Cleveland Indians analysis, part II: 2011 roster and salaries overview
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The second part of my analysis (see part one, here) covers the current Indians roster and examines the salary situation for this off season and beyond. During the season, the young Tribe competed in the American League Central Division against the veteran, battle-tested Detroit Tigers. While the Tigers prevailed, the Indians now must build on the success of this season to prepare for 2012.
The challenges facing the Indians front office this offseason consist of arbitration cases with key players, club options of fan favorites and hunting in free agency to fill needs. In order for the Tribe to make a playoff run next year, owner Larry Dolan needs to raise the budget from this season’s near-$50MM to the $65MM-$70MM range. The Indians have $17 million locked up in contracts for next season with Travis Hafner and Ubaldo Jimenez. This leaves roughly $35MM-$40MM available for key arbitration deals and free agency.
The arbitration process will probably result in much higher salaries for players such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Chris Perez. Shin-Soo Choo, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith and Jack Hannahan also are up for arbitration. All in, arbitration will, most likely, result in another $18MM-$23MM in salary obligations. That’s a steep number, but well worth the cost for these quality players. As a result, the amount of money spent in the 2012 season for accounted players will be around $35MM to $40MM.
But with player options on fan favorites Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona, Cleveland may have $9MM and $7MM, respectively, added to its payroll. Now, the total comes to $55MM-$60MM, a sum already higher than 2011. Talented, young and perhaps still needing an extra piece or two to complete the puzzle, the Indians are close to competing for the division title.
This budget scenario puts Dolan in a tough position. He’ll be expected to raise the payroll to the near $70MM mark this off season. For discussion sake, let’s say the 2012 Indians payroll will be between $64MM-$68MM. A big question to be answered: Do we let Sizemore and Carmona go, in order to make room for the missing pieces?
With an estimated 2012 payroll of $67.5MM, here are the contract commitments for current players.
SS Asdrubal Cabrera: signed through 2013, arbitration this off season
DH Jim Thome: free agent
1B Matt LaPorta: signed through 2015, arbitration along the way
3B Lonnie Chisenhall: signed through 2016, league minimum
2B Jason Kipnis: signed through 2016, league minimum
RF Shin Soo Choo: signed through 2013, arbitration this off season
LF Kosuke Fukudome: club must sign Fukudome to an extension by 11/14/2011 or release him
DH Travis Hafner: signed through 2013
CF Grady Sizemore: $8.5MM team option
C Carlos Santana: signed through 2015, arbitration along the way
OF Michael Brantley: signed through 2016
SP Justin Masterson: signed through 2013, arbitration this off season
SP Ubaldo Jimenez: signed through 2013
SP Fausto Carmona: club option, $7MM
SP Josh Tomlin: signed through 2016
SP Carlos Carrasco: Tommy John surgery
SP Jenmar Gomez: signed through 2016
CL Chris Perez: signed through 2013, arbitration this off season
BP Rafael Perez: signed through 2013, arbitration this off season
At first glance, Cleveland is in a good position to be competitive for the next three to four seasons. With key players locked in through 2015, the front office must manage a strict budget and find key free agents to fill holes along the way.
The issue at hand lies in the $16MM that may or may not be paid to Sizemore and Carmona. The front office will look long and hard into the value of extending these career-long Indians. Both are owed a hefty amount coming off disappointing seasons. Sizemore was plagued by injuries, once again, which seems to be a common occurrence in the past few years. Afer hitting .224 in only 75 games this season, he is now awaiting a decision from the front office on a $9MM contract for next season. Carmona, on the other hand, just never got it together — 7-15 and an ERA over 5.25 is unacceptable for someone asking for a $7MM payday this off season. Although both players show flashes of greatness, it seems hard to justify these large contracts.
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