2012 Contract Issues Rumors

2012 Contract Issues: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.  Here's what the team faces after the 2011 season:

Eligible For Free Agency (7)

  • Relievers Chris Ray and Jamey Wright will be eligible for free agency after the season, though at the rate he's been going Ray might not get to six years service time.  Wright has been effective as a setup man in a very small sample this year, and if his success continues perhaps the team will re-sign him affordably.
  • Well-paid veterans Milton Bradley and Jack Wilson don't figure to be back in 2012.  They also seem like long shots to accumulate trade value.
  • Erik Bedard is at least healthy and striking people out at the moment, but he's been knocked around badly.  If he shows signs of his former self and remains healthy into July, he'll probably be traded.
  • Adam Kennedy and Ryan Langerhans will also be eligible for free agency.

Contract Options: None

Arbitration Eligible (7)

Standard disclaimer: not all of these players will rack up the necessary service time or make it to the point of being tendered contracts.  Vargas and League could jump past $4MM, while Aardsma should pass $6MM.  Cust seems in line for his annual non-tender.  The pitchers in this group would make for decent trade bait, but if the Mariners have an eye on contending in 2012 they might prefer to keep a few around.  Assuming the key arbitration eligibles stay I'll peg the group for around $15MM.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Mariners' 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot's, is $59.513MM.  If the major arbitration eligibles are retained the team could be around $75MM, roughly $20MM short of their '11 payroll.  The club's payroll situation is tough to project, though, because we don't know who will be traded or whether they're planning a serious contention push for '12.

2012 Contract Issues: Washington Nationals

The Nationals are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.  Here's what the team faces after the 2011 season:

Eligible For Free Agency (11)

Contract Options (0)

Arbitration Eligible (7)

A few others, such as Craig Stammen and Roger Bernadina, could reach the requisite amount of service time if they're called up.  Zimmermann's shortened 2010 and '11 seasons will limit his career numbers and his arbitration payday, but he could still reach $2MM.  Lannan and Gorzelanny could be in the $4MM range.  Overall I could see the team's arbitration eligibles getting about $16MM total, but that's just a rough April estimate.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Nationals' 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot's, is $44.596MM.  My arbitration estimate puts them around $61MM, $7MM short of this year's payroll.  Still, I expect the team to have the flexibility to add starting pitching, relief help, and outfielders as needed during the 2011-12 offseason.

2012 Contract Issues: Atlanta Braves

The Braves are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (3)

Contract Options (2)

  • Nate McLouth: $10.65MM club option with a $1.25MM buyout.  This figures to be declined.
  • Eric Hinske: $1.5MM club option with a $100K buyout.  There's a good chance the Braves pick this one up.

Arbitration Eligible (5)

Jurrjens will be the best-paid of the group, with $6MM a possibility depending on how this season goes.  The Braves' arbitration eligible players could cost around $15MM in total.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Braves' 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot's, is $62.742MM excluding Hinske's buyout.  Add in Hinske and the arbitration eligible players and you're in the $80MM range.  That'd leave $15MM to spend assuming payroll is around $95MM.  The Braves could add $6-15MM in flexibility (minus the salaries of the players coming back) by trading Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, or Derek Lowe, as they have great rotation depth.  They might be in the market for a shortstop, a center fielder, and a reliever or two.

2012 Contract Issues: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (5)

  • Mark Buehrle is a 10-and-5 player, so if the White Sox trade him they need his permission.  I mention this because his contract has a unique clause that adds on a guaranteed $15MM for 2012 only if he's traded.  If he does reach free agency, Buehrle is inclined to play for a contender and in a place that is comfortable for his family.  Retirement isn't out of the question.  Buehrle told Dan McNeil of the Chicago Tribune last month that he doesn't know what the White Sox are thinking, and speculated that maybe they think Chris Sale could do a better job for a lot less money.
  • Edwin Jackson, a Scott Boras client, seems very likely to test the open market.  A breakout season would be nice for his wallet, but so far he's been his inconsistent self.  Though they could lose two starters to free agency, the Sox don't necessarily have to bring two in, if they want to try Sale or Jake Peavy is healthy.
  • Left fielder Juan Pierre is eligible for free agency, so the Sox may need a corner outfielder this offseason.
  • Omar Vizquel and Ramon Castro will also be eligible for free agency.

