On Thursday, I covered the payroll and available payroll space of the AL East and AL Central divisions. If you want a summarization, it consisted primarily of teams with little money to spend and/or little expectation they will spend it, with the possible exception of the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees and Red Sox are pretty close to the luxury tax, as is, though the Yankees have a bit of wiggle room. Every other team either has a small payroll, is in full rebuild mode, or both.
Today, it’s time for the AL West and the NL East, purely coincidentally involving the two teams in the World Series. To determine 2020 payrolls, I look at the guaranteed contracts for 2020 first and add them up. Then I look at the MLBTR 2020 projection arbitration salaries, which can be scarily accurate. Whatever remaining players need to fill out a 26 man roster will be added at league minimum prices and boom you have the expected 2020 payroll.
If you aren’t a fan of the Astros, good news: they could be in trouble. Probably not, but they have an incredible amount of money invested in old guys, who tend to decline unexpectedly. 36-year-old Zack Greinke and 37-year-old Justin Verlander lead the charge, with 33-year-old Michael Brantley, 33-year-old Josh Reddick, and 36-year-old Yulieski Gurriel all making a combined $105.4 million. Jose Altuve will finally crack 30 next year, and Ryan Pressley is also making $6.8 million at 31. Only Alex Bregman is representing the younger crowd.
Besides him, they also have 10 arbitration targets. Most will get tendered a contract. George Springer is set to make $21.4 million, Roberto Osuna $10.2 million (unless they want to non-tender him, but absolutely nothing about how they handled the Brandon Taubman story makes me think they will), and Carlos Correa at $7.4 million. The rest are below $5 million, but overall that leaves them with $216 million thanks to Bregman’s $20 million per year deal even though he’s only making $13 million this year. Nontendering Osuna would put them under the luxury tax. Just saying.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have three big contracts on the books, and two of them are bad. The other is Mike Trout. They have a $14 million option on Kole Calhoun, who rebounded to a 2.5 fWAR season, but was replacement level the year before, so it’s no sure thing. (Update, they rejected his option) They also have a boatload of arbitration-eligible players, though the most projected salary is $5 million. I expect them to tender a contract to most of them, though not Justin Bour or Luis Garcia.
With Calhoun’s option accepted, their payroll is still only $115 million. They fell under the mark last year, but they were at nearly exactly the same payroll of $166 million from 2016-2018, falling to $158 million last year. They are a major, major threat to signing one of the big free agents, with Trout’s prime being wasted. In fact, I’d probably argue it’s a failed offseason if they don’t.
The Athletics have a deserved reputation of being cheap, however, their payroll last year was 92 million at the start of the year. Which yeah that’s on the lower side, but I’ve already covered teams that I expect to be lower. The 2020 Oakland Athletics will have some potential issues to reach 92 million. None of the guaranteed contracts are probably ones Billy Beane wants to have: Khris Davis, Joakim Soria, Michael Fiers, Stephen Piscotty, and Yusmeiro Petit. I’m not saying they’re bad players, but a cheap team wants better players than these to be making millions. Combined, that covers $45.8 million, which is probably more than half of where the owner wants the payroll.
Their problems arise with their arb targets, which are plentiful. At the top is Marcus Semien, expected to make $13.50 million. Blake Treinen is a relative bargain compared to his play in 2019 at $7.5 million. There’s 11 players I have them tendering a contract to, the most questionable of which are probably Robbie Grossman ($3.3 million) and Jharel Cotton ($800k). Add all the contracts together and you get $102.8 million. Whether they roll into 2020 with this payroll or shed contracts, they are definitely not a threat in free agency,
As a rebuilding on the fly team, the Mariners have unusual payment commitments. For players that will play 2020 with the Mariners, they have $49.8 million in guaranteed contracts going to Kyle Seager, Dee Gordon, and Yusei Kikuchi. They are also paying other teams for players they traded away so they don’t have to pay the full salary. Mike Leake, Jay Bruce, and Robinson Cano are all getting paid by the Mariners to play for other teams. They don’t have much in the way of arbitration-eligible players, and those they do have, are all projected for under $5 million. They have a projected $87.8 million salary for 2020, which is extremely below recent trends. They went as high as $157 million in 2017.
It’s tough to say where they’ll be once the offseason is over though since they are seemingly rebuilding and past payrolls provide little help. While they’ve had a good-sized payroll for years, they also sat between 84 million and 98 million in every year between 2009-2014. They have a new owner since 2016, but the Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano deals were already signed and Kyle Seager’s current deal was also signed before then as well. It’s not clear to me what his new payroll expectation will be. They are kind of a wild card for me.
