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More on the 2011 Diamondbacks: Budget and Trade Thoughts

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General Manager Josh Byrnes said "there's a good chance" more trades are coming. "We aren't where we need to be in the standings, and as far as sort of the things we'd like to do to adjust the roster, there's also payroll considerations as we try to sort of get ready for next year."
-- Arizona Republic

The first of what could potentially be an entire Payless of shoes hit the floor this week, with the trade of Conor Jackson to the Athletics for reliever Sam Demel. With the ice now broken, will we be seeing more moves? And what can we afford to spend next season? Yes, as the 2010 season continues to resemble a post-apocalyptic wasteland [we need a Mad Max night at the ball-park, preferably with Baxter chained to the front of a dune-buggy], after the jump we prefer to gaze towards the horizon and speculate on what 2011 might bring.

At this point, the payroll for 2011 is unclear. There has been suggestions that the owners may wish to cut the salary-bill, particularly if the team is going to be rebuilding, and has no real chance of competing. Alternatively, the amount of money spent may be around the same, but just allocated in a different direction. To put all this into context, first, here are the Diamondbacks' Opening Day salary bills for each year in their existence.

Year Median salary Total Payroll 2010 Equiv
1998 $240,000 $28,936,500 $38,731,949
1999 $1,012,500 $70,370,999 $92,157,290
2000 $1,779,167 $79,230,333 $100,385,104
2001 $1,650,000 $85,247,999 $105,021,110
2002 $2,000,000 $102,819,999 $124,697,400
2003 $1,750,000 $80,657,000 $95,639,040
2004 $500,000 $69,780,750 $80,596,212
2005 $550,000 $62,329,166 $69,630,587
2006 $932,000 $59,684,226 $64,592,192
2007 $396,000 $52,067,546 $54,788,677
2008 $484,750 $66,202,712 $67,086,733
2009 $1,500,000 $73,516,666 $74,764,353
2010 $1,416,667 $60,718,166* $60,718,166
Source: USA Today + CFI Inflation Calculator
* - excludes $11m due to Eric Byrnes, cut before Opening Day,
and buyouts for Jon Garland ($2.5m) and Chad Tracy ($1m)

The "median" salary is the middle one - half the salaries on the team are above it, half below. It's an interesting stat, as it gives an idea of how the money was distributed. For instance, even though the total salary bill was about the same in 2008 and 2010, in the former season, most of our players were getting paid at or close to league minimum - more than one-third went to two players (Randy Johnson and Doug Davis earned $22.85 million between them). This year, the median is a lot higher, indicating the top end is lower: the top two on the Opening Day roster, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, earned less than $17m between them.

All told, the total bill for this season was a little north of $75 million. Looking at 2011, we need to start by coming up with a figure for the amount of money currently "on the books" for Arizona. Thankfully, the excellent Cot's Baseball Contracts has a cool spreadsheet showing exactly this for each season going forward. Here's a list of the team's commitments

  • Dan Haren, $12.75m
  • Edwin Jackson, $8.75m
  • Chris Snyder, $6.25m
  • Mark Reynolds, $5.33m
  • Chris Young, $5.2m
  • Justin Upton, $4.548m
  • Adam LaRoche, $1.5m buy-out [or $11m option]
  • Bob Howry, $250K buyout

That's a total of about $44.6 million. In addition, Miguel Montero and Stephen Drew will be second-year arbitration eligible, while Kelly Johnson is in his last year of arbitration, so they should be seeing significant increases on their current salaries ($2m, $3.4m and $2.35m respectively). As a vague, 'thumb in the air' figure, say each gets $1.5m more. That brings the total to $56.8 million - just a few million short of the cost of our Opening Day roster this season - with only nine players signed. Even if all the rest are paid the absolute league minimum (likely about $410K), we would be at $63.4 million.