Contract Options (0)

Arbitration Eligible (3)

The White Sox may have to pay Danks, Quentin, and Pena $20MM for 2012.  That includes a $10MM estimate for Danks, which could be light.  Comparables are scarce for front-end starters in their final arbitration year, but Carlos Zambrano made the leap from $6.5MM to $12.4MM.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The White Sox have a $94.75MM payroll obligation for 2012, according to Cot's, with four $12MM+ salaries locked in.  Throw in another $20MM for the arbitration eligible players, and the team would have roughly $13MM to play with in 2012 salaries if payroll is held constant at $128MM.  The team might need a starter or two, a corner outfielder, and some veteran reserves, but GM Kenny Williams will have to be creative (perhaps by backloading contracts) if he wants to bring in high-salary players, unless payroll is increased again.

2012 Contract Issues: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (5)

  • Kosuke Fukudome has had a respectable Cubs career, getting on base at a .370 clip and playing solid right field defense.  However, he hasn't hit for much power and he has been streaky, mixing great months with terrible ones.  He's a useful player, but not a $12MM one, and I think this is his last year with the Cubs.
  • Carlos Pena is probably a rental, one that could benefit both sides if he rediscovers his 35 home run pop.
  • John Grabow's extension was questionable when it was signed, and he'll probably be allowed to leave.
  • Kerry Wood might be retained if he has a solid year, though the Cubs probably won't manage a $1.5MM base salary in that case.
  • Reed Johnson is also eligible for free agency after the season.

Contract Options (2)

  • Aramis Ramirez: $16MM mutual/vesting option for 2012 with a $2MM buyout.  Ramirez has a complicated contract.  He can void the 2012 option and forfeit the buyout, which seems possible with a strong year.  The option can vest in various situations, the most likely of which is Ramirez being traded unless you are optimistic about the third baseman winning the NL or NLCS MVP award.  He can still void the option if it vests, so Ramirez once again controls his fate.  The difference this time will be the Cubs' ability to decline their side.
  • Ryan Dempster: $14MM player option.  The Cubs are also at the mercy of Dempster.  If the righty's 2011 is similar to his 2008-10 campaigns, the best business move would be to decline the option and seek a new contract.  However, he does have a long relationship with Cubs GM Jim Hendry.

Arbitration Eligible (6)

Assuming at least Wells, Soto, and Garza are tendered contracts, the Cubs might be looking at $17MM or so in arbitration salaries.  They might be able to reduce their 2012 obligation by agreeing to an extension with Soto or Garza.

2012 Payroll Obligation

Not counting Ramirez's buyout or Dempster's salary, the Cubs have a 2012 payroll obligation of $56.6MM, significantly below their typical $135MM range.  If Ramirez and Dempster have poor seasons, the Cubs might have to add another $2MM for Ramirez's buyout and $14MM for Dempster's 2012 salary, bringing the obligation to $72.6MM.  The team could have needs in the rotation and at both infield corners, plus a lot of money to spend, so it should be an interesting 2011-12 offseason.

2012 Contract Issues: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (6)

  • The Jays seemingly took Juan Rivera from the Angels as a means of facilitating the Vernon Wells trade.  In February they were rumored to be shopping him.  If he's still struggling a few months from now a release could be in order. 
  • Frank Francisco is expected to join the big league club today after dealing with pectoral muscle and shoulder issues.  Health is always a concern for Francisco.  Though his salary is already at $4MM, I can still see the Jays offering arbitration if a draft pick is involved.
  • I'm curious to see whether Shawn Camp has Type A or B status, once Eddie Bajek starts projecting Elias rankings this year.
  • Role players John McDonald, Jose Molina, and Corey Patterson are also eligible for free agency.

