I'm back from a weekend away, and my SEO batteries are feeling re-charged. I cannot even begin to describe the incredible search demand for2012 payroll information. It's like (1) Dancing With The Stars, (2) VMAs, (3) Chick-fil-A, (4) Seattle Mariners 2012 payroll information, and (5) Kreayshawn. I don't know what a Kreayshawn is, but I feel like not knowing helps to keep my imagination sharp.
Anyway, there are times that I sit here and write about the 2011 Mariners, and times that I sit here and think that writing about the 2011 Mariners is a colossal waste of time. Who cares about the 2011 Mariners? The 2011 Mariners have been dead for more than a month. We're mainly watching because we want to be excited about the future, right? So shouldn't everything I write have something to do with the future?
I argue with myself. Sometimes I'm content to write about the present. Other times I prefer to write about the future. This'll be about the future. The very near future. With 2011 shot, what a lot of Mariners fans want to know is if the team will be able to contend in 2012. That'll be determined in large part by the shape of their roster, and the shape of their roster will in part be determined by their payroll situation. So what I'm going to do here, as has been done a million times before, is examine their payroll situation.
Know that some of the numbers that follow are exact, and some are guesses and estimates. I am not a Seattle Mariners payroll expert, and I might very easily have made a few mistakes or errors in judgment. Please do let me know in the comments if I've slipped up and I'll edit this post so that I look smart and you look like you're complaining about nothing.
Much of this information comes courtesy of Cot's Contracts. I noticed that Cot's Contracts has not been updated to include the Chance Ruffin acquisition. If this is a sign that Cot's Contracts is dying, then this is also a sign that I am dying, for I am nothing without Cot's Contracts and Baseball-Reference. They're in my blood. Ask my hematologist!
One way to think of this is that the Mariners are currently staring at a 2012 payroll of $78.64 million. Another way to think of this is that the Mariners are currently staring at a 2012 payroll somewhere between, I don't know, $76 - 81 million. That's my estimated error margin, powered by uncertainty over signing bonuses, performance bonuses, and arbitration settlements with Vargas and League.
Cot's lists the Mariners' most recent payrolls at $99 million, $91 million, and $95 million. I don't know what the team's 2012 budget is going to be, but attendance is the lowest it's been since 1995. Something in the low- to mid-$90s wouldn't be surprising.
So this gives you some idea of how much room they'll have to play with. Much has been made of the fact that Carlos Silva, Milton Bradley and Yuniesky Betancourt will be coming off the books, and that's great, but Felix is due for a huge raise. Vargas and League are also due for big (albeit smaller) raises. It's not like the front office is going to be swimming in a pool of available money, unless one of two things happens:
(1) Ownership okays a budget increase
(2) Vargas or League (or both) are traded
I wouldn't count on #1. I could see #2, but mainly with League, since he's desirable and Vargas is less desirable. But then, if the M's trade League, they'll have another opening to fill. At this point, do you think they want Lueke closing games? Ruffin? Cortes? Kelley? They're going to want a little experience in their bullpen.
As of this writing, next year's Mariners could use another starter, they could use some arms in the bullpen, they could use some help on the bench, and they could probably use a boost at third base. These openings could shift around in the event of certain trades, but the whole time the front office will be working with a fairly limited amount of available money. They're not up against the ceiling right now, but they're also not far away.