The Miami Marlins have long struggled with the problem of a limited payroll, and the 2016 season appears to be no different. After all, the Fish are not going to suddenly spend like they did in 2012, knowing that owner Jeffrey Loria and company see no profits in Miami in terms of spending big on a roster. Your mileage may vary on that particular problem, but the opinion is relatively irrelevant. Until Marlins fans flock in droves to see the Fish on a regular basis, Loria will never spend, and given the nature of Miami fans, getting them to flock in droves will require a winning product that may be difficult without more spending. It is a catch-22.
However, the 2016 season has very little to do with the odds of playoff success, at least not like the 2015 season did. A number of things went backwards on the Fish in 2015 and, as a result, the roster may not appear ready for contention as it might have looked like last season. The Fish mortgaged a bit of their future for 2015 and are now paying the price. Jeffrey Loria does not like paying prices.
Still, the Marlins will field a roster in 2016, and that roster will cost some amount of money. The question is just how much money the Marlins are expected to have at their disposal. To find that out, we need to look at their expected salary range and the team's current salary commitments and arbitration.
Expecteed Salary Range
According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins are expected to host about an $80 million salary for the entire team next season.
Payroll is expected to increase, but it is unclear right now by how much. I think a safe estimate is it will climb to around $80 million. Again, that is to be determined, and if something makes sense, there likely will be wiggle room.
In the paragraph that Frisaro wrote to describe this, he made it seem as though the roster in total may cost upwards of $80 million, but that may not necessarily mean the Marlins will be paying that amount. The Fish were at around $80 million last season if you do not count the paid commitments for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Martin Prado; that dropped the team down to its $69 million mark that was the official mark by Baseball Prospecuts's math.
For this exercise, we will presume the Marlins will have a full $80 million paid to play with.
|Player||2016 Salary ($mil)|
|Martin Prado||8 ($3M paid by Yankees)|
The Marlins start off by owing $31.45 million right off of the bat, as the team has seven guaranteed contracts on the books for 2016. One of those deals is attached to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom the Marlins felt the need to release early this year after just about 40 plate appearances in the second year of his deal. The team still owes him money as he potentially plays out another season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The largest of these deals is Stanton's, as he enters the second year of his 13-year contract. The next deal on the docket is Martin Prado's, which is technically worth $11 million this year. However, the Yankees are on the books for $3 million of that money, making the third baseman slightly more affordable and very worth the price of admission.
Of the players listed here, at least one has a chance of being dealt before getting to 2016, as Mike Dunn may be an option for a trade to a contending team looking for a lefty. The Fish may not want to pay that $3.45 million salary after he struggled in 2015.
The following are the estimates for arbitration for the Marlins, as provided by MLB Trade Rumors.
|Player||Arb Year||2016 Arb Est ($mil)|
|Dee Gordon||Super-Two 2||5.9|
|Henderson Alvarez||Arb 2||4.0|
|Tom Koehler||Arb 1||3.9|
|A.J. Ramos||Arb 1||2.8|
|David Phelps||Arb 2||2.5|
|Adeiny Hechavarria||Arb 1||2.3|
|Jose Fernandez||Arb 1||2.2|
|Aaron Crow||Arb 3||1.975|
|Bryan Morris||Arb 1||1.1|
|Carter Capps||Arb 1||0.8|
The Fish figure to pay out about $27.5 million in arbitration next year if they hold onto all of their players and get these projected salaries. The big bump for Miami will be Dee Gordon, who stands to earn about $6 million more than what they paid for him last year (nothing). The Fish also have salary questions on board for guys like Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, David Phelps, and others.
In addition, there is the lingering concern over Jose Fernandez. Of course, Fernandez is represented by Scott Boras, who may ask for a lot in arbitration. The Marlins like to either get something done before figures are exchanged or go to arbitration. If the two sides cannot agree on a deal, the team risks going to arbitration and attempting to "talk down" a beloved player and a recognized team cornerstone in order to get the deal they want. Boras's camp is unlikely to take that lightly.
The Marlins have 15 player slots filled under those salaries. They are expected to pay 10 more players the pre-arbitration minimum to fill up their roster, and that total is expected to cost about $8 million in salary based on the average of all pre-arbitration first-year players as per Baseball-Reference.
If the Marlins really do have the above commitments expected for them, they will not be able to finagle much in the way of salary space for big moves. The team's total as per those above figures puts them at $66.93 million already in the books. Make that a clean $67 million and you have about $13 million to play with heading into the offseason.
What could $13 million buy you? It does depend on the configuration of years and other issues, but $13 million is worth about 1.5 to two wins in the market as of right now. It is a little less than the qualifying offer, and we can see what some players think of themselves in the ones who accepted the $15.8 million mark for one year. Brett Anderson, who accepted the deal from the Dodgers, specifically looks like the type of one-year deal candidate the Marlins might be able to afford with $13 million and change.
Of course, the team may be able to free up space with some trades and non-tender moves, and we will discuss those later today.