Monday, October 18, 2010

Looking at 2011 payroll

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Even if they re-sign Adam Dunn, the Nats should have plenty of leftover money for payroll.
At this early stage of the offseason -- with the four LCS finalists still playing and thus the 26 other clubs unable to do much in the way of roster reconfiguration for the next few weeks -- most of the discussion centers around which players a team should or should not pursue.

Should the Nationals re-sign Adam Dunn? Should they sign another big bat to play first base? Should they go all-in on the only legitimate No. 1 starter on the free agent market, Cliff Lee? Should they pursue second-tier starters instead? Should they seek to fill their gaps via trades?

All important questions that need to be answered. But there's another question that hovers around every move or potential move the Nats are looking to make this winter: How much will it cost?

Actually, the more pertinent question may be: How much money do the Nationals have to spend? That obviously depends on how high ownership is willing to raise payroll from its Opening Day 2010 total of $66,275,000. Delving into the numbers and the contracts, though, you come to realize the Nats have plenty of room to work with, even if
they bring Dunn back at a higher price than he made this year.

There are only seven players already signed, sealed and delivered for 2011 with guaranteed, major-league contracts: Ryan Zimmerman, Jason Marquis, Stephen Strasburg, Ivan Rodriguez, Yunesky Maya, Bryce Harper and Livan Hernandez. Those seven players are guaranteed a total of $28,650,000 in salaries and bonuses next year.

There are eight additional players who will be eligible for arbitration this winter: Josh Willingham, Chien-Ming Wang, Sean Burnett, John Lannan, Michael Morse, Doug Slaten, Jesus Flores and Joel Peralta. Those players' salaries are still yet to be determined (and in the case of a guy like Wang, it's still to be determined whether the Nats will bring him back at all) but if you project what each player is likely to earn through arbitration, the total works out to about $14,250,000.

So that's slightly less than $43 million the Nationals will be paying 15 players in 2011. There are 10 more players with less than three years' big-league service time who remain under the franchise's control and will earn salaries at or slightly above the league minimum of $400,000: Nyjer Morgan, Alberto Gonzalez, Roger Bernadina, Tyler Clippard, Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Maxwell, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos. Now, those 10 guys aren't all necessarily going to make the Opening Day roster, but the names are irrelevant for these purposes. Point is, there are 10 slots currently going to players making anywhere from $400,000 to $450,000, for a total roughly around $4.25 million.

Throw in the $500,000 the Nationals will have to pay Adam Kennedy to buy out his contract (a near-certainty) and here's what you wind up with: At the moment, the Nats only have about $47 million committed to payroll for 2011.

Which also means this: Even if they re-sign Dunn to a contract that pays him $15 million next year, they'd still only be looking at a total payroll of $62 million, down $4 million from last year's number.

Obviously, there will be lots of moves made this winter that increase this number, whether in the form of high-priced free agents, bargain free agents or trades. But the point is, the Nats have the ability to re-sign Dunn and still have another $18 million at their disposal just to get to an $80 million payroll. And if they choose not to re-sign Dunn, they've got $33 million to spend to reach that $80 million figure.

Will they field an $80 million roster in 2011? We don't know. This front office has never publicly revealed its projected budget heading into a season. But Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo have pushed for a payroll increase this winter, suggesting it's time for the Nationals to escape the lower quarter of the major leagues in this department and at least approach the sport's median payroll (which was $84 million this year).

If the Lerner family agrees, the Nats should have no shortage of options this winter to attempt to improve their roster.

Here's the full breakdown of players' 2011 salaries (salaries with an asterisk are projected because they haven't been determined yet)...

 Ryan Zimmerman         $9,025,000
 Jason Marquis          $7,500,000
 Stephen Strasburg      $4,375,000
 Ivan Rodriguez         $3,000,000
 Yunesky Maya           $2,000,000
 Bryce Harper           $1,750,000
 Livan Hernandez        $1,000,000
 TOTAL                 $28,650,000

 Josh Willingham        $6,000,000*
 Chien-Ming Wang        $2,000,000*
 Sean Burnett           $1,500,000*
 John Lannan            $1,500,000*
 Michael Morse          $1,000,000*
 Doug Slaten              $800,000*
 Jesus Flores             $750,000*
 Joel Peralta             $700,000*
 TOTAL                 $14,250,000*

 Nyjer Morgan             $450,000*
 Alberto Gonzalez         $450,000*
 Roger Bernadina          $450,000*
 Tyler Clippard           $420,000*
 Jordan Zimmermann        $420,000*
 Justin Maxwell           $415,000*
 Ian Desmond              $410,000*
 Drew Storen              $402,000*
 Danny Espinosa           $400,000*
 Wilson Ramos             $400,000*
 TOTAL                  $4,217,000*

 Adam Kennedy             $500,000
 TOTAL                    $500,000 

GRAND TOTAL            $47,617,000*
*-Projected 2011 salaries


Doc said...

