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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

January 22, 2010 at 6:44 PM

On the Mariners and their payroll

Today was the day I was making final plans for a trip out of the country starting early tomorrow, so I was not at the Safeco Field press conference for Cliff Lee. You can read about that in Larry Stone’s coming piece.
Because I’ll be away, this blog will more or less be winding down until right before spring training. We usually do it that way every year. I know you love it here, and don’t worry, the season is fast approaching.
One thing I would like to comment on, since GM Jack Zduriencik made reference to it earlier today, is the team’s payroll. Normally, I would not do this since I’m leaving town, but since he brought it up today, and yesterday, I believe the issue needs addressing from this end.
Here is what Zduriencik said at the press conference:
Just one other comment. I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately, and I thought I’d take this head on. A lot of phone calls, and emails, in regard to our payroll this coming season.
“As you know, for competitive reasons, there would be no way we would reveal what our payroll is. I think that is something that stays within our own organization. That being the case, it’s impossible for anyone to try to figure out or calculate exactly what that is. I hope our fans realize this. We’re going to do the very best job we can to put the best product on the field, and move forward in our organization the very best we can. Just so there’s no one misled or things thrown out there that are inaccurate. That being said, I would ask all of you to understand that and respect where we stand on this.

Now, let me just say that I respect Zdurinecik’s stance on keeping things close to the vest for competitive reasons. It’s also hard to argue that he’s done anything but a bang-up job this winter in strengthening the team.
But I’ll also say that just because the M’s want to keep their budget confidential, it doesn’t mean we can’t make educated guesses at it based on information we receive from players and agents and team officials and stuff that’s already out there in the public domain. That’s what we do. We don’t work for the team.
We did speak with officials from the Mariners in advance of putting together our estimated payroll list so far. We tried to work through some of the gray areas with them on certain matters where they did speak, like pro-rating bonuses. When we estimated a salary — as in the case of Franklin Gutierrez, we erred on the side of caution and assumed the team had spent more than it actually did: $3.5 million rather than the actual $2 million + a pro-rated share of his signing bonus in Gutierrez’s case, based off what his agent told us yesterday,
We’re pretty confident that the team is up in the high 80 millions, as others have estimated as well.
Off that, we said that if the Mariners were to keep their payroll up near $98 million, where it was reported to be last year, that would give them roughly — meaning approximately — $10 million left to spend. But maybe they aren’t going to put payroll that high again. Who knows? We said if and that’s a big if. Maybe they’re disputing that they spent $98 million last year. Again, I have no idea.
Now, the team might want to use some of whatever remaining cash there is as part of a reserve fund going forward, rather than spend it all this off-season. That’s their choice. It doesn’t change the fact that, if the team has money to allocate to a reserve fund, it has the money to begin with.
Not all teams keep reserve funds at the same levels. In theory, the M’s could spend all of their money now and say that there will be no mid-season additions or big numbers of September call-ups.
In any event, we told you what our estimate of their payroll is at present. If there is anything inaccurate about it, we have invited the Mariners to explain it. So far, that hasn’t happened. Nobody has told us our salary projections are wrong. And trust me, if we’re shown to have made a mistake, we’ll fix it. I’ve left word here for that to happen in my absence since I’ll be in the deepest jungle and far from any laptop.
Nobody is trying to hurt the team. We’re trying to give you a better idea of where they stand. If they can help shed more light on it, even by explaining the process rather than giving away confidential numbers, then I’m all for it.
But if the team has less money to spend on free agents than some may think because it wants to allocate a chunk of money to a reserve fund, or cut payroll from last year, that’s not really my department. That’s their choice to make.
Hope that’s clear.
See you all in a few weeks. With the way this team has kept us hopping all winter, it’ll be nice to sleep in a jungle hut with some peace and quiet (think South America). Spring training is just around the corner and it promises to be an interesting year.



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