January 17, 2014

Looking at Cards' 2014 payroll — $110M looks about right

With all the dust settling, the St. Louis Cardinals have just three players headed to arbitration: Jon Jay, Peter Bourjas and Daniel Descalso. Per Bernie Miklasz, here's what they made in 2013:
Pre-arbitration, Jay made $524,000 last year while Descalso made $510,000 and Bourjos, acquired from the Los Angeles Angels, was paid $500,000. Jay, who hit .276 with 62 runs batted in for the National League champions, would be due the biggest raise of the three.
Per Cot's Contracts, the Cards are currently at $96.5M for 2014.

I've seen estimates on Jay run as high as around $3.4 million, per MLBTradeRumors. I don't buy that. Given his struggles last season, plus the Bourjos trade, plus Oscar Taveras in the wings, John Mozeliak can play a tougher line here. David Freese got $3.15 million in his first year of arbitration, but he still had some residual halo from 2011 and 3B has higher positional scarcity. That said, I'm sure this all entered into Mo's thinking, while probably not that of Jay or his agent.

Pencil me in for about $2.7M on Jay (and I was low, but top estimates were too high, as he's at $3.25M), as the Cards' offer on him and them winning in hearing if there's no agreement. I'll buy MLBTR's projection of $1.1M on Bourjos and $1.2M on Descalso. That's an even $4M overall, to go to $100.5M. Throw in $9.5M, roughly, for other players contracts and raises, and any call-ups, and we're at $110M for the season, about $7M below 2013 numbers. And, if I'm wrong on Jay, add a few hundred thousand to the total. (With Bourjos in at $1.2M, and giving Descalso a $100K bump, that's $110.75M.)

Losing Chris Carpenter to retirement, Carlos Beltran to free agency and other changes, is fairly offset not only by signing Jhonny Peralta, but by Adam Wainwright getting a $7M hike, the Mark Ellis signing and several other players getting lesser increases.

Looking ahead, in brief?

Unless Kolten Wong is a total bust, Ellis won't be back in 2015. The Cardinals may well let Yukon Cornelius, aka Jason Motte, also walk; or, given the surplus of arms, if he looks very good in set-up, trade him this year, perhaps as part of a package with Jay, for, ideally, a top minor-league catcher as part of the biz. That's it on 2015 free agents; their current contracts total $12.75M in 2014.

No huge salary increases come into play in 2015.

So, to already look ahead to next year, in the 2014-15 offseason, Mo can start wondering whether to give Craig-like contracts to any of the young gun pitchers as part of more than $10M in what should be free money to play with. Jay's money could well come off the books, too, if Taveras does fine and the OF just looks too crowded. Maybe he could join Motte in a midseason trade or something, for that matter.

So, as the likes of Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal take the mound this year, in addition to hoping they don't have full first-year, second-year or third-year slumps, we can also get out our calculators and wonder what that's going to cost.

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