The Cleveland Indians offseason started with a couple of moves in the front office. With President of baseball operations Mark Shapiro moving on, Chris Antonetti will fill his role. Meanwhile, assistant general manager Mike Chernoff steps into Antonetti’s former position as general manager.
While the NLDS and ALDS take center stage in baseball, rumors of the Indians owner, Paul Dolan, potentially taking on a financial partner in his ownership of the club have begun to stir up.
According to Steve Greenberg, managing director of Allen & Company (a New York-based financial boutique known for brokering sports acquisitions), Dolan hired him to begin the search for a potential minority owner. Greenberg has stated that a small group of investors have been identified and that the deal could get done by the end of the year. Greenberg did note that he didn’t think the deal would drastically change the organization’s payroll approach, but that it would ease Dolan’s financial burden and add capitol.
With all of this in mind, the Indians have positioned themselves admirably as we look at what comes comes next.
They had a disappointing season after being a trendy pick to make an October run before the season. They did play well enough late in the season to finish within five games of the postseason, and one game above .500 at 81-80.
Despite the disappointment, they will return a young nucleus of both pitchers and position players, and this season they aren’t burdened with questions surrounding injured veterans and payroll dominating salaries. Here is how the tribe payroll breaks down going into the offseason:
– Carlos Santana 1B/DH, $9.45 Million through 2016 (including buyout of 2017 option)
– Michael Brantley OF, $15 Million through 2017 (including buyout of 2018 option)
– Chris Johnson 1B/3B, $17.5 Million through 2017 (including buyout of 2018 option)
– Carlos Carrasco SP, $19.66 Million through 2018 (including buyout of 2019 option)
– Yan Gomes C, $20.95 Million through 2019 (including buyout of 2020 option)
– Corey Kluber SP, $36.5 Million through 2019 (including buyout of 2020 option)
– Jason Kipnis 2B, $45.5 Million through 2019 (including buyout of 2020 option)
Arbitration Eligible Players (Arbitration Payroll Projection Via MLB Trade Rumors)
– Cody Allen RP, $3.5 Million
– Josh Tomlin SP, $3.1 Million
– Lonnie Chisenhall OF, $3.0 Million
– Bryan Shaw RP, $2.8 Million
– Zach McAllister RP, $1.0 Million
– Jeff Manship RP, $700K
– Nick Hagadone RP, $600K – Non-Tender Candidate
– Ryan Raburn OF, $3 Million club option with a $100K buyout
– Mike Aviles, INF/OF
– Ryan Webb RP
– Gavin Floyd SP
The Indians situation is significantly better than in the past. Their payroll as it stands now, is made up of $41 million in guaranteed contracts, an estimated $16 million due in arbitration and about 10 players near the league minimum. This means that the Indians have approximately $61 million committed to returning players (according to MLB Trade Rumors).
It should be pointed out that in evaluating this club with just the players making up that $61 million, the Indians already figure to be included among the handful of teams national pundits forecast for contention in 2016. It was just last season that Sports Illustrated picked the Indians to win the World Series in their 2015 MLB preview.
At $61 million, the Tribe sits roughly $26 million below the club’s Opening Day payroll from a year ago.
That number seems huge in comparison to recent offseasons, when the Indians were forced to rely on short-term, mid-level deals and spring training invitees to fill weaknesses in the team’s roster. It is worth noting that a good portion of the team’s perceived spending capacity was freed up when Antonetti unloaded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves, and in order to make that deal happen, the Indians sent the Braves $10 million in cash as well.
Even with that cash going out, the Indians front office will have a significant amount of money to address their needs. So as the Indians approach the offseason, from a payroll standpoint, they are in a good position to not only field a competitive team next year, but also make moves this offseason if they so choose.