SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Minnesota Twins 2024 payroll numbers are in, and they’re grim.
Though no numbers are official, team sources suggested Tuesday the Twins could reduce payroll from last year’s record high down to the $125-140 million range. The Twins spent $154 million on payroll in 2023, according to Cot’s Contracts.
After a month of hinting cuts could be coming, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey wouldn’t comment on a specific amount during Tuesday’s GM meetings.
But following the expiration of a Bally TV deal that netted them $54.8 million last season, Falvey acknowledged the team’s payroll wouldn’t be nearly as high in 2024 as it was last season, when the Twins won the American League Central and clinched their first postseason series win since 2002.
Bolstered by a young core and a strong starting rotation, Falvey thinks the Twins are well-positioned as they head into the offseason. Still, as Falvey looks to supplement the team’s talented roster, sources suggest the team’s payroll could be trimmed by up to $29 million from a year ago.
“We’ve pushed our payroll to heights that we had never pushed it before with the support, certainly, of ownership,” Falvey said. “We know there is some natural ebb and flow to that. Will it be where it was last year? I don’t expect that. I expect it less than that. Some of that may come more organically.”
The numbers are sobering. How they could impact the pursuit of free agents, including team MVP and pitcher of the year Sonny Gray, remains to be seen. But none of the answers appears to be easy.
The Twins aren’t alone in this dilemma, as more than a dozen other clubs around the league are still trying to determine what to do after their deals with Bally Sports and its bankrupt parent company, Diamond Sports Group, expired at the end of the regular season.
As of Tuesday, the Twins still aren’t certain where their games will be broadcast in 2024, whether a short-term deal with Bally or another provider is a possibility, or whether the team itself handles the product.
But the reality of the situation certainly saps some of the momentum from a franchise looking to capitalize on a strong end to the 2023 season.
After playing .500 baseball for their first 90 games, the Twins soared in the second half and cruised to their first division title since 2020. Then they ended a 19-year-old, 18-game postseason losing streak and clinched an AL wild card series victory over the Toronto Blue Jays before losing in the next round to the Houston Astros.
As they look to follow up on their successful campaign, the Twins head into the season with a strong starting rotation, a good bullpen and a solid group of position players. How they can improve upon a group that could lose Gray, a top-3 finalist for the AL Cy Young award, is to be determined.
“If we’ve established one thing about our past it’s that we’re going to seek creative ways to improve the roster,” Falvey said. “We do feel we walk into this offseason maybe with a better overall pitching group than we’ve walked into any of our recent offseasons. If we can be creative in ways to mix and match some pieces around the roster … I don’t have a specific single path for this team to go and that’s a good thing because it allows us to, when we talk with other clubs, we say, ‘Here’s our current situation. If you guys see fits with us, that might match what you’re trying to do, and there’s some overlap, let us know’ and then we’ll go explore from there. And that’s really where we are at this stage.”
As the roster is currently constructed, the team’s payroll would sit around $120 million to $125 million. There’s been speculation that the Twins could try to trade veteran infielder Jorge Polanco, who’s set to earn $10.5 million, or outfielder Max Kepler, who will earn $10 million. The Twins also will explore deals for utility man/shortstop Kyle Farmer, who should earn more than $6 million after arbitration.
By reallocating some of those resources, the Twins could create the financial flexibility necessary to add another starting pitcher to a rotation featuring Pablo López, Chris Paddack, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober and Louie Varland. Or, the Twins could look to acquire a right-handed hitting first baseman or outfielder to pair with Alex Kirilloff, or to bolster a left-handed-hitting-heavy outfield.
Some of the dropoff from last year’s payroll will occur naturally as the Twins are shedding the salaries of free agents Joey Gallo, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Michael A. Taylor, Donovan Solano, Emilio Pagán and Dallas Keuchel. Many of those players are being replaced by a talented young group featuring Matt Wallner, Edouard Julien and Royce Lewis. The Twins could look to add additional rookies like Austin Martin and Brooks Lee, among others, to the mix.
But will it be enough to get them over the hump? For his part, Falvey is upbeat about how the team is already positioned as it looks to improve.
“Where we felt we were and some of those teams that proceeded further than we did, we don’t see as big of a gap,” Falvey said. “We think Pablo lines up with anybody at the top. We think we have some premium guys in the middle of the order that can go stack up with any of these guys too. So I think that when we look at that, that gives us a lot of optimism. And we just saw rookies and young players contribute in a really meaningful way in playoff games that hopefully, they’ll they’ll build off of that.”
(Top photo of Derek Falvey: David Berding / Getty Images)