Many Twins fans have been frustrated over the years by the team's unwillingness to invest in high-priced free agents. Since the mid-90's, when they gave multi-year contracts to favorite sons like Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach, the Twins have not signed a free agent to a large multi-year contract (Mike Lamb doesn't count).
Many people have anticipated that the opening of the new stadium and increased revenue would finally make it possible for the Twins to add a premiere free agent. I think the recent decisions on arbitration, along with the investment in international signing bonuses, indicates that is not going to happen. Instead of going into the free agent market, it appears the Twins are going to use the extra revenue to extend the stay of their own veterans. In the past, several of the veterans, like Crain and Harris, would have been allowed to quietly leave. Now the Twins are willing to invest in keeping them around a couple more years. That may not be as dramatic as signing a celebrity player, but it will make the Twins a much better team in the long run. Especially with their increased commitment to prospect signing bonuses.
Joe Mauer is going to get a huge long term contract. That approach, keeping its good young players around longer, rather pulling in people from outside, looks like the direction the team is headed. No one else is going to get a Mauer-like contract, but the Twins are likely to give longer commitments to players who have proved themselves. That might not have meant signing Santana or Hunter when their contracts expired, but it might have meant adding a year of two to those contracts or extending their contracts for a couple years before they expired.
In the long run, the Twins are going to remain a team that puts together its core of players internally and by dealing for young players who have not fulfilled their potential. The free agent market is going to continue to be used to plug in players around that core, not add stars to it. That will disappoint some people, but we will get the benefits that come from focusing on building the team for the long run rather than making a big, immediate splash.