Because the players’ financial information is made public, fans of professional sports can’t help but pay attention to payroll. This applies especially to Major League Baseball, where there’s no firm salary cap or floor, complicating the question of what the appropriate level of spending should be for a team. On the 15th day of each month (or in this case, the 16th day), we will check in on current commitments and any upcoming decisions that the Marlins face, bringing in some historical perspective as well.
Last Friday, the Marlins reached one-year deals with three of their arbitration-eligible players: Jonathan Villar ($8.2 million), José Ureña ($3.7 million) and Adam Conley ($1.525 million). Jesús Aguilar remains unsigned, however, after filing at $2.575 million while the team countered at $2.325 million. His hearing will be held in Phoenix, Arizona in February, putting the decision in the hands of an independent arbiter.
Even with the Aguilar decision pending, the Marlins have gained some newfound financial flexibility from their hardline negotiating. MLB Trade Rumors and Cot’s Baseball Contracts projected this class to cost $18.5 million and $18.6 million, respectively; the actual total will either be $16 million or $15.75 million.
And keep in mind, these deals are not guaranteed for the full season yet:
- If released by March 10, player is only owed 30 days’ termination pay
- If released between March 11-25, player is owed 45 days’ termination pay (like Dan Straily last spring)
Those dates are particularly important for Ureña and Conley coming off disappointing 2019 campaigns.
- Wei-Yin Chen (released)—$22 million
- Corey Dickerson—$8.75 million
- Miguel Rojas—$4.75 million
- Francisco Cervelli—$2 million
- Yimi García—$1.1 million
- Starlin Castro (bought out his club option) —$1 million
The vast majority of Marlins active roster spots will be filled out by players with less than three years of MLB service time. Rookies earn the $563,500 league minimum while those closer to their arbitration years—think Brian Anderson and Caleb Smith—figure to get several hundred thousand dollars more.
Former All-Star reliever Ryan Cook is a non-roster invitee whose contract calls for a $750,000 salary if he makes the team. Cook’s deal includes $250,000 in performance bonuses. Yimi García has $200,000 in bonuses.
Dickerson and Rojas are the only Marlins on the books for 2021 and beyond.
There’s been some misinformation out there regarding Giancarlo Stanton that I need to correct. The Marlins traded Stanton with 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract, taking responsibility for $30 million of that if he doesn’t exercise his opt out after the 2020 season.
For competitive balance tax purposes, Stanton’s Yankees save $3 million per year from 2018 through 2027, but that money has not actually changed hands yet—the Marlins won’t pay a cent of that contract in 2020. Assuming no opt out, they will send the cash in six separate $5 million installments beginning in 2026 (payments dates are 7/1/26, 10/1/26, 7/1/27, 10/1/27, 7/1/28 and 10/1/28). Credit to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
I speculated in the December payroll article that the Marlins would find a Ureña trade partner before the season began. Backing off that now, so his salary is added into the projection below. With Wednesday’s acquisition of lefty Stephen Tarpley, the Marlins continue to fill out their bullpen on the cheap. It is no longer a given that they’ll be adding any more experienced veterans on guaranteed major league deals. Also, I think Aguilar will most likely lose his arbitration case.
Estimated 2019 Marlins Opening Day payroll: $74.6 million
Projected 2020 Marlins Opening Day payroll (as of Jan. 16): $70.4 million