It’s nearing the end of December. The free agent market has mostly passed by, with the Minnesota Twins staying mostly quiet while teams across baseball are spending more than ever before. It’s incredibly frustrating.
It does leave a Twins fan to wonder: Are Twins fans cursed in MLB spending purgatory as we watch major market teams like New York and Los Angeles continually sign away top-level talent such as Carlos Correa? Or are the Twins just a thrifty-spending MLB team, content to try to field a competitive, but never championship-level, team? What’s the real story here?
Do the Minnesota Twins have an underspending problem or does the MLB have an overspending problem?
The competitive balance tax (also known as the luxury tax), was supposed to keep MLB teams from overspending on payroll, but thus far, it hasn’t worked. We’ve seen the major-market teams willingly blow by the payroll mark and incur the penalty for the sake of fielding a World Series-caliber team. It’s working pretty well too.
Spending big on your payroll doesn’t assure a World Series title, but a certain level of spending can definitely get you a better seat at the table. Four out of the five teams spending over the luxury tax made the playoffs in 2022.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say the CBT favors big market teams, putting small and mid-market teams behind the 8-ball as those major market annual revenues push around $500 million vs the $250 million of mid-market teams.
Some teams seem content to underspend on payroll to keep a healthy bottom line, but a poor winning percentage all the same. While that’s not the case for the Twins, they perennially place themselves around the league average, floating from 14-22 in yearly payroll numbers.
The Minnesota Twins are currently the 18th-most valuable franchise in MLB, so their spending makes sense, but the results have been just as average. The team has won eight American League Central Division titles and made the playoffs as a Wild Card once since 2002, but we can’t overlook that the team hasn’t won a playoff game since 2004.
It also can’t go without mentioning the team did show an operating profit of $10 million last year in revenue and have shown a consistent profit annually (with the COVID year excluded). It’s clear that business operations of the Twins have been successful but the amount of money a professional sports team should pocket or spend on winning is quite debatable.
It’s unrealistic for the Twins to be among the Top 5 spenders in the league, but it’s very realistic to think a roster could be assembled that could push the Twins into a legitimate contender once every 5-7 years. Spending should be a part of that.
A new Target Field ballpark in 2010 brought promises of increased spending, but they haven’t come to fruition and apathy may be starting to set in. Average attendance was down for 2022 to an all-time low at Target Field, putting aside the COVID season. So once again, the question is: do the Twins have a spending problem or does the MLB have a spending problem?
The unfortunate and hard answer is yes, to both. MLB could certainly competitively balance itself with a salary cap similar to the NHL or NFL. Studies have shown they are more effective at balancing competitiveness, and while MLB players feel it would stunt top end salaries, MLB contends teams just aren’t spending up to their abilities. The MLB may have a point.
Setting an annual salary floor in which teams must meet makes sense and could level the playing field significantly. If competitive balance is the goal, this writer feels changes must be made by all, not just by a few teams.
Until that happens, the Minnesota Twins brass will likely continue to be content in spending in the middle, leaving us Twins fans spinning in ever-frustrating MLB purgatory, holding on to hope. Instead, the Twins once again are looking for ways to flounder and move mid-level talent for a chip and a chance at chair at the MLB playoff table