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Payroll implications and moving Uggla

Now that the Marlins have completed almost all of their arbitration cases (with Cody Ross the only player going to arbitration, and for a measly $250K difference), the Marlins’ payroll appears mostly set for 2010, provided the team passes on signing anyone else heading into Spring Training. Even if signings were to be made, one could hardly expect the Marlins to go after anyone outside of the veteran minimum, so any differences between now and the start of the 2010 season are going to be minimal anyway. So far, the projected payroll (with my WAR projections from earlier this week) looks like this:

Position Players

Name Pos Salary ($Mil) Proj. WAR
Dan Uggla 2B $7.8 3.4
Hanley Ramirez SS $7.0 7.4
Jorge Cantu 3B $6.0 1.7
Cody Ross RF $4.4 2.4
Ronny Paulino C $1.1 0.9
Wes Helms 1B/3B $0.9 0.3
Cameron Maybin CF $0.4 3.4
Chris Coghlan LF $0.4 3.1
John Baker C $0.4 2.1
Gaby Sanchez 1B $0.4 1.1
Rest of Bench - $1.2 0.7
Total - $30.0 26.4

Again, the projection for the position players to me seems a bit optimistic, but it is what it currently is. Based on this, the team expects to pay something along the lines of $30M for their position players alone. No contract here is an obvious albatross, though Dan Uggla’s salary seems a bit high for the team’s salary constraints. Basically, this is what a team with a ton of arbitration would expect to pay to keep decent talent. While Uggla’s $7.8M and Jorge Cantu’s $6M seem high, all in all this is not an awful payroll.

Pitchers

Position Players

Name Pos Salary ($Mil) Proj. WAR
Ricky Nolasco SP $3.8 3.8
josh Johnson SP $3.8 4.7
Anibal Sanchez SP $1.3 1.2
Chris Volstad SP $0.4 1.2
Andrew Miller SP $0.4 1.5
Other Starters SP/RP $0.4 0.5
Bullpen RP $4.6 0.0
Total - $14.7 13.0

The pitcher totals look very similar. The Marlins are expecting to pay almost $15M for 13 WAR of production, give or take a few wins depending on the bullpen’s actual performance. Most of that money is going into Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson (and rightfully so), but around $3M of that money is currently tied up in Leo Nunez (closer with a capital C) and Renyel Pinto, two players that should definitely not be costing the Marlins in the millions. Consider that if the team fills out the remaining four bullpen slots with readily available talent (either on the free agent market or from their Triple-A affiliate), the team would be paying a meager $1.6M for the remainder of the bullpen. Neither Pinto nor Nunez were the best relievers on the team last season anyway, so it’s hard to imagine why they are the only ones being paid that way. The perils of the save statistic, folks.

In any case, what’s our total look like right now? Having made no additions to the team (and a few subtractions in fact), the Marlins are looking at owing around $45M in salary for the 2010 season. That intriguing, given the fact that the team was looking initially to stay around $36-38M before MLB and the Players Association got involved. A move up to $45M would seem to be the right plan, except the team simply kept its own players to accomplish this move. The improvement of the club depends mostly upon regression and some good performances by the rookies (cross your fingers, folks).

What about the “moving Uggla” movement?

Well, it seems like the team could still do that. Today, friend of the Maniac and BtB alum Jack Moore outlined the possible replacements for Dan Uggla in a post on FanGraphs. Of course, this isn’t something I haven’t myself looked into, but Moore comes to a similar conclusion as my own, that the Marlins could do well to trade Uggla in the near future.

That being said, consider the alternative. If the team moves Uggla, two questions need to be answered:

1) What are the odds that the Marlins go to a plan that starts Emilio Bonifacio at second rather than the plan that moves Chris Coghlan into the infield and plays Brett Carroll plus potentially someone to help him in a platoon?

2) How much of the money saved from an Uggla deal would go back into the team in terms of payroll?

I don’t know if I can assuredly answer either of these points. I’ve already mentioned the loss in starting Bonifacio full-time. I had Bonifacio at a full 2.7 WAR worse than Uggla in a full season, with the Coghlan+Carroll plan (come on, it’ll be BC and CC, but actually on the field!) being worth 0.7 WAR worse than Uggla. This means that a plan involving Bonifacio would be worth 2 WAR worse than playing Coghlan and Carroll. If there’s a 50/50 chance of that happening, I would feel much better if the Marlins simply ate the money for Uggla and kept him on the team.

This of course would also depend on who the team picks up after dealing Uggla. Presuming no one comes aboard from an Uggla trade that can help the major league team this season, the team’s $8M come off the books and become free to spend once again. The question is then, once again, twofold.

1) Who’s available?

2) Where do the Marlins need help?

At that point, considering the team goes with the better replacement plan, the club’s breakeven point would be at 0.7 WAR (or so). If the team does that, it would be as if they made no moves at all. Let’s say the Marlins need to improve the team by 1.5 WAR to make it worth their while. Who’s available in one of the team’s problem areas that can be worth 1.5 WAR?

The answer to that is not many. Maybe for $8M the Marlins can squeeze out two small names that may project to around 2 WAR in total, but remember that the team needs to improve something like 1.5 WAR to make it feel like a general improvement. Outside of pursuing a starting pitcher like Joel Pineiro or Ben Sheets (something the team would probably be well against), there is no one on the market that represents a significant improvement over the team’s current players. So unless the team is going to better itself by a good margin in an Uggla trade, it may not be the right call, especially given the team’s potential competitiveness and the lack of options out there in free agency. Making a move based on moving Uggla seems like a moot point.

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Tags: Brett Carroll Chris Coghlan Dan Uggla Emilio Bonifacio Miami Marlins

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