Why Cheap = Smart in 2013


I’m going to take a short break from my Twins projections to address a common complaint I’ve been seeing on Twitter about the Twins’ approach to 2013. A lot of people seem to want the Twins to bring in another, bigger name free agent starting pitcher or two and that the reason they aren’t is that they are cheap, having decreased payroll $20 million from last season. They also claim that spending more to improve in 2013 doesn’t hurt the rebuilding process. While it’s understandable that fans don’t want a repeat of the past two seasons and are growing impatient with all the losing, I’m going to attempt to point out why that is flawed thinking.

First, adding another available arm isn’t going to make the 2013 team good enough to compete with Detroit, or most likely even Chicago or Cleveland, and maybe even Kansas City. While it might be a bit more pleasant for the fans to watch a 75 to 80 win team than a 65 to 70 win team, in the grand scheme of things neither team makes the playoffs.

Second, money is a finite resource that can be saved and used later. Just because the Twins CAN spend $100 million a year on payroll doesn’t mean they HAVE to spend $100 million EVERY year. In fact, it’s a perfectly reasonable strategy to save money in down years in order to have more money to spend on years where your team is better. In other words, by spending $80 million this year, the Twins then have $120 million to spend next year and still be at that $100 per year mark. That’s a bit oversimplified, but gets to the general point. And who wouldn’t rather have an extra $20 million to make an already good team better rather than to make a bad team mediocre? The Marlins have taken this approach to the extreme, but it’s hard to argue with two World Series titles in their brief history.

Third, more free agent signings can block development of younger pitchers. The Twins already have Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelphry in place. Kyle Gibson will need a regular rotation spot at some point. Liam Hendriks deserves another shot to show whether his minor league numbers were a fluke. Pedro Hernandez and BJ Hermsen are at the point where they will need to get a look at the Major League level for the Twins to see what they have. And I really believe the Twins would like to get Alex Meyer and maybe even Trevor May a few starts this year. Meyer is highly drafter college pitcher and those guys regularly make the jump to the Majors after less than two full minor league seasons. May is 23 and with a good season could easily prime himself for an August or September call up. Finally Nick Blackburn, Cole DeVries and Sam Deduno are all still around. The point is that there are already too many guys competing for time in the rotation. And signing any decent free agent would require a multi-year commitment. That rotation mix looks even more crowded in 2014 as Meyer, May and Hermsen should be competing for starting roles out of spring training, Alex Wimmers will hopefully be back in the mix, and the very strong crop of 2012 college pitcher draftees may start reaching the majors.

The Kevin Correia signing seems like a mistake based on all the reasons above and I really believe that was TR’s attempt to show the fans he was trying to do something to improve in 2013. If so, it seems destined to blow up in his face as Correia has the look of a guy with very little chance to provide any value.

I think a big part of the reason people are calling for minor improvements in 2013 is that they don’t see the potential of the 2014 team and assume contention is years off into the future. I’ll leave that for another column, but it’s my belief that 2013 is the year to let things shake out. We should have a much better gauge of what this team needs moving forward by next offseason and I would rather have that be the time the Twins make their splurge in free agency.