Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dollars and Sense

With the Indians saying that they’ll spend more than they take in next year and increase the payroll significantly, it’s time to put on a little green hat and grab the abacus.

Reading between the lines of the linked story, I’m estimating that the Indians are going to go into the 2007 season with a payroll between $65M and $70M.

But how much of that money is already spent, and where would the surplus be best served?

This is how the players that figure into the 2007 roster break down in salary:
C.C. - $8.75M
Byrd - $7M
Westbrook - $5.6M (team option)
Blake - $3.75M (team option)
Hafner - $3.75M
Victor - $3M
Lee - $2.75M
Peralta - $750,000
Sizemore - $750,000

Major League Minimum Salaries

That’s 16 players of the 25-man roster that I would assume to be included in the mix (if not on the team) for 2007. Figuring that the ML-minimum salary for next year will be about $400,000 (it hasn’t been determined yet, though it was about $365,000 last year and my math-challenged mind need a nice round number), we can see that those 16 players are scheduled to make $38.9M.
The remaining 9 players, then, would fill out the roster with about $25M to $30M to make those additions.

Now, on the current Indians not listed, Michaels made $1.5M this year to avoid arbitration and would likely get a pay raise to avoid arbitration again. That, of course, is assuming that Michaels is even part of this team next year, which I find unlikely as the Indians have players like Gutierrez and Ben Francisco that can do what Michaels does for the league minimum.

So add Frank the Tank to the list above to make 17 players taking up $39.3M.
Down to 8 spots and, still, that $25M to $30M number.

Rafael Betancourt is also arbitration-eligible and will make more than Jake Taylor money. Will Betancourt and his spotty pitching be given a spot in the bullpen or could that money be better used elsewhere? The guess here is that Rocky will be elsewhere when the sun rises on the 2007 season.

By the way I’m assuming that Boone’s $3.75M option will not be picked up, which I feel is a pretty safe assumption, unless they’re going to pick it up to act as Andy Marte’s mentor (which would be akin Kenny Banya in the Mentor-Protégé relationship). Seriously, Boone does seem to have a good relationship with the team and could pull a Travis Fryman and offer to help the young players out. That is, assuming of course, that the interest in him in the off-season is comparable to the apparent interest in him now.

Back to crunching numbers - I haven’t included any bullpen arms, though all of the in-house candidates (Carmona, Mastny, Cabrera, Davis, Brown, Perez, Mujica, Sipp, Matt Miller) except Betancourt fall into the ML-minimum category. My guess is that 3 or 4 of those players will be a part of the bullpen next year, with the other players to make up the 7 relievers being acquired via trade or FA.

If 3 to 4 of the names above make up a portion of the bullpen (let’s say 4), we add $1.6M to the above number, bringing the total committed salary to $40.9M for 21 players.

That still leaves that $25M to $30M to acquire 4 players to get to a final number between $65M and $70M. By the way, don't expect a firm number to come out of the offices at The Jake. It’s doubtful that the team would ever come and identify a number because that would allow everyone to second-guess every one of the moves even more.

So, where can that money be best spent?

The bullpen, obviously. And that would break down to a closer, and two proven set-up guys (preferably one RH and one LH). How the Indians go out and achieve that goal is something that I haven’t wrapped my head around, but by acquiring some proven arms allows the young pitchers to learn to pitch out of the bullpen in low-stress situations.
That would facilitate those arms (Carmona, Mastny…Whoever) the luxury of developing at their own pace and seeing how a veteran prepares everyday (remember what Millwood did to the rotation’s approach last year) and not forcing them to pitch the 9th inning in Fenway, then Comerica in consecutive series.

I’ll still bang the drum for a 2B that can bat leadoff, unless the Indians feel that Trevor Crowe is that close to contributing. In that case, you let Luna and Inglett battle over a spot at 2B until Crowe is ready at some point in 2007. The winner of the battle (and former starter) moves to the utility spot, while the loser of the battle (and former utility player) goes the way of Ramon Vazquez.

But more than that 2B, I’d like to see a solid corner OF (who preferably bats RH) that can slot into the cleanup spot behind Hafner and in front of Victor to knock in some runs. That would allow the Tribe to allow Blake to play one of the corner OF spots, as well as be a bit of a super-utility guy while playing Choo against RH. Frank the Tank (or Ben Francisco or even Jason Michaels) cover the real 4th OF spot as Blake’s versatility allows you to do that, in order to give Sizemore some relief in CF.

If Choo or Gutierrez force their way into the plans - great. Blake moves to even more of a utility role and gives the Tribe insurance if Marte or Garko (or Kouzmanoff) aren’t ready for the Bigs at the corners.

So the 25-man breaks down like this (and I’m throwing darts at the youngsters who end in the bullpen next year):
Corner OF

LH Set-Up Pitcher
RH Set-Up Pitcher

So, by my math, there are 4 players to take up the $25M to $30M in available payroll.
That's a pretty significant chunk of change for a few spots.

How Shapiro decides to use that money, and how high the Dolans allow that number to go are going to be the most important factors in the most important off-season in recent memory.

Make the right decisions and spend the right amount of money in the off-season and the Indians set up nicely to contend for a few years.

Identify the wrong needs or acquire the wrong players and it’s back to the drawing board, having wasted another contract season of players like Pronk, Grady, and C.C.


t-bone said...

From Deadspin, I dont even know what to say about this.

t-bone said...

as i was ready to say what else can happen after victor playing catch with mr. michaels on tuesday, we make the royals become the second team in major league history to lose a game after scoring 10 runs in an inning.

i dont get it. oh wait, that's the story of the 2006 cleveland indians.

Baltimoran said...

Brownies traded for a center...I wonder what's wrong with him

Byrd could be a 4th or 5th on a good team, he's had some decent starts