Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nolasco, Hughes and the Twins payroll

Ricky Nolasco will wear his accustomed No. 47
with the Twins -- a number used in the past by
Francisco Liriano, Corey Koskie and Jack Morris.
The Twins are investing at least $73 million in a pair of free agent pitchers. That's a considerable amount of money being sunk into a high attrition rate.

Ricky Nolasco, now officially a Minnesota Twin, is a soon-to-be 31-year-old — birthday in the middle of the month — with more then 1,300 major league innings on his resume.

Major league pitching is unnatural. The human arm is not engineered to hurl such a projectile that many times with that much force. To pitch is to damage the arm.

This is why four-year contracts for veteran pitchers are, as a rule, financial madness. Nolasco got four years, with an option for a fifth year.

Phil Hughes is younger (27, turns 28 in June) but with a lesser durability history. His three-year contract, not yet official, is also risky business.

In the abstract, these contracts look like mistakes. In the reality of the Twins, they are necessary overpays — and even if the commitments prove regrettable, they are unlikely to actually harm the organization.

Nolasco's contract ($49 million guaranteed) and Hughes' ($24 million) puts the current projected 2014 payroll somewhere around $83 million. That leaves plenty of room — more than $15 million — in the 2014 budget. After next season such veterans as Josh Willingham ($7 million), Kevin Correia ($5.5 million) and Ryan Doumit ($3.5 million) come off the payroll, which figures to open lineup spots for the touted farm system to fill cheaply.

The burden of these free agent deals is only a problem if it keeps the Twins from adding or retaining more valuable talent. That seems unlikely. There's still room in the budget now, and both contracts will expire before the Miguel Sano-Byron Buxton-Oswaldo Arcia-Josmil Pinto-Alex Meyer etc. wave of talent reaches free agency.

Nolasco and Hughes are, to be sure, nobody's idea of aces. Drop Nolasco on the Detroit roster, and he'd be surplus inventory. For the Twins, he's likely their Opening Day starter. Overpaid, perhaps, but valuable — and neither a burden nor a roadblock.

1 comment:

  1. And that is still only 20M of the 30M TV revenue coming the Twins' way