SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Derek Falvey assessed the Twins roster at the start of the offseason, he was encouraged by the lack of significant roster holes.
One reason why a more complete roster is more important this year, particularly compared with some recent winters, is the Twins won't have the same level of payroll flexibility to make major additions to their roster.
The Twins carried a club-record payroll above $156 million during the 2023 season, ranking around league average according to FanGraphs, and all indications are the payroll will drop. They no longer have a TV contract with Diamond Sports Group, the parent company of Bally Sports North, which netted the team $54.8 million this year.
"We've pushed our payroll to heights that we had never pushed it before with the support, certainly, of ownership. We know there is some natural ebb and flow to that," Falvey said Tuesday from the annual General Managers Meetings. "Will it be where it was last year? I don't expect that. I expect it less than that."
Falvey emphasized there isn't a set number in the budget because it can evolve throughout an offseason — Carlos Correa's availability changed some plans two years ago — but the Twins appear more likely to search for complementary players than any dives for a splashy free-agent signing.
The Twins already have about $125 million committed toward next year's roster, which could be near the top of their preferred range. They have salaries of at least $10 million tied into Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Christian Vázquez. Kepler, a free agent after the 2024 season, and Polanco, from a surplus area on the roster, will generate interest in trade talks.
The current payroll figure doesn't include the one-year, $20.325 million qualifying offer the Twins extended to Sonny Gray on Monday, a formality for top free agents. Gray, a finalist for the American League Cy Young award, is expected to decline the qualifying offer by Nov. 14 in search of a larger contract on the free-agent market.
"We've really pushed our payroll in the last couple of years to levels that certainly the Twins haven't seen before and, ultimately, invested heavily," Falvey told the Star Tribune. "But when you look at our team right now, we have some big-dollar players already on it. Teams don't always carry unlimited numbers of those players. You have to recognize that."
The Twins haven't ruled out pursuing Gray in free agency, but it seems unlikely they will be atop a bidding war for one of the best free-agent pitchers.
There are some natural reasons, Falvey said, why their payroll will drop. They will give some playing time opportunities to younger players instead of veterans who come with a higher salary. Royce Lewis, Matt Wallner and Edouard Julien solidified regular playing time with strong rookie seasons. Class AAA infielder Brooks Lee, first baseman Yunior Severino, utilityman Austin Martin and starting pitcher David Festa will likely be counted upon to provide depth next year.
"Some offseasons prior, we walked in with a lot more openings in the starting rotation, a lot more openings in the bullpen, a lot more openings across the diamond," Falvey said. "We don't feel that way. We feel there is a good core right here that we can continue to build with."
The Twins announced last week they are still assessing their broadcasting options for next season. MLB took over the TV broadcasts for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks during the middle of the year and sold 18,000 digital subscriptions to watch Padres games, commissioner Rob Manfred told a New York Post podcast, which accounts for about $1.35 million in revenue to go along with cable, satellite and advertising fees.
Despite some expected limitations on the payroll, it's an important offseason for a Twins team that just won its first postseason series in 21 years.
"With where our team is right now, I say this from time to time, the vast majority of our production is going to come from what's already on it," Falvey said. "If we can round it out and add some pieces here and there, that will be our focus."