The Economics of Baseball & The 2014 Seattle Mariners

Payroll, Free Agents, and Numbers – My Oh My

I see these question all the time.  How much do the Seattle Mariners have on their payroll now?   What is their max they can go for the year?  Will they spend it all and if so on who?

To say it’s simple would be the understatement of the century.  MLB teams come up with income all over the place, not just ticket sales and the Mariners are no exceptions. 

Indulge me if you will and I’ll try to answer those questions as simply as possible.

How much do the Mariners have on their payroll right now?

On the last day of the 2013 season, player salaries for the Mariners were at just under $74 million combined as a team.   Of course, several players with big salaries are now off the books.  Notable names with big money deals that have ended would include Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Chone Figgins, and Franklin Gutierrez.

Kendrys Morale Seattle Mariners .png

Kendrys Morales’ contract is off the books.

Those 4 names alone cleared $25 million in payroll.

The only two guys we know for sure will be on the roster AND what they’ll make exactly in 2014 are Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.  Together they’ll make about $29 Million.

Now it starts to get a bit more gray.  Next, you have some arbitration guys like Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, which in my best, honest opinion will wind up costing the M’s around $5 million combined for 2014.  Smoak will see roughly $3 million and Saunders will get the other $2 million.

As I mentioned before, Franklin Gutierrez is no longer under contract for the M’s in 2014.  Seattle used a 500k buyout option instead of taking their $7.5 million option for 2014.  So that counts as $500.000.

The only other significant bit of payroll wrapped up into one player is Danny Hultzen.  Seattle owes him $1.7 million in 2014 even though Hultzen will not be throwing a single pitch all year long due to injury.

That just leaves all of the other non-arbitration eligible players on Seattle’s roster and there are 25 of them.  Without naming them all they include the likes of Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin, and Tom Wilhelmsen.  Combined these guys will renew contracts totaling $10.5 million.

That means before the winter meetings have even begun we know the 2014 Seattle Mariners will spend at least $47 million dollars because that’s what’s on the books as of right now.

What is their max they can go for the year?

That’s a much tougher question to answer because now you are asking me to read someone’s mind, most likely Howard Lincoln’s mind and we all know how that works.

I’ll start with at least one fact before I start to speculate.  The highest the Mariners payroll for a single year ever has been was $117 million in 2008.  Let’s use that as a base number and then will discuss a few changes that happened in baseball as of late.

Let’s assume a very modest 3% annual increase since 2008 due to inflation and rising costs.  That’s 3% a year over 5 years.  For you math geniuses that’s $135 million a year due to be spent in 2014.

Earlier this year MLB announced new national TV deals with the likes of ESPN, Fox, and TBS.  Long story short- all that new money for 2014 means more money for every team.  After you add up all the deals and divide by the number of team you wind up with an extra $25 million in the Seattle Mariner’s coffers.

$25 million and our amortized new max number of $135 million added together comes to…$160,000,000 in payroll theoretically possible in Seattle next year.

Expect to see more MLB on ESPN.

Expect to see more MLB on ESPN.

Subtract out the $47 million that’s already on the books and you come up with $113 million left to spend in 2014 on new deals.

Will they spend it all and if so on who?

The short answers are:  I seriously doubt it and I have no clue.

First off, just because the M’s make an extra $25 million on their new TV deals doesn’t mean they are obligated to spend it on payroll.  They could spend it on garlic fry research for all I know.

But even if you take out that 25, the M’s still have a pretty sizable amount of money to spend this offseason.  You also have to factor in that attendance, which produces a large portion of payroll dollars, has been down since 2008 for the M’s.

My best guess is that the M’s will push their payroll to the $90 million per year range in 2014 which means they will roughly double what they currently have on the books before spring training starts.

Last year the M’s spent $74 million.  $90-$95 million is a good jump.  It’s significant enough to convince at least some fans they are trying and it makes GM Jack Zduriencik look like he’s making a big push in the final year of his contract.

As to whom the M’s eventually sign as free agents or acquire via trade, it’s still a pretty wide open field.

The Mariners are a team that will spend this year and everyone knows it.  Look for them to be linked to virtually every free agent available.

When the dust settles, I expect the M’s to sign at least 3 bats, and 3 pitchers.  That’s 6 new faces on the 25 man roster.  That’s lots of turnover for a team that needs to shake things up a bit.


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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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  • drwheelock

    You mentioned the MLB TV deal that contributes $25M to each team, but one thing that WASN’T factored into the Mariners budget above is “our” new Root Sports Ownership Deal. Out of anything the Root Sports majority ownership/shares will be the biggest ? mark on how much that will add to our payroll and since we’re now majority ownership it’s going to be way more lucrative and $$$ making than the Rangers and Angels TV deals!!! This will be HUGE $$$’s with regards to marketing and advertising with all other sports, etc on Root Sports Network. But we can all be assured that just put us up there with the biggest market teams…and easily will allow us to carry those huge payrolls like the Dodgers/Redsox and Yanks.

    BUT my thinking is with a $135-$150M payroll, with our scouting and drafting qualifications with Z and his scouts we should be well to contending for many years to come!

    Well, this is how I would spend this offseason if I were Seattle’s GM:

    * I had Prince Fielder and $19M salary added to this lineup, but had to adjust it this week due to Fielder/Arlington issue…dirty DOG!

    2014 OFFENSE

    CF Ellsbury ($20M)
    (RF/DH Gutz $2.5M) (Gutz DHing against LHPs and Benching Smoak, plus our 4th OFer)
    RF Kemp ($16M in Trade)
    LF Braun ($10M in Trade)
    1B/DH Morales ($10M) and DH/1B Smoak ($2.5M Arb figure) against RHPs
    2B Ackley
    3B Seager
    SS Miller
    C Zunino and (C/DH Montero)

    2014 Rotation

    Colon or Gallardo ($9M-$11M)

    Bullpen Addition

    Brian Wilson $6-8M

    That comes to adding $60M to our offense, and approx $18M to our SP & Closer.

    THEN, if we wanted to get to the $135M threshold then Ackley would be used as trade bait after we sign Cano for $25-26M

  • drwheelock

    One more thing to remember…Unlike all other teams in MLB…

    Seattle’s Safeco Field is paid off, so no expense being dished out on our stadium either!!!

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