The money seems to be there, so Rizzo doesn't really have go after another sore-armed pitcher, of which he signed 3 last winter.

Greinke looks like the best candidate for Pitcher 1, if a trade could be arranged, while resisting the temptation to trade half of the team to get him.

Sunderland said...

Very nicely laid out Dr Z.
Wish we could lob in a $100,000 buyout for our manager as well, but that's a topic for another day.

Ted Lilly's apparenntly off the market, signed a 3 year deal with LA (the Dodgers, not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim).

In Free Agent land, the picking seems kinda slim. Several risky SP's with potential upside, and equal potential for a 2011 akin to the 2010 we got out of Marquis and Wang.

Daniel Victor said...

Forgive me if I've missed it, but are there any reliable figures on revenues for the year?

I ask because I like to look at payroll as a percentage of revenues. If the Strasburg bump was significant enough, they could achieve a higher payroll without changing that percentage.

Sam said...

Just because you have money to spend, doesn't mean you have to do it. The point is not to spend money. The point is to spend money wisely. Even if they spend less than they did last year, no one should be upset about it. The ONLY thing that matters is the product on the field.

Sam said...

Daniel Victor: I believe that all of the teams in MLB are privately owned, so they do not need to release their financials.

georgie said...


Honestly, I'm lost as to your point.

If the only thing that matters is the product on the field...

Are you suggesting that the Nats should have been spending more money the last few years (as the product, well, sucked)?
Or are you suggesting that a low payroll, spent thoughtfully and efficiently, which yields a poor product (as it has in the past) is an appropriate way to enter 2011?

Daniel Victor said...

True, Sam. I found this on Forbes, though I don't know how reliable these numbers are. If they are close to accurate, though, it definitely suggests there's room for payroll growth:

Steve M. said...

Mark - I took Cot's and put my projections up a few weeks ago and I had Batista in my projection as well as Lannan at $3,000,000 so I was slightly higher than yours right at $50 million before Dunn was re-signed.

I am also sure like any good GM that all contracts will be backloaded with the biggest salary hits in the latter years of a multi-year contract.

Again, the one change I want to see for this team moving forward is not spending money and wasting it like they have so many times with the Adam Kennedy, Paul LoDuca, Johnny Estrada, and so forth. They need to either not make the move or go for the best available and pay up.

Your illustration shows that after Dunn they have enough left for 1 top player.

Sunderland said...

Daniel Victor, in terms of revenues, you and Sam are both right. We don't know for sure about revenues. But it's well understood by all concerned that the Nats can easily afford to increase payroll. The Nats have been at the top of the Forbes estimates for years.

Sam - These two sentences make no sense at all. Have you been watching the past three years? How is this team going to put a decent product on the field while spending less than last year?

"Even if they spend less than they did last year, no one should be upset about it. The ONLY thing that matters is the product on the field."

Mark Zuckerman said...

Daniel Victor: Confirming what the others said, neither the Nats nor any other MLB club opens its books to the public. (Well, actually, the Pirates opened their books earlier this year after that report came out revealing their numbers and the Marlins' and some other teams, I believe.)

Point is, the Nats have never publicly revealed what their revenues are, nor do they have any intention to do that, nor are they required to do so as a private company. The Forbes numbers that come out every year are panned by every professional sports franchise as inaccurate, though I suppose there's no way to ever know for sure.

Regardless of the Nats' revenues, Kasten said upon his exit that it would be appropriate to increase payroll this winter. So he must feel there's reason (and resources) to do that.

Richard said...

Daniel Victor, thanks for the link to Forbes for the 2009 data. The Web pages show Nats' 2009 "operating income" ("earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization")
of $33.5 million, the 3rd highest in the league after the Red Sox ($40M) and -- the Marlins! ($46.1M). Interesting stuff.