The Rangers, also evidently rebuilding, are still bogged down by some bad contracts. Shin-Soo Choo is finally in the last year of his seven-year-deal - seven years ago feels like forever ago because no chance does he got anywhere near seven years in modern day baseball. Elvis Andrus still has three more years of his left. Rougned Odor isn’t getting paid anything too crazy high, but he sucks and has three years left. Prince Fielder still has a $9 million cap hit on their salary cap as well. $85 million in total committed.
Six arb targets equal six arb offers in my book - there are two borderline who are projected for barely more than league minimum so I counted them anyway. With the guaranteed contracts, that leaves them with $102.77 million. I suppose it depends on how close the Rangers think they are, but that’s not a whole lot less than the $118 million they had in payroll last year. Obviously they have the muscle to go considerably higher, but I doubt that’s going to happen.
The Braves are a much cheaper team than I realized. They have serious money committed to exactly three players, Freddie Freeman, Mark Melancon, and Ender Inciarte. The team friendly deals of Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies, plus recently re-upped Tyler Flowers and Nick Markakis (ha!) puts them at $54 million. The arb targets aren’t much either, with Mike Foltynewicz projected at $7.5 million and Shane Greene $6.5 million. In total they have just $82.5 million.
Now that seems pretty low and it is, but Atlanta’s payroll doesn’t tend to go that high. They had between $115 and $122 million the past three seasons. That leaves them with plenty of room to sign one of the megastars if they wanted. They are a hypothetical threat, and it’s only hypothetical because signing a megastar to a long-term deal is very much not their style.
We can probably skip them, right? They have a very low payroll in 2020 if they make no moves, with the highest salary being Wei-Yin Chen at a ridiculous $22 million. What an awful contract. They also for some reason gave Miguel Rojas a 2 year, $10.25 million deal. It’s not a bad deal and he’s not a bad player, but when you’re working with as minuscule a payroll as the Marlins have, that’s the guy you pay?
They also only have four arbitration targets, and I would only offer one of them a contract. Sorry JT Riddle, Adam Conley, and Hector Noesi. Jose Urena gets $4 million and the opportunity to play for another team as soon as the Marlins can trade him. They’re working with just $39.1 million, which is a huge drop from the $71 million last year. They haven’t been as low as this since 2009, so they’ll probably sign somebody actually.
The Mets have a few unfortunate contracts on their roster: Yoenis Cespedes, Robinson Cano, and technically David Wright for one more year. Wright will affect the CBT more than the actual 2020 salary, because insurance is on the hook for 75% of his $12 million salary. His CBT number, however is $17.5 million, the AAV of the deal he signed eight years ago. The 2020 salary ends up at $116.85 million before you get to the arbitration eligible players, and they have a few pricey arbitration players.
Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Michael Conforto, and Edwin Diaz are all set to make $7 million or more. They also have Steven Matz at about $5 million and I have to imagine they nontender Joe Panik instead of pay him $5 million too. He’s the only one I’d nontender out of the nine player though, which adds up to a total 2020 payroll of $175.1 million. Their previous high was last year at $158 million. I can’t see the Mets being a major player in free agency.
The Phillies have a surprisingly large number of guaranteed contracts: Bryce Harper, Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, David Robertson, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, and Scotty Kingery. It adds up to $103.25 million. They also have 15 arbitration eligible players. A lot of them are tough decisions. J.T. Realmuto, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez are not. Cesar Hernandez at $11.8 million is the ultimate “decline if you plan to spend elsewhere, but definitely keep if you’re doing nothing” guy. I have them keeping eight of them and their final payroll lands at $172.3 million. This, even in their peak spending years, is on the upper echelon of what they spend. Their high as a franchise is $177 million, a mark not reached since 2014. They have more spending room of they nontender Hernandez, but I don’t expect them to be huge players.
With Stephen Strasburg officially opting out of his old deal, the Nationals have more money to spend. They still have $86.3 million committed in guaranteed contracts to six players and another projected $7.5 million to Trea Turner, but uhhh the rest of the arb targets are all pretty low. Their 2020 payroll right now is around $130.8 million. Their 2019 payroll was $197 million. No chance they get anywhere near that and I wonder if their behavior changes now that they’ve secured a title, but they should at least be around $150 million at the end of the offseason. They’ll probably re-sign Strasburg and call it a night.
According to Cot’s, Edwin Encarnacion’s buyout was paid by a combination of Tampa and Seattle, essentially meaning the Yankees are off the hook, which means they have a little more wiggle room than I thought. They have nearly $20 million in available payroll and obviously they can manipulate 2020 to sign a Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon.
Lot more threats in free agency in this group than the last. The Angels, Braves, and Nats should all be a serious threat to land one of the big two, and the Mariners and Rangers could certainly afford to add them if they think they are even remotely close. The Phillies and Mets don’t appear to have much room in their self-imposed payrolls, but if they choose to ignore those, they have plenty of room until the luxury tax hits. Counting the Yankees and White Sox, that’s five big threats so far, and up to nine depending on other teams’ offseason plans.