Trying to figure out where the Blue Jays payroll is going — or where any team’s payroll is going, I suppose — involves quite a bit of guesswork. Believe me, I’ve done this a few times already this season alone.
The data available at Cot’s Baseball Contracts is an enormous help, as (among other things) it outlines who dollars have already been committed to, and where guys are in the arbitration process. But as far as deciding what we figure players’ arbitration salaries will actually be, while it maybe isn’t quite a crap shoot, it’s not exactly scientific, either. At least not when I do it.
But our friends over at MLB Trade Rumors do use a bit of science for this stuff! They, along with Matt Swartz, “have developed an accurate model to project arbitration salaries” — something that Swartz explains a bit here. And today, they released their projected arbitration salaries for 2018. So let’s see what they say about the Jays, how these new numbers fit into our payroll projection, and how we (read: I) did when spitballing these numbers early in the summer.
First, here are the projections for the Jays’ ten arbitration-eligible players (service time in parentheses):
- Josh Donaldson (5.158) – $20.7MM
- Aaron Loup (5.040) – $1.8MM
- Tom Koehler (4.090) – $6.0MM
- Ezequiel Carrera (4.039) – $1.9MM
- Marcus Stroman (3.148) – $7.2MM
- Kevin Pillar (3.113) – $4.0MM
- Ryan Goins (3.106) – $1.8MM
- Aaron Sanchez (3.069) – $1.9MM
- Devon Travis (3.000) – $1.7MM
- Roberto Osuna (3.000) – $5.6MM
In total, that’s $52.6 million projected to go to this group of players. My most recent attempt at a calculation came last month, when the club re-signed Marco Estrada. My guess at that time: that these players, all told, would add up to $51.7 million. LOL! Pretty not bad!
Mind you, I was farther off than that with some individual valuations — a couple million high on Donaldson, a million low on Stroman; high on Sanchez, low on Pillar — but more importantly, I guess this means that my calculations at the time were fairly sound. Here’s what I wrote at the time, minus the guesswork on the arb guys:
The Jays now have eight guaranteed contracts on the books for 2018:
- Russell Martin, $20 million
- Troy Tulowitzki, $20 million
- J.A. Happ, $13 million
- Marco Estrada, $13 million
- Kendrys Morales, $11 million
- Steve Pearce, $6.25 million
- Justin Smoak, $4.125 million
- Lourdes Gurriel, $1.429 million
Add in a $500K buyout for José Bautista (*sadface*) and that’s $89.304 million.
At that point I added the arbitration salaries, which then took us to “about $141 million,” and now, with MLBTR’s figures, takes us to $141.9 million. That covers 18 players.
I went on:
Because Gurriel won’t be on the big league roster, though, let’s actually say that this roster has just 17 players on it, and so would be filled out by another eight players making, on average (judging by this year’s crop of pre-arb salaries on the Jays), a touch less than $550K. So that brings us to a little bit over $145 million in total.
With the revised figures, we’re now talking about $146 million. Realistically, though, it’s more like $140 million, because it seems unlikely that the club would tender a $6 million contract to Tom Koehler.
The Jays’ payroll in 2016, per Cot’s, was $163,381,937.
So, assuming payroll stays about the same, they’re going to have between $20 and $25 million they can spend this winter.
Sure though, there are ways that the club could get creative to add a little wiggle room for themselves. Maybe they find someone who’ll take Morales or Pearce. Maybe they can flip Pillar for a cheaper piece. Maybe they sign Stroman or Donaldson to an extension that pays them less than their projected number this season, with those dollars being added back into the contract in later years. Maybe, with ownership perhaps being more keen on avoiding a rebuild than the front office is, even more money will be made available, just to help avoid killing the golden goose that is the Jays’ TV ratings. Maybe they get some cheap big league pieces for Donaldson and argue that those, plus whatever they can get by adding another $20 million to shop with, makes the team better than it would have been if they had kept him and had less to spend.
But more realistically? Yeah… that’s probably about it.
Can the Jays obtain “one impact arm and one impact position player for sure” with that kind of money? Depends on your definition of “impact,” I suppose.
It’s not a bad amount, don’t get me wrong. It’s just… to be successful they’ll have to thread the needle pretty good with these dollars, and still hope for better health than they had this season. They may not need to earmark quite as much for depth than they did in 2017, thanks to the strides they’ve made internally in that department. But… yeah…
Better get creative, Jays!