Sam said...

georgie and Sunderland - My point is this: spending more money doesn't necessarily make your team better. I actually did some research the other day, and, using Cots Contracts data, I found that, over the last 5 years, the correlation to payroll (in real 2005 dollars) to wins is .426. In other words, sure, spending money helps, but there is much more to it than just blindly throwing money out there.

Now, that seems obvious, yet many people just go on shouting about how the Lerners are cheap and need to spend more money immediately. That does not mean the team will be better.

I firmly believe that the best way to build a contending team is to build from scratch. Bottom up. You go through your dark years, drafting well, trading well, developing well, and then the team becomes good. And THEN you can throw money into re-signing your players and signing mid-level free agents to fill out the roster. The Nationals are not at that stage yet, so spending money on big free agents, at this point, does not make sense. We are still in the "dark years." The team will likely NOT be good next year. At best, it will be average (i.e. 81 wins), and I have my doubts about that.

So, yes, if spending less or the same gives you the same product as last year while also developing the product for the future in the minor leagues, then I am completely okay with that. That makes sense. That will help make this team into a contender. Signing Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford will not.

Bowdenball said...


I agree with what you say re: Cliff Lee. But Carl Crawford is 28 years old. Unless you think the Nats will still be in the dark years until 2015 or so, how does he not help make them a contender?

Seems to be that players like him are the best of both worlds for the Nats- a chance to give the 2011 team a cosmetic lift and give the fans reason to go to the ballpark, while also helping to build for those potential contending Strasburg-Zimmerman-Harper teams in 2013 and beyond.

Feel Wood said...

"Which also means this: Even if they re-sign Dunn to a contract that pays him $15 million next year, they'd still only be looking at a total payroll of $62 million, down $4 million from last year's number."

The 2011 payroll is not the issue, with Dunn or with any other high-paid player. Sure, they can pay Dunn $15M for 2011 with ease. But in order to do that, they also have to commit to paying him $15M or more for 2012, 2013 and probably 2014, because he's not going to sign a one year contract. Same goes for Cliff Lee, Jayson Werth or any other desirable free agent. They are all going to command big money over a long term contract. This is what makes signing free agents such a tricky business, because the question must be asked - what do you do several years down the road when you find yourself saddled with several big contracts for players who are no longer producing, as well as big contracts for players who have come up through your system and are ready to cash in on the big contract? If you find yourself in that situation, it then becomes difficult to acquire whatever good players you still may need to improve your team. Ask the Cubs how this works. Ask the Giants, who are succeeding now even though they have been forced to banish high-paid players like Zito and Rowand from their playoff roster. Not a sustainable long-term situation by any means. What do they do in another year when they are still paying off these dead contracts, handing huge money to Lincecum and Cain and have to look for players to plug their offensive holes?

There really is little choice for a team like the Nats who have payroll room but who are also trying to build from within. They can either stay the course they have set, signing free agents to longterm contracts only when it makes sense for the longer term, or they can shoot their wad and sign multiple guys to longterm contracts that might give them some modicum of success next year but which might also leave them hamstrung in a bad place for quite some time after that. There really is no middle ground, so focusing solely on next season's payroll is an exercise in futility. I can guarantee that no such discussion is going on with Rizzo or Lerner. They have set their course, and they are sticking with it.

Steve M. said...

I agree with Sam and have been beating that same drum of late. I am ok with it if the Nats get Cliff Lee which will take them a lot closer to 81 wins but Cliff Lee alone isn't going to get this team to the Playoffs.

The bottom up approach is the way to go and the Phillies and Rays have rebuilt that way. The Nationals seem to be building like the Rays with pitching first and I still think you need balance. It takes 2 aces these days to get through the playoffs and 2 more solid starters.

Until the Nats can figure out their CF and 1st base problems, I still feel like they have time on the starters with Strasburg and Zimmermann under team control for several more years. Then do as the Phillies and get your "Halladay" when you know you are ready to win it all. The Nats are far removed from contending right now.

In 2 years you will have Bryce Harper for RF and if Rizzo can find his CF you could have one of the best outfields in baseball to go with an infield of Zim, Desmond, Espinosa and Dunn and a #1 Strasburg and a #2 Jordan Zimmermann and Ramos/Flores behind the plate.

markfd said...


Thanks for the salary rundown. I think the Nats have to at least hike the payroll to $86 million, I would like to see it higher if wisely spent but it cannot be the status quo or decrease that is completely unacceptable.

Sec3MySofa said...

