For years, the Pohlad family has made comments about their reluctance to spend money on the Minnesota Twins. As much as any owner would like to claim to be a fan of the team, the overriding reality is that their property is still an asset and they run a business. At some point, income and expenses have to correlate.
There was a new face on stage at the uniform unveiling. Joe Pohlad spoke alongside twin president Dave St. Peter, not his uncle Jim. There was no announcement that day, but it seemed odd that Jim, known as the visible owner for at least a decade, wasn’t there. Not long after, it was reported that Joe would take over that position and a change was made.
Obviously, the question for fans is what can happen to the dollars spent on the team. While Jim remains heavily involved and Joe has his own personality that seems to be becoming more public, the family still retains the asset that is the twins. On the day the Twins rebranded and launched jerseys, urging fans to spend over $300 each, they also have to commit to attracting talent alongside their superstar Byron Buxton.
Last season, opening-day payroll was just under $137 million. $35.1 million of that was handed to Carlos Correa for a three-year contract, although everyone knew he would be out after the first year. Speaking to a front office source when Trevor Story or others were involved, it was remarked that a $150 million payroll would never seem feasible. This is where Minnesota should start to lose fan confidence.
While it’s not fair to say the team won’t be spending money after setting franchise records in this regard in recent years, having an arbitrary break point that just falls in line or below the league average is not practical. Certainly there are teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Guardians that can do more with less. They have exceptional development, analysis and scouting processes that help extract value from lower costs. While the twins have made significant strides in this regard, they just aren’t there yet.
At the start of 2022, the twins landed on a $15 million annual salary for Buxton. That’s peanuts for a player of his caliber, even with health issues, and their lack of availability is the only reason they could pull it off. Unfortunately, unless there is substantial work to complement its capabilities, the entire deal will be for nothing. It’s not so much that there’s a magic number to spend, but the representative talent that can be acquired with about an additional $20 million is significant for a mid-tier team like Minnesota.
Reaching $160 million in 2023 would be a leap for the front office. This would mean an annual increase of almost 17%. Alongside the likes of minimum salary players like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda and finally Royce Lewis, that should be a no-brainer. Being able to nurture your pipeline talent with major league help is how this should work, and books as clean as they progress are now making as good a time as any .
Despite everything Rob Manfred has been trying to sell fans during the lockout, owning a baseball team is an incredibly profitable endeavor. Revenue is only increasing across the sport, but on a team basis, Minnesota will only jump in wins alone. For a team that has had its worst home attendance since the days of the Metrodome, trying to save cents while costing dollars is no longer a viable avenue.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be exactly $160 million when the Twins open their 2023 season, but neither can the payroll be anywhere near $140 million.