Even if the Twins start 2008 with Santana on the roster (as I hope they will), and pick up a couple of sensibly priced veterans (Marcus Giles, please!), and give the arbitration eligible folks healthy raises, they'll still have a significant amount of money to spend to reach their projected payroll of about $78 million. With so much public money going to that lucrative new stadium, it would be a PR disaster to leave $10-12 million on the table. So whatever shall they do with it? The mind swims with the possibilities....
1. Sign a veteran pitcher
We know Gardie would love to have another one. Rather than put ourselves through another spring of Ponson/Ortiz style mediocrity, why not go out and get the best guy available? That's right, our very own Carlos Silva. Of all the pitchers out there, he's the one most likely to be steady and effective. Plus, he's loved in the clubhouse, and the fans would have even more reassurance that the team is capable of re-signing its players. He's looking for something like $10 million/year for 4 years. Why not? He wouldn't be a Twin for more than one year of the contract. His value would be sky-high when starters begin to hit the DL this summer - the Twins should be able to dump him for some high-level prospects, even a starter if the right deal comes along. After all, he wouldn't just be a rent-a-player, but a rotation staple through 2011 for the lucky team that lands him. This would also give Boof a little more time to establish himself as a 7+ inning pitcher. If the Twins contend, they could keep him for 2008, then trade him after the season, again for a pretty good return.
2. Give Santana a signing bonus
With what Santana was rumored to be asking for to waive his no-trade clause, it could be tough even to get him to accept $21 million a year as I have proposed. He might be more inclined to sign an extension if the contract included a bonus which would make him the league's highest-paid pitcher beginning in 2008.
3. Sign a veteran bat
Since the Delmon Young trade, I've been pretty content with the idea of Kubel being the everyday DH, at least against right-handers. But if the Twins fill out their roster as I hope they will, they'll wind up with a bench of Redmond, Morales, Tyner, Punto, and Casilla. That doesn't really leave a fearsome pinch-hitter, or a strong backup for Morneau. If the Twins were to sign someone like Tony Clark, they'd have a capable backup for 1B, a DH to face lefties, and a veteran presence on the bench. Casilla could then get tons of playing time at Rochester until the Twins are ready to shake things up. Or they could unload Punto.
4. Save it for a mid-season trade
The Twins would have room to trade for a veteran or two to fill whatever they find to be their most glaring needs through the first 50-80 games of the season.
5. Sock it away for 2009
Declare that the team is adequately constructed to compete in '08, but that the surplus money will be added to the payroll in '09. Drop the money in Pohlad's highest-interest bond fund, and pull it out in a year to bring the 2009 payroll up to $90+ million.
6. Contribute it to the stadium costs
If anything could undo Pohlad's reputation and legacy as a miser, this would be it. Hey, even the Grinch found his heart in the end, right?
Did I miss anything?
Next: My strategy for making the Twins successful in 2008 & 2009.
PS: How about those Vikings? Peterson got nowhere (didn't think that was possible), and they still won easily. Love that easy schedule! Keep it up fellas....