Payroll cuts and salary commitments

DMZ · September 27, 2008 at 9:15 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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:
– DH
– first
– 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.


10 Responses to “Payroll cuts and salary commitments”

  1. msb on September 27th, 2008 9:21 am

    wonder if Cammie would like to come back … I suppose that whole ‘actually in the playoffs’ thing probably outweighs our desperation.

  2. Joe C on September 27th, 2008 10:08 am

    I don’t particularly like the idea of trading Beltre, but you make a good case. His contract is up after 2009 and this team won’t be contending then so I’d assume he wouldn’t resign then. It may just be a question of when is the best time to trade Beltre, now or next July?

  3. Mariner Melee on September 27th, 2008 11:26 am

    wonder if Cammie would like to come back … I suppose that whole ‘actually in the playoffs’ thing probably outweighs our desperation.

    That why you have to vote for a Brewers v Rays WS. Because then maybe he will have his playoff ambitions out of his system 😉

  4. Colm on September 27th, 2008 11:55 am

    Carlos Silva $11m, Washburn $10m, Batista $9m, Johjima $8m

    That’s one depressing motherf**king list…

  5. terry on September 27th, 2008 12:02 pm

    It’s kind of tough seeing how Felix will get extended in this mess.

  6. JasonAChurchill on September 27th, 2008 2:01 pm

    Is there a reason one of the league’s best center fielders is playing right field, creating a rather large hole for the team than is necessary?

    Really, Ichiro? You can’t hit very well playing center? Really?

  7. andrew_s_c on September 27th, 2008 3:50 pm

    The M’s could try something crazy like filling holes from within the organization:

    C: Johjima/Johnson
    1B: Clement
    2B: Tuglett until Valbuena is ready
    3B: Lopez (if they trade Beltre)
    SS: More patient, slimmer Yuni
    RF: Wlad
    CF: Ichiro
    LF: Reed until Saunders is ready
    DH: Diaz

    They wouldn’t win a lot, but a bunch of crappy FA’s wouldn’t either.

  8. mironos on September 27th, 2008 4:10 pm

    You know, trading the player who’s #1 on that payroll list cuts the most payroll (obviously) AND potentially gets you the most value back. AND he’s 36 years old next month, while Beltre’s only 29.

    I’m just sayin’… 🙂

  9. Jeff Nye on September 27th, 2008 4:12 pm

    We’ve had the “Ichiro’s trade value” discussion multiple times, so I won’t rehash it here; but no, you’re not going to get fair value back for Ichiro.

  10. greenwood ave on September 27th, 2008 8:19 pm

    I wonder how much more Ichiro would be in terms of trade value if Lincoln et al threw in a substantial amount of cash? Jones/Tillman/Butler type package? Would they even do that? Or does he have an owner imposed NTC?

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