A consolidated look at the 2014 payroll

David Banks

New BCB contributor Derek Harvey debuts today with a recap of his work on the Brewer payroll for 2014 and beyond.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's my pleasure this afternoon to introduce Derek Harvey as our newest contributor. Readers of the Frosty Mug may know Derek from his work at The Book of Gorman, and many of you likely also follow him on Twitter @D_J_Harvey. What follows is his debut post. - KL

With Spring Training drawing nigh, and my new role here at Brew Crew Ball, I thought it made sense to consolidate my previous works on roster and payroll. There are a few roster spots that will be finalized during spring training, but that shouldn't affect my payroll projection. I believe Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler, Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, and Tom Gorzelanny (health aside) are guaranteed spots in the bullpen. There has been some debate as to where Tyler Thornburg's talents are best used. Some people want him starting in Nashville so he's stretched out in case the Brewers need him to start. I think being "stretched out" is a bit overrated, but that's another discussion altogether. I'm pretty confident that Thornburg will be in the bullpen, and I think that's for the best if the plan is to compete this year.

The final bullpen spot will go to 1 of a number of relievers including: Rob Wooten, Michael Blazek, Alfredo Figaro, Donovan Hand, Jose De La Torre, David Goforth, Zach Duke, Mike Fiers, and Wei-Chung Wang. I have my favorites but it's probably not going to matter that much. Whichever relievers do end up winning those two spots will make the league minimum so in a payroll sense they're interchangeable. The starting rotation is pretty self evident. I've seen it suggested that Thornburg or even Smith might win a spot over Marco Estrada. I like them, but barring injury there is no chance Estrada isn't in the rotation. When healthy he's a solid number 3 starter. You can't put that in the bullpen because you want to see what Thornburg or Smith can do. Not in a season where you're trying to compete.

I've also read comments from Ron Roenicke that suggested left field hasn't been decided yet. I give that a "wink" and "sure thing Ron." I think this more of a motivational tactic than a reality. As far as I'm concerned there is no chance Khris Davis isn't starting in left. His potential is too far above what Caleb Gindl offers.

The one crazy thing I've seen talked about that I believe has half a chance of becoming a reality is trading Rickie Weeks. Having two platoons in the infield is going to be difficult and it's likely going to limit the depth in the outfield. Weeks is also going to make a lot of money for a weak-sided platoon player. The desire to trade Weeks is going to be there, the question is if they can find a buyer. The Dodgers and Yankees immediately come to mind.

If they don't trade Weeks, I fully expect Scooter Gennett to be the main starter. This also seems to be up for debate for some reason. I get that $11 million is a lot to pay for a bench player, but Weeks is getting that money no matter what. It's a sunk cost. Better to allocate skills to the roles that best suit them. Unfortunately for Weeks, and that place in my heart he'll always occupy, based on his performance over the past two years that means he's on the bench. I might sound kind of negative here but, I actually rather like the idea of a platoon with the two players, in a vacuum. I think they can get 2+ wins out of that.

The other platoon, and the last roster spot question mark, comes at first base. Don't let Mark Reynolds' minor league deal fool you. He's making the roster (sorry Sean Halton). The question surrounds his platoon partner. I think it's going to be Juan Francisco. I believe at this point in their careers, Francisco can handle RHP better than Lyle Overbay. He has the last two years. If Francisco truly has improved his swing, we could even see better results than his career 109 wRC+ vs RHP. Another point in his favor is his ability to play third base. He might not be a good defender there, but that's worlds away from simply not being able to play it at all (see Braun circa 2007). Francisco is also relatively cheap and potentially under team control through 2017. I think the only thing Overbay offers over Francisco is the ability to better field the position (that and veteran presence). First base defense is probably a little underrated, but I'm not sure it's worth losing Francisco.

That's the major point against Overbay. He's on a minor league deal so the Brewers would have to DFA someone off the 40-man roster to make room for him. They can't have all three of them on the 25-man roster and Francisco doesn't have any options left so it would almost certainly be him. I'm not sure the Brewers are ready to give up on Francisco just yet. I know I'm not. Unless Overbay has an opt-out in his contract, he should start the year in AAA to provide depth should the need arise.

