Payroll cuts and salary commitments
The M’s may cut salary this off-season, and I was curious about how much hurt that’s going to put the team in.
The team has $76m in payroll committed for next season. Ichiro gets $17m, Beltre $12m, Carlos Silva $11m, Washburn $10m, Batista $9m, Johjima $8m, Putz $5m and then Lopez and Betancourt get $1.6 and $2m respectively.
Yes, 50% of that $76m is dead already. I was thinking about making a pie chart with “easily movable” “tough sell” and “unmovable” sections and please trust me, it was too depressing to inflict. Let’s try not to think about it too much.
The rest is going to be players headed for arbitration or under team control. If they decide to fill the gaps with random minor league free agents and other scrubs, their 25m roster would run about $85-90m. Put at $90m, figuring they sign a journeyman veteran for the bullpen. That sounds pretty good. Except here’s the problem. That’s just payroll. If you want to count pro-rated signing bonuses, there’s another $4m.
At the same time, the M’s have a number of huge holes they need to fill:
– left field
– center field
Before you even want to consider upgrading the infield. A really good GM will turn up cheap-o fixes for DH/first/left, and a good GM will go cheap but still pay a couple million each — the average salaries at those positions is higher than it should be, so it’s easy to turn up a floating slugger (Carl Everett!) who seems to meet the role’s needs for $4-5m. This would certainly have been the likely path for the last GM.
The problem is that $90m+$12-15m = $102-105m and no center fielder. If the M’s cut payroll and actual salary available drops much, something already has to give.
That contributes to the Beltre speculation: he’s the highest tradeable salary, and most GMs would look at that situation and consider trading Beltre to have $12m to fill two positions.
Obviously there’s some wiggle room here. But if the M’s are rebuilding and they’re preparing the fan base to see reduced on-field spending, these are the things they’re preparing us for:
– holes may not be patched by recognizable veteran presences
– Beltre may have to be moved to give them room to fill holes
The flip side of this is you can also quickly see how you can build a team that lets you spend in the right places. Clement moves to first and you don’t have to invest in a first baseman. You find some free swinger with huge power and no glove to DH for a song, or Ibanez comes back on a sweetheart deal. Then you’re down to two positions, with left field an easy fill. If you’re lucky, instead of $0 left and no center fielder, it’s $10m left and you can start to think about how to shore up the infield defense.
Now potentially, they could of course severely back-load deals to get them in the door, as they did with Sexson — but there’s also the reason the higher-ups might be unwilling to be aggressive with that tactic.
It’s also clear that every dollar a new GM can clear off of the dead pool can contribute directly to the team getting better. If they have to eat a chunk of Washburn’s salary next year and they get $6m freed, there’s a lot they can do with that.
Or insert your own scenario. But the limitation of payroll will form the puzzle the new GM will work on all off-season.
Not that any of this will help you if the Mariners make public statements like “we’re going to maintain payroll” but I hope it’s at least a little helpful in seeing that without any moves, they’re starting 2009 with a couple of holes and $90m already spent.