Payroll is a bit of a red herring, in that you do not always get what you pay for (Mets, Mariners, Cubs...). But it's also true that you can draft high for decades, and still have nothing to show for it. Neither one works *if you do it wrong*. Either can work, if you do it well.

But they all have a context. Some teams can't afford to wait for ten years for good players to develop. This is one of those teams.

The Nats need to improve the product on the field considerably, with a time machine to 2007 if possible. If they can do that without increasing payroll, I'm fine with it. I just don't see any other way to speed up the process, and they *do* need to speed up the process.

Stan Kasten said...

Quit talking about payroll. You don't care about payroll!

Todd Boss said...

I've heard the argument about "arbitrarily spending money" and people who caution against it. But face it; the difference between a $60M payroll and a $90M payroll is incredibly significant. $30M buys you two decent FA starting pitchers and a right fielder in 2010. Think that would have been nice to have, instead of allowing guys like Olsen, Atilano and Harris put up worse-than-replacement numbers?

The problem the Nats have is that they talk a big game but are a few years away from being able to back it up. Cliff Lee isn't going to come here, not now that he's gotten a taste of the post season. We don't have the prospects to tempt Greinke away from KC. Nor do we really have prospects to address any big-name trade rumor (Matt Kemp?). What I think we can do is go after another reclamation project (Wang in 2010, Brandon Webb in 2011), or make a trade w/ Tampa as they try to dump payroll (James Shields or Neiman could be out there and we've traded w/ TB before).

A little more success plus a healthy Strasburg makes us a much better FA destination in 2012.

Sam said...

Another, slightly unrelated, note: with inflation so low and likely not climbing anytime soon, I would be wary of handing out long-term deals. Obviously, a big part of contracts is that $15 million now buys more than $15 million next year and the year after, etc. In other words, long-term deals are generally front-loaded in real wage (which is what we should care about, not the nominal number). And with inflation so low, the contracts aren't as front-loaded, meaning there will be less flexibility in the future.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see in the Forbes report that the valuation of the franchise keeps dropping. That is 3 years in a row and they are down at least 15% and probably closer to 20% when you consider capital improvements in a stadium they don't own. Sure, we are in a recession and the Lerners probably did overpay for the team so the valuation doesn't surprise me but still, that isn't good.

My analogy is buying a mansion for the sole purposes of renting it out. I furnish the mansion with bargain furniture not fitting for a mansion like this and I am not great on fixing leaks and other repairs to my mansion but I do turn an annual profit based on my great location. Only problem is that the value of my mansion keeps dropping and if I had to sell it today I would have to short-sale it!

Until Lerner sees that winning is his best asset it could be a long ride. No, spending good money after bad doesn't make sense and yes they are finally rebuilding the farm system but they really need to get one key Free Agent acquisition along with re-signing Dunn to keep people renting!!!!!!!!

Water23 said...

Although, I agree somewhat with SAM's train of thought, two things seem to have to happen for the Nats to have more long-term success.

1) International signings. Yes, we got burned before but this is a free second draft with as many #1 picks as you can afford. Funnel a lot of cash into this area and you are bound to find a few gems. I am sure Rizzo et al could deal with a overstocked minor league system after spending a ton on these players.

2) Sam, you must win or at least be perceived as having a chance to win/be competitive to draw top FA talent. We missed on Tex for many reasons and I love Dunnkey but he was a 3rd tier vs 1st tier option. Is someone like Carl Crawford really gonna sign with the Nats for an extra $3 million/year instead of the Yanks or Sox or Angels? Highly unlikely. Show them you are in it to win and they just might.

Jim Webster said...

Mark, does Drew Storen work just for the fun? I don't find him on your list.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Jim Webster: Knowing Drew, he probably would work just for the fun. But you're right, I forgot about him. I just added him to the list (at a salary of $402,000) and took out Balester. Not that both guys couldn't make the roster. But for these purposes, I only need one name in that slot.

Sorry for the oversight.

Sunderland said...

Feel Wood, I like your take, as is often the case.
Walter23, good points, especially #2.

It's a shame the Nats chose to be so frugal in drafts prior to 2010.
Basically, they talked about wanting to do things the right way, and then even short-changed that approach.

But the 2010 draft was great.

And it's mostly at this point about building a fan base. And the Nats have bolluxed that during most of the past 5 years. They need to do whatever, even spend slightly foolishly, to try and make baseball moderately relevant in this town.

