(Baseball StL) -- The St. Louis Cardinals’ payroll of about $117 million ranks them 12th in baseball, just ahead of the Reds and the Cubs and just behind the Rangers and the White Sox, the latter paying exorbitantly for a hideous team.
With several key pieces locked up for the next several years including Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday and several more key pieces not eligible for arbitration, the Redbirds have salary flexibility for years to come.
And more significantly, a lot of high dollar contracts are expiring this year, giving the Cardinals some room to maneuver should they explore a trade or a free agent acquisition in the off-season.
(All salary figures from Cot’s Baseball Contracts).
The certain savings would come from the trade of Mitchell Boggs ($1.5 million), the good-riddance to Mark Rzcepczynski ($1.1 million) and the near certainty they would have no interest in Rafael Furcal ($7 million.)
Chris Carpenter would seem likely to retire at the end of this year rather than perform at a diminished level, saving the Redbirds his 2013 salary of $12.5 million.
(Running total: $22.1 million).
Jake Westbrook would be due $9.5 million next year (mutual option), an amount that would be difficult to justify given Westbrook’s injury history, age (36 next year) and the fact that his innings pitched has declined every year since 2010. Couple that with the emergence of young pitching talent in the Cardinals’ farm system and Westbrook doesn’t look like a bargain. If the Cards let him go, they must pay him a $1 million buy-out, so the net savings is $8.5 million.
(Running total: $30.6 million).
Carlos Beltran’s exceptional year has resurrected talk of re-signing him, a popular fan sentiment but one that does not make good financial sense for a couple of reasons. He played for $13 million this year but he will want more than that (and probably get more than that) as a free agent. He also wants to play 3 more years, meaning he won’t take a one-year deal. Ask the LA Angels if it is a good idea to pay big money to an aging athlete with declining skills. Also, signing him for more than a year doesn’t fit with the need to bring up and play young talent, so I’m betting he is gone.
(Running total: $43.6 million.)
Edward Mujica ($3.2 million) has the Cards right where he wants them. He thinks. He avoided arbitration last year and will want more money and a long deal in his next contract, either here or somewhere else. But closers have a somewhat diminished importance since the days of Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley. A guy who can get ahead in the count and keep the ball down will suffice, as Mujica has proven. Plus, the Cards will have Jason Motte back who is signed and Trevor Rosenthal who is slowly adapting to his role, making Mujica less valuable to them. I predict he wants too much money, rejects the Cardinals offer and signs somewhere else where he fades into obscurity.
(Running total: $46.8 million).
David Freese $3.15 and eligible for arbitration. The Ken Rosenthal theory is Matt Carpenter moves to third to make room for Kolton Wong and David Freese is traded to avoid arbitration. But Freese’s arbitration case has taken a nosedive with his current average and production and the Cardinals know he is a solid player who struggled early because of an early injury. His low average with RISP is troubling but do you give up on an NLCS and World Series MVP this soon? I say they sign him. A raise but not a significant one.
(Running total: About $44 million).
A number of Cardinals who are not eligible for arbitration will nonetheless get raises of varying amounts:
John Jay $524,000
Lance Lynn $513,000
Fernando Salas, $512,000
Daniel Descalso $511,000
Tony Cruz, $503,000
Matt Carpenter $504,000
Shane Robinson $498,000
Pete Kozma $490,000
Shelby Miller $490,000
Matt Adams $490,000
Joe Kelly $493,000
Trevor Rosenthal $490,000
Kevin Siegrist $490,000
Rob Johnson $490,000
Let’s be generous and say the Cards spend $3 million on these and other rostered players due some kind of increase.
Net savings: $41 million.
What could you do with even half that much? Let the discussion begin.