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The Brewers could have 2016's lowest payroll

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Right now only the Miami Marlins have a payroll projection lower than the Milwaukee Brewers.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Sine 2015's trade deadline the Brewers have moved the contracts of more than a few major leaguers. That number includes several that were on the books for 2016. Carlos Gomez. Francisco Rodriguez, and Adam Lind represent a rather large sum of money the Brewers will no longer need to pay.

Here's the roster and payroll projection I have for the Brewers as of right now (Things will be different once the offseason is done though):

C: Jonathan Lucroy- $4.35M C/1B: Martin Maldonado - $1.125M SP: Matt Garza- $12.5M RP: Will Smith- $1.2M
1B: Jason Rogers- $507,500 INF/OF: Colin Walsh- $507,500 SP: Wily Peralta- $2.8M RP: Jeremy Jeffress- $507,500
2B: Scooter Gennett- $507,500 INF: Jonathan Villar- $507,500 SP: Jimmy Nelson- $507,500 RP: Michael Blazek- $507,500
3B: Garin Cecchini- $507,500 INF: Yadiel Rivera- $507,500 SP: T. Jungmann- $507,500 RP: Corey Knebel- $507,500
SS: Jean Segura- $3.2M OF/1B: S. Peterson- $507,500 SP: Zach Davies- $507,500 RP: Tyler Thornburg- $507,500
OF: Ryan Braun- $20M
RP: Ariel Pena- $507,500
OF: Khris Davis- $507,500
RP: Zack Jones- $507,500
OF: Domingo Santana- $507,500
Total: $30,087,500 Total: $3,155,000 Total: $16,822,500 Total: $4,245,000
Team Total: $58,643,333

Because of some deferred money shenanigans that $58.6 million figure represents the upper range of the Brewers potential payroll. It could end up a few million lower. That figure is almost half of the 2015 opening day payroll of $104.2 million. It's even a significant drop from the $70.6 million figure Baseball Reference has for the Brewers end of season payroll after they traded major league players along with prorated portions of their salaries.

It was around the time I began writing the updated payroll/roster article that JP brought up an interesting point to me. According to Baseball Reference's current projections, the Brewers are within a range that it's possible for them to enter 2016 with the lowest payroll in baseball. Here's their bottom five projections as of right now.

Team Projected Payroll
Marlins $54.5 million
Brewers $59.1 million
Indians $64.9 million
Rays $68.4 million
Athletics $81.4 million

The Brewers and the Marlins right now ought to be seen as heavy favorites for the lowest payroll in 2016. It's an interesting place to be. Normally I think one could merely assume the Marlins would come in lower than the Brewers. Miami is known for it's...*ahem* frugal ways. But they have recently purportedly wanted to compete. And they probably have a good deal more major league talent that the Brewers. It makes sense for them to bring in some free agents to try to push them into a win range that will have them competitive. So I wonder if perhaps they'll end up surpassing the Brewers payroll after all.

Of course the Brewers will be dipping into free agency as well. They're said to be prioritizing a center fielder and they'll likely sign a first baseman as well. It's interesting to me they have 3 open spots on the 40-man roster. They exposed LHP Mike Strong and OF Daniel Fields to waivers right before the Winter Meetings, subsequently losing both players. There's no reason to make that move before a trade or signing happens. So the timing is strange to me. I wonder if David Stearns knew he was going to DFA them sooner or later and just tried to sneak them through at a time when 40-man roster space was at a premium, hoping they slid through. I imagine that was part of the thinking. But that still means he was expecting to fill those roster spots.

If I'm correct then by adding a center fielder and a first baseman the Brewers will have filled only 2 of the 3 open roster spots. I wonder if perhaps they're looking to add another pitcher. Whether that would be a reliever or a starter I have no idea. But it's interesting nonetheless.

Of course the Brewers could still dump some salary. Ryan Braun isn't going anywhere and I have to believe the Brewers can't move Matt Garza either. But I think Will Smith, Wily Peralta, Jean Segura, and/or Jonathan Lucroy could be moved. Combined, these four players could make around $11-12 million. I can't say precisely because Smith/Peralta/Segura are arbitration eligible and so their salaries are yet to be determined. I doubt all four go, but I could see one or two moved which would be a modest reduction in payroll.

Depending on how much they spend in free agency, and dump in trade, I could see them finishing anywhere from the lowest payroll to fourth lowest. In the end it doesn't really matter what the final payroll is. Reducing costs isn't--or shouldn't be--the goal in rebuilding. It's just a function of making trades from the major league roster. And the goal there is to acquire young talent. I just think it's interesting that the Brewers were able to cut so much from their payroll. Here's hoping they use that money on July 2nd when the next international signing period begins.

Contract details courtesy of Cot's Contracts
Arbitration projections courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors
Payroll projections (other than my own) courtesy of Baseball Reference