Now that I've explained my rationale for why I chose certain players over others here is my roster projection with salary figures:

C: Jonathan Lucroy $2,000,000

BN: Martin Maldonado $500,000

1B: Juan Francisco $1,350,000

BN: Mark Reynolds $2,500,000

2B: Scooter Gennett $500,000

BN: Rickie Weeks $11,000,000

3B: Aramis Ramirez $10,000,000

BN: Jeff Bianchi $500,000

SS: Jean Segura $500,000

LF: Khris Davis $500,000

CF: Carlos Gomez $7,000,000

OF: Logan Schafer $500,000

RF: Ryan Braun $12,500,000

SP: Kyle Loshe $11,000,000

RP: Jim Henderson $500,000

SP: Matt Garza $11,500,000

RP: Brandon Kintzler $500,000

SP: Yovani Gallardo $11,500,000

RP: Francisco Rodriguez $3,800,000

SP: Marco Estrada $3,425,000

RP: Will Smith $500,000

SP: Wily Peralta $500,000

RP: Tom Gorzelanny $2,800,000

RP: Tyler Thornburg $500,000

RP: Rob Wooten $500,000

The total payroll for the roster comes to approximately $96,375,000. Most of the contract information comes from Cot's Contracts, except for the players making $500,000. That's just what league minimum is. Some of those players may make several thousand over the minimum, but the amount is negligible when we're talking about tens of millions of dollars.

The one player whose contract seems to be the most confusing is Aramis Ramirez. He is technically making $16 million this year. However, $6 million of that is deferred until 2017-2018. Garza's contract also includes deferred money. He makes $12.5 million each year of his contract, but each year $2 million is deferred and he can make another $1M in incentives per year. Ryan Braun's salary is $10 million but he gets another $2.5 million from a signing bonus. It's also important to note that my payroll projection does include the possible incentives for Estrada, Rodriguez, Reynolds, and Garza. The total amount from those incentives is $2.15 million.

In case you're interested, here's how the payroll breaks down (with percentages):

Starting Position Players: $38,233,333

40%

Bench Players: $11,116,667

11.5%

Starting Rotation: $37,925,000

39.5%

Bullpen: $9,100,000

9%

Starting Roles: $76,158,333

79%

Reserve Roles: $20,216,667

21%

Position Players: $49,158,333

51%

Pitchers: $47,025,000

49%

Total: $96,375,000

A brief glimpse into the future:

Next year Mark Reynolds, Tom Gorzelanny, and Francisco Rodriguez will become free agents. That's around $9 million off the books. Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo each have team options. Aramis Ramirez has a mutual option. That's potentially another $30 million (after buyouts) off the books. Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy each receive raises which totals only $4 million. Marco Estrada, Juan Francisco, Martin Maldonado, Brandon Kintzler, and Alfredo Figaro will be arbitration eligible. Of that group only Estrada and possibly Francisco will get notable raises.

All things considered, the Brewers could have around $30 million dollars to spend. It's not unreasonable to think they could, for better or worse, be surprise spenders. Free agency can often be filled with fool's gold and time bombs, but some of that has to do with size of contract and some with expectations. There can be real upgrades for this team to be had. This is a long way off and the free agent class could change, but if Chase Headley is still available, I wouldn't be shocked to see them go after him. Neither would I expect it though. My guess is they pick up the option for Ramirez and Gallardo while letting Weeks walk. In that case, they'll probably only have around $10-15 million to spend. Still, with few holes to fill, it would be interesting to see how they spend that money too. They may look to lock up young talent like Segura if they haven't already.

Looking past 2015, some of that money is going to be allocated to players that may no longer be with the Brewers. Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza have all had money from their present contracts deferred to a later date. Here is how that breaks down:

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022-31

Braun

$1.8M

Ramirez

$3M

$3M

Lohse

$2M

$2M

$3M

Garza

$2M

$2M

$2M

$2M

Total

$2M

$5M

$8M

$2M

$2M

$2M

$1.8M

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