Payroll Savings Indicate Front Office Isn’t Done

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Feb 18, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti speaks to the media during MLB media day at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Antoinetti continues to tinker with a loaded roster

The Cleveland Indians are in an unusual spot, at least for them: they might have money to spend.

This year, the probable (and probable is the best word to use here, since we are a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, let alone spring training and those exciting spring roster battles) Opening Day roster for 2015 is set to have a payroll with a total cost that is actually less than the 2014 payroll. You can see the breakdown of the roster by our very own Steve Kinsella here.

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The financial flexibility of going into 2015 with financial flexibility is critical. Rarely is the roster you have on Opening Day the roster you end up with in September (or October, fingers crossed). Most teams operate on an expanding payroll structure, unless otherwise mandated by ownership to cut payroll for a retool or rebuild. What that means is year after year, as players grow in tenure and contracts hit escalators and vesting options, a general manager has more money allotted to construct his roster. This year, Cleveland went backwards and it does not appear that ownership is demanding as such.

Yes, the total amount of savings is only (and approximately) $2 million, and with most of the big time free agents signed (as of posting, James Shields is the last of the starting pitching crop unsigned, and some at Wahoo’s on First think he’s a fit in Cleveland), the options are limited. But if an in-season move were to take place, the Indians are in a position to add payroll, not cut it, unlike last year’s move to trade away Justin Masterson for prospects. (The Indians paid the Washington Nationals cash to offset the cost of Asdrubal Cabrera’s salary in order to pick up Zach Walters, so no salary was actually shed in that trade.)

What also gives me confidence about the team’s financial standing is they were able to ADD to an already loaded roster this offseason while keeping payroll under last year’s numbers. Sure, adding Brandon Moss cost a prospect, but it was one in Joe Wendle that saw his pathway to the majors blocked by both major league players and prospects ahead of him. Sure, you could make the argument that giving Floyd $4 million guaranteed could have been coupled with the extra money the front office has saved to go toward a more “sure thing” pitcher, but who is THAT guy? The Indians were never ever going to be in on Max Scherzer. Jon Lester didn’t give Cleveland a shot at all. Edison Volzquez? Ervin Santana? Francisco Liriano? All carry more risk than Floyd since they would have cost three-to-four times more than what Floyd makes (which is a move more for depth than filling a glaring roster hole).

Who (or what) will that savings be spent on? If you know, buy a lotto ticket. It could be used and saved for an extension to ace Corey Kluber. It could be coupled with someone like Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher or David Murphy to cover payroll going out and sweeten the return on a possible trade. It could be used to acquire a replacement due to injury, possibly for one of those three players. Knowing the front office might not be done yet and the roster is not ever finished gives me hope for the future of our Tribe.

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