Basically, echoing Sec3

Feel Wood said...

"It's a shame the Nats chose to be so frugal in drafts prior to 2010.
Basically, they talked about wanting to do things the right way, and then even short-changed that approach."

Calling them frugal in previous drafts is a baseless canard. Presumably you're saying this because you perceive them as being cheap because they drafted for so-called "signability" rather than taking best player available. But in saying this you discount the work and player evaluations done by the scouting and front office staff employed by the team. If frugality was the primary concern, why hire and pay these people at all, when all that would be required to achieve your same end of "signability drafting" would be a subscription to Baseball America? Drafting a real MLB team is not the same thing as a fantasy draft, you know. If you want to place blame anywhere, you could say that the Nats had bad scouts and player evaluators, and that they did not do their job well. But this is a far different kettle of fish than saying they were drafting frugally just because they did not follow BA's analysis (or that of your favorite analysis outfit, if you don't like BA) to the letter.

Sunderland said...

Feel Wood, after Stasburg in 2009, the next three picks were all about saving money and signability. There's no possible other way to look at it.

They drafted Trevor Holder with their 3rd round pick. He went in the 10th round the previous year, and his 2008 season and his 2009 season were almost identical.
After 2008 the earliest anyone took him was the 10th round.
After 2009 the Nats grabbed him in the 3rd round.

If they liked him so much after 2009, fine, take him in the 6th or 7th round.

It was all about saving money, staying within some sort pre-established budget. No other way to see it.
2008 2009
IP 98 92
ERA 4.41 4.48
WHIP 1.42 1.34
K/9 6.24 7.02
W/L 8-4 7-5

Why else is he suddenly worth a 3rd round draft choice?
Why else is he signing well below slot?
He knew, his agent knew, and the Nats knew he was not a bona fida 3rd rounder.

JD said...

Feel Wood,

I think you nailed it. The issue was incompetence not frugality; the team spent years without a perceptible plan; going around signing useless free agents like Castilla and Guzman giving extensions to anyone who got hot for a month like Young, Belliard, Guzman; making trades for mediocre major league talents like Guillen, Kearns, Lopez and taking on reclamation projects like Dukes and Milledge.

If the energy and resources were spent on player development, scouting and making trades which improve your minor league depth we would have been 3 - 5 years ahead instead of where we are now. On the other hand hitting rock bottom did bring us Strasburg and Harper so I guess there is a silver lining to everything including incompetence.

Feel Wood said...

"Feel Wood, after Stasburg in 2009, the next three picks were all about saving money and signability. There's no possible other way to look at it."

Really? You totally discount the fact that the team's scouting and player evaluation staff actually did their jobs, scouted and evaluated players rather than just reading so-called expert draft analysis, and put together a board of players ranked in the order they would like to obtain them if available? (Quoth Rizzo: "Respect the board.") If they were just going to draft for signability according to what some so-called expert said, why even go through the charade of hiring staff and holing them up at the ballpark around the clock for a week prior to the draft? You think Bob Boone, Davey Johnson, etc, work cheap?

Sunderland said...

Feel Wood, I'm not discounting the work the scouts and evaluators did. Given the tight budget (in my scenario), I think the evaluators did their job and did it reasonably well.
Just because they were drafting with a budget doesn't mean they drafted blind or with no regard to talent and value. They liked Holder based upon their evauluation. They drafted him in the 3rd round based upon their budget.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Drafting Robby Ray and A.J. Cole in later rounds this past draft and giving them first round money wasn't any part of a "signability" stategy.

2009 gave us Strasburg and Storen and next year you're going to learn the name A.J. Morris from the same draft. That's a very good young stable of pitchers that will go a long way in establishing the base for overall improvement.

Doc said...

It can't be easy being an accountant for a ball club. Always spending money that isn't coming in--unless you're with the Yankees or Bosox.

phil dunn said...

Cliff Lee will have his pick of teams this winter. Mark, using your wildest imagination, do you really think Cliff Lee would sign with the sad sack Nationals? I don't care how much money the Nats offer him, he's not going to come here anymore than Mark Teixeira was going to come here two years ago.

Sunderland said...

Natsjack, fully agree with you.
The 2010 draft was outstanding and completely different from previous drafts.

