The Cost of This Team
It seems like, at the moment, the prevailing school of thought on what the Mariners should do this offseason is keep this team almost entirely in tact, but just add two quality starting pitchers to the mix, with most of the general population agreeing that those two pitchers should be Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jason Schmidt. People generally seem to be satisfied with the rest of the roster, and feel that spending the available budget money on starting pitching is the way to go.
Except that it’s not. Assuming the organization don’t raise payroll significantly, the Mariners can’t afford to do that. They can’t even really come close.
The team has spent approximately $81 to $88 million on its 25 man roster the past several years. You’ll hear the team report a higher payroll figure that includes the entirity of the 40 man roster, buyouts and contract bonuses, and a reserve fund for “special circumstances”. But, in reality, the combined yearly salaries of the team’s 25 man roster has been in the $80-90 million range, and there’s no reason to believe that the ownership is going to give management significantly more to work with this offseason. You can argue that they should, but that’s another post entirely. Dealing with the realities of a budget that isn’t likely to increase by much if any, we’re bound by an upper limit of about $85-$90 million for the 25 man roster.
As it stands now, the Mariners have approximately $75-$80 million committed to 2006 contracts for the 23 players that most people assume should return next year. Take a look:
Player 2006 Salary 2007 Salary Richie Sexson $13,000,000.00 $14,000,000.00 Adrian Beltre $12,900,000.00 $13,500,000.00 Ichiro Suzuki $12,530,000.00 $12,530,000.00 Jarrod Washburn $7,450,000.00 $9,500,000.00 Kenji Johjima $5,433,333.00 $5,433,333.00 Raul Ibanez $4,916,667.00 $5,000,000.00 Ben Broussard $2,487,500.00 $4,000,000.00 J.J. Putz $415,000.00 $3,500,000.00 Rafael Soriano $450,000.00 $3,000,000.00 Eduardo Perez $1,750,000.00 $2,000,000.00 Julio Mateo $700,000.00 $1,000,000.00 Willie Bloomquist $650,000.00 $850,000.00 Chris Snelling $328,500.00 $500,000.00 Yuni Betancourt $677,500.00 $450,000.00 Felix Hernandez $340,000.00 $400,000.00 Jose Lopez $335,000.00 $400,000.00 George Sherrill $333,000.00 $400,000.00 Jeremy Reed $375,000.00 $375,000.00 Jake Woods $332,000.00 $332,000.00 Mark Lowe $328,500.00 $328,500.00 Emiliano Fruto $328,500.00 $328,500.00 Rene Rivera $328,500.00 $328,500.00 Total $66,389,000.00 $78,155,833.00
That’s a complete roster, minus two starting pitchers. The salaries for Putz, Soriano, Broussard, and Snelling are estimates, as they are arbitration eligible and we won’t know exactly what they’re going to earn next year until some point this winter. That said, I’m pretty confident that the esimates are pretty close to what they’ll be looking at, salary wise, next year. Some of the names are easily replaced with others; Fruto and Woods could easily be Baek and Huber, but for salary purposes, it doesn’t really matter.
While it’s true that we’re shedding the costs of Pineiro, Meche, Guardado, and Spiezio, we’re also giving out pretty significant raises. Putz, Soriano, and Broussard are going to get large increases in their pay through arbitration, Jarrod Washburn has a $2 million salary bump for 2007, Richie Sexson gets $1 million more, and the salary escalations for Beltre, Mateo, Bloomquist, and Perez total almost $1.5 million combined. As you can see from the total column, it will cost almost $12 million more to field this same roster next year compared to this year.
That leaves the Mariners with approximately $7-12 million (giving the team a payroll range of $85-$90 million for the 25 man roster) in spending money for the offseason, depending on how the arbitration cases go. $7-$12 million for two starting pitchers. That might get you Daisuke Matsuzaka, as long as the posting fee doesn’t count against payroll, but then you’re done. Would you be happy if the Mariners essentially brought back this same team with just Matsuzaka (or Schmidt, or whatever $10 million pitcher you think we’d acquire) added to the rotation to replace Gil Meche?
I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be. This team still has some issues that need to be resolved, and acquiring one starting pitcher and asking the rest of the team to pick up the slack isn’t the kind of offseason that most of us are hoping for.
If you want the Mariners to make significant additions to this roster, you necessarily have to be in favor of significant subtractions. The Mariners are in line to pay Sexson, Beltre, Ichiro, and Washburn $49 million for next season, leaving about $40 million for the other 21 players. When you have 54 percent of your payroll tied up in four players, those guys have to provide a significant contribution to the team. It’s nearly impossible to create a supporting cast good enough to carry those four players to the playoffs. The Big Four, salary wise, have to produce at a higher level for this team to succeed.
Or, alternately, one of them has to go. This team could create significant budget room by trading one of these four players, giving them enough budget room to replace them with a similarly compensated but higher performing player. Considering the team already has significant holes in the rotation, it’s extremely unlikely they would move Jarrod Washburn, and I’m not sure they could even if they wanted to. So, realistically, if you want any kind of serious upgrade this offseason, one of Sexson, Beltre, or Ichiro has to go.
Essentially, the M’s have two options. Keep this team in tact and make just one significant move this offseason, or remove one of the highly paid players that is already here in order to create room for a more complete roster.
Sexson, Beltre, or Ichiro; which one would you trade?