Dollar Time

For many Major League baseball teams during this time of the year, it is a year of ‘what ifs’. What if this didn’t happen. What if that key guy didn’t get hurt. What ifs are part of the game. Now, however, these teams are watching the excitement of the playoffs on the outside looking in. This is also a time when arbitration is on the docket and the budget for next year is put in place. While many teams simply look around to see what is out there with a clear budget in mind, others like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, all of whom are on the outside right now, along with the astute management of the Boston Red Sox, are willing to pay the price for the next guy who will take them to the top. These owners understand ‘star’ power better than most. And they have the money to pull it off.

But for the others, like the Milwaukee Brewers with limited outside revenue,  compared to the ballooning cable fees offered other teams, a budget means a real budget, usually south of $90 million. If this team caught on fire at the beginning of the season, which historically they have rarely done, they could push the 3 million mark in attendance. To a small market team, that is gold. It not only means the generation of $60 million+ dollars in ticket sales, but the added $60 million+ in concessions and merchandise revenue. With their smallish radio and television rights revenue and the team’s share of MLB television revenue, Milwaukee can make a profit, albet a small one. There are a lot of expenses besides those of player’s payroll.

Thus the player budget is critical. This coming year, there are some givens. The key players including Aramis Ramirez will make $10 million. Although no longer considered a key, Rickie Weeks, in what many consider his last big league payday, will earn $11 million, as will Kyle Lohse and the center of all that is Braunschweiger, upon his return from the depths of deceit. Yovani Gallardo will earn the top salary on the team with $11.5 million. All Star centerfielder, Carlos Gomez, unquestionably the MVP for 2013 will earn $7 million. All Star second baseman, Jean Segura will make $505,000 in only his first full season in The Show. One of the top lead off hitters in the major leagues, the solid right fielder, Norichika Aoki, will earn $1.5 million. Tom Gorzelanny who has both started and turned into an excellent long reliever, will earn $2.95 million. These ten players will account for $68,600,000 of the budget next season if no further deferments are negotiated. The remaining 15 players will need to be assembled within a $20 million window. That’s chump change for some of the teams, but not for the club who holds sausage races each home game.

Let’s examine how that might be accomplished. Some of the players, like the closer, Big Jim Henderson, will earn $505,000 as will Brandon Kintzler who also looked good in relief. Martin Maldonado will back up Lucroy and earn $505,000. The jack-of-all-trades, someone the Milwaukee club always is in need of, Jeff Bianchi, will earn $500,000 as will rising star starting pitcher, Wily Peralta. The dueling reserve outfielders Logan Shafer (left handed hitter) and Khris Davis (right handed hitter) are $500,000 apiece. Then there is the next starting second baseman, Scooter Gennet, who will also make $500,000 in 2014. This adds up to an additional $4,150,000 for a total of $72,750,000.

Thus, one has a little less than $15,250,000, give or take a million, to fill in the seven remaining positions on the opening day roster.

The fourth starter on this year’s team that showed promise toward the end of the season was Marco Estrada. He made $1,955,000 last season but is in arbitration. If the team can sign him for under $2,500,000, it will have $12,750,000 for the remaining six players. But is he worth it? If you could pull in a top line starter like David Price, you could let other teams suffer the ups and downs of Estrada. Let’s assume that there is no Estrada in Milwaukee’s future.

Tyler Thornburg and 6’9″ Johnny Hellweg (Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year) can both be paid $500,000 apiece to come out of the pen and be spot starters. Now you would have $14,250,000 available for four players.

Juan Francisco is a player who probably cannot be changed from the “I’ll swing at anything, anytime to show everyone how far I can hit a baseball” school. So many players of Francisco’s mindset have failed to play in the majors for long. It  is probably not worth the time nor the cost to keep him around. Rather, the beloved former All-Star Cory Hart, if he is able to get on his two feet and swing a bat and play first base, should be convinced to take a $2,500,000 plus incentives to see if he can play. Milwaukeeans love him. He IS a true Brew Crew member. The balance of the budget, some $11.75 million, could then be used to offer better pitching to come to the land of brats and beer. You could increase this a little bit more if you decided to have Shafer or Davis recharge in Nashville, to up the ante to $12.25 million on four pitchers. As a replacement for Francisco or Hart, should he fail, Lucroy is the logical candidate.

Doug Melvin is a master at finding a diamond in the ruff. He can find someone or a couple of someone’s who can fill the bullpen bill out of a scrape heep that others have gone through and discarded. But as everyone should know after reading overtheshouldermlb, pitching is everything. If only the Brewers could dump Rickie’s huge $11 million contract and convince the left fielder to donate his $11 million contract for the good of the game and the Brewers (think about it. What a PR coup that would be. Talk about taking liver and making it real Usinger Braunschweiger?), they could go after someone like David Price. Now 3 million fans in attendance could very well be a sure thing AND playoffs could once again be a subject of conversation in the land that Schlitz once made famous.

Rickie: do yourself a favor and ask to defer a healthy chunk of that salary to 2015 and/or 2016. Left fielder: think about what a positive affect you would create by working for $1 this season, without strings attached. Allow the team and the city you emotionally destroyed for a season, recover and once again fall in love with you all over again. Result? Brewers would have an extra $18,499,999+ to be able to use to land a stalwart on the mound.

A star brings fans into the park. Rarely do ‘diamonds in the ruff’ provide such a boost.

Hitting is for show. But pitching is for all the dough.

Come on, Milwaukee. Get back into the game.

Play Ball!

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