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2013 Miami Marlins Offseason Plan: Salaries

The Miami Marlins are entering uncharted territory in that they have long-term contracts with the team, but at the same time the team plans on paring payroll down while maintaining most of those contracts. How much will they have available in 2013?

Jose Reyes is one of the few Miami Marlins that is under a long-term contract past 2013.
Jose Reyes is one of the few Miami Marlins that is under a long-term contract past 2013.
Kevin C. Cox

The Miami Marlins have some decisions to make in 2013 regarding what direction the club will take. Will the team try to acquire some wins on short-term contracts in order to come closer to contention and reinforce a future 2014 core, or will the team make some more trades looking towards the future and reset the roster once again around Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton. Those are questions the Marlins will have to face, but in either case, an important aspect of their decisions will involve the salaries the team will carry into 2013.

The Marlins are planning on paring payroll down to $80 million next year, and they already began that process earlier in 2012 when the team traded Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante. The club continued that by trading Heath Bell and eating just $8 million of his remaining $21 salary. In performing these trades, the Marlins were cutting costs on two players who were not meeting contract expectations and using one other asset in order to acquire better trade pieces. The three moves involving those players were each highly beneficial for this latest version of the Marlins given that the team saved money that it could use in future signings. Unfortunately, with the club cutting costs (again) this offseason, some of that money appears to once again be heading to the coffers of owner Jeffrey Loria and company.

So how much money do the Marlins have with which to work this offseason? After their series of trades, can they still make free agent or trade additions and still maintain the desired $80 million budget they supposedly will have in 2013? Let us take a look at their currently committed salaries and see just what the team will have remaining after accounting for their current contracts.

Salaries Under Contract

The Marlins have the following contracts set for next season, provided they make no changes to the current roster.

Marlins, 2013 Salary ($Mil)
Josh Johnson 13.75
Ricky Nolasco 11.5
Mark Buehrle 11
Jose Reyes 10
John Buck 6
Heath Bell* 4
Greg Dobbs 1.5

*Heath Bell is owed $4 million in 2013 and 2014 as part of the trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks

The Marlins in total have $57.8 million committed for next season. That is essentially even with what we had mentioned before the season ended, minus the spectacular coup that is the shedding of Bell's salary to the Diamondbacks. Still, the Fish have committed close to $60 million on seven contracts out of the team's 25-man roster.

The next consideration is the Marlins' arbitration salaries. Luckily for them, there are only a few arbitration cases left on the team thanks to a number of their players from 2009 and 2010 either not hitting the cutoff for Super Two status (Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison) or not remaining on the roster at all (Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan). As a result, the team has only two players who are still on the roster and are arbitration-eligible: Emilio Bonifacio and Ryan Webb.

Marlins, 2013 Estimated Salary* ($Mil)
Emilio Bonifacio 2.5
Ryan Webb 0.9

*Estimates by Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors.

The Marlins only owe an additional $3.4 million in arbitration salaries, as expected given the team's recent trades and otherwise unspectacular crop of homegrown players from recent years. This season was set to be a relatively light arbitration year for the Marlins, with only Bonifacio likely to make a significant amount of money. This puts the Marlins' payroll now at $61.2 million.

Now the team has to fill its roster with pre-arbitration players, who can be assumed to make an average of $0.5 million for round number's sake. The additional 14 players that it would require to fill out the 25-man roster would cost the Marlins an additional $7 million, leaving the team's current payroll at $68.2 million.

Remember that the target goal for the Marlins' payroll this year was going to be around $80 million. That leaves the team a decent amount of money with which to work in 2013, to the tune of almost $12 million. With that much in hand, the Marlins would likely be able to afford a mid-level free agent signing or two mid-level "prove himself" contracts. Either method would marginally benefit the club in 2013, but a long-term deal may help fill a difficult hole for a more foreseeable future, so that may also be in the cards. Then again, it is said that long-term deals for mid-level players that are worth around $12 million a year could prove very bad for signing teams that will be paying likely for decline years.

What if the Marlins decide to trade Johnson and / or Nolasco? Well, the Fish would be able to clear a significant amount of salary, as those two players are being paid $25.25 million this season. If the Marlins cleared either or both of their salaries, they could likely pursue a free agent if they desired, likely one in the starting rotation. Unfortunately, there is a very good chance that the Marlins will be wary to dip into free agency this year, especially with a relatively weak class and the team's failures in 2012.

With the trading of Bell, the team opened just enough salary in 2013 to potentially go after a free agent who could support the team in the next three seasons, but the question remains whether the Miami Marlins still want to dip into a weak free agent pool with their remaining flexibility. At the same time, if they do not, this team will not improve, and without trading either of Johnson or Nolasco for assets, the team will end up wasting those final seasons without a return or hope for contention.