Cardinal Payroll for 2020 and Beyond

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    There has been discussion on the trades thread about the Cardinal payroll situation and how it relates to future transactions. Brian suggested we start a new thread.

    I will copy over some of my posts from that thread to this one.

    My main argument is that before we start talking about adding big names this offseason let’s consider where the payroll currently stands and examine what the Cardinals have done in the past to try to determine what they will do in the future.

    Hint: They like to have incremental increases, not large increases.


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    My argument is to look at the history of what the Cardinals have done to determine what they will do in the future. I know they are a profitable company but that doesn’t mean they will move payroll to the luxury tax line. What historical precedent gives you reason to believe that will happen?

    I have never said the Cardinals should incrementally bump payroll to 170-175. I said I think that is what they will do. Big difference. Therefore, I don’t see much need in talking about Cole, Rendon, Betts, Lindor, or any other mega star because I don’t think it will happen.

    Just because we don’t like some of their bad contracts doesn’t mean they aren’t actually there. They are there and we have to live with that.

    As of this morning their 2020 projected payroll is about $154M plus two potential arbitration cases. Assuming they bump payroll to the 170-175 range they don’t have a lot of room to maneuver. Thinking other wise is being oblivious to reality and living in fantasy land.


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    Here is my attempt at looking at the Cardinal payroll chart for the next five years. I have included 26 players worth of salary based on who is availalbe to day (doesn’t include Ozuna, Waino, Wacha, Wieters). I also used $600k as the league minimum for 2020. That number hasn’t been determined yet but it will be close to that. The names at the bottom of the list don’t have a salary attached because they are beyond the 26 limit. That doesn’t mean they won’t make the team. I just didn’t want to inflate the estimate because we don’t know who will actually head north out of spring training.

    Paul Goldschmidt: $26.000, $26.000, $26.000, $26.000, $26.000
    Yadier Molina: $20.000
    Matt Carpenter: $18.500, $18.500, Opt
    Miles Mikolas: $17.000, $17.000, $17.000, $17.000
    Dexter Fowler: $16.500, $16.500,
    Carlos Martinez: $11.700, $11.700, Opt Opt
    Andrew Miller: $11.500, Opt
    Kolten Wong: $10.250, Opt
    Brett Cecil: $7.250
    Jose Martinez: $2.125, Arb 2, Arb 3
    Paul DeJong: $1.667, $4.167, $6.167, $9.167, Opt, Opt
    Dominic Leone: Arb 3, Arb 4
    John Gant: Arb 1, Arb 2, Arb 3
    Jordan Hicks: $0.600, Arb 1, Arb 2, Arb 3
    Jack Flaherty: $0.600, Arb 1, Arb 2, Arb 3
    John Brebbia: $0.600, Arb 1, Arb 2, Arb 3
    Harrison Bader: $0.600, Arb 1, Arb 2, Arb 3
    Dakota Hudson: $0.600
    Yairo Munoz: $0.600
    Giovanny Gallegos:$0.600
    Tommy Edman: $0.600
    Tyler O’Neill: $0.600
    Tyler Webb: $0.600
    Lane Thomas: $0.600
    Ryan Helsley: $0.600
    Genesis Cabrera: $0.600
    Danie Ponce de Leon:
    Andrew Knizer:
    Junior Fernandez:
    Rangel Ravelo:
    Randy Arozarena:
    Edmundo Sosa:
    Totals : $154.29, $93.867, $49.167, $52.167, $26.000, $-

    Mike Leake $4.000



    GScott –

    The final 2019 payroll was $169.8M.

    The 2020 payroll is sitting at $153.9M.

    Given historical increases, the 2020 payroll is projected to be $178.3M.

    That leaves $24.4M for payroll increases.


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    For those who say they have a complete understanding of what the Cards will or won’t do in terms of increasing payroll commitments, here are the last 10 year or so opening day salaries (I rounded for ease):

    2010: $94M
    2011: $105M (+11.7%)
    2012: $110M (+4.8%)
    2013: $115M (+4.5%)
    2014: $111M (-3.5%)
    2015: $121M (+9.0%)
    2016: $120M (-0.8%)
    2017: $152M (+26.7%)
    2018: $161M (+5.9%)
    2019: $158M (-1.9%)

    Not sure how you really make a lot out of that. Of course it’s gone up over the years but sometimes a tiny bit and some times it’s gone down. In 2017 it went up massively. They’ve been in on big free agents that would have caused a large bump all at once (see David Price, Jason Heyward and a few others). Derek Goold in his podcast has referred a number of times to the fact that the Cards’ spending threshold goes right up to the luxury tax line. I’m sure the FO is aware of that as well.

    Given that, I’m quite certain that Mo and Girsch are looking each year at the type of moves that would give the team the best bang for the buck. If the price and the fit are right, payroll will go up substantially. If not, it won’t. To pretend that there are absolute limits like the team would pass on a huge upgrade to stay within an imaginary framework of payroll increase (that clearly doesn’t exist, as shown above) is not being any more realistic than saying they’d spend up to the luxury threshold on mediocre upgrades.



