UPDATED: 2014 Roster and Payroll Estimates | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Earlier in the off-season, I examined the state of the Brewers’ roster and payroll for the 2014 season. There weren’t a lot of mysteries because of the number of contracts already on the books and young players with jobs locked up. Since then the Brewers have traded Burke Badenhop and Norichika Aoki, held onto their two arbitration eligible players (Marco Estrada and Juan Francisco), and failed to land a first baseman at the Winter Meetings. With all these new factors in plays, it felt like a good time to run the numbers again, see where the Brewers stand, and what we might expect from them before Spring Training.

Outfield

With Norichika Aoki and his $1.95 M salary now in Kansas City, here’s how the outfield shapes up. I’m assuming that the fourth OF/bench spot is Logan Schafer’s to lose with Caleb Gindl next in line. Gindl did posted a 111 OPS+ over 57 games last season but Schafer’s a stronger defender and his tools a better compliment to Khris Davis.

Position Player 2014 Salary
RF Ryan Braun $12,500,000*
CF Carlos Gomez $7,000,000
LF Khris Davis $500,000
OF Logan Schafer $500,000

*$10M base salary plus $2.5M signing bonus. Ryan Braun’s 2011 extension included a $10M signing bonus that is being paid in equal installments from 2012 to 2015.

That’s four players at the cost $20,500,000. Unless one of these players, not named Braun, is used as trade bait, next year’s outfield is set.

Catcher

Position Player 2014 Salary
C Jonathan Lucroy $2,000,000
C Martin Maldonado $500,000

Here are two more players costing the team $2,500,000. Consider them locked and loaded for next season.

Now onto the parts of the team that still have question marks.

Infield

Everyone and their mother knows that the Brewers need help at first base, but more on that later. For now, here’s what we know about next season’s infield –

Position Player 2014 Salary
2B Rickie Weeks $11,000,000
3B Aramis Ramirez $10,000,000
1B/3B Juan Francisco $1,400,000*
SS Jean Segura $500,000
2B Scooter Gennett $500,000
IF Jeff Bianchi $500,000

*Francisco’s exact salary is still to be determined. The above arbitration estimate is courtesy of Matt Swartz and MLBTR.

That’s an additional six players at a total of $23,900,000. With the cost of another first baseman still to be thrown into this mix.

Starting Rotation

Position Player 2014 Salary
RHP Yovani Gallardo $11,500,000
RHP Kyle Lohse $11,000,000
RHP Marco Estrada $3,500,000*
RHP Wily Peralta $500,000

*Estrada’s exact salary is still to be determined. The above arbitration estimate is courtesy of Matt Swartz and MLBTR.

Four members of the starting rotation will run the Crew $26,500,000. Obviously, another arm, most likely young and inexpensive, will be added here.

Bullpen

Here’s the part of the team most up in the air.

Right now, I have Will Smith, who was acquired from the Royals for Aoki, penciled in here. Don’t be surprised if the Brewers see if the left-hander might be a fit for their RHP dominated starting rotation. Either way, expect him to be a part of the pitching staff going into the season.

Position Player 2014 Salary
LHP Tom Gorzelanny $2,950,000
RHP Jim Henderson $500,000
RHP Brandon Kintzler $500,000
LHP Will Smith $500,000

So that is four players costing the team $4,450,000.

Combine everything above and the Brewers’ payroll department is cutting $77,850,000 worth of checks on 20 players.

I believe it’s safe to say that Tyler Thornburg has earned himself a spot on next year’s 25-man roster. Last season, over 66.2 IP, he managed a measly 2.30 RA9 and compiled a 1.9 bWAR. Whether he lands in the rotation or bullpen is still to be seen, but let’s give him a roster spot and add his $500,000 salary to the equation. Now the Brewers are spending $78,350,000 on 21 roster spots. So what does that tell us?

With four roster spots to fill, the Brewers will add a first baseman and three pitchers. Expect the final decision on the three pitching spots to get worked out in Spring Training. The Brewers have a stable of young and inexpensive arms that gained big league experience last year. If they wanted to, the Brewers could fill those three remaining P spots with players earning around the league minimum. Going that route would add around $1,500,000 to the payroll and push it to around $80,000,000.

Depending on whether Tyler Thornburg lands in the starting rotation or bullpen, the Brewers will need to add an arm to fill the other spot. Team controlled and inexpensive players, who fit the bill, include Donovan Hand, Alfredo Figaro, Mike Fiers, Hiram Burgos, Jimmy Nelson, or Johnny Hellweg. Of course, all of these guys could also be considered as a sixth or seventh inning option. Also add Michael Blzaek and Rob Wooten to the list of players who will be considered for the sixth and seventh innings. That’s eight in-house options vying for three roster spots.

