Like I did for the impeding free agents, here is a look at all of the arbitration-eligible players on the 40-man roster. I included their estimated salary figures, and the likelihood of signing a multi-year deal. There are few non-tender candidates in the group, and given their tendency to avoid arbitration by signing their arb-eligibles to multi-year deals, the Twins will probably pay out an estimated $30 million to these players. With a combined $73 million due to Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Denard Span, and Jason Kubel, payroll will be above $100 million without signing any free agents. Whether the front office is very active on the free agent market depends on how much more the Pohlads are willing to spend. The numbers, after the jump (and if I forgot anyone, please feel free to address it in the comments).
- Francisco Liriano: Liriano earned himself a pretty hefty raise in arbitration, surrendering just nine home runs in innings, finishing in the AL in strikeouts and posting a 3.62 ERA. The arbitration judge probably won’t take his peripherals into consideration, but they were outstanding: a 2.66 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, 3.47 K/BB ratio. The Twins will most likely try to lock up Liriano into a long-term deal, as he will be under team control through 2013 and will get very expensive if he continues to pitch like this (and since the long-term prognosis for Tommy John patients is generally excellent, he probably will). There is little chance the Twins will either trade or non-tender Liriano; front-line starters don’t exactly grow on trees and there is no way they could replace his production without spending at least $100 million or raiding the farm system. The Twins will probably sign him for something similar to the 5 years, $80 million Justin Verlander got last year.
- Kevin Slowey: Slowey was injured and mostly disappointing this season, posting an 4.45 ERA, though his peripherals were pretty good: 3.98 FIP, 4.48 xFIP and 4.00 K/BB ratio. This does suggest that Slowey (and fellow fly-ball pitcher Scott Baker) were hurt a bit by having the three worst outfielders in baseball patrolling the outfield, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. Slowey’s overall whiff rate was just 6.2% this season, with his sinker and changeup being his worst pitches (5.3 and 5.4% whiff rates, respectively). As a result, Slowey had one of the highest contact rates in the league, at 86.5%, and a very high out-of-zone contact % of 77.6. The defense isn’t to blame for Slowey simply not missing many bats.
Still, Slowey doesn’t seem like a non-tender candidate. His numbers are pretty good for a third or fourth starter, and given his relatively high ERA and health problems, he shouldn’t earn more than $2 million in arbitration. There aren’t many free agent starters on the market who could provide similar production for such a low price, so it’s unlikely the Twins will just cut him loose. However, given his inability to stay healthy, and with Kyle Gibson waiting in the wings, it’s a safe bet that the Twins will try to move the right-hander.
- J.J Hardy: Hardy, who batted just .268/.320/.394 and missed a lot of time with various wrist injuries, seems like a perfect non-tender candidate. He will earn at least $5.25 million in arbitration, and given the Twins’ budget constraints, it would make some sense to let him go. However, he is a great defender at a position where defense is a premium, posting an 8.1 UZR and 12.8 UZR/150. Is defense alone worth at least $5.25 million? Well, depending on how you look at it, James Jerry was worth either 2.4 fWAR or 1.4 rWAR this year. The market value of a win is about $5 million, so either way, Hardy’s current level of production is worth at least $5 million dollars (closer to $10 million if you believe fangraphs’ numbers). It is possible that he might hit for more power if he could stay healthy. The Twins don’t really have any viable in-house options to replace Hardy at shortstop, with Trevor Plouffe awful both at the plate and with the glove and top infield prospect Miguel Sano several years away from being major league-ready.
Whether the Twins decide to keep Hardy depends on what they plan to do in 2011. If they are looking to build for 2012, then it would make sense to cut Hardy and try to trade Kevin Slowey for an infielder. If they want to field a competitive club, then it would be worth signing Hardy to a multi-year deal and keeping their fingers crossed that his wrist injury is behind him.
- Delmon Young: Hey, look who was average this year! League-average is actually a huge improvement for Young, who has been a decent hitter for a corner outfielder, but a subpar defender. Young batted .298/.333/.498 this year, but was one of the worst outfielders in baseball (-9.7 UZR), making him worth 2.1 fWAR and 0.8 rWAR overall. This would actually be a good time to find a trade partner for Young. He’s coming off of the best season of his career, and though he’s doubled his walk rate and cut his strikeout rate to 14.2%, his plate discipline is still relatively poor and might be due for some regression next year. However, without much flexibility when it comes to spending, and with such a lefty-heavy lineup, the Twins will be inclined to gamble on Young maintaining his current production and won’t part with one of their better right-handed hitters. He will earn at least $2.8 million in arbitration (and for once, he’ll actually be worth it), and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Twins offered him a multiyear deal similar to what they gave Jason Kubel.
- Jose Mijares/Alexi Casilla/Danny Valencia/Brian Duensing: These three aren’t yet arbitration eligible, but they are due for small raises, so I just kind of lumped them all together. They’ll probably make a combined $1.8 million next year.
- Pat Neshek: Neshek was awful last season and probably faces the greatest risk of being non-tendered, but he will be cheap and with so many holes in the bullpen, the Twins will probably bring him back.
- Glen Perkins: Perkins will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career, and though he was mostly awful this season, he won’t be very expensive so the front office will be tempted to keep him around. He isn’t a particularly attractive trade target, so really, unless the Twins decide to non-tender him, they will be stuck paying the former Gopher about $1 million. Most likely, Slowey will be dealt and Perkins will be slotted into the rotation until Gibson is ready.
- Matt Capps: I’m actually inclined to agree with Nick Nelson: cut the Capps. The Twins have budget constraints, and one of the best places to save money is in the bullpen. Capps had a pretty decent season, with a 2.47 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 3.47 K/BB ratio, but he also converted 42 of his 48 save opportunities and is therefore going to be very expensive in arbitration (somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-7 million). Capps doesn’t strike out that many batters (his career K/9 rate is just 6.97), so the Twins would be better off cutting him and pursuing one of the many, many, many power arms available on the free agent market. However, since they will probably lose about half of their bullpen to free agency, and they did trade their top prospect to get him in the first place, the Twins will likely be reluctant to non-tender Capps. They could, and should, re-sign him to a 2 year, $7 million deal.