Whether we like it or not, the 2016 is over for the Texas Rangers. And as such, rather than wait around on the rest of the postseason to play out, it seemed to be a good time to take a look at the projected payroll situation heading into the winter.
In 2016, the Rangers opened with a payroll of $158 million, and with service-time adjustments as well as in-season trades, the actual payroll ended up being somewhere in the neighborhood of $169 million. Not quite, Yankees-Sox-Dodgers money, but still within top-tier of spenders in Major League Baseball.
Moving forward into 2017, there's been no indication of any sort of willingness to spend more or even stay around that $169 million. In fact, rumblings that Ray Davis would actually like to slice payroll by anywhere from 10-15 percent have perpetuated for the better part of a year. So, more likely than not, you're looking at a soft payroll cap of something closer to $160 million than $170 million.
As far as contractual commitments go, the Rangers have the following in 2017:
- Prince Fielder - $9 million ($24 million minus $6 million from Detroit and $9 million insurance)
- Cole Hamels - $23.5 million
- Shin-Soo Choo - $20 million
- Adrian Beltre - $18 million
- Elvis Andrus - $15.25 million
- Yu Darvish - $11 million
- Derek Holland - $1.5 million (buyout on $11 million team option)
- Jonathan Lucroy - $5.25 million
- Martin Perez - $4.65 million
- Tony Barnette - $1.75 million
- Josh Hamilton - $2 million (cut in August)
Note: I've gone ahead and assumed that Texas will exercise the buyout on Derek Holland's option. Performance combined with health concerns lead me to believe that it's more likely that Texas uses the buyout and attempts to re-negotiate, but more on that later.
That puts Texas at about $112 million, and then you have arbitration salaries. Texas will have the following players arbitration-eligible, followed by their projected earnings according to MLB Trade Rumors:
- Shawn Tolleson - $3.6 million
- Robinson Chirinos - $2.1 million
- Tanner Scheppers - $1.1 million
- Jake Diekman - $2.6 million
- A.J. Griffin - $1.9 million
- Jurickson Profar - $1.1 million
- Jeremy Jeffress - $2.9 million
- Lucas Harrell - $1.7 million
- Sam Dyson - $3.9 million
Chirinos, Scheppers, Griffin, Profar, Jeffress, and Dyson all seem to be locks. That puts us right around $125 million. Then you have the young guys that are making league minimum, which has been $507,500 over the past two seasons. I would expect that to increase a little for 2017, but for the purposes of this exercise, we'll assume it's the same.
- Rougned Odor
- Nomar Mazara
- Joey Gallo
- Delino DeShields Jr.
- Hanser Alberto
- Ryan Rua
- Luke Jackson
- Alex Claudio
- Matt Bush
- Chi Chi Gonzalez
- Yohander Mendez
Some of these players will end up remaining on the 40-man roster rather than the 25-man, but it puts us at $130.5 million. So now, we're looking at, most likely, $25-30 million in free cash for Texas to play with for the 2017 season.
The first thought that comes to mind is, boy, I don't see any way that Texas manages to re-sign Yu Darvish after the 2017 season. If Darvish pitches anything close to his capability, he's probably going to get paid like many of the upper-tier pitchers have in recent years, which would put him around $25-30 million annually. Maybe more in a year, when the market will be a year removed from one of the weaker classes of free agent pitching in which teams figure to throw money at pitchers that might not otherwise earn that kind of money.
Secondly, with so little available cash to spend, there's not much room to go make a splash. As I've already mentioned, the pitching market this offseason is a bit thin as is, so that's likely a non-issue. However, Texas have several members of their 2016 team hitting free agency in Colby Lewis, Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, and Carlos Gomez.
I'd imagine the Rangers would like Colby Lewis back somewhere close to his 2016 salary of $6 million. Before hitting the disabled list, he was the team's most consistent pitcher, and he's a guy that the Rangers enjoy having around. If you had asked me in July if Ian Desmond would be back, I'd have told you that the Rangers would make a serious push, but I'm not so sure that ship hasn't sailed after he posted a wRC+ of 55 from July 22 to the end of the season. More likely, they'll try to get Carlos Gomez back at somewhere around $10 million for the 2017 season.
That puts Texas at about $146.5 million. Carlos Beltran suddenly becomes a luxury that I'm not sure Texas will be willing to spend for. He made $15 million in 2016, and I'd be surprised if he would take a pay cut to remain in Texas. More likely, someone will offer him about that much on a one-year deal.
I've seen and heard talk about Edwin Encarnacion's impending free agency. I don't see it. He made $10 million in 2016, and with five straight seasons around 4 fWAR, the 33-year old slugger can -- and should -- command more than that on the free agent market. Again, it's more likely that Texas rolls with an internal option at first base and designated hitter. Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo would seem to be perfect candidates. Of course, much of that hinges on Gallo adjusting his approach significantly. It also assumes that some other team forks over too much money for Mitch Moreland rather than the Rangers.
It's also important to remember that Texas has made a concerted effort to sign Rougned Odor to an extension, with his agent reportedly turning down a 6-year, $35 million deal back in July. So Texas clearly wants to get something done on that front as well.
The underlying point I'm making is that rather than being big spenders, it's more likely that Texas will try to plug small holes and give it another run in 2017, the final year of the Yu Darvish window. They may elect to bring Jake Diekman back. Shawn Tolleson? Not out of the realm of possibilities. The bullpen will be an area of significant turnover, and one that cash not already spoken for above will likely go toward. If Texas does manage to land another starting pitcher, it's likely via trade, and it's probably not a big name like those we saw thrown around at this season's trade deadline.
We've heard before that Texas wouldn't be spending, only for them to go out and sign Shin-Soo Choo to a 7-year, $130 million deal. So, yes, it's theoretically possible. Just not probable. And really, I'm fine with that. 2017's Opening Day roster figures to be more talented than the 2016 version, and sometimes, that's all you can realistically ask for.