Think new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto needs some suggestions in completing his off-season roster overhaul?
The News Tribune’s annual free-agent budget tool provides you with that opportunity. Consider it a Hot Stove trip into virtual reality on the eve of baseball’s annual winter meetings.
Those meetings take place next week in Nashville, Tenn.
Think of it this way:
You’re part of the Mariners’ front-office staff, and your assignment is to explore the free-agent market and make recommendations that stay within the club’s budget. (We’ll get to the budget in a moment.)
Dipoto has other lieutenants assessing the trade market — and the Mariners have already been busy in that area; they’ve made six trades (acquiring eight players) since the season ended.
The club added three more players through waiver claims and recently tweaked their 40-man roster by adding two minor-league players to protect them from exposure in the Rule 5 Draft..
Things are heating up in your area, too: the free-agent market. Outfielder Nori Aoki, on Thursday, became the club’s fourth free-agent signing. That includes a deal to retain outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.
So what’s next?
That’s up to you, but Dipoto has already cited ongoing efforts to retain free-agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma as a priority. Pitching usually gets pricey, so here’s the basic issue:
Do you keep Iwakuma or chase after some other starting pitcher?
You say you like David Price or Zack Greinke? Welp…that brings us to the budget. The Mariners opened last season with a payroll of roughly $123 million for their 25-man roster.
The word from ownership is the payroll won’t go down, but there were no promises of big increases. So let’s budget a 10 percent increase and say you’ve got $135 million to work with.
Sure, it’s a guesstimate. But no whining. That’s the budget we’re working with. And here’s where it gets interesting — and tough.
The Mariners already have 10 players with guaranteed salaries of $96.75 million: Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Joaquin Benoit, Seth Smith, Aoki, Gutierrez, Chris Iannetta and Justin De Fratus.
They have three more players who are eligible for arbitration in Leonys Martin, Charlie Furbush and Anthony Bass. The industry guess is their salaries will total $6.2 million.
That’s 13 players at about $103 million.
That leaves 12 players who are not yet eligible for arbitration. The major-league minimum next season will again be $507,500, but some guys will get a little more. Let’s say the average is $510,000.
That’s another $6.1 million, which means the 25-man roster currently projects at $109 million. So you’ve got about $25 million to spend on the free-agent market.
Remember, for any player you sign, you have to take another player off the roster. So that means, at minimum, you’d have roughly $24.5 million to add one player if you remove a player at the low salary scale.
In real life, you might be able to clear space by sending players to the minors. But that gets into the area of 40-man roster costs. For our purposes, we’re just dealing with the 25-man roster.
That should be challenge enough.