While Twins Cut Player Salaries, Division Rival Royals are Spending

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, the Kansas City Royals signed two more heavy hitter free agents today, OF Hunter Renfroe (2 YRS/$13M) and SP Michael Wacha (2 YRS/$32M). It’s the sixth free agent the Royals have signed this offseason. The total amount spent for KC so far: $105 million.

Kansas City Royals Offseason Spending Spree

After being outspent by the Minnesota Twins by around $60 million in 2023, the Royals are now projected to spend within about $20 million of the Twins in 2024. And that’s before Minnesota makes many of their cost-saving roster changes.

Remember, Derek Falvey announced that the Twins are hoping to make payroll cuts this offseason and, outside of losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency, those have yet to happen. Max Kepler ($10 million), Jorge Polanco ($10.5 million), Christian Vazquez ($10 million) and Kyle Farmer (est. $6.2 million) are all still on the roster.

Related: Twins Aren’t the Only MLB Team Cutting Payroll and Blaming TV Revenue

MLB Insider Jon Heyman says Kansas City is probably done in free agency, for the most part, but still plan to be active in the trade market, etc. In other words, they may not be done. So it’s possible they finish very close to what the Twins are spending in 2024.

Does that guarantee the Royals will win more games? Absolutely not, and the projections still say they probably won’t. But what it does indicate is this. Other teams in the AL Central see Minnesota’s cost-saving proclamation as an opportunity to jump up and try to steal a weak division.

Why are the Minnesota Twins cutting payroll then?

minnesota twins kansas city royals projected player payroll salary 2024 2023 al central division
Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Which, as I’ve written about before, invites questions about why Derek Falvey and Twins decision-makers made their payroll cutting plans public knowledge in the first place. But as the offseason plays out… I see their reasoning unfolding right before our eyes.

The Pohlads realized, early on this offseason, that the American League Central’s biggest annual spenders, the Chicago White Sox, were going into rebuild mode for this offseason and into next summer.

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The White Sox had $175 million in player salaries on their books in 2023 (ended up being $162 million after selling some assets at the trade deadline). As of Friday afternoon, they are currently projected by Spotrac.com to spend just $118 million in player payroll in 2024. That’s a $57 million difference.

Pohlads aren’t interested in being AL Central big spenders

Well, the Pohlads saw an opportunity in their division rival ramping things down. But unlike the opening you and I might have seen — step on the gas and fully consume one of the weakest divisions in baseball — they saw it as a chance for the Twins to remain competitive, probably make the playoffs AND still save a bunch of money.

They’re probably right too, because they are heavy favorites to win the AL Central, projected to win the division by five or more games, according to FanGraphs.

As of now, it almost makes you wonder if AL Central owners are colluding to keep costs down. If the Twins can clear $25-$30 million in salary like they are hoping, then all five teams in the division will have dangerously similar payroll balance sheets for 2024. If I had to guess, I’d say they all end up right around $125-$130 million each.

Team’24 Projected’23 Total Salary’23 Adj. Salary
Minnesota Twins$147.3 million$165.5 million$156.1 million
Cleveland Guardians$129.0 million$113.2 million$91.9 million
Kansas City Royals$126.1 million$109.3 million$96.1 million
Chicago White Sox$117.6 million$175.8 million$162.9 million
Detroit Tigers$112.3 million$131.4 million$121.5 million

Reckless Speculation: Is it possible that Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the Chicago Bulls, is sick of spending $10’s of millions more than the Twins, just to lose more division crowns than he wins?

Maybe he finally went to the Pohlads and offered a truce to keep payroll down, in order to help competitive balance and stop what was starting to be an AL Central arms race? Who knows… I’m not an insider.

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