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If the Twins can afford a $200 million player, why can’t the Royals?

Minnesota once operated as a small market team - what happened?

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Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Carlos Correa off-season drama appeared to come to a close this week when he signed with a six-year, $200 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. That came after he failed physicals with both the Giants and Mets over concerns with his leg, costing him much more lucrative deals in excess of $300 million. That he signed with the Twins was a bit of a surprise. Six teams were reported to be interested in him after his deal with the Mets fell through, but it was the small-market Twins that landed him with their offer.

Correa played with the Twins on a short-term deal last year that allowed him to opt out after the season. They won just 78 games with him last year, but with a solid core of Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, and promising young players like Nick Gordon, Trevor Larnach, and Royce Lewis, they are expecting to compete now. With Correa in the fold, the Twins are projected to have an Opening Day payroll of $144 million, a seven percent increase from last year’s $134 million payroll.

The Twins were once small-market brethren with the Royals in the 1990s. Following the work stoppage in 1994-95, the Twins cut payroll and went with a young crop of homegrown players. By the turn of the century that development was producing division-winning clubs - Minnesota win the division with 90+ wins four times between 2002 and 2006. But the purse strings weren’t quite opening up - the Twins were still in the bottom of the third in the league in spending.

But with winning brought more pressure to spend. Then longtime Twins owner Carl Pohlad - who had been a frugal owner at times, died in 2009 leaving the Twins to his three sons. In 2010, the team moved into Target Field, a $435 million open-air stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The Twins had the lowest payroll in baseball in 2000 and 2001, but when the new stadium opened, the Twins had a top ten payroll in baseball. The Royals overtook the Twins in spending when they had success winning back-to-back pennants in 2014-15. Both teams dipped in payroll during the shortened 2020 season, but since then the Twins have significantly outspent the Royals.

Source: Cot’s Contracts (Baseball Prospectus)

Despite operating like a smaller market franchise at times, the Twins actually play in a much bigger market than the Royals. The Twin Cities metro area has 3.6 million people compared to just 2.1 million in Kansas City. There is the potential to earn more revenues, however the Twins haven’t exactly been reaping the big bucks. Their long-term TV deal pays them around $40 million per year, a bit less than the reported $48 million that the Royals receive under their local TV deal with Bally Sports.

Perhaps their new stadium generates more revenues than dumpy old Kauffman Stadium? Maybe, but Forbes estimates their overall revenues at $268 million, very close to the estimate of $263 million for the Royals (they also estimate the Twins are barely making a profit while the Royals are making nearly $50 million in profits).

Had the Royals signed Correa, their projected payroll would have jumped to $113 million for 2023, less than the payroll they fielded each season from 2015 to 2018 (when then-owner David Glass claimed the team lost money). Maybe you think Correa is too big of an injury risk to commit that much money. Or maybe you don’t think he’s a good investment going forward - pitching is a bigger priority. Whatever the case, there should be no excuse that the Royals cannot afford a $200 million player. The limit is by choice, not by resources.

Maybe we will see the Royals announce such a deal with one of their homegrown players. Maybe they will spend next off-season when a stadium vote is more tangible. Maybe they won’t spend until they move into a new stadium. Or maybe John Sherman will run the team on cheap. But there is no reason why Royals fans can’t dream of a big player signing of their own.