    That almost makes it look like there is a “jump” every 3 or 4 years. Maybe this year is the year. From the looks of the payroll, needs and free agents, it needs to be a year that payroll jumps,



    Payroll increases for 2020:
    Goldschmidt – $11.5 million
    Mikolas – $9 million
    Wong – $3.75 million
    Carpenter – $3.75 million
    JMart – $1 million
    Leone – Arb
    Gant – Arb
    $29 million in increases prior to arbitration raises being figured in.

    Payroll decreases for 2020:
    Cecil – $0.5 million
    Ozuna – $12.25 million
    Wacha – $6.35 million
    Wainwright – $10 million
    Wieters – $1.5 million
    $30.6 million in decreases

    By my rough figures, we will currently have a decrease of $1.6 million before arbitration raises, releases or trades.

    Based on what we have in free agency, we need 1 OF, 2 SPs and a backup C. The backup C and OF can be filled internally. I am not sure our SP can be filled internally without leaving another hole.

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    My strong advice to all is to list the source of any payroll totals you cite, as numbers can vary widely depending on where you look. With everyone using different numbers, this will be a more challenging discussion.

    For example, I stay far away from Spotrac, as they put some 40-man players in, but often have incomplete data. At other times, with other sites, there can be discrepancies in timing.

    My go-to sites are Cots Contracts (which list both 25- and 40-man) and (less so recently) the USA TODAY Salary Database.

    Cots (which does nothing but track salaries and contracts) has the Cards 25-man opening salaries like this:

    2019 $162.6
    2018 $159.7
    2017 $148.2
    2016 $145.6
    2015 $122.1

    I question any source that suggests there have been cuts in recent years.



    My source was from Baseball Reference. I also checked Cot’s which is almost identical. BR puts pro-rata signing bonus’ in their figures.


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    I always use Cot’s. They are very reliable and I like their format.

    A couple of other points. Assuming we have 20-25M to play with is most likely accurate. No, we can’t say with 100% certainty but if you look at the trends of Cardinal payroll history that is a good estimate. If that is the case, 20-25m is not much. Ozuna would cost most of that all by himself which is why I highly doubt he comes back. So we need to fill one or two spots in the OF, maybe a 3B spot, a rotation piece, and maybe a bullpen piece for 20-25M? Good luck with that. We need to move some current salary first and that is going to be easier said than done.

    Also, a little disclaimer about Waino saving $10M. While that is technically true because that was his ending salary it is only true because he met his objectives. The original payroll budget had him at $2M. Of course him hitting his incentives is a good thing. I just wanted to point that out.



    Since the Cardinals were willing to pay Waino $10 million, they were willing to have payroll go up to that point. Therefore, since they paid him $10 million, I used that figure to come up with a reasonable comparison of where the payroll change stands for 2020. If anyone were to take off $10 million for Waino from the starting payroll figure for 2019, that would be a wrong application of figures to see where total payroll is for 2020. It should come off the final payroll figures.

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    Then you really need two totals for every season – opening and final payroll… Then agreement on which apples and oranges to compare to…

    (And the total spend would be somewhere in the middle as you’d have to prorate any moves made during the season.)

    Wondering whether that level of historical data exits – and if so, if it can be trusted. (USA TODAY seems to have both.)

    These comparisons can get murky fast.


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    so to me it looks like they have around 20-25mil (depending on how much they may raise the budget) for arb and for acquisitions before trades


    I don’t think that puts us out of the conversation for a big time player, it just means that we’d have to move some contracts to potentially land one of the big fish like Rendon or Cole…and even more so for any of the other fish…and big trade targets are trades…so you coudl build in salary relief to that potential

    Carp, Fowler, CMart, Wong all carry pretty hefty price tags….JMart also could be moved too for some relief

    yes moving a player means having to fill it as well, but that is just a another problem looking for a solution

    If we could move chunks of Fowler and Carpenter (even eating some) we should be looking to do so. Wong’s price diminishes his return if we want the salary…CMart and JMArt should be easy to find someone willing to take that money and give us good value

    Even if we eat half of Carp and Fowler that would free up plenty of money…and both of them can be replaced internally (and already were in the postseason last game)

    Wong is tough as his defense is so good and offense beginning to be that it would be hard to replace his value at 2b internally or externally…though a case could be made for Edman at 2b…and going big for Rendon

    move Carp and Fowler for half their value (8.25 and 9.25m=17.5m) +17.5m
    move Wong +10
    move Jmart +2
    = 49m

    Rendon = 30m
    Miley = 10m
    trade for Whit = 5m
    Waino = 1.5+ incentives
    Leone = release (trade)
    Gant = 2m? (was in line for a big arb increase, but his poor late play i think tempered it)

    = 48.5m
    -Whit (CF), Edman (2b), Rendon (3b), Goldy (1b), DeJong (SS), Yadi (C), Thomas/Randy/ONeill (RF), Thomas/Randy/ONeill (LF)
    -Jack, Mik, Hudson, Miley, Waino
    -CMart, Gallegos, Brebbia, Miller, Webb, Helsley, Gant, Genesis
    -Knizner, Munoz, Oneill/Randy/Thomas, Ravelo, Sosa/Schrock/Urias

