When John Hickey wrote about the Tyler Walker signing, he used the column to make a larger point about the M’s payroll, including dropping this tidbit that hadn’t been published before:
But there likely won’t be much more free-agency action because the team has a goal of trimming last year’s $117 million payroll by about 20 percent.
To support this claim, he includes the following quote from Zduriencik:
“I don’t think we are going to be enormously active in free agency,” Zduriencik said. “If the fit is right there, maybe, but we’re not in position to break the bank.”
If the M’s really do want to cut 20% off of their payroll from last year, that would put the 2009 budget at around $93.6 million. If you add up the salaries for the projected 25 man roster as it stands right now, you get $93.2 million. He’s not kidding when he says they’re not in a position to break the bank.
Now, there’s some wiggle room there. Ichiro is going to earn $17 million this season, but $5 million of his salary is deferred at 5.5% interest until after he retires, so they’re only going to physically pay him $12 million. However, they need to account for the deferred payments as a liability against this year, but thanks to the time value of money, the cost of those payments won’t total $5 million – instead, it’s more like $3.5 to $4 million. So, the expense of having Ichiro on the roster for 2009 is more like $15.5 to $16 million.
Also, we can’t really do anything but guess at the salaries for Bedard, Hernandez, and Heilman, since they’re arbitration eligible. I put in $8 million, $3 million, and $2 million respectively, and would imagine all the deals will end up in that vicinity, but variation from those numbers would push the remaining room left in the budget up or down a bit.
No matter how you look at it, though, if the M’s target payroll is around $95 million, then they are pretty close to being out of money. That would push them towards the trade market, where they could match salaries in deals to move pieces around. It makes things tougher, but not impossible.
Looking ahead to 2010, the team has about $55 million committed to 17 roster spots (again, guessing at arb salaries for Hernandez, Heilman, and Morrow, who will be arb eligible after 2009). The expiration of contracts for Beltre, Washburn, Batista, Bedard, Chavez, Branyan, and Walker would give the team something like $40-$45 million in budget room next winter, but would also create some pretty substantial holes in the roster. Beltre, especially, isn’t going to be cheap to re-sign or replace, so a good chunk of that money would go to keeping him in Seattle or trying to recoup the wins lost by watching him go elsewhere.
I know signings like Russ Branyan and Tyler Walker aren’t the kind of moves that are going to get people excited, but given the roster that he was left with by his predecessor, if a 20% budget decrease was really ordered, then Zduriencik should get a few gold stars for how well he’s been able to re-make this team without having much capital to spend.