As a rebuilding team intending to rely on younger and less experienced players, the Orioles will also likely be a team that may not pursue many free agents this winter and certainly not many commanding significant dollars.
The Orioles’ payroll is going down as they attempt to reset it.
Cot’s Baseball Contracts ranks the O’s year-end 40-man roster payroll at 14th in the majors from 2013 to 2015. It ranked 12th in 2016, at $169.3 million, and 11th in 2017, at $179.9 million.
Some have observed that the Orioles have outspent their market in recent years. They didn’t spend like the big boys in New York, Los Angeles or Boston, but they spent more than small-market teams in places like Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. They were in the top half and close to the top 10.
The Orioles qualify to receive competitive balance draft picks, however. Major League Baseball uses a formula that takes revenue and market size into account in determining which teams receive this extra draft pick. Last season, the 14 teams were the Orioles, Rays, Reds, Athletics, Brewers, Twins, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Indians, Royals, Pirates and Cardinals.
According to the MLBTradeRumors.com, the Orioles’ six arbitration-eligible players and projected 2019 salaries are Jonathan Villar ($4.4 million), Tim Beckham ($4.3 million), Dylan Bundy ($3.0 million), Mychal Givens ($2.0 million), Caleb Joseph ($1.7 million) and Jace Peterson ($1.3 million). That adds up to $16.7 million.
There are four players with salaries already set for 2019, and they are Chris Davis ($21.1 million), Alex Cobb ($14 million), Mark Trumbo ($13.5 million) and Andrew Cashner ($9.5 million). That adds up to 58.1 million.
Add players from both categories and you have 10 players accounting for $74.8 million. If the bulk of the roster after that is made up of young and mostly pre-arbitration players, that could bring the final number to somewhere around $82-85 million. All the team and player payroll numbers come from the Cot’s website.
That number could change if the team decides to non-tender any players and/or any veterans are traded over the winter. For a rebuilding team that is not expected to contend, those are likely scenarios, and the Orioles have pledged that some of the savings from a diminished payroll will be reinvested in other areas.
Back in July, after the Manny Machado trade, then-vice president Dan Duquette talked about the plan going forward, which addressed where some payroll savings would go.
“It’s a plan that we’ve been working on for a while,” he said then. “We have the support of ownership and the people that have made the recommendations to advance in these areas, they’re on board. It’s a multi-dimensional plan. You have to do a number of things well to compete in professional sports, but we had identified the areas that we needed to improve in - technology, international scouting, facilities, the draft, strengthening our analytics, investing in our international scouting, investing in more front office staff to be more in line with our competitors, expanding our nutrition and wellness resources at every level of the organization. So those are areas that were identified that we can improve in, and the ownership understands those are areas that we need to put more resources into.”
That all makes sense, and if the club is lacking in those areas, this is a good time to regroup and catch up. A new regime will have that as one of several goals, no doubt.
Bringing the payroll down will also provide the Orioles with the dollars to sign young players to longer-term contracts well before they can hit free agency. Whether it’s a player closer to free agency, such as Bundy, or one just starting out, such as Cedric Mullins, a lower payroll will allow the new management team the opportunity to identify its best young talent and try to keep it.
Starting in 2020, just two Orioles are under contract, in Davis and Cobb. The club may even look to trade more veterans at the 2019 trade deadline to further pare payroll. There is no deadline on smart decisions to benefit the future of your team.
The 2019 season figures to feature a lower payroll, low attendance and a low win total. How will Birdland deal with that?