Patrick Reusse
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The Cincinnati Reds opened the 2018 season with a payroll of $101.7 million and that placed them at No. 21 among 30 teams. Let’s put the Twins there, the top of the bottom third, for 2019.

The Twins’ contract obligations are $24.5 million at the moment, meaning Derek Falvey and his strategists have $75 million to distribute between now and Opening Day 2019.

And if they are confused as to whether they should spend in a long-shot search for competitiveness, or sit on it and kick off a period of official tanking as did Houston before putting this machine together, is anybody’s guess, including theirs.

This team is already in a bad place with the sports consumers in this overserved market, and to give up on March 28 (rather than the end of July) would insure an attendance disaster for the 10th season at Target Field.

Here’s the problem: How does Falvey Baseball College know where to spend the money, other than addressing the perpetual need for pitching?

The wasted seasons of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton did more than destroy 2018. They made it close to impossible to plan for the immediate future.

Do the Twins write down Sano at third and Buxton in center and if they bust, then another season’s lost? Or do they spend on options?

Also: There’s an opening at second base, and that’s probably where Jorge Polanco belongs, but Nick Gordon couldn’t hit in Class AAA and Royce Lewis’ ETA is 2021. Spend big on a middle infielder?

First base is also vacant with Joe Mauer walking away. Move Sano, or keep him at third, put Tyler Austin play first, and set a world record for strikeouts on the corners of the infield?

Then, there’s Max Kepler and his .224 average. Do you write him down in bold ink in right field one more time?

Falvey fired Paul Molitor and is searching for a manager, but there is a much bigger issue this winter:

A lineup with Eddie Rosario in left and either vague or no answers in center, right, catcher, first, second, shortstop and third.

Spend and probably lose; don’t spend and definitely lose. Joseph Heller called that “Catch-22.”

Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.

PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK

Three easy ways to improve the Twins’ status with fans:

1. Take $2 off the price of every beer sold at Target Field. No reason for a beer to be $9.25 and higher.

2. Bring back Eduardo Escobar with a three-year, no-trade contract. They need him.

3. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine speak baseball rather than meaningless business jargon when explaining decisions.