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An Update to Projected Payrolls

With option years exercised or rejected, we have a clearer picture of every team’s payroll

Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Earlier this offseason - well during the playoffs - I looked at the payrolls of every team in the MLB to determine their payroll space and their SP need. In order to do that, I had to make a few assumptions. Those assumptions primarily were about whether or not a team option was picked up or a player option was rejected and the salaries of players in arbitration. Well, we have MLBTR arb projections, which are scarily accurate, and also teams options have been exercised or rejected. So we have a much better idea of the payroll teams have going into the offseason. Naturally, I thought it’d be good to revisit it.

AL East

Blue Jays

Estimated 2024 payroll: $205 million

Projected Payroll: Not much more honestly

The Blue Jays haven’t had a payroll higher than $214 million, which was their payroll in 2023. As far as I’m concerned, they are a non-threat in the SP market for now. In fact, they are rumored to be exploring trading Alek Monoah which doesn’t actually make sense to do, because they don’t really have six starters in their pipeline. Ricky Tiedemann is close but made one start in AAA and has injury concerns, and Mitch White should not be your 5th starter. Yusei Kikuchi, a name I’ve also seen thrown about, doesn’t make sense either.

Monoah would be the only league minimum guy they have AND they have $72 million invested in the other guys. Whatever Monoah’s problems are, trading your only cheap starter to create a hole makes no sense when your payroll is about to its limit.


Estimated 2024 payroll: $74 million

Projected Payroll: $100 million+

I mean I should say I cannot fathom if the Orioles payroll isn’t at least $100 million, but that doesn’t mean it will be. GM Mike Elias has been noncommittal about what the 2024 payroll plans are. They have one glaring hole in the rotation - Cole Irvin is currently the projected #5 - and not a whole lot of depth behind them. They should really get two starters if they’re maximizing 2024, they’ll probably get one. If the Orioles and Cardinals are interested in the same pitcher, the Orioles really shouldn’t be a threat. The Cardinals should be able to outbid them.


Estimated 2024 payroll: $126 million

Projected Payroll: Less than $126 million

The Rays are reportedly open to raising payroll, but here’s the thing: they could shed Tyler Glasnow’s $25 million salary and still raise payroll by over $20 million. They had an $80 million payroll last year. They already made their move in the rotation when they traded for Aaron Civale. They are a complete non-threat to the Cardinals and may even help them with their SP needs by trading the Cards Glasnow.

Red Sox

Estimated 2024 payroll: $177 million

Projected Payroll: $200 million+

It is not clear how invested the Red Sox are in winning now, so I don’t actually have a good idea of what kind of money they want to spend. Starting pitching isn’t really a problem, though it could absolutely be improved. They legit have five guys who are basically average. They should be in the market for one starter and that starter should be clearly better than average, so I’m putting them down as a clear threat. One benefit to them signing a starter is it opens up the possibility of the Red Sox trading one of their average starters.


Estimated 2024 payroll: $242 million

Projected Payroll: Whatever they want it to be

So I kind of get the feeling that the Yankees are getting a starter only if it’s Yoshinobu Yamamota. I have no source to back me up. It’s just that it only really makes sense to sign a starter if they’re after the potential superstar. If you don’t consider the Cards a realistic place for Yamamota, then this doesn’t affect the Cardinals, except it does remove a SP for teams that actually need it. Ultimately, I think some other team that actually needs a SP is going to outbid the Yankees and they spend their money in other ways. Like they clearly need an outfielder (they would be a good target for Tyler O’Neill or Dylan Carlson). This also isn’t your George Steinbrenner’s Yankees, they don’t really spend willy nilly anymore.

2 probable threats, one possible threat

AL Central


Estimated 2024 payroll: $94 million

Projected Payroll: $100 million

It’s possible they extend payroll above $100 million, a figure they haven’t reached since 2019, but also they won’t be getting a starter if they do. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to trade Shane Bieber, but if they do, it’ll be entirely payroll motivated which would seem to negate the chances that they go out and spend $12+ million on a starter anyway. They are a complete non-threat in free agency.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $79 million

