as his two home runs this year attest. Also, while he's listed as a switch hitter, he's MUCH better from the left side, and the Twins have several light-hitting players that already fill that need. And finally, he really only plays second base, so even if he DHed this year, he and his contract would block Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert next year. That might not be a problem, but it also isn't on the positive side of the balance sheet.

Despite the recent changes, and even if they bring Girardi on, the Orioles don't seem like they're particularly likely to be a solid trading partner. All those two year contracts and the retention of their general management team point to an organiation that is giving itself two more years to compete before blowing things up and starting over. If that changes, you'll certainly hear about it because Tejada instantly becomes the one of the hottest names in the rumor mill. And an interesting replacement if the team secretly believes they won't be able to keep Hunter.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Room for Improvement

Two of the biggest questions Terry Ryan repeatedly is asked is whether the Twins can add a new bat and whether they can keep Torii Hunter next year. As is so often the case with the Twins, the answers to both of those questions rely a lot on the finances of the team, and whether they can fit under the Twins budget, so I thought it might be a good time to do a little back of the napkin figuring. Here's where the Twins are likely at:

The Twins payroll this year is around $70 million, a $10 million increase over last years. If you assume another $10 million increase next year, the Twins could have about $22 million to spend on players, including Torii Hunter. If you assume $15 million per year for Hunter (which is tragically, probably low), that leaves $7.5 million for the rest of the improvements the Twins might want to make.

It also means that the Twins can trade for a pretty decent player, even if he has a significant contract next year - but not so significant as to cost them $10 million or so. We'll keep this in mind as we look at possible trade targets.