Friday, January 21, 2011

Punting Nick Punto and payroll speculation

A fare-thee-well to No. 8
UPDATE: Punto signed today with the Cardinals.

It's never over 'til it's over, but as Joe Christensen reported this morning, it certainly appears that the Twins have broken up with Nick Punto.

It's been fairly obvious for a while. Punto is on the wrong side of 30; the front office wants Alexi Casilla to get a clean shot at shortstop/second base and has reason to believe that if Punto's around, Casilla won't get that shot; and Matt Tolbert -- like Punto a switch-hitting multi-position scrappy infielder -- is out of options.

None of that is new information. The part of the report that caught my attention was this almost throwaway sentence:

Insiders say Carl Pavano's contract actually pushed them over budget, requiring special approval from CEO Jim Pohlad.

The Twins have been quite conservative about their offseason budgets over the years. Some organizations will go over their budget in the winter with the plan to deal off some contract(s) before the season starts. The Twins typically don't do that.

Presumably Pohlad's OK means the Twins are free to keep all six starters on hand all season if they desire. Or perhaps his OK merely means Bill Smith and Co. have until the season begins and they have to actually start paying the players to get the payroll down to their budget.

If they have to get the payroll down before April, it should be doable by trading one of the starters.

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