Marlins payroll expectations


Joe Frisaro released this bit of speculative talk over the weekend.

"Payroll for the upcoming season will be in the neighborhood of $36 million, or slightly lower.In 2009, the Marlins finished second in the N.L. East, winning 87 games with a $36 million roster. So expect salaries to again to be in that range."

In the blog post, Frisaro mentions no sources of any kind, so this isn’t anything but his speculation on the topic. Well, let me offer my take then.

I think we all expected the Marlins to stay within $36M range this season, just based on talk before the season ended. A number of moves would likely have to be made in order for the team to stay at that number, including trading Jeremy Hermida (done), Dan Uggla, and one of either Jorge Cantu or Cody Ross. I think the Marlins will definitely do that.

The Marlins should be coming in with $14.5M covered already in players they have under rookie salaries or major league contracts. The gap between the expected $36M and the given $14.5M is $21.5M. I’ll use Lou’s estimates on arbitration over at SoFlaMarlins as a good guideline for arbitration salaries. Say the Marlins give Josh Johnson $6M for the first season of his extension (as I discussed here) and the rest of the salaries go down as expected. The Marlins would have tallied $16.4M in arbitration salaries without keeping Cantu (I expect Ross will be retained unless traded) and have about $5M to delve into the free agent pool to replace the remaining players.

Given that, if the team resigns each of the players not listed above that are eligible for arbitration, that would leave them with holes in the bullpen and likely at corner infield/outfield, not counting any contributors the Marlins may receive from these deals. I’ve already suggested a few players for the Marlins at the corners, and the team generally fills the pen with scrap parts. The pen as constituted just with the players already on the team would contain seven pitchers, and the team would likely opt for ten. If the team goes with three relievers at the league minimum, whether it be through the free agent scrap heap or within the organization, that would total another $1.2M. Signing a player like Eric Hinske to soak up playing time in the corners may cost up to $2M, leaving the team a cool $1.8M to spend on an auxiliary part. Clearly, the Marlins can constitute something of a passable team while remaining with a similar budget.

Where could they decide to go over budget? There are a plethora of third baseman available this offseason, and while not all options are pretty, many of them can come cheap as one-year rentals. Right now, the Marlins are attempting to bridge the gap between their talented prospects coming up and the old 2006-2008 core which is becoming increasingly expensive. The Fish can afford to buy up rentals on the cheap to fill in team holes, even if it means spending $2-3M on a player that Emilio Bonifacio could have replaced at half capacity. Even a generous $2M increase in budget could net the Marlins a nice piece to fill in at third while Matt Dominguez attempts to prove he can hit baseballs for a living, for example. The team could also benefit from giving Kiko Calero another opportunity next season, though I suspect it will come at a hefty price.

Next week, I’ll unveil my thoughts on moves the team could and should make and what possible returns we may see. It will be an offseason plan kind of like this one from Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner, except it will be much lighter, I suspect. Until then, I’ll be formulating a plan and you Maniacs can keep speculating on the right and wrong moves for the team. Have at it, discuss away. What should the team’s plan be this offseason?