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2016 Payroll Capacities and Offseason Outlooks For NL Teams

It looks like the Diamondbacks are going to splash cash to build around Goldschmidt. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

It looks like the Diamondbacks are going to splash cash to build around Goldschmidt.
Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Not to go all Sun Tzu on you here, but in order to beat your enemies, you must know your enemies’ capabilities.  And since one of the main weapons in baseball combat is the ability to spend money, whether on free agents or new trade acquisitions, it’s a good idea to examine what each of the 15 National League teams may have available this offseason.

A few notes on the table below:

2016 Fixed Sal — This refers to the 2016 committed salaries that each team is obligated to pay under existing contract.  These figures were obtained from each team’s page on Cot’s Baseball Contracts.  The figure in parentheses is the number of players in that total.  It does not include players that have been released from the team, but the salary commitment is still accounted for here.

2016 Potential Arb Sal — This figure is the estimated combined salary for that team’s arbitration class (number of players in parentheses), using figures from MLB Trade Rumors.  No allowance is made for possible non-tenders; this is the full amount of players.  The figures for the Pirates are my own estimates, from the 2016 arbitration estimate article.

Min Sal Players — After adding together the number of Fixed and Arbitration players, the number of players needed to fill out the 25-man roster is in parentheses.  For discussion purposes, each player was assigned a salary of $500,000.

2016 Pot. Payroll — This is the addition of the Fixed, Arb, and Min salaries for each team.

2014 and 2015 Payrolls — These was each team’s Opening Day payroll, as per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.  This helps establish a trendline on whether a team is shedding or adding payroll, plus shows if a team has a built-in cap on their payrolls.

Pot. Payroll Capacity — This is a rudimentary look at how much each team theoretically could spend this offseason by subtracting 2015’s Payroll from 2016’s Potential Payroll total.  We’ll discuss more about this figure below the chart for certain teams.

ARI $25.4M (4) $25.6M (9) $6.0M (12) $57.0M $112.3M $88.2M $31.2M
ATL $72.5M (10) $13.0M (5) $5.0M (10) $90.5M $112.0M $97.1M $6.6M
CHC $81.5M (7) $33.4M (9) $4.5M (9) $119.4M $92.7M $120.3M $0.9M
CIN $80.0M (7) $22.4M (7) $5.5M (11) $107.9M $114.2M $115.4M $7.5M
COL $64.4M (7) $31.6M (9) $4.5M (9) $100.5M $93.6M $97.1M -$3.4M
LAD $174.6M (9) $35.7M (11) $2.5M (5) $212.8M $229.3M $271.6M $58.8M
MIA $31.5M (5) $29.2M (12) $4.0M (8) $64.7M $45.8M $69.0M $4.3M
MIL $45.5M (5) $8.2M (4) $8.0M (16) $61.7M $103.7M $104.2M $42.5M
NYM $60.1M (5) $29.4M (11) $4.5M (9) $94.0M $85.0M $101.3M $7.3M
PHI $63.9M (4) $4.4M (3) $9.0M (18) $77.3M $177.7M $146.9M $69.6M
PIT $50.6M (7) $41.4M (9) $4.5M (9) $96.5M $71.9M $90.0M -$6.5M
SDP $71.9M (6) $30.3M (8) $5.5M (11) $107.7M $90.6M $108.4M $0.7M
SFG $120.7M (10) $16.2M (5) $5.0M (10) $141.9M $149.1M $173.2M $31.3M
STL $90.2M (8) $27.0M (7) $5.0M (10) $122.2M $111.3M $122.1M -$0.1M
WAS $92.8M (9) $36.2M (9) $3.5M (7) $132.5M $137.4M $162.0M $29.5M

OK, let’s unpack this table more in-depth.  First, don’t stress out as much about the Pirates having a negative offseason payroll capacity.  I’ve already covered how I feel payroll will be around $105M next year and ways the Pirates can free up some money.

