Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When a mid-market payroll is too much

One of my pet theories about the Twins' nice run of division titles in their final decade or so in the Metrodome is that the payroll restrictions laid on Terry Ryan and the front office forced them to skew young and discard players as they got expensive -- and before they went into their decline phase.

This came to mind yesterday during one of the periodic Twitter wars about the "cheap" Twins.

As best I can tell -- baseball team financials being rather obscured -- the Twins rank 22nd in the majors in revenue and 18th in payroll. They spend about 48 percent of their revenue (as estimated by Forbes) on players, which is basically in line with the union's expectations. They may not be spending it particularly effectively or wisely, but they are spending what ought to be expected.

But consider the Trevor Plouffe saga. Were the Twins still hewing to their Metrodome budget -- and essentially trying to be bottom-five in payroll on a regular basis rather than in the middle -- I don't believe they would be retaining Plouffe and converting Miguel Sano to the outfield. 

The small budget would have encouraged, if not forced, the front office to move Plouffe out and go with Sano at third -- which would have the domino effect of creating an outfield slot for a Max Kepler or Oswaldo Arcia, neither of whom has a real opening available at this point.

And it's possible that a 2016 alignment with Sano at third and an outfield of Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and either Kepler or Arcia would be a more productive lineup than one with Plouffe, Rosario, Buxton and Sano. I'm quite certain that it would be in a year or so. 

But the Twins can afford the known commodity that Plouffe represents, and so they are sticking with him.

The Metrodome era Twins would have made rotation spots for Jose Berrios and Trevor May, not blocked them with veterans. 

The problem with their Target Field payroll isn't that it's too low. It's that the front office hasn't developed the self-discipline to make by choice the moves the Metrodome limitations forced on them.

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