I was recently discussing the Angels budget with a fellow fan when I was reminded that the Angels are on the threshold of going over the MLB imposed Luxury Tax next season. This confused me because the Angels payroll is the lowest it has been since 2010 (137 million). This particular fan was polite enough to inform me that when assessing a team’s payroll, MLB doesn’t go by how much the team currently costs, but how much they cost on average. For example, Albert Pujols, in 2013 Albert Pujols is making $16 million. However, the average value of the contract is 25 million, therefore MLB counts $25 million against the Angels current payroll. Like, ZOIKS, Scoob!
Looking at the Angels contracts over the following year, they are almost certain to go over the Luxury Tax line if they sign any free agents. And even if they didn’t (they will) we have quite a few players headed for arbitration. Not only will this team begin to be penalized in the same manner as the Yankees and Dodgers, their annual payroll is about to skyrocket as well, leaving me to wonder exactly how deep Arte’s pockets stretch.
Josh Hamilton will make the same as this year ($17.4 million), but in 2015 he’ll make $25 million and in 2016 and 2017, he’ll make $32 million.
Jered Weaver will also make the same as this year ($16.2 million) before making $18 and $20 million in 2015 and 2016.
This is the last season Albert Pujols will be even remotely affordable. Next season he’ll make $23 million, and receive a $1 million dollar increase every year after that.
CJ Wilson hasn’t actually been bad at all for the money he’s been paid. But next year he’ll make $16 million, which is $5 million more than this year. After that, $18 and $20 million respectively.
Tommy Hanson has not been good, but he only costs $3.75 million. However, he’ll be reaching his second year of arbitration next season, so if they Angels do intend to keep him, he will cost more than $5 million.
Jerome Williams will reach his final year of arbitration and with him posting the best numbers of his career, you can bet he will likely cost $3 million more.
Kevin Jepsen, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos are all closing in on arbitration. Bourjos and Trumbo specifically are about to cost a lot more than $500,000 to keep around.
So as you can see, this ball club is going to cost a lot of money as is. How much money? Well that will depend a lot on arbitration and free agency. But before arbitration, the Angels payroll for next season stands at $131.3 million dollars. In a rough estimate, figuring in arbitration the Angels may already have a payroll around $145 million going into next year without signing ANY free agents. But wait, there’s more.
The Angels rotation as presently constructed is inadequate to say the least. Entering next season, it looks like Weaver, Wilson, Hanson, Blanton and Williams are the staff. Undoubtedly, Blanton and Hanson are considered unmitigated disasters and with Garrett Richards in the fold, you have to assume that Dipoto is going to look very hard at a free agent market that includes A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, Hiroki Kuroda, Tim Lincecum, Paul Maholm and Jason Vargas. Any one of those pitchers could cost in excess of 10 million, which would raise the Angels payroll to an all-time high. But it isn’t as if one pitcher will solve all of the Angels problems.
Both Scott Downs and Ryan Madson are ticketed for free agency in the offseason. Replacing Madson won’t be difficult, they could replace him with a bucket of balls to take up space in the bullpen. But replacing Downs could be another thing entirely. Downs has been the Angels 8th inning setup man for a couple of years and has been solid to say the least. While a bullpen of Frieri, Jepsen, Kohn, De La Rosa and Burnett is solid on paper, it could certainly use one more solid reliever, preferably a lefty. The in-house options are Brandon Sisk, Andrew Taylor, Michael Roth and Nick Maronde. Sisk and Taylor are both coming off surgery, Roth is anything but steady so far (give him time) and Maronde hasn’t been lighting the world on fire in AA. This means the Angels may either look to resign Scott Downs or chase other relievers such as Mike Gonzalez, Javier Lopez, Darren Oliver or Oliver Perez.
In the likely event the Angels do sign another reliever, that could potentially push the Opening Day payroll up toward an astronomical 160 million dollars. Let us not also forget that until he is signed, a Mike Trout extension looms large. The Angels simply cannot afford to let him reach free agency. He’s an East Coast kid that loves being back home and losing the face of the franchise and potentially one of the greatest players the game has ever seen would absolutely cripple the organization.
An accurate question to ask at this point would be “Is Arte Moreno prepared to drop $160 million on a team that is not guaranteed to make the playoffs?” I couldn’t answer that question. Part of me believes that only spending $137 million this year was a move designed to save money to push the payroll over $150 million the following year. But then we also know that Arte Moreno has been willing to operate in the red and take a loss on the team in 2010 and 2011. Moreno is a business man, and losing money simply isn’t a goal. I’ll conclude by saying this, the Angels either have major changes to make in the way they are constructed or the way they play, or they’ll become a very expensive dumpster fire.