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The Indians could be nearing their payroll threshold for 2013

The Indians could be nearing their payroll threshold for 2013
December 26, 2012
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The Indians made a pretty big investment on Sunday when they agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Nick Swisher on a four year $56 million deal that includes a vesting option for $14 million in 2017 if he gets 550 or more plate appearances in 2016 and passes an end of season physical.  His deal should become soon once he is able to take a physical, possibly later this week.

The Indians also officially signed first baseman Mark Reynolds to a one year $6 million deal last week.  They have also agreed to terms on a minor league deal with left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir that will probably include a lot of incentives if he makes a Major League roster this season. Terms of Kazmir’s deal are unknown at this point, but since he is a minor league signing he should not have any effect on the Indians’ payroll situation at the moment.

The Indians also completed two big trades a few weeks earlier where they sent away Major League salaries from the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, and Esmil Rogers and received in return Major League salaries from players like Drew Stubbs, Mike Aviles, Trevor Bauer, and Mitch Albers.

So where, after all that, where does the Indians payroll situation currently stand?

As the Indians move forward in their pursuit to sign a veteran starting pitcher – their number one focus at the moment – they still have some room to make another signing or two. The updated payroll chart on the site shows the payroll at about $67.7 million, which includes the projections for the seven arbitration eligible players on the Indians roster and other amounts which affect payroll.

It should be noted that this payroll amount includes the known or projected salaries of 12 players expected to be on the opening day 25-man roster. The other 13 spots at the moment will be taken up by players like Vinnie Pestano, Michael Brantley, etc that all will make around the Major League minimum next season (about $500K), so if you add in an additional $500K for the other 13 spots, that is an additional $6.5 million of unaccounted for payroll. Also the Indians sent $3.5 million to the Reds to complete the Choo trade and the Indians paid Hafner a buyout close to $3 million when they did not pick up his option. So this is how the payroll number at the moment gets to the $67.7 million amount.

Going into the offseason the Indians said they would spend about the same on payroll as they did in 2012. If that is the case, well, they are pretty close to what they spend last year. But some things have changed this offseason with the impending sale of SportsTime Ohio to News Corp (Fox Sports) which should give them some extra money to play with. They also may have intended to spend a little more all along, around $75 million, so there could be some room to play with in their payroll.

Of course, the Indians could still trade the likes of Chris Perez or Asdrubal Cabrera to help free up some salary on their payroll. Cabrera looks more and more like he will remain with the team, but Perez could become someone that teams are more aggressive in pursuing this offseason now that the backend relief market is starting to shake out after the Joel Hanrahan trade earlier this week.

The Indians still want that veteran starter, which is going to cost them anywhere from $5 to $12 million or more in free agency on their 2013 payroll. It does not look like they have the room, but then again, they were prepared to sign both Swisher and Edwin Jackson last week, so they obviously either have the room in the budget or they have something else planned to help offset the cost.

In addition a veteran starter, the Indians also need a veteran lefty for their bullpen and may still be looking to add one more bat to add depth to the lineup and help fill the designated hitter role. Those are still secondary needs at this point and could just be filled internally.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

December 27, 2012 - 10:25 AM EST
In theory they could flip Chris Perez and ACab sometime between now and July for a young now SP. Moving both could net another young arm like Bauer for the rotation add org. depth with several talented upper level minor prospects that are ready / near ready and free funds to sign Bourn. The financials could be back loaded a bit in similar fashion to Swishers deal and allow them some freedom to sign an arm or two like Brett Myers and perhaps Jair Jurrgens. As for the LHRP the Tribe could always try to flip a RHRP for a LHRP.
December 27, 2012 - 10:00 AM EST
I wouldn't say Bourn is completed out of consideration Willie.....but he is probably pretty darn close. They have limited funds left, and have a pitching staff in need of upgrades. Could they use another bat? Sure. But if they add another bat they have nothing left to address the pitching needs which are much more important and where they have a considerable need for a starting pitcher and maybe even a lefty in the pen.
December 27, 2012 - 9:33 AM EST
If the Tribe was interested in both Jackson and Swisher, could they also be interested in Michael Bourn as well?

Here's the thought behind the question;
1) landing Bourn would provide the club a number of options in the OF
2) Bourn is a premier defensive CF with speed and base stealing prowess, so is Stubbs btw, on the cheap, but the Tribe wouldn't be depending on a rebound yr
3) Bourn would be a proven table setter for the batting lineup
4) Bourn would only cost a 3rd round draft pk, for a FA of his qlty signing him would be in essence cheaper than signing him or a FA of his qlty next season which could hold the value of a 1st rd pk.
5) Bourn would be a tradable commodity down the line.
December 27, 2012 - 12:04 AM EST
I don't want to bore the site or appear as a know-it-all but I believe it is unlikely the Indians will book either the Hafner termination or the trade costs as payroll since neither is payroll. The trade cost is easy. Whether a player is acquired by trade or cash, the cost of acquisition is not booked as payroll. Simple example is DiceK. That $6 million should still be available unless the unlikely event that Hafner is resigned prior to year end.

