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the-payroll-another-look | January | 2010 Articles

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The Payroll: Another Look

Written by Tom Gieryn on .

By all accounts, for better or for worse, Frank Wren appears to have finished his offseason roster reconstruction.  We're going to bring you all kinds of analysis in the coming days and weeks, but right now the question that seems to be on everyone's mind is money: how can the Braves say they've spent all their money?  With all the moves reportedly made, we can project pretty accurately a 25-man roster, and we can take a detailed look at just how much cash the Braves have committed.

C: Brian McCann ($5.5M)
1B: Troy Glaus ($1.75M, plus $2.25M potential incentives)
2B: Martin Prado ($450K)
3B: Chipper Jones ($13M)
SS: Yunel Escobar ($450K)
LF: Matt Diaz ($2.55M)
CF: Nate McLouth ($4.5M)
RF: Jason Heyward ($450K)

C: David Ross ($1.6M, plus $300K potential incentives)
IF: Omar Infante ($2.225M, plus $775K potential incentives)
IF: Eric Hinske ($1M, plus $500K potential incentives)
OF: Melky Cabrera ($2.8M estimated)
OF: assorted fifth outfielder ($450K)

SP: Tim Hudson ($9M)
SP: Jair Jurrjens ($450K)
SP: Tommy Hanson ($450K)
SP: Derek Lowe ($15M)
SP: Kenshin Kawakami ($6.667M)

RP: Billy Wagner ($6.75M)
RP: Takashi Saito ($3.2M, plus $2.3M potential incentives)
RP: Peter Moylan ($1.25M estimated)
RP: Kris Medlen ($450K)
RP: Eric O'Flaherty ($450K)
RP: Jesse Chavez ($450K)
RP: assorted twelfth pitcher ($450K)

So, with a little help from Excel, I've done some math.  That's a total of about $81.3 million in guaranteed money, plus another $6.1 million in potential incentives.  Then let's remember that there's $500,000 coming from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez deal.  And if we include the other 15 players on the 40-man roster at $400,000 apiece, that's another $6 million.  So, guaranteed money less the Yankees' contribution is $80.8 million.  If all the potential incentives get earned, you're talking $86.9 million.  If you include the entire 40-man roster on top of that, you're talking $92.9 million.  So maybe the Braves weren't lying when they say they planned on putting payroll where it was last year (between $92-95 million).  Mark Bowman pointed out the other day that while it might look like the Braves spent more last year, they did pick up significant insurance money for the time Tim Hudson missed.  So maybe we aren't getting shortchanged in terms of payroll money, and there's no question that the purse strings may be tightening after yet another attendance decline last year.

This is a very scary situation, for two reasons.  First, if you ask me, this team looks primed for another third-place finish, which (knowing Atlanta sports fans and the state of the economy) means yet another attendance decline, which means yet more red numbers on the payroll sheet.  Second, there isn't a whole lot of money coming off the books next year: the only expiring contracts are Glaus, Ross, Hinske, and Saito (a total of just $7.5 million).  Maybe Billy Wagner's option won't vest, but I'd say it likely will.  So not much comes off, but a lot gets tacked on: Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar and Jair Jurrjens will all go to arbitration for the first time, and barring serious decline, they'll see a combined $12 million or more in salary.  And that doesn't even account for raises to guys like Matt Diaz, Peter Moylan and Eric O'Flaherty, who'll also get arbitration-induced paydays.  That will mean more cutting next season, with little to no ability to make any additions.  It's a conundrum, no doubt.

Anyone see any solutions here? Any silver linings?
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