By my estimate, there are five teams that have no shot at the playoffs next year, whether they’ve admitted it to themselves or not.  Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Colorado are all in some stages of a rebuild.  This doesn’t mean that they should just pack it in and wait until 2017, though.  Atlanta already set the template for the other four to follow by using available payroll space to take on bad contracts along with premium to semi-premium prospects.  Milwaukee and Philadelphia both hired young, analytical GM’s who can see the merits of this strategy and should use their ample payroll capacities to do just such a thing.  These two teams don’t need to take on multi-year albatrosses, but if some team is looking to move a 1 or 2 year bad contract, they should jump at the chance to take that deal if a high-end prospect is included.

And although Philadelphia isn’t going to be anywhere close to contending next year, I think signing Jason Heyward to an 8 year/$160M’ish deal would be prudent for them.  Heyward is only 26 years old, so he’s not even in his theoretical prime of 27-29 yet.  The Phillies get a top-tier talent now, instead of looking next year in the vast wasteland of free agency, and jump start their rebuilding.  That way when 2018 rolls around, they have Heyward in his prime patrolling RF.  Philadelphia has a large local TV deal and the national TV deal money to support the payroll, even if attendance is going to wane a little for the next few years; they can afford Heyward.

Cincinnati and Colorado are in more of a payroll-shedding mode at this point, as they will be looking to move players like Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier, and Carlos Gonzalez for a traditional package of prospects.  But if they have a chance to do so, they should be open to taking a bad contract to augment their stockpile of talent.

Chicago may be shown to have less than $1M of payroll capacity, but I expect them to be in the $140-150M range of salary next year, so they should have more like $20-30M to work with.  I expect them to go after another ace like David Price or Zack Greinke to pair with Arrieta and Lester.

Los Angeles has a (huge) number of $58.8M available, but in reality I may as well have put ∞ in that column.  I could see them re-allocating some payroll, too, by moving an Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford and eating some money in the deal, in order to get some pitching depth for the rotation and bullpen help.

It sounds as if Arizona are going to be out there waving fistfuls of cash around this offseason in an attempt to get into the playoff picture in 2016.  They are in need of an ace and there’s a few on the market.  Johnny Cueto could be a good fit for them — his stock took a little bit of a hit in the second half and offseason, thus shaving a few million per year off his price tag.  If the Diamondbacks trade for a closer like Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, they could start to have something going with Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock already in the fold doing great things.

I know that 2016 is an even-numbered year so San Francisco is probably going to win the World Series, but all jokes aside, I think the Giants window is getting ready to shut.  Aside from Madison Bumgarner, the rest of their rotation is either old, injury prone, or old and injury prone.  Supposedly there is mutual interest to bring back Mike Leake, but no one’s really excited about that except for Mike Leake and Mike Leake’s agent.  The lineup is also showing some crow’s feet around the eyes, too.

Washington may make one last run at it in 2016 and then do a mild retrench if things don’t go well.  This offseason they’re projected to lose Denard Span, Jordan Zimmermann, and Ian Desmond (and probably trade Drew Storen, due to his displeasure about the Papelbon trade).  After 2016, Stephen Strasburg is probably going to hit free agency as well.  They do have some reinforcements coming from the minors, but not enough to cover all that production.

San Diego made an all-in series of moves last offseason and came up with just a busted flush.  They appear to have little wiggle room, unless a massive influx of cash is coming in, so they may have to re-allocate payroll to fill needs if they want to contend in 2016.

I’ve stopped trying to figure out what Miami is going to do.  I liked them as a wild card last year and due to injuries and ineffectiveness they fell flat on their collective faces.  I won’t trust this team anymore while Jeffrey Loria is still the owner, as I believe he has cast a pall over this whole franchise.

And finally, the New York Mets will have a huge influx of revenue on hand due to their World Series run, so you would like to think that the Wilpons will re-invest to bolster the offense for next year.  They sure appear to set in the rotation for the foreseeable future with Harvey-Syndergaard-deGrom-Matz.

About Kevin Creagh (118 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

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