December 2007

Twins halt rising payroll trend

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Johan__Franchise__Mauer.jpgAfter allowing their payroll to reach $74 million last season, the Twins could enter 2008 with a payroll of less than $50 million if they trade Johan Santana, as expected, for a package of young, inexpensive players.

The Twins need a center fielder, but they would likely fill that void with a Santana trade. They’ve discussed Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and the Yankees’ Melky Cabrera. Neither will make more than $1 million next year.

The Twins let their payroll reach a franchise-record $74 million last season before dumping Luis Castillo, Jeff Cirillo and Ramon Ortiz to save about $3.5 million.

The team’s payroll increased every year from 2000 (when it was $15.7 million) to 2007 (when it finished at $70.5 million). Based on that trend, I wrote in September that the Twins could let their payroll reach about $77 million to $80 million for 2008.

But the team has gone the other direction. Here is an updated look at the payroll after the losses of Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva to free agency, along with the team’s latest additions:

Players under contract (11)

Player   2008 Salary
Jesse Crain   $1,050,000
Adam Everett   $2,800,000
Mike Lamb   $3,500,000
Joe Mauer   $6,250,000
Craig Monroe   $3,820,000
Joe Nathan   $6,000,000
Nick Punto   $2,400,000
Mike Redmond   $950,000
Dennys Reyes   $1,000,000
Johan Santana   $13,250,000
Delmon Young   $700,000
Subtotal   $41,720,000

Players under control (8)
Those with 0-3 years of major league service time. Average salary estimated at $410,000 per player.

Player   2008 Salary
Scott Baker   $410,000
Boof Bonser   $410,000
Alexi Casilla   $410,000
Brendan Harris   $410,000
Francisco Liriano   $410,000
Pat Neshek   $410,000
Glen Perkins   $410,000
Kevin Slowey   $410,000
Subtotal   $3,280,000

Arbitration eligible (5)

Player   2007 salary   2008 projected
Michael Cuddyer   $3,575,000   $5,200,000
Justin Morneau   $4,500,000   $7,500,000
Juan Rincon   $2,000,000   $2,200,000
Matt Guerrier   $407,500   $1,000,000
Jason Kubel   $387,500   $1,200,000
Subtotal   $10,870,000   $17,100,000

That’s 24 players who figure to make the team’s Opening Day 25-man roster. Add it all up, and here’s what you get:

Under contract   $41,720,000
Under control   $3,280,000
Arbitration estimate   $17,100,000
Total (24 players)   $62,100,000
Total (without Santana)   $48,850,000

For your snowed-in reading pleasure

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

If you enjoyed reading La Velle’s story on Dan Naulty two days after the former Twins pitcher was named in the Mitchell Report, you might appreciate the longer version of Naulty’s story, in his own words, as he told the New York Daily News on Sunday.

I like it because it gets at the health risks associated with steroids, amphetamines and HGH.

That was the last night of a major league career filled with drugs, alcohol, and debauchery. … This is a story of a boyhood dream turning into a living nightmare. I had ruined my life, but at what cost?

Also, the New York Times’ Murray Chass explains today how trading for Johan Santana and signing him could cost the Yankees about $7 million per year in luxury taxes, and goes on to explain how that’s never stopped them before.

Twins need CF who can bat leadoff

Monday, December 17th, 2007

When’s Jerry Crasnick was writing this piece on the best and worst lineups in baseball last week, he knew things were changing quickly. At the time, he ranked the Twins with the 26th worst lineup in baseball, above only the Pirates, Nationals, Royals and Giants.

I did my own lineup projection recently, but since then, the picture has become more clear. The Twins non-tendered Jason Tyner and signed two Houston Astros — Adam Everett and Mike Lamb — with hopes that they’ll form the left side of the infield.

Clearly, the Twins need to address center field. And you know what? They still need to address the leadoff spot, too, which helps explain why they are so high on Jacoby Ellsbury in their Johan Santana trade talks. Melky Cabrera is a nice player, but I’m not sure he fits this equation quite as well. Here’s their best lineup moving forward:

1. The CF to be named later.
Trade candidates include Ellsbury, Coco Crisp and Cabrera. Free agent candidates include Corey Patterson and Kenny Lofton. In-house candidates include Denard Span and Jason Pridie.

2. Brendan Harris, 2B
Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto are other options for second base, but the Twins sound committed to giving Harris an everyday role because of his bat.

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Michael Cuddyer, RF

5. Justin Morneau, 1B

6. Delmon Young, LF

7. Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe, DH
Kubel would get the bulk of the at-bats in a platoon since most pitchers are righthanded, and Monroe is a career .273/.319/.495 hitter against lefties.

8. Mike Lamb, 3B
His lefthanded bat makes things a lot more interesting. Punto and Harris are options here if the Twins become despondent about Lamb’s defense.

9. Adam Everett, SS

Santana’s market becoming clear

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Yesterday, Hank Steinbrenner the Newark Star Ledger what many people have long suspected: The Yankees aren’t out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes. “We’re still considering it,” Steinbrenner said. “I haven’t closed the door completely on Santana.” The story adds:

A person who has spoken to Minnesota management and asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak for the team said the Yankees told the Twins they would get back into the Santana talks if they can shed the contract of left fielder Hideki Matsui.

I heard the same thing from the Twins this week. I know it’s surprising to see the Yankees concerned about money, but they were hoping to trade Matsui to San Francisco before the Giants signed Aaron Rowand. Just spit-balling here, but the Phillies and Padres are reportedly the two teams trying to sign free agent Geoff Jenkins. Perhaps the team that misses out on Jenkins would be a potential Matsui suitor.

The point is, the Yankees are trying to make a Santana deal happen again. And if you look at the pitching market, it makes sense. Oakland traded Dan Haren to Arizona. That leaves Santana and Erik Bedard as the two top pitchers available on the trade market. Seems unlikely the Orioles would trade Bedard to a division rival, so the Yankees might need to move on Santana, or risk seeing him in a Red Sox uniform for the next seven years.

Another development to follow is the Hiroki Kuroda derby. The Dodgers and Mariners are both trying to sign the Japanese pitcher, and the team that misses out might make a last-ditch effort for Santana. Once Kuroda lands, the Twins should have a crystal clear picture of Santana’s trade market, and I’m guessing they will take their best offer, with the whole thing settled by Christmas.

Twins sign Mike Lamb

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The Twins signed former Houston Astros third baseman Mike Lamb today to a two-year, $6.6 million contract with an option for 2010.

Lamb, 32, batted .289 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI in 124 games for Houston last year. His career batting average is .281, career on-base percentage .339 and career slugging percentage is .427.

With Houston, he played both third base and first base. He was behind Morgan Ensberg at third base and often struggled to get regular playing time.

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said the team told Lamb he will get a chance to be the everyday third baseman, noting, “We don’t like to give anything away.”

Update: La Velle sniffed out the contract details. Lamb will make $3.5 million next year and $3 million in 2009. There are performance bonuses and escalators that could make the contract worth up to $12.5 million over three years.

I spoke to Lamb. He said, “The reality is I’ve been a bench player for 5-6 years now. I realize the Twins are taking a chance on me, and I definitely appreciate it.”