The Winter Meetings are exhilarating due to the flurry of rumors, signings, and trades that occur in a span of three or four days. Still, we’re constantly reminded that we should fundamentally hold two tenets to be true at the annual Winter Meetings:
(1) Thou shalt not wholeheartedly believe the rumors which surface throughout the week.
(2) Thou shalt not wholeheartedly believe everything said by a General Manager.
These prove to be true every year. Following the hot stove whispers on Twitter, you often find conflicting rumors within two or three minutes of each other. It becomes comical after a while. Teams and GMs float out self-serving information to better posture themselves for future negotiations — some of it true, some of it false.
It’s the nature of the Winter Meetings.
What, then, do we make of the information coming forth regarding the Milwaukee Brewers and their gameplan for this offseason? Statements from the front office and rumors leaking from Nashville seem to be incongruous.
Doug Melvin: “It’s coming down. We’ll probably look at (an opening payroll) of $80 million or thereabouts.” [source]
Tom Haudricourt broke down the payroll obligations earlier this afternoon and calculates the Brewers have roughly $15M to spend this winter. That number doesn’t include the league-minimum contracts for players on the roster, though, so Milwaukee may be looking at roughly $70M in current payroll obligations. Either way, it seems Doug Melvin has $10-15M to allocate to a veteran starting pitcher, one or two bullpen arms, the bench, and perhaps even (if you choose to believe) Josh Hamilton.
So, we hear the Brewers currently plan to reduce the payroll from last year’s Opening Day amount by roughly $18M. At the same time, we get these little nuggets over the past couple days:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 3, 2012
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 3, 2012
Say what you want about the Josh Hamilton rumors, the Brewers are definitely sniffing around. Perhaps they’re lurking in the shadows, simply hoping the market for the former AL MVP crashes and they can swoop in for a bargain, but there’s no way Hamilton signs for anything less than $20M per year, even on a three or four year deal. That immediately throws the Brewers’ budget expectations out of whack, considering Doug Melvin would still need to upgrade the bullpen and presumably find another starting pitcher to join his plethora of young, inexperienced hurlers.
We’ve also heard today that Milwaukee remains interested in right-hander Ryan Dempster. Despite being 35 years old, he recently turned down a two-year, $26M offer from the Kansas City Royals, suggesting his price tag will continue to climb north to at least $15M per year for two or three years. Yet again, that strains the Brewers’ proposed budget.
As always, the Winter Meetings consists of posturing and contradictory statements coming from the front office and the media. It’s part of the charm of the Winter Meetings, and it’s certainly what keeps passionate baseball fans tuned into the 24/7 news cycle throughout this week.
A quick note on payroll:
I have no evidence to doubt the Brewers finished in the red last season, but setting expectations to cut payroll by roughly $18M this season confuses me — which, admittedly, may not be overly difficult to do. The Brewers have supported at least $80M in payroll each of the last five seasons, and this New York Times article suggests the organization will benefit from approximately $20M more in revenue from a brand new television contract starting this season.
I find it difficult to reconcile two facts together. If the Brewers turned profits with an $80M payroll, shouldn’t they comfortably turn a profit at $90-95M this year with that new television contract? That would certainly put more potential free agent moves on the table for the Brewers.
Perhaps the NYT report is incorrect, and the Brewers are not receiving $20M more in revenue from a new television contract. Or perhaps something else changed in operating costs of which we’re unaware, creating more expenditures aside from player payroll. Or perhaps it’s just simple GM-speak posturing. I have no idea. I’m simply having a hard time reconciling the two points in my head.