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February 1, 2013 at 10:14 AM
When the year-end payrolls were reported late in Decemeber, the Mariners checked in at $84.4 million for the 2012 season. To-date, with spring training just around the corner, the team has committed just under $79 million to the current squad for 2013.
That total includes the $1.5 million deal reached with backup catcher Kelly Shoppach this week, a move the club has yet to announce because the 40-man roster is full and somebody needs to be moved off it. It also includes a rumored $1.6 million contract with Robert Andino for the 2013 season, even though I never saw official figures for him after the Mariners non-tendered and then reworked a deal with the infielder. Danny Hultzen has to be paid MLB money even if he’s in the minors. If Hultzen makes the team, you can subtract one of the MLB minimum players from the payroll equation. But Hultzen will almost certainly start the year in Class AAA, so he has to be paid, as well as another league minimum type to fill the roster spot Hultzen will not be occupying.
Don’t forget, the club is also paying all of Chone Figgins‘ salary plus a pro-rated signing bonus for 2013, plus the buyout on Miguel Olivo’s deal.
As of right now, I have the team at $78.65 million in guaranteed contracts, pro-rated bonuses, minimum-salaried payouts to others on the roster, plus those no longer here who have to still be paid.
Whenever I do this exercise, I get the inevitable “Didn’t the team defer payments to Ichiro?” questions. The short answer: yes, the team did and no, it does not count towards current payroll. MLB has its own rules and practices for dealing with deferred payments and the Mariners have stated previously that this is accounted for and handled separately from ongoing payroll. So, no, nothing the team did or is doing with Ichiro has any impact on payroll for the purposes of these discussions. For those who will continue to argue that it does, please don’t.
The Mariners usually keep a contingency fund of roughly $5 million, as do many teams. This is to pay out incentive bonuses plus any mid-season add-ons the club might make in a pennant push or a mid-season trade that takes on value. So, assuming they were to max out on that, payroll would be at just under $84 million — which is still less than last year’s squad cost. But assuming the contingency fund will be maxed out on would not be the best way to go, since the Mariners could also jettison payroll via in-season trades. Remember, they have several bats — Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, to name some — who are only on one-year deals and could be dealt.
So, we’ll just have to see.