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JD Stuart: State of the Payroll

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I asked my friend JD Stuart, an occasional commenter here, to explain the state of the Braves' payroll, after all the recent activity. This is the best educated guess I've seen to explain how much our 25-man roster currently costs and how much money we have left for the rest of the offseason.

The 2009 Braves Payroll: Where We Sit and What We've Got Left
By JD Stuart

I believe the Braves' 2008 payroll, assuming, as has been reported, that the Braves set Hampton's salary at $8M for budget purposes, was roughly $94 million. I have heard nothing to indicate that ownership planned to decrease the payroll for 2009.

"$40 million" has been thrown around as the approximate amount the Braves had available to spend this offseason, most prominently by David O'Brien of the AJC. I think it's probably a bit more than that, because spending $40 million would actually put the team below last year's payroll.  As far as I can recall, Frank Wren has never given an exact number and has only confirmed that it's at least $40 million that the Braves have had to work with.

(Further, considering that (a) we've already spent over $35 million for 2009; (b) we've been told Will Ohman's offer is still on the table; (c) John Smoltz was offered a contract which guaranteed $2.5 million and made another $2.5 million pretty easily attainable; and (d) the Braves are still looking at bringing Glavine and possibly Andruw back, well, I think it's safe to assume we had over $40 million available at the start of the offseason.)

With that in mind, below is a breakdown of the Braves' projected 25-man-roster payroll expenditures as it stands now, with salaries in parentheses (in millions):

1. Lowe ($15)
2. Vazquez ($11.5)
3. Jurrjens (~$0.5)
4. Kawakami (~$8.5)
5. Campillo (~$0.5)
(Other internal ~$0.5 options: Morton, Reyes, Hanson, Medlen, Parr)

6. Gonzalez (~$4)
7. Soriano ($6.1)
8. Moylan (~$0.5)
9. Boyer (~$0.5)
10. Logan (~$0.5)
11. Bennett (~$0.5)
12. Carlyle (~$0.5)
(Other internal ~$0.5 options: Campillo, Acosta, Marek, Medlen, O'Flaherty, Ridgway, Stockman)

13. Anderson (~$0.5)
14. Escobar (~$0.5)
15. C. Jones ($11)
16. McCann ($3.5)
17. Francoeur (~$2)
18. Johnson (~$1.75)
19. Kotchman (~$2.75)
20. Diaz (~$2M)

21. Infante ($1.85)
22. Norton ($0.8)
23. Prado (~$0.5)
24. Blanco (~$0.5)
25. Ross ($1.4) (Other internal ~$0.5 options: B. Jones, Schafer)
26. Tim Hudson ($13) (injured, but with a guaranteed salary)
**Hudson Insurance Money: $5-6MM


Note that for all the approximate figures, I tried to estimate conservatively---that is, I tried to err on the side of overestimation, to be sure that I don't end up overestimating the available funds at the end. All the pre-arb guys, in particular, have their '09 salaries inflated here; these guys won't make $500K apiece in '09. With this in mind, the actual payroll is probably a couple million dollars lower.

Note also that I assume the Braves will not just pocket the insurance money for Hudson---that they will use it as if they have that much extra money to spend on free agents.

So, if the Braves plan on having the same payroll in '09 as they had in '08, that means they have about $10 million still available. To whatever extent they raised the payroll, they have even more money to spend. Considering all the possible expenditures outlined above---Ohman, Smoltz, Glavine, Andruw---and the fact that the Braves are still looking for another outfielder with pop, I suspect the payroll has been raised at least a little.

Anyway, the primary OF targets/options not named Andruw appear to be these guys (respective salaries, in millions, in parentheses):
  • Adam Dunn (~$12)
  • Jermaine Dye ($11.5)
  • Bobby Abreu (~$10)
  • Xavier Nady (~$5.5)
  • Nick Swisher ($5.3)
  • Rick Ankiel (~$2.5)
  • Ryan Ludwick (~$2.5)

Assuming we have between $10 and $15 million left to spend and that we'll end up signing Glavine and Andruw for less than $3 million combined (as I do), my guess is that we can afford either one of the first three guys or one of the others and Ohman. If we go with the second option, I sure hope it's Swisher we land.

Lots of assumptions here, but most of them are at least well-informed. Hopefully, it at least provides Braves fans with some idea of what to expect before 2009 begins.

Thanks to Alex for letting me chime in.

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