Doc - There's plenty of money coming in, or at least that's what Forbes thinks, and since no one's opening the books, that's the best estimates we got.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Phil Dunn: No, I don't in my wildest dreams believe Lee will sign with the Nats. But that wasn't the point of my article. Was simply showing that the Nats should have some money to spend this winter, whether on the No. 1 free agent on the market or on a number of other potential acquisitions out there.

BinM said...

Mark: A couple of other things to consider here. Both Strasburg & Harper are 'dead money' along with Kennedy for 2011, as Strasburg is on the DL, and Harper is in the minors. As a result, they need two more players to fill the roster, and the base salary will rise by at least $800k to $48.417M. That's still roughly $17.86M below the 2010 25-man expenditure.

The team either needs, or is looking for 1) A top-flight starting pitcher, 2) A left-handed or switch-hitting bat w/power, either at 1B or OF, 3) Improved defense, and 4) Bench strength. IMO, they're not going to get all that through Free Agency alone, even if the Lerners' suddenly jump the ML budget to $80M (yeah, right) for 2011.

It's far more likely that Rizzo will have to fill the holes through trades & more 2nd-tier FA signings. In hindsight, locking up Dunn earlier in the year probably would have solved the 1B/LH hitter issue for around $15-16M/year, but they completely screwed the pooch on that one; Rizzo made his off-season harder than it had to be with that non-move.

JayB said...

Rizzo never wanted to sign Dunn and still does not. Stan and Lerner are to blame for stringing Dunn along and vetoing the Trade their own GM wanted to make. Boz has confirmed this as much as it ever will be....but it makes perfect sense and explains why we are where we are in a micro view with Dunn and in a Macro View as a team....298 loses in 3 years.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

The $500,000 spent to buy out Adam Kennedy's contract might be the best money this franchise has spent since it signed Jesus.

JayB said...

don't forget eating Lopez, LoDuca and Estrada contracts all in one day. That was a very good day!

Wally said...

I have never understood the 'don't spend money' argument. Logically speaking, I just don't get it (although I don't claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer). Disagreements over whether to spend it on signing every kid out of Korea, the DR and Venezuela, or signing Cliff Lee are reasonable, but don't we all want them to spend like crazy somewhere?

I mean, I understand the 'don't spend so much money that you have to raise ticket prices, or hamstring the future of the club' argument. But the Nats are a long way off from either of those cases. I certainly understand and whole heartedly support the 'don't give a lot of money to bad players' argument, and heaven knows we did a lot of that under Jimbo. That, far and away, is the most important argument. But that is an argument about your talent evaluators. The 'don't spend' argument often seems to get made as a blanket statement against spending money. You know, 'the Rays are really good and they didn't spend any money'. Or, 'look how well the Padres did this year with such a low payroll'. As if not spending money is actually an advantage, like it makes the scouts or player development people do their job better. That just seems inherently illogical to me.

I don't even really understand the 'its too soon to spend money on good players' argument. ok, so we aren't going to make the playoffs next year. So we shouldn't sign anyone to a multi year contract if they are only going to be good for 1 year. But is Lee going to stop being good in 2012? If you wait until you think that you are close enough, you will wind up with the best of what is then-currently available, not necessarily someone who is really top notch.

If we trust our talent evaluators, which I do, I want them to have as big a budget as possible. Won't that bring in more good players at all levels of the organization, increasing our chances of winning, and winning consistently? If we don't want to let them have the money to sign free agents, aren't we implicitly saying that we don't trust their evaluation skills? That we just want to make sure that they don't sign Barry Zito?

I do trust Rizzo's talent evaluation, and as a fan, I would like to see him have as much budget as he can productively use, up to the two constraints mentioned above. I trust Rizzo will make better decisions than LoDuca or Estrada, and I want to see him have the wherewithal to make some moves. I honestly can't see any fan having a different perspective unless they just don't trust Rizzo to be the guy. But I am sure that I missing something obvious. Maybe the CBA says that you can't sign Cliff Lee unless you first give Chone Figgins $40m?

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

@JayB: Right on, sir. Long live, FLop, PLoD and Estraneous.

Then, there was that $1 million buyout of Austin Kearns' $8 million deal.

The money this franchise has just urinated away could fill the Grand Canyon.

That's why I'm almost grateful they're too cheap to chase any big-name FA's. They all end up like Brian Lawrence and Jason Marquis.

Unknown said...

This is a fascinating discussion with several commenters expressing quite divergent viewpoints very convincingly. I think a key point was made by Sec3MySofa (who also has a simply great moniker):

"Some teams can't afford to wait for ten years for good players to develop. This is one of those teams. The Nats need to improve the product on the field considerably, with a time machine to 2007 if possible."

