How can they do that? First, it's necessary to look at how much money the team is likely to spend. Last season, the Twins spent close to $115MM on their payroll, which was obviously a franchise record. Team owner Jim Pohlad said earlier this week in an interview with the Star Tribune's Lavelle E. Neal that the team's payroll "is going to come down naturally because it exceeded where we wanted it, but it's not going to be slashed." Reading between the lines, that would seem to suggest that the payroll will fall in the neighborhood of $105MM-$108MM. I'll just peg the Twins expected payroll at $106.5MM for the sake of a set budget.
Now, let's take a look at how much money the Twins will have to spend and where they may need to upgrade. Here's a look at the team's current salary obligations for 2012:
Casilla, Liriano, Slowey, Perkins and Mijares are all arbitration eligible, and their salaries for 2012 represent my best guess at what they would get through the arbitration process. Joe Nathan will be bought out for $2MM, which is the entire sum of the "buyouts" area, because it's either that or pay him $12.5MM for 2012. They'll try to bring him back, but for much cheaper.
Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps are all free agents, and I'm assuming the Twins will non-tender Jason Repko and Phil Dumatrait rather than keep them on the roster. Kubel is likely to qualify as Type-B free agent, while Cuddyer and Capps look likely to be Type A's. Capps is almost certainly not going to get an arbitration offer if he's a Type-A, because he's coming off an average season and he made $7.5MM last year. He'll be lucky to get that over two years on the open market, so an arbitration offer would result in Capps accepting and the team paying him close to $10MM for one year. Cuddyer, on the other hand, seems like a lock to get offered arbitration because of how much the Twins organization loves him. Cuddyer's value is higher than a one-year, $12MM or so contract, as he's likely going to sign for multiple years. I guessed that he would sign for 3 years/$30MM a few weeks ago. I think Cuddyer would easily decline arbitration and hope to sign a long-term deal.
Here's how the depth chart would look with those 17 players:
C: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Alexi Casilla
SS: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
3B: Danny Valencia
OF: Chris Parmelee, Denard Span, Ben Revere
SP: Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey
MR: Brian Duensing, Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins
With about $28MM to spend, the Twins will need to upgrade multiple positions. If we are to assume the Twins will once again go with a 12-man pitching staff, then the team would need 3 more relievers, one closer, two infielders, and two outfielders. Of course, if the team decides to bring back Jim Thome again, then the Twins would only sign one infielder or one outfielder. In Part II, I'll take a look at the players the team should target. But keep in mind the team needs to fill 8 positions with $28MM, and at least 2 of those players will need to be starting caliber players.
Part II is now finished. It can be found here.