Of course, there’s a concern that the bullpen, outside of Tom Gorzelanny, lacks a veteran presence. So there’s the chance, and definitely the money, for the Brewers to add a veteran arm to the bullpen. Don’t be surprised if the team lets the relief pitcher market play out then signs someone. But, as I noted above, it’s also not necessary. The team has plenty of internal options if they wish to focus payroll elsewhere. Like, say, a first baseman.

The free agent market for first basemen has withered quickly. For an idea of what options are still out there (via both free agency and trade), check out Charlie Wilmoth’s piece on MLBTR. Following the signings of Corey Hart and James Loney, word around the campfire was that the Brewers were now more likely to land a first baseman through a trade. Which brought one question to my mind, why did the Brewers’ front office let it get this far?

After running next season’s numbers again, even if the team signs a veteran bullpen arm for a few million (Michael Gonzalez made $2,250,000 last season), the team is still only spending between $80,000,000 to $83,000,000 on 24 players. The Brewers have averaged a payroll in the range of $88,000,000 over the last five years. Unless Mark Attanasio has tightened the purse strings, there should be money to spend.

My confusion surrounding the front office’s first base strategy is simple. After depleting their farm system to land Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and sign Kyle Lohse, right now, the Brewers have money available to sign a first baseman. But they have put themselves in a position where they will most likely have to give up more young talent to get a first baseman. And, since the Brewers desperation at first base is obvious, why wouldn’t a potential trade partner’s demands be high and unwavering?

Maybe Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio have something up their sleeve that none of us are expecting. Maybe Aramis Ramirez arrives at Spring Training and starts breaking in a first baseman’s mit. Maybe they have more faith in a Juan Francisco/Sean Halton platoon then they are letting on. Because, right now, they look like a desperate team backed into a corner.

Last season’s first base failings were on account of a rash of unexpected injuries and bad luck. The front office can’t take the brunt of the blame for what happened. But the potential disaster brewing at first base this season, well, that’s a different story. That would be a mess of the team’s own making.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. SecondHandStore says: December 16, 2013

    Nicely done. I agree with everything you wrote. I know a lot of people really didn’t want Loney, but I think even at 3/27 he’d have been worth it. And, with the money coming off the books next year (even accounting for raises), I don’t think it would have been a prohibitive salary.

    I’d rather they go with Francisco/Halton(or Mark Reynolds, or Kevin Youkilis even) than trade anything of value for Ike Davis. Though I’d rather give up someone like Taylor Jungmann for Ike Davis if it guaranteed Mark A wouldn’t panic and forfeit another 1st round draft pick to sign Kendrys Morales. What a horrible position they’ve put themselves in.

    I hate to assume too much, but I really have to believe management put something like an $85 million payroll limit in place because it couldn’t be they believe that much in Hunter Morris so as not to block him in 2015. When you realize the club is getting an additional $25 million in national TV money, one has to question what the motives are. Nothing I’ve seen this winter has given me confidence they’re putting effort into getting the best team on the field for 2014 or bettering the club in the future. However, I have seen an effort to cut costs… If they trade a bunch of guys away mid-season I’ll eat my words, but right now I’m really starting to wonder if remaining profitable is taking to high a place in the Brewers list of objectives.

  2. Okinawan Gorman Hai says: December 16, 2013

    Why not push Braun to first? Regardless of Brian & Rock pumping up Braun’s fielding, he has been a poor outfielder who has relied on his athleticism to cover his poor reads. Plus his throwing arm is an infielder’s – he’s never developed an OF’s over the top throwing motion. I think teams will run on him in RF all season. He was terrible at 3rd, but there are less bullets down the 1st baseline, so maybe he could do the job. I don’t think Gindl or Schaefer are viable everyday guys, but perhaps we could deal for an Andre Ethier or even pick up one of the Yankees OF surplus at bargain basement prices.

  3. steveo says: December 17, 2013

    What is Weeks’ injury situation? The Yankees are hurting for a second base option. I would love to see the Brewers trade him, go full time with Gennett, and let Rickie get a fresh start.

  4. Kurt says: December 17, 2013

    The thing that I don’t get is that each team gets an additional 25 million dollars in national tv money. Is 7 million a year too much for Loney…Yes…do you have any other real options…No. And with no other options why are you not even looking at Gamel…the cubs outrighted him (unless he is not healthy, which I haven’t heard)

    I don’t want to spend money just to spend money, but it is a tough sell to me that you are getting an additional 25 million in tv money and decreasing payroll. It is an even tougher sell that you are going to either give up talent or trot a strike out machine that literally can’t catch a ball thrown to him at first.

    This article does a pretty good breakdown of tv money.
    http://www.awfulannouncing.com/2013/may/how-mlb-splits-your-tv-dollars.html

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