Projected Payroll: <$100 million

So.... my first assumption looking at their roster and looking at their payroll history was that they’d definitely be a threat to get a starting pitcher. I no longer think that. The GM has already preemptively warned the fanbase to not be too concerned about payroll, that they’ll look at outside additions, but don’t want to block their young players. They have five young pitchers projected to be in the rotation, Spencer Turnbull reported to be competing for a spot as well, two top 100 prospects who will be in AAA next year and their #3 overall pick is also in AA. He may as well have said “we don’t want to block our young pitchers.” (They also need infielders way more)


Estimated 2024 payroll: $71 million

Projected Payroll: No clue

The Royals won 56 games last year. They have been pretty tight lipped about what their plan is but they aim to compete in the 2nd half next year, which... suggests they need to change a lot of their roster. The Royals are also trying to get a new stadium, which suggests some pressure to spend and be good, because... you know, the owner is trying to suck up as much money from the city as possible which will be better well-received - in theory - if the Royals are actually good. But they are so far from being good. Not a threat for the big names I don’t think, maybe the middle tier of the market though.


Estimated 2024 payroll: $125 million

Projected Payroll: $150 million or less

The Twins have already come out and say that payroll is going to be lower than last year, when it was $159 million. How much lower is the question? But I would be surprised it they were in the market for a starting pitcher, without some trade to shed salary.

White Sox

Estimated 2024 payroll: $136 million

Projected Payroll: less than $177 million

Here’s another situation where it’s not totally clear what the White Sox plans are. They had a record payroll in 2022 and $177 million was not a lot lower than that, but reports are they aren’t going to have payrolls like 2022 and 2023. Still, that leaves a lot of budget room in between that is still technically cutting payroll. They should probably be in the market for at least one starting pitcher, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did nothing too.

Two possible threats

AL West


Estimated 2024 payroll: $217 million

Projected Payroll: probably not a lot more

If I were an Astros fan and I wanted another starter, a headline in last week’s Houston Chronicle would be less than encouraging: “Astros open to adding rotation pieces under the right circumstances.” Sounds like going after pitchers who fall through the cracks. Not sure we should consider them a threat.


Estimated 2024 payroll: $153 million

Projected Payroll: $200 million+ if they don’t do a rebuild

I have very little idea of what the Angels plan to do, but they won 73 games last year with a 72-win pythag WITH Shohei Ohtani. Either they manage to lure Ohtani back, but then they spend a lot of their available budget, or they also have to replace his production. I’m as anti-rebuild as they come, but I don’t see a route to winning for them. They could use one starter, but their starters aren’t actually in a bad place: Reid Deitmers, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, and Chase Silseth is a solid foursome with maybe not a lot of upside, and Tyler Anderson was a 4 WAR pitcher in 2022.


Estimated Payroll: $40 million

Projected Payroll: $50 million

Nothing to say, clear non-threat.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $140 million

Projected Payroll: more than $140 million

The Mariners need offense a lot more than they need pitching. GM Jerry Dipoto said there will be an increase in spending, but that’s frankly not saying much when their 2022 payroll was $140 million. So literally any move will be an increase. A Mariners beat writer addressed their possible activity in an offseason FAQ: “This front office has always been more proactive with roster upgrades via trades, and that will almost certainly continue with their specific needs this winter.” Don’t really expect them to be in the market for starters.


Estimated 2024 payroll: $204 million

Projected payroll: $230 million

Not sure how accurate the fanbase is on what the Rangers are likely to do versus what they want, but the writers and readers of Lone Star Ball seem pretty convinced they’re grabbing a starting pitcher, even with Max Scherzer, Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning, and Jacob deGrom possibly maybe in the mix at some point. So we’ll call them a threat.

2 probable threats

NL East


Estimated 2024 payroll: $207 million

Projected Payroll: Not clear, but higher

The Braves are not only bringing back Charlie Morton, he’s not retiring. So while I don’t exactly know what the Braves are going to spend, it’s probably not relevant to the Cardinals. They seem extraordinarily unlikely to sign a starter. In fact, between Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Dylan Dodd, and Darius Vines, they have more than a few guys the Cards might trade for as their unexciting 3rd starter they acquire.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $100 million

Projected Payroll: Not a lot more

The Marlins, to the extent that they’ll spend money in the offseason, are highly unlikely to do so in the rotation. The injury to Sandy Alcantara likely removes them as a viable trade partner, but what it does not do is make it likely they get another starter. They already have five guys and another, Max Meyer, who is a top 100 prospect and had Tommy John himself in September of 2022.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $267 million