    Whit trade may be light, but could be boosted as long as no Knizner, Carlson….if we go big for Rendon maybe moving Gorman at his value could be fruitful (maybe the tigers would part with one of their young SPs for a corner stick for their organization which has little to no offensive prospects coming)

    pipe dreams i am sure… but a vet lefty for the rotation, a true leadoff hitter and star, and massive middle order all around MVP makes this team better…it depends on youth for the corner outfield, and youth for filling rotation if Miley and Waino stumble….but holding CMart as insurance, and having some combination of Ponce, Gomber, Woodford, Reyes (depending on who is traded could go a long way)

    babbling as always

    thanks for the fun post though



    Cot’s has beginning and ending team totals figures towards the top of the Cardinals’ club page. It is listed for every year since 2000.

    One thing I didn’t figure earlier is that Gregerson’s salary will be done but so will the Padres’ paying the Cardinals for Gyorko. In addition, the Cardinals will be paying $1 million less of Leake’s contract. So the overall effect is another $1 million in lower payroll for 2020.


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    The lack of Gregerson and Gyroko were factored into my spreadsheet above which shows us currently around $154M right now. So we still are operating under the assumption we have 20-25m to spend, unless DeWitt decides to hike payroll close to $200M, which I would be very very surprised to see.

    Like I said before, getting big upgrades for your team for 20-25m is very difficult unless you can move current salary. Jager did a good job outlining who we might could move but like he said those players have to be replaced too.

    I could seem CMart and maybe Wong as trade bait if we really want to free up space but I am having a much harder time seeing Fowler and Carp moving. Both have bad contracts, both have NTC’s, and Carp is somewhat of a team icon. The Cardinals have a history of hanging onto their icons. I use the phrase icon somewhat loosely there but he has a history of doing some big things with the organization. The bottom line is both Carp and Fowler will probably be in St. Louis in 2020.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Avatargscottar.


    What are you basing your $20-$25 million on? Are you saying that the Cardinals can raise their payroll that much this year over last year?


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    BR owns Cots

    I read an interview where DeWitt said they use the mid point of incentives when calculating payroll. That would have put Wainwright at $6 million in the team’s calculation to start the season.


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    What are you basing your $20-$25 million on? Are you saying that the Cardinals can raise their payroll that much this year over last year?

    Yes. We are currently around $154 million and I would expect the total payroll to be in the 170-175 range at the most.


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    I’ll still maintain that if the Cards determine that the meat is worth the bite, payroll can and will rise to $180M, $190M or even more. It went up significantly either in 2016 or 2017, depending on your source, so who’s to say it wouldn’t again? It’s not like the Cards didn’t try to get big fish that would have bumped payroll sooner. The only hope I’d have is that if they make a splash, it’s not adding another couple of averageish players like Moose and Odorizzi but rather adding a real star level talent.


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    the big stars this FA are Gerritt Cole and Rendon.Rendon has already turned down 7 years 210 Million from the nats.Cole will likely be in the same category pricewise.I sure as hell don`t see the Cards wading in that end of the pool.
    With all the bad or unnecessary contracts MO/FO has handed out (Carpenter,Fowler,gregerson,Cecil,Molina) I would think the MO/FO are a bit gunshy about longterm deals right now.If some of the good FAs balk at shorter contracts (2-3 years maybe) the Cards could be on the outside looking in.I don`t know if that’s what the FO will do but I expect being overly cautious will be the tune of the day.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by AvatarBw52.

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    .I don`t know if that’s what the FO will do but I expect being overly cautious will be the tune of the day.

    I concur.



    Do you think Tony Cingrani gets a look from the FO for next year? Was there any updates on how he looked as his rehab continued with the Cards after the trade?



    Not sure how you really make a lot out of that. Of course it’s gone up over the years but sometimes a tiny bit and some times it’s gone down. In 2017 it went up massively.

    I don’t know where the data came from above, but I can tell you the average is 5% since 2006. According to my numbers, the jump was in ’15 and ’16 (over 10%) and that may have been in response to the new TV deal.

    I question any source that suggests there have been cuts in recent years.

    There was a decrease in 2012 and 2014, but not since.

    They have about $24.4M to spend to get to what would be their typical payroll number.

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    Beat writer is enlightened…



    It would be uncharacteristic of this front office and ownership group, but there’s really no excuse to not aggressively pursue upgrades and signifantly increase the payroll. This team needs a major shot in the arm. Attendance and viewership are trending in the wrong direction.

    We have been conditioned to accept that the Cardinals wont be players on the marquis free agents. Why?

    From 2020 to 2021, almost 50M in contracts are coming off the books (according to Spotrac). Cardinals should be big time players this offseason. I’d have no reservation with spending up to or over the luxury tax threshold. Significant money is coming off the books in the next 1-2 years.

    Donaldson/Moustakas (2-3 years, bridge to Gorman)
    Lots of starting pitching on the market
    Trade for Lindor & Kluber
    Extending Ozuna
    Pursuing Castellanos

    While there are a number of contracts weighing this team down (Carpenter, Fowler, Cecil), they should not prevent the front office from considerably upgrading the team.

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