The $13 Million Makeover | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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The $13 Million Makeover

By on October 14, 2013

In June, Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly told the Los Angeles Times something that blew my mind. If in the off-season the Dodgers baseball operations department recommended to the Guggenheim Partners, the official owner of the team, that they should sign Clayton Kershaw to a multi-year contract extension of at least $200M, the team could afford to do it. That’s not the mind-blowing part, though, the next part is. If the operations department also recommended that the Dodgers sign Robinson Cano to similar multi-year, $200M plus contract, they could afford to do that too. Oh, and if they wanted to, the Guggenheim Partners could also drop $100M next year just on renovations to Dodgers Stadium.

These comments from the Dodgers ownership group came before Robinson Cano’s camp let it be known that the second baseman would be seeking a 10 year, $305M contract. Like Cano’s initial price tag, the depth of the Dodgers pockets in the off-season are still nothing more than speculation. But the framework to that speculation can be extremely telling. So what is the Brewers financial framework this off-season? If the Dodgers are the equivalent of Michael Jackson on a spending spree, just pointing at what they want and getting it, will the Brewers be the guy counting out exact change in pennies so he can buy a pack of AA batteries?

Let’s first look at the Brewers known costs for the 2014 season. We’ll work off this handy spreadsheet courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts

Player 2014 Salary
Aramis Ramirez $10,000,000*
Rickie Weeks $11,000,000**
Yovani Gallardo $11,500,000
Ryan Braun $11,000,000
Kyle Lohse $11,000,000
Carlos Gomez $7,000,000
Tom Gorzelanny $2,950,000
Jonathan Lucroy $2,100,000
Norichika Aoki $1,500,000

(*An earlier version of this piece listed Ramirez’s salary at $16M. Turns out, $6M of that is deferred for the 2014 season.)

(**Also, the above Cot’s Baseball Contracts spreadsheet incorrectly listed Week’s 2014 salary at $12 M when, in fact, it will be $11M. Sorry for the confusion and thanks to those who brought it to my attention.)

So, for the 2014 season these nine players will cost the Brewers $68,050,000 next year.

So how much does that leave the team to pay the remaining 16 players needed to fill out the opening day roster? Here are the Brewers opening day payrolls going back five years.

Year Opening Day Payroll
2013 $88,828,333
2012 $98,150,833
2011 $83,590,833
2010 $90,408,000
2009 $80,182,502

While we’re not privy to the conversations Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio may be having over next year’s payroll, it would be pretty safe to assume that it won’t come in around the $80M mark. That is unless the team can shed salary by moving one or more of the nine players listed above. We can also guess that the team won’t go on a spending spree that pushes the payroll up around $98M again. But, if we average out the opening day payrolls over the last five years, it comes out to just above $88M.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the team is on course to spend about $88M to start the 2014 season. (Again, this could be subject to change due to many factors, but it’s a good framework from which to analyze the situation). With $68.05M going to nine players, that leaves about $20 M for the remaining 16 players.

Now, let’s look at the cost for the young, team-controlled players who we can safely say will be on next year’s team. The MLB minimum salary for 2014 is $500,000. Some of these players (Jean Segura, Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler) will probably be compensated about the league minimum for their solid 2013 performance. Martin Maldonando already made $4,000 over league minimum last year. So I’ll bump up his salary, along with a few others, to reflect some of those extra costs.

Player 2014 Potential Salary
Jean Segura $505,000
Jim Henderson $505,000
Brandon Kintzler $505,000
Martin Maldonado $505,000
Jeff Bianchi $500,000
Wily Peralta $500,000
Logan Schafer $500,000
Khris Davis $500,000
Scooter Gennett $500,000

That’s an additional $4,520,000 for these nine players. All together that’s $72,570,000 for 18 players. Leaving around $15,430,000 to fill seven spots on the opening day roster.

At least $2M of that should go to Marco Estrada, who made $1,955,000 last year and is arbitration eligible. Estrada put up solid second half numbers, but was also hurt for part of the year. So let’s say the Brewers and Estrada land around $2.25M for the 2014 season. Now the Brewers payroll increases to $74,820,000 and there’s $13,180,000 left to spend on six players.

From my very rough “guesstimate”, that leaves the Brewers about $13M for their off-season makeover and six roster spots to spend it on. This is where the rubber will meet the road. The team will need a fifth starter, most likely a youngster (Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg) who they can pay the league minimum $500,000. That leaves five roster spots left. Three or four of those will be bullpen arms — Alfredo Figaro, Donovan Hand, Michael Blazek, Johnny Hellweg, Tyler Thornburg. Also, Burke Badenhop is under team control but is arbitration eligible. He made $1,550,000 last year. Depending on the size of the potential arbitration raise, the team may deem Badenhop’s price point untenable considering the payroll situation and number of younger, cheaper arms waiting in the wings.

The Brewers will also add an additional position player or two to the roster, depending on whether they carry a six or seven man bullpen. Like Badenhop, Juan Francisco is also under team control and arbitration eligible. Francisco made $496,250 last year. Since it will be Francisco’s first chance at arbitration, he’ll be looking to increase his pay well above the league minimum. Whether he gets it or not is another discussion, but for the Francisco first base experiment to continue the price tag will have to increase for the Crew.

Now, no Brewers fan expected David Price or Robinson Cano to call Miller Park home next season. But this framework suggests just how tight a financial window the team has to work with. Roughly, $13M to fill six roster spots.

To put it another way, even though Corey Hart said he would consider a team friendly contract to return, if the Brewers paid him half of what he made in 2013 ($10,333,333) that would wipe out about half of all the money they have to spend in the off-season. Unless, of course, they were willing to make a trade or two to shed salary and/or push payroll over $90M. Unlike the Dodgers, this off-season, the Brewers will need to be careful how they spend every last cent.

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