The Big Exchange
Justin Morneau - $5 million - $4 million
How to put this . . . Morneau is, well, ya know . . . the reigning MVP. For that price, $5 million is not unreasonable, and the question is whether he's worth closer to $4.51 million or $4.49 million. Being that $5 million is pretty much a bargain for a player with Morneau's numbers, I think he'd win. The thing is, the Twins and Morneau will probably come to, at the very LEAST, a 1-year deal for $4.5 million, and quite possibly a long-term deal if they can get it done.
Joe Mauer - $4.5 million - $3.3 million
Already one of the best Catchers in the Majors, Mauer is slated for his first big raise. The thing is, I think his first injury (that kept him out for pretty much a year) is going to impact the decision made my any arbitrator - even though he's easily worth $4.5 million, I think he'll end up with the $3.3 mil if it goes to the hearing. But even more than Morneau, I think the Twins will do everything possible to get Mauer signed long-term in the next couple of weeks. I do not expect him to go to arbitration.
Michael Cuddyer - $4.25 million - $3 million
Cuddyer hasn't been good enough to warrant a huge jump in his first year. I think the Twins offer is about right for Cuddyer, and I think both sides are going to play hard-ball a bit. Cuddyer is the lowest priority amongst the "Big Three" arbitration eligibles this year, so the Twins are probably less concerned about hurting his feelings by taking him to arbitration. I expect this thing to go to the wire, with an arbitrator ultimately awarding Cuddyer $3 million for 2007.
Nick Punto - $2.1 million - $1.6 million
This one is kind of hard to figure. I think that $1.6 million is more in the range of what Punto should be making next year, and there is no obvious reason to think that the Twins are going to try to get Punto signed to a longer deal. They may split the difference and come to $1.85 million deal, but I think it's just as likely that this goes to a hearing.
Juan Rincon - $2.4 million - $1.6 million
His career ERA sits at 3.26, and he's been a pretty darned reliable set-up man for the last couple of years. Seems to me like that's a recipe for a big raise, and I think Rincon is closer to the $2.4 figure than than he is to $1.6. That said, this seems like a good candidate for an accommodation at $2 million.
Lew Ford - $1.3 million - $0.8 million
I've said I would stop complaining about Ford still being around, but his submission of a $1.3 million salary really gets at the reason why the Twins should have cut him loose. As I've documented before, he's gotten worse every year. $800,000 is probably not unreasonable for a fourth year player, but if he were awarded a $1.3 million salary from the arbitrators - well - it would be a crime. I don't think there's a lot of room for agreement here - the Twins are probably comfortable with the offer they made here, and aren't likely to move much off of the offer. As a result, this will probably go to a hearing, and the Twins should win.