Welp, this is what I get for writing a post on Sunday night before the Winter Meetings officially start. Rumblings overnight have the Royals signing Joakim Soria to a three-year deal, valued at $25 million. Which pretty much blows up this entire post. Oh, well. Read anyway and throw his money into the mix.
Nashville is teeming with baseball-type people. Why would they be there? Nashville doesn’t have a team. Ahhhhh… complaints about a cavernous Opryland Hotel can only mean one thing: The Winter Meetings have finally begun.
If you are a baseball fan and a fan of the Hot Stove, this is your week. And if you’re a baseball fan, you probably are dreaming about how Player X will look in your team’s uniform. (Unless you’re a fan of the Diamondbacks. You’ve already signed Zack Greinke and your new uniforms look awful.) The only thing that is stopping your team from signing your player is one thing… Money. It’s always about the money.
With the Royals arriving in Nashville on Sunday night, rumors were circulating the club was very much near a two year agreement to bring back Chris Young. While exciting, not the top priority to be sure. At one point on Sunday, word came out the Royals were talking to Scott Kazmir. Now we’re getting somewhere. Thankfully, there were rumblings the team was still very much in the Alex Gordon Sweepstakes.
This is all well and good, but the larger question looms: How do these players – or anyone for that matter – fit into the 2016 budget? I’m really glad you asked. Because that’s what this post is about.
Let’s start with what we know. The Royals currently have 13 players under contract for next season.
Those players will make a total of $74.475 million.
*Of course the caveat is Jason Vargas will miss most – if not all – of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Word is, they have a $6 million insurance policy that will defray a nice chunk of his 2016 salary. If we remove that money from the players already under contract, we are at $68.475 million.
Next, let’s take a look at the players eligible for arbitration. These players have all been tendered contracts by the club, but they are not signed for the 2016 season, so we don’t know where they fit on the ledger. Player and team will exchange dollar amounts in mid-January, then will have the rest of the winter to come to an agreement. Failing that, they each will present their case to an arbiter, who will rule in favor of either the player or the club. There is no middle ground.
Since we are over a month out from the exchange of figures, that makes it a little more difficult to estimate payroll. Thankfully, we have MLB Trade Rumors to take care of that for us. The Royals have seven players eligible for arbitration. Here is the list, followed by their estimated contract for 2016.
Those estimates total $20.6 million.
If you’re keeping score, that gives the Royals 20 players totaling $89.075 million.
We need to fill out our 25 man roster, so assuming the Royals don’t make a trade, don’t sign anyone in free agency (Chris Young rumors be damned) the Royals will fill those spots with players who are still under club control with fewer than three years in the majors to their credit. Those players generally make the league minimum or close to it, which is just north of $500,000. So we need to add five more players at a total of roughly $2.5 million.
That puts the 25 man roster around $92 million.
The above number is something to keep in mind you navigate the rumors this week. Royals are reportedly budgeting for a payroll around $130 million.
The hottest rumor as of Sunday night has Young coming back to Kansas City on a two year deal at between $10 and $12 million. So let’s put $5 million for Young in the 2016 column as a rough estimate.
For Gordon, I’ve seen speculation for five years at anywhere between $90 and $105 million. Basically, you’re looking at $20 million per year, but nothing is even close to certain at this point, as the outfield market hasn’t even started to take shape. Plus, the Royals have always been rather creative with some of their more notable contracts, so even if they bring Gordon back at five years and $100 million, it probably wouldn’t be as simple as paying him $20 million a year. Still, with myriad options we should probably stick with the straightforward for this exercise and put him down for $20 million next year.
With Young and Gordon, you subtract $1 million (since we are removing two players who would make the minimum) and add $25 million. That puts the payroll roughly at $116 million, which is already more than the opening day payroll for 2015.
That leaves you room for one more free agent addition. Possibly Kazmir. Early industry estimates had him at around three years and $13 to $15 million per season. That would get the Royals right on the mark of that $130 million budget.
If these numbers are accurate and the budgets are correct, that means you can basically forget about Ben Zobrist coming back. The Royals are going to need to add another starting pitcher (and probably a bargain bin reliever or two) and there’s simply no way they can bring back Gordon (their number one choice) and Zobrist while signing a middle of the rotation starter. I suppose Zobrist could be their fall-back, in case they lose out on Gordon, but all indications are the Zobrist market is heating up and he’s looking at four years, which is probably one year too many for the Royals to stomach.
For now though, it’s all speculation. Hot Stove! The next few days will give us a little clarity as we move closer to the opening of camp in Arizona. At least if things go according to plan.