We already saw the first of what could be a number of salary-clearing trades, with the departure of Conor Jackson, who would otherwise have been a third-year arbitration player like Johnson. Who might be next? This has been the subject of much discussion, on and off the site, and Sports Illustrated's Jon Morosi recently Tweeted, "One industry source believes Kelly Johnson could be next to be dealt." Certainly, the guy's an All-Star now, with one extra season of control. That's a tradeable commodity for which we can get value - contractually similar to Cliff Lee in '09, albeit without quite the track-record - and we have Tony Abreu as a replacement.

He could also replace Stephen Drew, but Drew may have too much value - under control through 2012, and most teams making mid-season deals are trying to get guys to make one push. So there may be fewer good offers for Stephen, because his value is of the long-term variety. It's a bit like the Dan Haren situation with the A's when we acquired him: lots of control (the key point), still-rising elite player at a premium position, on a team going nowhere soon. There's a reason the Haren trade went down at the Winter Meetings, and we may not see a Drew deal until then, if it happens at all.

However, I was just reading a Fanpost on Bless You Boys pointing out the Tigers' dire need at short-stop... Maybe we can trade them Augie? I know there have been suggestions that the Rockies might be interested, but that seems unlikely at this point. However, with hindsight, one wonders why the team didn't trade Ojeda to the Rangers, as was mooted during the off-season. Because his current pace - seven starts and 82 plate-appearances - hardly justifies his $825,000 salary or roster spot. [Random factoid: the piece linked also mentioned Boof Bonser as a possible AZ target over the winter - he was DFA'd by the Red Sox yesterday.]

What might we be looking to receive in any of these trades? Byrnes also shed some light on that recently.

"We probably need to make adjustments with our roster and the cost of our roster. There really isn't any one player we have to trade. We'll explore a lot of possibilities and see where we end up. I do think a lot of our players are guys we value and want to keep and I think if we're going to make trades, we'll have to get the type of things - particularly young pitching depth - that would make sense to us."
   -- Josh Byrnes

"Young pitching depth" is certainly something worth having, especially with Jarrod Parker being about the only starter likely to be able to assist the team significantly for the next season or two. The lower levels of the system are not badly-stocked, thanks in part to last-year's draft, but if the team wants to win, it's going to need more than Ian Kennedy and Parker to do so. Relying too much on players who are currently in A-ball is a dangerous thing to do - as Joe Sheehan wrote in 2003, "There's no such thing as a pitching prospect." I imagine we'll be looking for players who have negotiated the shoals of the lower reaches, and are closer to the majors, perhaps in Triple-A.

However, it may be a little while before we see anything more. MLB Trade Rumors quotes ESPN's Buster Olney as saying that the Diamondbacks are "not close to making another deal at the moment." Of course, as far as I can tell, none of the "insiders" saw Jackson going to Oakland before it happened - this team seems to be rather good at keeping its trade cards close to its chest. One does wonder what kind of impact, psychologically, the current situation is having on the players - the locker-room must feel a bit like 1970's Chile, with players distracted by wondering, at least sub-consciously, who will be "disappeared" next. To quote Macbeth, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly," perhaps.

The team is also presumably looking to see if they can answer some questions about the players e.g. is Gerardo Parra capable of being a full-time left-fielder? It was notable in last night's game that, when the Tigers brought in a LOOGY to face him, AJ Hinch did not replace Parra with a right-hander like Ryan Roberts. The result was only Parra's fourth plate-appearance of the year against a southpaw, in his 47th game of 2010. Gerardo rewarded Hinch for his faith with a two-run triple, but we'll need to see a lot more of that against lefties, before Parra can be pronounced ready to be more than a platoon outfielder.

That's what the rest of 2010 is probably going to be about: not so much winning games now, as a laboratory in which the Diamondbacks try to figure out the best way to win games in 2011, by combining various ingredients - a pinch of Abreu here, a spoonful of Gutierrez there. Thinking of it that way, and holding our noses at the occasional bad smell which results from this mad science, may be the way to enjoy the remaining 92 contests.