As to Tony's point regarding the Kasmir acquisition, it seemed to me that remarks were awfully inflammatory for such an innocuous transaction.
December 26, 2012 - 10:39 PM EST
MT, you will have to throw in a lot more than a Fabio Martinez type, whose trade value is practically negligible. The problem is the Indians are not really strong with their pitching arms at any level. Sure, they have tons of relief options, but reliever have little value in a trade and are often throw ins to complete deals unless they are bonafide closer prospects.
MT88 in WI
December 26, 2012 - 8:48 PM EST
Besides CPerez, I wonder if the Dodgers would be interested in Cord Phelps. Considering al the Dodger second baseman are at least 35 years old, Cord might be a cheaper alternative as a backup.

Tony I am also wondering if the Tribe is willing to part with a lower level pitching prospect in order to improve the trade package coming back from the Dodgers. What might CPerez, CPhelps and someone like Fabio Martinez Mesa or another low A arm might bring back in return????
December 26, 2012 - 6:54 PM EST
There have been a number of rumors tying the Dodgers to Perez. Who knows how much of that is true, but one thing is for sure, the Dodgers need a LHRP (just like the Indians) and are rumored to want a RHRP like Perez or Hanrahan, that dominates lefties bc of lack of qlty of lefties on the mkt and some health concerns with Kenley Jensen.

The Tribe has also reportedly kicked the tires on both Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, also of the Dodgers.
December 26, 2012 - 5:29 PM EST
I have no problem with negativity or people disagreeing, it is just the way in which the individual does it where I have a problem. But anyway, with regard to the Dodgers, you have to wonder if Perez would be a good fit there. The Indians asked about Dee Gordon a few weeks back, so I would expect something with Gordon and a ML pitcher in exchange for Perez would be something they would want. Question is if the Dodgers are really interested.
December 26, 2012 - 5:16 PM EST
Some fans will always find a way to find negative in a positive situation. It surprises me how there were some negative feedback on signing Swisher. We complain( myself included) that Dolans would not spend on FA, and then they did. Give credit where credit is do. Oh well. Tony do you feel Perez would interest the Dodgers and what could we get for him? I
December 26, 2012 - 4:27 PM EST
Just an FYI, but I won't let the comments section go the way of the Plain Dealer where people just spam the hell out of it and make senseless and sometimes obscene comments. Not that anything was posted here....but there were some way out of line comments in the Kazmir signing thread on Friday which were deleted.

Just as a warning, while people can post anonymously here, if something is way out of line you will be banned from commenting on any comments going forward. Some new software is being added to help combat that issue.
December 26, 2012 - 4:19 PM EST
@ George W.

What a perfect screen name you have. You know what scarasm is suppossed to sound like you just don't have the "facts or logic" or "reasoning" that often go along with it as well. The FO let the contracts expire as any FO would do that is true, but what happens after that is what matters and what the poster was talking about.

The traded Rogers at his prime value for two role players who make alot of sense with their ability to move around and hit from the right handed side of the batters box. Aviles is the perfect swing man for the middle of the diamon and Gomes brings some right handed punch to the DH, 1B and Catcher situation.

Choo already had one foot out the door. We were able to get a whole years value for him in the form of a trade and did not take the risk of him getting injured or pressing because of the big contract Boras and him have been waiting for. We somehow turned him, Sipp and Donald into a package that could net us a young charasmatic front of the rotation starter under club control for a good long time. Is there anything more valuable? Not only that but we also were able to help upgrade the outfield with the addition of Stubbs. He has power and speed and bats from the right hand side to boot. He allows Brantley to move to left and takes over center helping the defense in the process. If that was not enough we added to very solid options to help make our bullpen even stronger. It adds depth and perhaps allows us to make another move later to fill an area of need from an area of considerable depth provided we find a lefty to help anchor the back of the pen.

All that would have been good on its own but then the front office went out and got Nick Swisher. A guy who under most circumstances would probably not end up here but we saw we had a chance to actually get "our guy" this offseason and made it happen. Thats a huge change and a positive one for this org. Swisher is a better defender, will be here for more then one year and is a switch hitter. He has less speed but more power then Choo. All in all we are at least as good with Swisher in Right Field as we were with Choo.

I think there is more to the signing then just numbers as well. Swisher is from Ohio and is a character a guy that most of the baseball world knows. A guy who can be a face ffor an organization that really really needs one. So, I think he helps from a bussiness and community standpoint as well. Giving the team a player for the casual and die hard fans to relate to and see as the face of the org for at least the next few years.

So, yea I think the FO has done a pretty good job. They replaced Choo not only for this year but the next few years and were able to make the team better and have more depth in the process. They combined this with smaller deals and signings such as the Rogers trade and Kazmir signing. Bottom line making the team better for this year as well as the future while still being able to stay under the same pay structure.