Projected Payroll: Literally whatever they want

David Stearns said in an interview that the Mets plan to add “multiple” additions to the rotation this offseason and also to the bullpen. So their payroll will be insane again this year. They are a huge threat.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $127 million

Projected Payroll: $140ish million

That number is from a Nationals source and while he expects the Nationals to add a starter, he seemed to think it would be more in the Trevor Williams’ category than someone the Cardinals would actually want. They are a mild threat to get a reclamation guy, but otherwise I don’t think so.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $214 million

Projected Payroll: $246 million (their payroll in 2023)

With the departure of Aaron Nola, the Phillies have a clear hole in their rotation and they are likely to be players in the SP market for them. They are a threat.

2 threats, 1 possible threat

NL West


Estimated 2024 payroll: $104 million

Projected Payroll: $130 million or higher

The Diamondbacks’ surprise postseason run provided them with an unexpected increase in revenue and because of that, they’ll going to increase payroll. They are going to add one veteran starting pitcher, according to the GM. Definitely a threat.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $142 million

Projected Payroll: $230 million

They’re going to be a problem and they need lots of pitching. No question about it.


Projected 2024 Payroll: $137 million

Projected Payroll: $150 million or so

It’s not clear the Rockies have much of anything to spend. They had an end of year payroll of $172 million in 2023, but the Rockies currently do not have a place to show their games. AT&T Sports Nets has broadcasted Rockies games since 1997, but they shut down. And they idiotically gave Charlie Blackmon $13 million, which presumably cut into a lot of the budget they’re willing to spend! They are realistically not a threat though because no pitcher wants to pitch in Colorado.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $198 million

Projected Payroll: $200 million

Basically, they announced they would cut payroll about 20%, which is pretty much where their payroll stands at this moment. They are planning to trade Juan Soto though, which will remove about $34 million and they do need someone to pitch alongside Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. Depending on the Soto return, you would think that money would be spent on the rotation. But of course that depends on their dedication to 2024 specifically.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $147 million

Projected Payroll: $200 million

Sean Manaea did the Giants a huge favor by opting out, because it makes it slightly less awkward to acquire a starter. The Giants have two guys making $12 million, one making $10 million, and one making $8 million in their rotation. A fifth guy was Kyle Harrison, their #1 prospect, who has already made a few starts. Keaton Winn, not a big prospect, had a good debut season as well. So they don’t need a starter necessarily, but I’m not sure how they’ll spend this much money without getting one.

1 definite threat, 2 probable ones

NL Central


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $178 million

Projected Payroll: $208 million

Bleed Cubbie Blue did a much more in depth look at their payroll situation if you’re interested. They arrived at a different number than Roster Resource, but the important aspect is that BCB believed they would be under the luxury tax. And that they would have up to $41 million to spend. So I just chose $30 million at random. I think they are a decent bet for one starter, but not more.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $55 million

Projected Payroll: $75+ million

I said it in my last post on the Central, I’ll repeat it here: if the Reds want to continue the youth movement, they have more than enough arms to use as an excuse to not sign a starter: Hunter Greene, Andrew Abbott, Graham Ashcraft, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson, Lyon Richardson, and Connor Phillips. The Reds should not be a personal threat to the Cardinals if both are interested in the same player, but maybe they take a starting pitcher off the board.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $53 million

Projected Payroll: $70 million

The Pirates feel like a team that will only raise payroll to uncomfortable levels if they go all-in and I highly doubt they feel this is the time to do that.


Estimated 2024 Payroll: $105 million

Projected Payroll: $120 million

Roster Resource has the payroll at $117 million, but I highly doubt they pay Brandon Woodruff almost $12 million to not pitch for them. They may re-structure a deal, but it won’t be at that price. I don’t think they’ll get another starter either: they have Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser, Aaron Ashby, and Robert Gasser, plus Colin Rea.

1 probable threat.

So that’s the updated version. Three teams who are 100 percent in the way of the Cardinals getting a starting pitcher, six teams who are probably going to be bidding on starters (though not necessarily the same starters and also maybe not bidding at top of the market), and four teams that are possibly going to be a factor. That’s 13 teams, though it is worth pointing out that a few of the teams signing a starter could opens up more avenues to acquire a starter through trades.