Matt Schwartz, as explained on MLBTradeRumors.com, has developed a very accurate system for projecting player arbitration salaries. That is an important matter for the Brewers, as seven players are arbitration-eligible entering the 2012 season. Using that information and the current team payroll obligations listed on Cot’s Baseball Contracts, we can make some educated guesses about how the Brewers’ offseason will look.
First, the arbitration salaries:
Shaun Marcum (SP) – $6.8M
Casey McGehee (3B) – $3.1M
Kameron Loe (RP) – $2.8M
Nyjer Morgan (CF) – $1.9M
Carlos Gomez (CF) – $1.8M
Manny Parra (SP/RP) – $1.2M
George Kottaras (C) – $0.8M
None of the projected arbitration salaries are truly shocking. Shaun Marcum nearly doubles his 2011 salary, which is to be expected after the kind of year he had. Nyjer Morgan and Casey McGehee get big raises in their first years of arbitration. McGehee certainly does not deserve $3.1M for what he did last season, but panel will look at his 2010 and 2009 season, too, if it comes to that. Despite the big paycheck, I think the Brewers will give McGehee another shot this year rather than nontendering him. Manny Parra is an interesting nontender case, but given the Brewers’ struggles finding a quality left-hander this past year, I think they’ll hold on to Parra too. At $2.8M, Kameron Loe would probably not be offered a contract but for the departures of Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, and Francisco Rodriguez in free agency.
If we assume the Brewers tender each arbitration-eligible player a contract, the Brewers will spend $18.4M on arbitration. That’s about 22% of their 2011 Opening Day payroll ($83.59M).
Add those arbitration salaries to the Brewers’ guaranteed obligations for 2012, and the team has already spent $76.48M. That’s nearly the amount the Brewers spent on their Opening Day rosters in 2008 and 2009, and just $7M shy of the team’s 2011 Opening Day payroll. Fans’ speculation that Prince’s $15.5M 2011 salary would free the team up to spend big is a misconception; those salary savings are largely eaten up by the extensions for Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Yovani Gallardo. Collectively, those four players will receive a nearly $13M raise from their 2011 salaries.*
With $76.48M already committed to the 2012 roster, the Brewers still have some big holes to fill. They will need infield talent, as Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt have both likely reached their ends with the team. The Brewers will need to revamp their bullpen, as some of its best players (Saito, Hawkins, and K-Rod) will be leaving. And though that $76M accounts for the outfield and starting pitching, the Brewers will need some quality bench depth, as Craig Counsell, Jerry Hariston, Jr., and Mark Kotsay are also free agents. If we assume the Brewers will look to strike near the $87-88M range for payroll this year, that leaves about a $1.7M average per roster spot for the departing free agents (and that number doesn’t account for pre-arbitration players like Jonathan Lucroy and John Axford, who generally make somewhere around $400-500K per year). I don’t envy Doug Melvin’s job.
Speaking of which, Doug Melvin is also in the final year of a three-year extension signed in 2008. Look for the Brewers to extend his contract again this winter.
*By the way, I’ve heard some rumbling about Braun’s extension, signed this past year, not being so team-friendly at about $20M per year in its late stages. Braun’s salary in 2012: just $7M. Last year the MVP hopeful made only $5M. This year, Greinke, Randy Wolf, Corey Hart, and Rickie Weeks will all earn more than Braun.