Contract Options (5)

  • Aaron Hill: $8MM club option for 2012, $8MM club option for '13.  It's too early to say whether Hill can return to his '09 or '07 form and compel the Jays to pick up one or both of his options.
  • Jason Frasor: $3.75MM club option.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos created flexibility for his 2012 bullpen by getting club options for Frasor, Rauch, and Dotel in the same range.  After the season we'll see who's worth keeping around.
  • Jon Rauch: $3.75MM club option with a $250K buyout.
  • Octavio Dotel: $3.5MM club option with a $750K buyout.   
  • Edwin Encarnacion: $3.5MM club option with a $500K buyout.  If Encarnacion happens to pop 30 home runs for the first time in his career, the Jays can retain him at a bargain price.

Arbitration Eligible (9)

The first-timers won't necessarily make it to the point of being tendered contracts.  Escobar, Morrow, Litsch, Villanueva, and Janssen seem to be the locks here.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Blue Jays' 2012 payroll obligation excluding buyouts is $29.9MM, according to Cot'sJose Bautista, Adam Lind, and Ricky Romero account for most of that.  The club options are mostly unknowns at this point; the obligation could range from a couple million for buyouts to $22.5MM if everyone stays.  I'll use $15MM as a ballpark figure for the key arbitration eligible players, putting the team around $47MM if all options are declined.  The Blue Jays have kept payroll over $70MM for quite some time, so there's room to exercise some of the options and join the bidding for a few significant free agents.

2012 Contract Issues: San Diego Padres

The Padres are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (3)

  • Heath Bell may not finish the season with the Padres, though he hopes for a three-year extension.  If he reaches the open market he'll be joined by several other solid stoppers.
  • The Padres chose to tender a contract to Ryan Ludwick, paying him more than he'd have earned on the open market.  So far, he hasn't done anything in his Padres career.
  • Jorge Cantu took an 86% pay cut this year as he attempts to re-establish himself.

Contract Options (3)

  • Aaron Harang: $5MM mutual option with a $500K buyout.  The mutual option is basically a way to transfer some money to the next fiscal year.  Rarely do both sides pick one up.
  • Brad Hawpe: $6MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout.
  • Chad Qualls: $6MM club option with a $1.05MM buyout.  Though this is a club option, the goal here again appears to be pushing off some money to next year.  Qualls would need a really strong season for the Padres to pick this up.

Arbitration Eligible (14)

Though not all 14 will get to the point of being tendered a contract, the Padres have many raises due.  As a whole, I think the Padres' arbitration eligible players could be paid as much as $25MM in 2012.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Padres have a 2012 payroll obligation of just $13.55MM, according to Cot's, most of which is for their middle infield.  Add in their arbitration eligible players and payroll could approach $40MM before the minimum salary players are accounted for, which is normal for this club since '09.

2012 Contract Issues: Cleveland Indians

The Indians are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (4)

  • The signings of free agents Austin Kearns, Orlando Cabrera, Chad Durbin, Adam Everett to one-year deals pretty much represent Chris Antonetti's first offseason as GM.  It's too early to say whether these veterans will have trade value or be worthy of re-signing or an arbitration offer. One thing we can say is that the 2012 Indians aren't faced with any major losses.

Contract Options (2)

  • Grady Sizemore: $9MM club option with a $500K buyout.  Sizemore's option, devised over five years ago, makes him most valuable to the Indians.  He gets a $500K assignment bonus if traded, plus it appears that his 2012 salary might increase to $9.9MM.  More importantly, the club option changes to a player one if he's dealt, so a team can't acquire Sizemore with his 2012 season in mind.  Yesterday was a promising season debut for Sizemore, and if he has a vintage year and the team stays in contention he could remain with the Tribe for 2012.
  • Fausto Carmona: $7MM club option, arbitration eligible if declined.  Though it's technically possible, I can't see the Indians declining the option and tendering Carmona a contract, since he'd make more than $7MM that way.  If he provides 200 credible innings again this will be an easy decision to pick up, and the team also has options for '13 and '14.

