Diamondbacks fine with $91 million payroll … for now
PHOENIX — Money just isn’t what it used to be.
The Diamondbacks are positioned to spend about $91 million on payroll this season, possibly a few million more depending how their two arbitration cases go. It would be the third-highest figure in franchise history . . . and among the lower third in the major leagues in 2015.
The D-backs made a big play in the offseason, committing about $85 million over six years in salary and taxes to Cuban emigres Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez. Tomas will be given every chance to be the D-backs’ starting third baseman, and scouts have compared him in body and style to Kevin Mitchell. The D-backs consider right-hander Lopez a quick riser with front-of-the-rotation ability, and he has received an invitation to spring training.
Even after losing money last season, the D-backs are unlikely to shed salary, general manager Dave Stewart has said, leaving unsaid the natural caveat regarding an offer he cannot refuse. At the same time, at some point the D-backs will need to make room for the $16 million outlay in the Lopez deal — his $8.25 million signing bonus plus an $8 million tax to major league baseball for over-spending their international bonus pool. That is not something Stewart needs to concern himself about now.
"When I looked at the (budget) number, I was like, Whew," Stewart said. "I think at some point we’ll sit down and figure out where that $16 million is going to come from, but it does not officially touch our major league budget right now. It is out there, so it is not going to be ignored."
After trading Miguel Montero and the remaining $40 million owed him through 2017, the D-backs have mostly workable contracts. Paul Goldschmidt, for example, is to make $3 million this season in the second year of a five-year, $32-million extension signed the day before the start of the 2013 season. Tomas is to make $2 million in salary and another $2.5 million in prorated bonus money on his back-loaded deal.
"No one has told me before the season starts you need to cut payroll. No one has told me by the All-Star break we have to cut payroll. No one has said that," Stewart said.
"We are not going to hurt ourselves and not give ourselves an opportunity to win as many games as we can to try to get guys off the books. We have to see where we are going to go, how our team is going to play. Once we get a real good look . . . and usually you don’t know that until you get to midseason, when people say are you buyers or sellers. We’re going to wait probably until we get to that area to really understand what we need to do."
The D-backs could be in an enviable position if they were to become sellers at the deadline because of the young arms stockpiled in the bullpen. Solid setup man and occasional closer Brad Ziegler is to earn $5 million this season and $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout in 2016, and he could do for another team what he did for the D-backs when he was acquired from Oakland in 2011. Oliver Perez ($2.5 million this season) and David Hernandez ($2 million) are in the same boat. All three are valuable to the D-backs now, but with Evan Marshall, Matt Stites and minor leaguers Enrique Burgos, Kaleb Fleck and Will Locante in the wings, the D-backs are deep there. (You need only to look Javier Lopez’ effect on San Francisco’s recent World Series run to know how precious relievers can be to contenders down the stretch.)
Stewart knows the way the game works.
"I have to think that if we need to do something, there will be some opportunity at some point," he said. "I’m not sure if it is going to be sooner or it is going to be later. We’ll have time to adjust to that and make decisions on that."