Minnesota has long been one of MLB’s most successful “small-market” or “small-payroll” teams, making the playoffs five times from 2002-2009 despite consistently ranking among the bottom third in money spent.
In their final two Metrodome seasons–2008 and 2009–the Twins won 87 and 88 games, made it to the postseason once and narrowly missed a second trip by losing a one-game playoff, and did so with payrolls of $57 million and $65 million that ranked 25th and 24th in MLB.
That all changed this season, as the Twins moved into Target Field and increased their payroll to $101 million, which ranked 10th in MLB and set a franchise record by over $25 million. And according to team president Dave St. Peter, thanks to better-than-expected revenue from the new ballpark the Twins are planning to up their payroll even further in 2011:
The payroll is going to go up. We don’t take it for granted. We’re all tremendously appreciative of the support but we also know we need to keep moving forward. We need to keep moving forward on the field, and frankly, we need to keep doing everything possible to make Target Field the best ballpark it can be.
Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the players under team control for 2011 figure to cost about $105 million and the Twins also have plenty of holes to fill, so even another bump in payroll won’t suddenly give general manager Bill Smith and company much money to throw around. However, a bump to, say, $115 million would put them in some rarefied company, as only the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Tigers had Opening Day payrolls that high in 2010.
Not only have the Twins ceased being one of the small-payroll teams, they’re on the verge of becoming one of the big-payroll teams. As a lifelong Twins fan that’s going to take some getting used to.