A few thoughts on why we simply can't be satisfied with another last place finish next year.
1. The fan base is hemorraging. STHs are down to 10K or less and will keep falling with Strasburg out this year. Whatever strategy is pursued, it's simply not possible to build a winning team while at the same time trying to deal with the pressures of declining revenue.
2. Increased attendance brings increased revenue brings more flexibility for free agent signings or contract extensions when they are needed. If you assume an average ticket price of $40, each additional 5K of STHs is $16 million more in revenue. That doesn't include increased concessions or merchandise sales. If we had 30K STHs rather than 10K, that's $128 million of revenues over four years, more than enough to sign Dunn and another top flight free agent without breaking a sweat.
3. Ryan Zimmerman walks if we aren't contending by 2012. I for one really don't want to see this team rebuilding again in 2013 or 2014 with Zim gone, and it's very hard to go from a cellar dweller to a contender in one year. We need to improve incrementally. That means getting to .500 in 2011, then taking the next step in 2012. I don't see any way that we get to .500 next year without some significant roster improvement through FA signings and/or extensions.

Who Let The Farves Out? said...

I'm glad to hear your wildest dreams aren't about Cliff Lee.
That would be disappointing.

Just sayin.
"Phil Dunn: No, I don't in my wildest dreams believe Lee will sign with the Nats.

Anonymous said...

Great discussion, everyone. I am a big believer in not signing just to sign - on other web sites I've argued extensively that just aiming at an $80 or $90 million payroll just to aim is stupid, and brought out the Mets, Cubs, Mariners and Tigers as what NOT to do.

That said, I do think that you go for free agents with an eye to 2011, 2012 and beyond. So you don't sign the Vinny Castillas or even the Cliff Lees of the world. You do go after the 20-something talent, like Carl Crawford and Yu Darvish. And you go after, yes, Adam Dunn. If you're really brave, you front-load Dunn's contract so that you're paying him more in the first two years (when he's most likely to be most productive) than the last two years. This also frees up money when some players hit free agency and arbitration years.

Putting another 100 loss team on the field would throw away the progress that they've made, spiking the stirring TV ratings and watching the season ticket list dwindle below 10,000. At that point it starts to look like a failed franchise.

Which is not a good return on investment.

John C.

Roberto said...

Just as I don't imagine Lee signing with the Nationals, I can't imagine a scenario in which Greinke becomes a National. Even if he doesn't include them on his "don't trade me to them" list, which, given recent history, he probably should, acquiring him would empty the farm system for a player who will leave after two years.

Rizzo's best bet for acquiring a front-line starter is go all in for Yu Darvish.

Golfersal said...

So how much would Cliff Lee cost, 15 to $20 million. Seems like a lot on the surface, but let's just say that the cheap Lerners agree with that figure and Rizzo tries to do it.
Be money well spent, the reason why? Look at what attendance was like for Strasburg games, he added an additional 15 to 20,000 butts in seats buying $5 hot dogs and $8 beers.
On top of that the Nats would be big news on a national level and would have a chance to contend in 2011.
Of course the possibility of Lee signing with crapy team like the Nats are slim to none and I have to think that a very smart Nolan Ryan will do everything and spend everything to keep Lee signed up with the Rangers.
But yes Lee would be great for the Nats at any cost.

Anonymous said...

Cliff Lee can do anything he wants with a baseball. He proved that again last night. He may even lead the Rangers to the WS. He isn't coming to Washington for any amount of money. I'm betting he will sign with the club that gives him the best mix of money and a chance to win. Might even be the Rangers. Won't be us.

Anonymous8 said...

JayB, play GM for a minute and tell us what you are going to do this off-season.

Personally, I don't think the Nats have any chance of getting Cliff Lee so the team should look for a lead-off man who can play the outfield and one more solid starter.

Last night, as great as Cliff Lee pitched, if Andy Pettite doesn't throw that hanger to Josh Hamilton in the 1st inning, the teams go 0-0 into the 8th inning. The Yankees took Lee deep in counts and he threw 122 pitches through 8 innings.

Roberto said...

It turns out that Darvish expects to play in Japan next year, so scratch my earlier post.

Lee's asking price is probably closer to $25 million a year than $15-20 million. I can see the Lerners offering it -- I just don't see Lee taking it. He has options that are a lot better than playing for the Nationals.

