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After Marcell Ozuna trade, plenty of payroll room for Cardinals

Craig Edwards

So the Cardinals just traded for Marcell Ozuna for Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, and two others and still held on to Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Jordan Hicks, and the entire major league roster. We know they still have the firepower to trade for another player or two with prospects should they so desire. What about payroll?

Since the offseason ended, the team has added a few contracts by signing Miles Mikolas and Luke Gregerson to add some depth to the starting rotation and the bullpen. Now, they just added Marcell Ozuna a very good hitter for the middle of the order. According to MLB Trade Rumors, his arbitration estimate is at $10.9 million.

Let’s add up all of the guaranteed numbers, put in the arbitration estimates, add a few minimum salaries and see where we land. Although a deal hasn’t happened yet as of this writing, I’m going to take Stephen Piscotty off of the chart below because it seems almost impossible to see him back with the Cardinals next year, and as Susan Slusser has reported, the two sides are close.

Here’s what we have given that information with payroll numbers from Cots:

Craig Edwards

Right now, the Cardinals Opening Day payroll is right around what it was last year. As I noted the last time we did this at the beginning of the offseason, the Cardinals seem to have the capacity to spend up the competitive balance tax number, which is $197 million this year.

This is what I wrote in regards to how much the Cardinals had to spend when the payroll figure was about $25 million less:

We see above, that the Cardinals have somewhere around $125 million in commitments, which means that in theory, they have around $70 million to spend. That isn’t really the case. Around $13 million is going to go to player benefits that gets added in at the end of the season. A few million dollars extra for minimum salaried players throughout the season is probably in order. The Cardinals wouldn’t want to get hamstrung in the middle of the season, unable to acquire players with big salaries who could help in a playoff run. Let’s add in another $10 million cushion there.

In addition to those amounts, we also need to consider that the amount the Cardinals are actually paying isn’t the way the tax payroll is configured as long term deals and bonuses are generally just averaged annually so as to eliminate any funny business from front- or back-loading contracts. Doing this lowers the contracts of Carlos Martinez and Jedd Gyorko while raising the payroll on Stephen Piscottyand Kolten Wong.

Now what that all means for the Cardinals right now is that, of the $50 million the Cardinals potentially had to spend a the beginning of the offseason, they’ve spent less than half of given that Piscotty’s payroll for tax purposes is about four million dollars higher than what he will actually make.

If you want to know if the Cardinals can make that big move, whatever it might be, and take on more payroll, they can. Even Zack Greinke’s massive salary would still put the Cardinals underneath the competitive balance tax. Adding Manny Machado is fine. Chris Archer doesn’t even make that much money. These moves will also necessitate other moves that will create more payroll space at the fringes as well.

Marcell Ozuna will make an impact on the Cardinals lineup, but his impact on next year’s payroll isn’t big. The Cardinals can keep making moves to make the team better if they choose to do so.