The subject of the Nationals' payroll is an occasional topic around here, and in light of some of the teams that made the playoffs (and some of the teams that didn't), a high payroll obviously isn't a perfect predictor of success. But the Nationals could be moving into a higher rent district next year, and that's at least worth mentioning.
To start with, they already have $44,596,000 tied up in seven players (Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Yunesky Maya and Sean Burnett) for 2012. They've also got some big-time arbitration cases (John Lannan, Tyler Clippard, Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Morse and Tom Gorzelanny) that could add another $12-14 million to the payroll. If all those players are back, the Nationals could reasonably have committed something in the neighborhood of $60 million to 12 players.
It's also likely that the team will be aggressive this offseason, boosting its payroll through a trade or free agent signing to add a pitcher or a leadoff hitter. If that happens, the Nationals' payroll would likely jump north of $75 million for the first time - and it wouldn't be surprising to see it end up higher than that, considering the team had a $68 million payroll in 2011.
The Nationals' arbitration cases will be among the most interesting aspects of their winter, considering they have so many key players coming up for what could be significant raises. We're seeing the effects of in-house development, as homegrown players get better and command higher salaries. It's the way the Phillies grew their payroll at first, and other than Werth and LaRoche, most of the Nationals' big-ticket items will be homegrown players next year. (And none of this, of course, includes the possibility that the team works out a big-ticket extension with Zimmerman this winter.)
For the sake of comparison, the Nationals' $68 million payroll last year was the highest figure they've had since coming to Washington, and represented their fifth straight year of increase. In fact, it's the biggest payroll the team has had in either of the last two decades. Whether it translates to on-field success or not remains to be seen, but all signs continue to point toward the Nationals being something different than what we've seen in Washington so far.
What do you think about the possibility of a higher payroll? Does it matter to you, considering how much it's been discussed with this team over the years, or do you not put much stock (pardon the financial pun) in the topic? Let me know.