The beauty of financial flexibility
With the help of Cot's Baseball Contracts Page, I spent some time putting together the Royals fiscal data for this year and next. And as I have said in previous posts, the Royals' financial situation is looking great. After this season, the Royals will drop ALL of their dead weight contracts, and the majority of their remaining roster will consist of players making slightly above the Major League minimum. Without further delay, I present the table:
|Player||2005 salary (in mil.$)||2006 Royals commitment (in mil.$)||Probable 25-man - 2006|
There are a few things about this table that I must explain. First, all salaries have been rounded to two decimal places, which will affect to a small degree the totals. Regardless, the difference is not all that significant. Second, the Royals financial commitment for 2006 only includes what the Royals are required to pay the players they bring back, and therefore does not include the small raises that they customarily give to their young players. Again, the difference should not be all that significant.
Essentially what we're looking at -- once Affeldt's and Hernandez's contracts are hammered out -- is a base payroll of around $18-19 million. With the departures of Terrence Long, Eli Marrero, Jose Lima, Scott Sullivan, Tony Graffanino, Matt Stairs, Brian Anderson, and Alberto Castillo, the Royals will save $17.25 million. Of course, those departures also leave them with roughly 10 holes to fill on their 25-man roster.
And here what I see as a possible 25-man roster for 2006, complete with salaries. I didn't fill a couple holes, and I refuse to speculate on what the two arbitration eligible players might receive.
|Position||Player||2006 committed salary (approx in mil.$)|
That roster includes some admittedly controversial selections. First, I'd like to see the Royals fill their backup catcher and utility infield spots with players from their minor league system. Matt Tupman turned some heads in spring training, and he's taken that into this season, performing pretty well at Wichita (.286/.388/.339). There's really no reason to keep a veteran like Castillo around when a younger, cheaper, better option is available within the system.
As for the utility infield spots, I love the idea of having an infield triumvirate of Ruben Gotay, Donald Murphy, and Mike Aviles. Murphy is a great defensive 2B who can play any infield position, and Aviles can play either SS or 3B. I envision a Murphy/Gotay platoon at second base, with Aviles serving as the regular utility infielder. In addition, Murphy would be a fine defensive replacement for Gotay in the late innings. Aviles has done nothing but hit during his minor league career, and there's no reason to suspect that he couldn't put up numbers at least on par with what our current utility infielders, Joe McEwing and Tony Graffanino, have done during their careers.
The rest of the roster is fairly self-explanatory. Justin Huber will split time with Mike Sweeney at 1B and DH, and the pitching rotation will be young but talented. The remaining two holes to be filled are both in the outfield, and it may be possible for the Royals to fill one of them with Mitch Maier. Nevertheless, I'm not going to pencil him in just yet, although I do anticipate he'll be in KC before the 2005 season is over.
Ultimately, it would be possible for the Royals to fill all but two outfield spots and their two arbitration cases for under $20 million. And the funniest thing about all of that is that this 2006 team would actually be better than the current version. If the Royals chose to do so, they could use that money to sign a free agent power-hitting outfielder, or a quality innings-eating starter. But really, I don't think there's any need to do so before the 2006 season, unless the Royals think they'll be ready to compete next year. I think they still will probably need one more year of development.
And finally, to show that this financial flexibility extends beyond 2006, take a look at the current projected Opening Day 2007 lineup:
|Position||Player||2007 salary (approx in mil.$)|
Not only does that lineup look awesome, but it's also dirt cheap. And that, folks, is a formula for small market success. I'm excited.