Arbitration Eligible (10)

A few players here will fall short of the necessary service time.  Sipp projects to be eight days short of the projected Super Two cutoff, but you never know.  Masterson, Choo, Perez, and Cabrera are the big ones here, as they'll all be much more expensive next year.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Indians have a payroll obligation of $13MM for 2012, according to Cot's, with Travis Hafner accounting for all of it.  Under a scenario where the Indians aren't selling off pieces in July and both players are reasonably effective, we can add another $16MM for Sizemore and Carmona.  I'll estimate another $20MM for the aforementioned four big arbitration eligible names, putting the team at $49MM.  That's the exact number Cot's has for the 2011 payroll, but of course there are additional arbitration eligible players, and even those making the league minimum account for millions in total.  Though their season is not even 10% done, it'd be exciting to see the Indians contend all year and then make an offseason push for a few significant veteran reinforcements.

2012 Contract Issues: Florida Marlins

The Marlins are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (4)

  • Javier Vazquez's lost 2010 season with the Yankees allowed the Marlins to get him on a one-year deal.  Can he re-establish himself?
  • Omar Infante was a key component to the Dan Uggla deal.  A strong season could cement him as a regular and result in the best contract of his career.
  • Bench players Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs also project as free agents.

Contract Options (0)

Arbitration Eligible (9)

Not all of these players will make it to the point of being tendered a contract.  Coghlan and Hensley will still be affordable.  With Vazquez up for free agency, Sanchez will probably be retained even in the $6MM range.  Nunez might be a tough sell for the Marlins at a price exceeding $5MM.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Marlins' 2012 payroll obligation is $45.75MM, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, with Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco leading the way.  With the new stadium the team's payroll could rise to $70MM, but arbitration eligible players could account for more than $15MM, leaving the team with less than $10MM to work with.  Of course $70MM is just one reporter's speculation, and trading or non-tendering Sanchez and/or Nunez would free up money.

2012 Contract Issues: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.

Eligible For Free Agency (6)

  • Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee were signed as free agents to one-year deals totaling $15.25MM plus incentives.  Ideally, Orioles minor league player of the year Joe Mahoney will be ready to take over at first base in 2012.
  • Mike Gonzalez, signed as a closer at the cost of $12MM and a draft pick, seems to be third in the pecking order in an improved Orioles bullpen.  He's in need of a healthy year.
  • J.J. Hardy will be eligible for free agency, probably a year later than he thought he'd be.  Right now he's headed to the DL for a strained oblique; Hardy hasn't had 500 plate appearances in a season since '08.  Though Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins may also be on the free agent market, Hardy should be fairly popular.  His backup Cesar Izturis is also eligible for free agency.
  • Justin Duchscherer hopes to make his Orioles debut on April 21st.  He's battling hip and back issues.

Contract Options (1)

  • Koji Uehara: $4MM option vests with either 55 appearances or 25 games finished.  Though his elbow started barking during Spring Training, Uehara still has a good chance of meeting one of the requirements.

Arbitration Eligible (11)

A few of these players will fail to accrue enough service time to be arbitration eligible or will be non-tendered or released.  Jones, Guthrie, and Scott are the three cases that will be worth watching.  Guthrie and Scott could cost $9MM each, and Jones around $6MM.  It's hard to say at this point whether Scott will be a non-tender candidate.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Orioles have a 2012 payroll obligation of about $36MM for 2012 according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, with Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, and Mark Reynolds leading the way.  Assuming Uehara, Jones, Guthrie, Scott, Pie, and Johnson are retained, they'll be in the $69MM range – about $18MM short of the 2011 Opening Day payroll.  The Orioles should again have payroll space to work with, especially if one of the more expensive arbitration eligible players is traded.