I don't believe that how much more money you spend from one season to the next is the best way to measure the "sucess a FO has during an offseason" which is what seems to be your hypothesis. Its what they are able to do with this money that matters and truly makes for a talented FO.

One thing I forgot to mention is how getting a Vet manager such as Francona has seemed to have a real positive infulence on the org and the team going forward. He brings the ability to win on and off the field and it seems to be working... at least off the field. I hope his continued prescence will help the tribe land the vet starter they really need to anchor and stabilize the rotation. I think this will be very important going forward. I would also keep trying to be creative and always look for ways to improve the team. At some point we will probably need to add another vet hitter if we want to make it into october.

Last year was the worst year I have ever had as a Cleveland Indians fan and I am happy and surprised to say that I am excited for this season and what is to come. Hope everyone had a great holiday and is looking forward to the new year.
December 26, 2012 - 3:36 PM EST
Yes, lots of dead weight as far as salary goes last season. And even though they have about $6M+ in dead salary with Hafner buyout and money paid to Reds for Choo, they look to have replaced the payroll savings with good, solid decisions. It is amazing how when you spend the money wisely, how $65-70 million can really go far. No of course, all of this could be moot come June if the team tanks, but that at least is the perception right now and the belief that they are on the right track with building the roster in the short and long term.
December 26, 2012 - 2:47 PM EST
i dont like to use two blogs however there is something that i havent heard regarding scott kazmir that might be explorabe subcontract with jaime moyer to work with kazmir's mechanics help him on his changeup and you just never know you could strike lightning in a bottle. mecanically jamie moyer may had the best mechanics i have seen in a pitcher it cant hurt to explore outside the box in ways of improving i like that they are showing latitude with respect to the kid they got from arizona lately everyone babies these pitchers and i am not so sure the old ways werent the right ways.
December 26, 2012 - 2:11 PM EST
i think an even less expensive alternative would be jair jehrgenns or what ever his name is from altanta. I know atlanta has not had the success they have had by making mistakes however this guy has a nice track record he as late as 2011 was all star caliber pitcher 14 wins sub 3.00 era. i think he would be better move than marcun and definately a more judicious move than lohse who is way overpriced even in fantasy land of modern baseball. and jurrgeons may agree to a one or two year deal to re establish his market value. sounds like a smart move to me however atlanta hasnt made many mistakes but they can make them too
December 26, 2012 - 1:07 PM EST
I'd love to see one more FA acquisition, Marcum's injuries last year scare me, but when he's healthy he's great. I'm a little skeptical of trying to get Lohse, he'll command a lot of money, but his FIP and xFIP indicate that he could be in for some regression, moving to the AL wont help that. Maybe Dallas Braden could be a target? Another injury prone starter, but he's good when he's healthy and could come cheaply.

I'm still going to say that a trade of Perez for a DH/1B type would be a smart move, especially if it helps free up some cash. I have a feeling that Washington would probably be looking for a lefty reliever, but Michael Morse would be an excellent return for him and the Nationals are reportedly going to be looking for bullpen help in exchange for him if they agree to terms with LaRoche.

As I mentioned before, Morse is a RHH with almost no platoon split, he can play 1B and you can have him in LF (but he's terrible there) and could probably be signed to an extension pretty cheaply. Adding his bat to the lineup would be a huge boon.

If the Tribe goes into the regular season with the additions of Swisher, Reynolds, Stubbs, Aviles, Morse, Marcum/Braden, Bauer, Albers, and Shaw it will be a completely different team, and likely would be one that would take most people by surprise. I really think that they could contend with the Tigers.
Matt underwood
December 26, 2012 - 12:51 PM EST
I agree, I was one to sh*t on the FO but kudos for their work this off season
George W.
December 26, 2012 - 12:28 PM EST
I second that, Dennis. The Indians did a terrific job letting those bad contracts expire. The way Chris Antonetti stood there in steadfast defiance and said, "You know these really bad contracts (Hafner) that handcuffed the organization's financial flexibility the last few years? I'm going to waive my magic wand and let those contacts expire, just as they were scheduled to. Praise me for my excellence, Cleveland."

We're lucky we've got the front office we do. Probably 90% of other GM's would have extended the Hafner and Sizemore deals an extra year or two. Antonetti's brilliance is clearly demonstrated here by letting those contracts roll off the books.

Great analysis, Dennis.
December 26, 2012 - 12:27 PM EST
Agreed good job by FO. However to really have a shot to compete this year, Tribe needs to go over last years payroll. Still need veteran SP or two. Sounds like more money is coming in. Lets hope it is invested in players to continue to upgrade the roster. Moves so far indicate they want to compete this year. Need to take the next step.
December 26, 2012 - 11:23 AM EST
So, by letting Hafner, Sizemore and Fausto go, adding Reynolds & Swisher as FA's, the trade for Bauer, Aviles etc, etc. and "with" the projected additions from arbitration, the Indians payroll is projected to be nearly the same as it was in 2012?

Pretty good work by the FO, imo.

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