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November 2, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Mariners have about $23 million they can spend this winter before even reaching last season’s opening payroll

We’re just about set to kick off the 2012-2013 free-agent season for the Mariners, with only Hisashi Iwakuma left to figure out. The Mariners have until tomorrow to re-sign Iwakuma — as per a stipulation in his contract — or else he goes on the open market and would not be eligible to play for Seattle until May 31 if he was to come back here.
In other words, he signs in the next day or so, or he isn’t playing here.
The exclusive window the Mariners had to re-sign their remaining free agents came and went last night with no further deals. (NOTE: Actually, that’s not true. The deadline for that is at 9 p.m. PT tonight, not last night as had been reported in many places, including here I guess.)
That means, we now know where the team’s payroll roughly stands. It isn’t too tough to figure out, but there are also a couple of things to keep in mind, like Danny Hultzen’s major league deal and Miguel Olivo’s buyout. The Mariners, for their own accounting purposes, tend to keep things like those on-the-books for ensuing seasons, as they did with Dustin Ackley’s Hultzen-like deal in the past. As well as buyouts for guys like Bill Hall and Jack Wilson, which were similar to Olivo’s and carried over to the following year’s payroll figures.
So, keeping that in mind, the Mariners currently sit at roughly $41 million in guaranteed money committed to their 2013 team. They will have to pay out another $12 million or so in arbitration awards, unless they non-tender one of their eligible players. Assuming Hultzen stays in the minors to start the season and the teamfills out its remaining roster spots with minimum wage guys, the roster going into 2013 would be roughly $62 million.
Last year’s payroll came in just under $82 million for the Opening Day roster. But throw in $1.2 million to pay Shawn Camp and Hong-Chih Kuo to go away, plus another $1.7 million for Hultzen’s guaranteed deal, you get about $85 million as a total payroll figure at the start of the year.
In other words, playing by those same parameters, the team now has about $23 million in room to play with just to get back to that $85 million figure. They are about $33 million in payroll away from where they began the 2011 season.
So, yeah, the Mariners should be able to go after and actually sign some free agents this off-season. Heck, they could have done it last winter, knowing they would be having so much money come off the books in just 12 months time. You don’t go and sign guys to deals of three years or more based strictly on what payroll commitments are for the 12 months ahead.
There has to be some foresight involved in the process. Right now, the Mariners have just under $41 million committed to Felix Hernandez, Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez, Ackley and Hultzen.
This time 12 months from now, they can free up an additional $15 million and change once the Figgins and Gutierrez deals run out — assuming the Mariners merely buy Gutierrez out for $500,000.
So, all that should be kept in mind when we debate what the team can and cannot afford over the longer term. Some teams have already gotten the jump on trades and signing back some of their own players.
Brandon League just got a three-year, $22.5-million deal from the Dodgers, which makes the $5 million he earned in Seattle last season seem relatively small. We’ll have to keep an eye on salary inflation, naturally, because having $23 million to spend this winter might not be anywhere close to whatit was two or three years ago.
So, we’ll see. On the turn, I’ll show you specific salary breakdowns.
Photo Credit: AP

Keep in mind that the chart below assumes that Hultzen stays in the minors, meaning the Mariners would have to be paying 26 players big-league deals next season even if only 25 of them are actually in the majors. The chart also assumes that the team signs no free agents and merely sticks with the current format as is, meaning 16 players get the major league minimum of $490,000 and up. I’ve just made it a rough $500,000 per player, since some guys will get small raises based on merit.
For every free agent the club signs, you can remove one of those $500,000 minimum-wage guys from the chart. So, if Iwakuma reaches a new deal by tomorrow, add his money to the chart and subtract a minimum wager.
As for arbitration, again, it’s a rough estimate. Some websites have higher estimates for some players, but you have to keep in mind that many will sign more team-friendly deals. In the case of Jason Vargas, we’re assuming he does just that when we slot him in at $7 million (in this case, that would be per year on a multi-year deal).
Don’t forget, when calculating payroll, you have to remember to include pro-rated signing bonuses. Also remember please, that Felix Hernandez gets an added $500,000 (already in my calculations below) tacked on to his salary because of his Cy Young Award win in 2010.
Felix Hernandez– $20.7 M
Chone Figgins — $8.5 M
Franklin Gutierrez — $7.313 M
Dustin Ackley — $2.7 M
Danny Hultzen — $1.7 M (guaranteed)
$40.913 M
Jason Vargas — $7 M
Brendan Ryan — $2 M
John Jaso — $1.5 M
Shawn Kelley — $800,000
Josh Kinney — $700,000
$12.0 M (est)
Minimum (assuming Hultzen starts in minors)
16 players at $500,000
$8.0 M (est)
Miguel Olivo — $750,000
TOTAL — $61.65 M

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley


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