Now we come to the final part of a three-part series. The first part was written about the AL East and AL Central and part two was about the AL West and NL East. Today covers the last two divisions, the Cardinals’ own NL Central and the NL West. If you don’t want to read those, the gist of both posts is that the Angels, Braves, Nationals and White Sox have the capital and likely will to spend big money. The Yankees, Phillies, and Mets all have the ability to spend big as well, though the latter two have shown no inclination to spend near the luxury tax. And the Rangers and Mariners have the money, but are probably rebuilding.
As always, I look at Cot’s Baseball Contracts first and add up the guaranteed contracts for 2020. Then I head on over to MLBTR to see what the projected arbitration salaries are for the players who qualify. Then I fill in the rest of the roster with league minimum players and add it all up to give an estimate of their 2020 payroll. Let’s start with the NL West so that we can end with the Cardinals.
Due primarily to Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks have had their highest payrolls ever the past two seasons, at $123 million and $131 million in 2018. Greinke is still on the books, but at a significantly reduced price, but on the downside, he’s not on their team. His $10.33 million and recently outrighted Yasmany Tomas’ $17 million in 2020 is going towards nothing in 2020 for the DBacks. Due to that and eight arbitration eligible players, their payroll falls at $100.95 million. I have them nontendering Jake Lamb, but if they inexplicably offer him a contract, it’s $5 million higher.
Outside of that, I don’t think the DBacks are doing much. Previous to their last two seasons, they were under $100 million for three straight years. Nobody expected them to get Greinke, but their payroll when he signed was still under $100 million.
The Rockies just love to shoot themselves in the foot with their roster decisions. They are paying money to Ian Desmond, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Wade Davis, and Daniel Murphy for a combined $58.5 million. Those players combined for -1.1 fWAR and I’m not joking when I say literally every one of those guys was below replacement level. They’re also paying Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and German Marquez so they aren’t all bad.
They also have to pay Trevor Story and Jon Gray significant salaries - hey Rockies we’ll take Gray off your hands and you don’t even need to throw any money our way! Their are five other arbitration fellows who aren’t that significant but I expect to get tendered contracts. Their final payroll is $154 million, which is easily their highest ever. It marks their seventh straight season of their highest payroll ever. They are not serious free agent players this winter I imagine.
The Dodgers have a serious lack of big guaranteed contracts. There’s really only seven of them, the highest being Clayton Kershaw at $31 million. They are also paying players not in their organization anymore or at least not on their 40 man in the case of Yaisel Sierra, Homer Bailey and Hector Olivera. The combined $105 million is pretty low for the Dodgers.
But they are a really good team and have a lot of their good players entering arbitration. There’s Cody Bellinger with $11.6 million, Corey Seager with $7.1 million, Joc Pederson with $8.5 million, and Max Muncy at $4.6 million. There are a whopping 12 players I think they’ll tender a contract to, and added with the guaranteed contracts, it leaves them with $162 million. This is very, very, very low for them. They haven’t been this low since 2012. And they’ve been at least $187 million every year since then, and five of those years were over $200 million. They are a threat.
The Padres are paying a combined $43.5 million for Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. There’s also Manny Machado, Garrett Richards, and Ian Kinsler to combine for $85.8 million in guaranteed contracts. They are evidently also paying for Hector Olivera. If you don’t remember this guy, here’s a refresher. Prior to the 2015 season, the Dodgers signed him to a 6 year, $62.5 million deal. He barely played for the Dodgers, and was traded midseason in a massive 3 team, 12 player deal which involved Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Morse, Mat Latos, and Jose Peraza. A year later, the Braves traded his contract for Matt Kemp and he was released 10 days later.
The Padres have eight arbitration players I would tender a contract to, including Greg Garcia. The only guy even kind of pricey is Kirby Yates at $6.5 million. The Padres end up with $123 million, which pretty easily is their highest ever too. Their next highest was $108 million which came in 2015. I don’t think they’ll be a factor in free agency.
The Giants have six guaranteed contracts of at least $15 million in 2020. All but one of them are also on the books for 2021. They do not have much in the way of arbitration targets, with the lone exception being Kevin Pillar, with a projected price of $9.7 million. That’s why, despite have six contracts of at least $15 million, their 2020 payroll right now is only about $123.5 million. That would be their lowest since 2011 and nearly $50 million less than last year. The Giants are in full rebuild mode right now, so I don’t suspect they’ll be a player despite all that extra cash.
One gets the sense the Cubs kind of assumed that Jason Heyward would have opted out by now. Or Yu Darvish. They did not. Together, along with Jon Lester, they make up three separate $20 million contracts for 2020. They have five more contracts of at least $10 million in addition to those three. They are also not helped by arbitration, with Kris Bryant set to make $18.5 million, Javier Baez $9.3 million, and Kyle Schwarber $8 million. They are virtually guaranteed to nontender Addison Russell instead of pay him $5.1 million.
