A lot has been said about Billy Beane and his seemingly mad scientist approach to this off season. Has Lew Wolff demanded he cut the payroll? Is he hoping to lose so he can keep nursing off the teat of revenue sharing? Did the team’s epic second half collapse and single game playoff stint increase ticket sales so much that they can’t argue for a San Jose stadium? Did Josh Donaldson call him Billy Boy? These are all 100% actual “theories” as to why Billy Beane is hacking away at the 2014 roster with reckless abandon.
Of course, readers of this fine website know otherwise. You all know that Beane may be cashing in on players on the verge of major regression or that he is replenishing a farm system that he practically burned to the ground to staff the 2014 team. You, our intelligent readers, know that the returns from these trades have been potentially spectacular and at the major league level are, at worst, lateral moves and at best, upgrades.
So, if the major league moves do end up being fairly even trades for all star players, why make them? The answer to that, my good looking reader, is money. Billy Beane has not been given a mandate to decrease payroll, as he said in several instances this past month, and Susan Slusser mentioned that he may even raise it a hair by the end of the season. So, operating at the same budget as last year he has the opportunity to replenish his farm system and cut the payroll at the same time. That’s a tough task to accomplish.
For the 2015 season, Jeff Samardjiza was set to make $9.5 million, Brandon Moss $7.1 million, Yoenis Cespedes $10.5 million and Josh Donaldson $4.5 million. That alone is $31.6 million dollars in savings. The free agents that left the team (excluding Lester, Gomes, Soto and Hammel who had much of their salary paid by other teams) combined for a total of $15.2 million. With them off of the books, Billy Beane has now saved $46.8 million on the payroll budget.
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Beane then signed Billy Butler for $6.6 million, and Ike Davis for $3.3 million. Brett Lawrie is expected to make $1.8 million in arbitration bringing his available payroll to $35.1 million. If nothing in the lineup changes, the remaining arbitration eligible players are expected to earn an extra $7.2 million next year which brings Billy Beane’s payroll budget down to $27.9 million in savings.
These numbers are all estimates and I used some pretty loose math to calculate things. It’s impossible to know exactly how much money Billy Beane has saved until everyone has a contract, all acquisitions are made and all the trades have ended. This is a broad overview but, as you can see, we are looking at a sizable chunk of change that, if Slusser is correct, could get a couple million added onto it. What does Billy do with that money? Are we looking at a big time free agent signing? Is he going to repeat his 2011 move and pick up an international signing in February, after everyone else is out of money? Is he going to save that money to bankroll a major trade? We just don’t know.
While I think Billy has already assembled a fairly competitive team for 2015, there are some weaknesses that need to be addressed and 25-30 million bucks could truly address some issues.
So, while on the surface it may seem like Billy Beane got shafted in the Moss trade, you have to factor in all aspects of the trade and look at what Billy does with the money he saved. It also helps if we don’t look at each individual trade but look at the entire landscape of trades as one piece. When you look at it as one piece you’ll see that four or five guys were traded for 12 or 13 guys and $28 million. From that perspective, these moves are quite genius.
I hate to sound like I’m always siding with Billy Beane. I am a huge fan of each player that he’s sent away but I happen to be able to justify these moves from a business standpoint and force myself to evaluate the moves on the large scale and not the most direct “we got so and so for so and so” way.
What do you think Billy Beane should do with the leftover payroll money? Should he grab one huge superstar or three solid free agents? Leave your comments below and let me know.