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The Mariners’ projected opening day payroll

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The Mariners' payroll has been steadily rising for the last five years. Where does the team rank now?

GENNA MARTIN, SEATTLEPI.COM

With spring training in full swing, the Mariners’ 40-man roster is more or less set. A flurry of moves towards the beginning of the offseason remade the roster according to Jerry Dipoto’s vision. Now, almost half of the roster is made up of new faces. Barring any last minute additions during spring training—though I’d expect Dipoto to keep his eye on the waiver wire—we can safely estimate the projected opening day payroll for the Mariners.

Cot’s contracts gives an estimate of $135.7 million for all of the Mariners’ guaranteed contracts with an additional estimated $4.7 million for pre-arbitration players. These figures don’t include minor-league salaries or non-roster invitees who could make the roster (like Dae Ho Lee or Joel Peralta). The total payroll figure of $140.4 ranks 12th in the major leagues and 7th in the American League. It’s also the highest total payroll in team history (without accounting for inflation).

After bottoming out at $84.4 million in 2012, the Mariners’ payroll has increased year-over-year in an almost clocklike manner. Here are the payroll figures over the last five years:

Year

Total Payroll

2012

$84,450,157

2013

$91,102,412

2014

$108,957,206

2015

$124,385,330

Est. 2016

$141,000,000

The Mariners’ payroll has increased by an average of $14 million per year since 2012. Felix Hernandez’s contract extension and Robinson Cano’s mega-contract represent the lion’s share of the growth. Kyle Seager’s contract extension doesn’t get expensive until much later in the contract and Nelson Cruz’s free agent contract seems like a relative steal compared to some of the free agent contracts signed this offseason.

When compared to our direct rivals in the AL West, the Mariners have increased their payroll at a rate only matched by the Astros. Here are the payroll figures for these five teams over the last five years:

Est Payroll

If you compare the 2016 estimated payroll to the average payroll over the previous five years, the Mariners and Astros have increased their payrolls by almost the exact same amount. In fact, the Mariners have increased their payroll by the fourth most in all of baseball over this time period, behind the Cubs, Astros, and Orioles.

Not only have the Mariners’ regularly increased their payroll, Jerry Dipoto’s acquisitions have given the Mariners some financial flexibility in the future. Using Baseball-Reference’s handy table of future commitments, we can see that the Mariners have just six players signed to guaranteed contracts in 2017. An additional four players have team options that could be picked up and six players will reach their first year of arbitration. Without exercising the four options, the estimated payroll in 2017 is currently just $129.4 million. If payroll continues to rise at the same rate, that would give the Mariners around $30 million to work with next year. There’s no guarantee that the payroll will continue to rise at the same rate it has been, but even if it slows down, the Mariners have afforded themselves some wiggle room in the next few years.

It looks like we’re finally seeing the benefits of the estimated $2 billion television deal the Mariners signed in 2013. If Jerry Dipoto finds success with the roster he’s constructed, he’ll have some financial firepower to continue to upgrade the roster in 2017 and beyond. Ideally, those upgrades will come alongside a new group of youngsters who will eventually form the next core of this team.