The Minnesota Twins, on death’s doorstop just a few years ago, will spend more on player salaries this upcoming season than the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball’s attendance leader in 2009. After signing Orlando Hudson, the Twins’ payroll projects to be $96 million on opening day, and that number doesn’t account for whatever amount will be added to Joe Mauer‘s 2010 take, currently slated for $12.5 million. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that Mauer’s annual salary will increase by $10 million or more, which would mean a payroll of over $106 million in 2010.
In 2000, the Twins’ payroll was $15,700,000. A decade later, it will have increased by over $90 million. To put that number in perspective, the Yankees’ payroll has increased by about $103 million over that span. It’s a strange day, indeed, in which the Twins are in the Yankees’ company when it comes to payroll increases. So what does the Orlando Hudson signing mean?
In 2010, the Hudson signing cements the Twins as favorites to repeat as AL Central champions. Adding a 2.0-2.5 win player is never a bad thing, but it’s even nicer when that player bumps an incumbent who goes a long way toward putting the R in WAR. Given that the Twins have either won or lost the division by a single game three of the last four years, it’s not hard to see that a win here and there can make all the difference. This offseason’s been delightful for the Twins, who retained Carl Pavano and added J.J. Hardy* and Jim Thome along with Hudson. The only real fly in the ointment is Delmon Young. While I think there’s a strong case to be made for not giving up on the guy, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome really need to be playing every day against righties unless Young can turn the corner. How long the team will sacrifice Kubel/Thome plate appearances to give Young a chance will be interesting to watch.
On the broader, organizational level, the move shows we’re not dealing with the same old Twins. A few weeks ago, I wrote that the Twins might be well on their way to becoming the American League’s St. Louis Cardinals. Look where we are today: sparkling stadium? Check. Best player in the league? Check. Organizational stability? Check. The willingness and wherewithal to capitalize on an undervalued player? Check. The AL Central is the Twins’ for the taking in 2010, and that doesn’t look to change any time soon. For a state devastated by sports catasters and disastrophies (yes, that’s where we’re at), the Twins are a crucial beacon of hope. With a solid major league core, some interesting hitting prospects, and the system’s never-ending supply of strike-throwers, the Twins are in a good spot.
And you know what? One of these years, they’ll knock off the Yankees. As we all know, getting to the tournament is more important than being the best team in it. And the Twins might just be in as good a position as any team in baseball to make the tournament with regularity over the next several years.