On Opening Day 2012, the Cardinals had a payroll of just over $110 million – 9th in baseball. This team resides in the 21st largest television market in America, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. It’s no secret that the Cardinals are one of the best supported teams in the country by their fans. They consistently rank in the top 5-6 in attendance. So, a payroll in the upper third of the league shouldn’t be too difficult to sustain. That being said, however, I wouldn’t be looking for ways to increase that payroll to $120 million, if I were in charge. I’d say anywhere from $90-110 is about right for this team. So, where does that leave them for 2013?
Who’s Under Contract?
- The Cardinals have 9 players under contract for next season – Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and Skip Schumaker. Here’s one problem – these nine add up to $89.5 million in salaries! Molina, Wainwright and Garcia are getting substantial pay raises. I’m curious to see how they will put together the rest of the team.
- One thing that will help St. Louis’ budget is that they have a lot of pre-arbitration players as well – Jon Jay, Fernando Salas, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Lance Lynn, Tony Cruz, Matt Carpenter, Shane Robinson, Pete Kozma and Adron Chambers. That’s 10 players that look like they will be on the 2013 roster, and will account for probably no more than around $5-6 million in payroll. This leaves them with just 6 roster spots to fill for around $15 million.
- Lance Berkman – there simply is no reason to spend the money on him in St. Louis. When you have both Craig and Carpenter capable of playing 1B (and one of the best 1B prospects in the game in Matt Adams at AAA), and your outfield is full, there’s no reason to spend $10 million or more on Berkman.
- Kyle Lohse – he’s likely going to command a salary in the $12-15 million range. The Cardinals starters will be Carpenter, Wainwright, Lynn, Garcia and Westbrook. And, if someone happens to get hurt, they have Shelby Miller, John Gast and possibly Carlos Martinez (3 of their top 9 prospects) waiting in the wings. Another one that there’s no reason to spend the money on.
- As for arbitration-eligible players that I don’t think they should consider, I only see one: Kyle McClellan. Injury and poor performance the last two seasons have made him expendable.
- In addition to the players under contract, offering arbitration to Mitchell Boggs, David Freese, and Jason Motte makes total sense. The total cost for these three would only be around $7-7.5 million.
- Marc Rzepczynski is a bit of a wild card. They definitely need left-handed help in the bullpen. And, he has had moments of excellence. I’d say they go ahead and keep him for $1.5-2 million in arbitration. If he doesn’t improve, though, I’m not sure he’ll be worth it in 2014.
- Edward Mujica was fantastic out of the bullpen after he came over from Miami – 1.03 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 7.00 K/BB ratio in 29 appearances. I would say this guy’s definitely worth the $2.5-3 million in arbitration.
Who Do They Go After?
- I only see one hole at this point – left-handed bullpen help. The Cardinals have a choice to make. They could go with Barret Browning, the best left-handed reliever in their farm system, and save some money. If they think he’s ready, then I see nothing wrong with doing that. But, here’s my recommendation. Go sign Jeremy Affeldt. He’s been excellent out of the pen in San Francisco the last few years, and would give that bullpen a nice veteran presence. Plus, he’s a more stable option than Browning or Rzepczynski, so if one of them flakes in the preseason, you’re still going to be okay. The best part is that he’ll only cost around $5-6 million. Give him 2 years at $10-12 million, and you’ve solidified your biggest weakness for pretty cheap.
Even if the Cardinals do go after a lefty for their bullpen, their opening day payroll in 2013 should be right about the same as it was in 2012 – $110 million. If they choose to stick with their farm system options in the bullpen, then they’ll actually lower their payroll to something around $104-105 million. Not too bad for a team that was a win away from the World Series.