Twins GM has permission to spend more money, but should he use it?

Dec 6, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan (right) is seated next to anchor Ken Rosenthal while interviewed on the MLB Network during the Major League Baseball winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

After offseason trades and free-agent signings, the Twins’ 40-man roster is full and the payroll sits at around $80 million.

General manager Terry Ryan, who constructed last year’s club at around $94 million last season, has permission to spend more money, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

“There’s definitely payroll flexibility,” owner Jim Pohlad said.

Ryan may indeed use some of the available spending money and add one more arm to the mix.

The Twins have been in pursuit of free-agent left-hander Joe Saunders. According to Wolfson, the team prefers to sign Saunders to a one-year deal, but is willing to ink a two-year deal.

With plenty of available arms to compete for a spot in the starting rotation—the club’s biggest glaring need—one would think the money-conscious franchise would be content to save available resources for 2014 and beyond.

Let’s face it, every dollar does count for this team.

Free-agent pitchers are expensive, as noted by Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. A bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher is unfortunately going at a rate of $4 to $6 million a year in this free-agent market. Minnesota already plucked Mike Pelfrey ($5.7 million) and Kevin Correia ($4 million).

$4 or $6 million is not going to stunt a team all that much, but when you sign two, three, or four of the same type of players to the same type of deal, $14 or $18 million could make a big difference in how the team approaches re-signing players and signing higher-end free-agents next year, or the year after. A two-year deal—Correia and possibly Saunders—complicates it even more.

The best case scenario for these guys are if they become serviceable pitchers until a few of the club’s starting pitcher prospects are ready. Pitchers Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios, Trevor May and Alex Meyer are close to major league ready, and some could be available as early as late in the season or the next year.

It’s not as if the starting pitchers will turn the team around, either. The middle infield has been playing musical chairs since Christian Guzman and Luis Rivas. Chris Parmelee will get plenty of opportunity at right field, but he is essentially playing out of position. Center field is unproven, since the team traded Denard Span and Ben Revere. Trevor Plouffe has yet to establish himself as the everyday third baseman. Justin Morneau may be playing in a Twins uniform for the last time this season, as he is scheduled to become a free-agent after the season.

Does adding a third pitcher that is in the same category as Pelfrey and Correia make sense for the Twins? Should the team save the extra cash to retain upcoming prospects to long-term deals and target free-agents in the future—when they are in better position to compete?

Topics: Joe Saunders, Minnesota Twins

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