Even without Russell, they’re at $195.2 million for 2020. They reached $203 million last year, but their previous career high was in 2017 at $182 million. They’re tapped out and shouldn’t be a major threat in free agency.
The Reds have a not great contract on the books in Joey Votto, making $25 million in 2020. Outside of that, the rest are more reasonable with three players making $9-10 million on long-term deals. They picked up Freddy Galvis’ $5.5 million option and there’s also Tucker Barnhart at $4 million. Their guaranteed contracts end up at $63.2 million. Thanks to trading for Trevor Bauer, they’re on the hook for his $18.6 projected salary. They may or may not nontender Kevin Gausman at $10.6 million. I thought they’d pick it up since he pitched pretty well for them.
But if they do non-tender him, they’ll end up at $102 million. They had a payroll of $126 million in 2019, but their next highest was $115 million. They certainly have the capital to do what they want, but it remains to be seen how they’ll choose to spend their money.
The Brewers have four guaranteed contracts in 2020, with three of them being fairly good. Ryan Braun’s isn’t exactly killing them either. They do have a lot of arbitration targets, but the highest is Corey Knebel at $5.10 million. I have no clue if they’ll tender Travis Shaw a contract or not, but if they do he’s probably looking at $4.7 million. With Shaw included, they still only have an $87 million payroll so far. They had a $122 million payroll last year and can pretty easily stomach a $100 million+ payroll.
Then again, they’ve been some peculiar cost-cutting moves so far. They declined Eric Thames $7.5 million option and they currently have no replacement for him as far as I can see. They also traded Chase Anderson, who threw 139 decent innings for them last year, because they didn’t want to pick up his $8.5 million club option. So, I don’t know, maybe they got plans to spend that money, but pretty weird moves when you’re competing!
Like the Brewers, the Pirates have just four guaranteed contracts, all of them under $12 million. Their highest arbitration target is Josh Bell at $5.9 million, but they do have eight of them, and most of them cost at least $3 million. Still, they have a pretty low 2020 salary of $65 million. But that’s not terribly far from the $74 million they spent last year. They’ve spent as high as $99 million in the past. Not sure what the general management team will do nor what Bob Nutting’s allowance for that team is.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have the strangest contract arrangement of pretty much any team. They have ten guaranteed contracts and only two arbitration targets. I think they’ll let Dominic Leone test free agency, but they will bring back John Gant. They’re also paying $4 million for Mike Leake still. We’re waiting to see what Marcell Ozuna decides to do, but the payroll is at $152 million so far. Last year was $162 million, so that leaves just enough room to sign some mid-tier starter if they want. Or just pay Gerrit Cole.
If you’re wondering what 2021 looks like, only Yadier Molina comes off the books, but not really. (I’m guessing) . Brett Cecil is a free agent finally, Andrew Miller will probably be bought out for $2.5 million, and Kolten Wong will probably have his option accepted at $12.5 million. Assuming they do not bring back Leone, they have eight arbitration eligible players in 2021. I can’t imagine Jose Martinez lasts that long, so it’s down to seven. And Yairo Munoz is looking like he won’t make it there either so six.
Harrison Bader is one, and I think Kevin Pillar is a good comp at this point, and he got $3.25 million in his first year to avoid arbitration. Let’s round up and say $4 million. John Brebbia probably isn’t making any more than Gant’s $1.4 million projection, so we’ll give him that. Jordan Hicks is impossible to guess right now, but he won’t have much time to raise his price. I’ll just give him $2 million for now. If Alex Reyes makes any significant amount on arbitration, I like our chances in 2020. So I’m just going to ignore him, cause it’ll probably be negligible from league minimum at this point. I’ll give Gant $2.8 million if he lasts that long. And then there’s Jack. He is in a somewhat similar place to Jacob deGrom before 2017 and deGrom agreed to a $4.05 million deal. So let’s say $5 million.
But wait there’s more. You’ll notice I said I don’t think Molina will be off the books. I don’t think he’s retiring and am estimated his 2021 contract to be like $10 million so I’ll add that in for now. I have the 2021 payroll at $134 million. So that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million of spending and that’s with Molina included at $10 million. To be fair, I think it would be a mistake to not assume Molina gets paid, but if he retires, $10 more million is available.
And there you have it. A couple teams who could be threats if they wanted to, but at the end of the day, I only consider the Dodgers to be one. Should be an interesting offseason. There’s certainly enough teams that could spend money on Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon or Stephen Strasburg that I imagine the agents of those players will do fine and get them their money.