NatsJack in Florida said...

As an Nats Outsider living in Florida, I get to mingle and exhange rumors with fans representing every team in baseball. My close Cub associates have heard that the Nats WILL be at the forefront with their offer for Lee and it will be in the 5 year - $125 Mil range. I would never expect him to sign with the Nats but we, at least will set the bar high.

On the same note, the Cub associates are literally dreading the day the Cubs offer Dunn a contract he can't refuse. As a matter of fact, the only people aside from Nats fans indicating interest in Dunn are all in the AL.

Anonymous said...

I'm slightly skeptical that Willingham will only get 6 million and that Lannan will only get 1.5 million. Willingham got a 1.6 million raise last year. Why would he get a smaller one this year? If Guthrie got three million, I would think Lannan gets two and a half.

Why would Lerner agree to spend 80 million this year? Strasburg is out the whole year. Harper isn't in the majors yet. Wouldn't it make more sense to make a big splash next year? When Strasburg is healthy, Jordan Zimmermann and Maya have made it through a whole year and shown whether they can be a #2 and #3 and Storen has shown that he can save thirty games.
After you've seen whether Ramos is the answer at C, whether Espinosa is the answer at second, whether Desmond can play SS without having forty errors, whether Morgan is an adequate answer at CF, whether Morse has a good enough bat to stick somewhere.

Anonymous said...

The Rangers' 1B last night batted ninth and only had 10 HR's. That is different. Maybe there are other ways of getting from A to Z without going B, C, D, E... We have assumed our 1B solution had to include a banger. Maybe not. Maybe we sign someone else at another position to fill in power and RBI's. I think the jury is still out on Morse, but if he plays 1B, then the Nats start looking for outfielders, right? The end result is the thing--having a certain team average, number of HR's and RBI's over the course of a season.

JD said...

Anon @ 10:10,

It's nice that someone other than me gets this concept.You have to look at Dunn as an overall player not focus on his HR total. Based on the past year he is worth $15 mil per but not for longer than 2 years and if we don't sign him; as you say we can get the lost productivity from other positions so it doesn't have to be Pena or someone like him.

JD said...

As far as Cliff Lee is concerned; if the Yankees don't win it all this year (and even if they do) they will just spend whatever it takes to sign him; their resources are almost limitless and when they go after a player in FA they always get him.

Water23 said...

John C.,

You hit the nail on the head. Spend on younger players and Int'l players. Yu Darvish would be a nice addition. As to Dunn, that is a great idea! His production is consistent so why not front load the contract $15 Mill, $15 Mill, $8 Mill and then $8 Mill. He plays two seasons for you and is readily available to others for decent prospects at $8 million on the backside.

Les in NC said...

@ John C and Water23
I wonder why more people don't see a front loaded contract for Dunn as a viable option? Dunn gets more "real" money up front (that is to say money that is worth more due to inflation), the Nats increase payroll marginally and are paying Adam what he is "worth" which decreases over the next few years as his skills diminish.
Makes sense to me....

JayB said...

Ok Sir,

First fire Riggs and his staff save Rick E. Nice guy, loser from way back. You will never win with him and he killed the team in June with his lineups in Cleveland and Balt.

Second, go to ownership and get a budget of $80 million this year, $90 Million Next and $95 for the 3rd year of a 3 year of a 3 year plan for MLB level salaries. This does not mean cutting back on Player D of draft bonuses.

Third Spend the money. Get a winning manager and coaching staff. NOT the cheapest Manager which is what Acta and Riggs were and why they were hired.

Then Cut Harris, Kennedy, Maxwell, Wil N. Olsen and all the other dead weight like Mench. Next Trade Morgan for whatever you can get and say good bye to Dunn.

Now Spend on CF, RF and 1B either through trades for short term high salary guys or FAs...... but these three positions need major upgrades both in Defense and Offense (Dunn has too may holes in his offensive game (200K's and bad D is not worth 15 Mil).

Lastly, overpay for a top starter and a #3 starter.

Names you say....that is tough to say without being on the inside but those are the needs and priorities. If younger guys like Crawford or proven guys like Lee will sign the go all in at any cost. If you have to settle for older guys then overpay for one or two year contracts like Pudge and Jason M model last year......but focus on better players you pay what you need to pay. No more Kennedy instead of Hudson moves.

Alexander said...

Good post, very interesting.

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