Want to celebrate again, Arte? Then get out your checkbook.
We all knew this day was coming. Now that the Angels' season is finally over, it is time to address their complicated free agency issue. Break out your calculator and put on your thinking caps because it is time to crunch the numbers to see what the Angels even have to spend this summer.
To recap, the Angels spent roughly $114 million on player salaries in this recently completed season. But now they are faced with the prospect of having to re-sign or replace several big ticket players. The Halos' full free agent list is this: Vladimir Guerrero, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Darren Oliver, and Robb Quinlan. That immediately creates 6 spots on the active roster to fill (Escobar doesn't count as he was on the 60-day disabled list). It also means that nearly $33 million is coming off the payroll which should at least give Tony Reagins and company some option for repopulating the vacated roster spots. But is it enough for the Halos to bring back all their key players as well as find the missing pieces to push the team over the championship hump?
For the purposes of this exercise we are going to assume that Arte Moreno will be willing to up his payroll all the way to $120 million (where it was two seasons ago) since he can see how close this team is to a title. We will also have to make certain assumptions about what the slew of arbitration eligible players will earn, and they do have a few players (Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, Maicer Izturis) who can expect big raises this winter. I won't bore you with my assumptions, but my calculations leave the Angels at roughly a $90 million payroll before they even start talking to any free agents, even their own, leaving the front office $30 million to work with. That is a lot of money in the real world, but in pro baseball, that might as well be petty cash.
In a perfect world the Angels would bring back Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu and Darren Oliver. The front office would love to do it, the fans would love to see it, but there is just no way they can pull it off in their current budget structure. John Lackey is seeking AJ Burnett-type money putting him at about $17 million per year. Bobby Abreu has already turned down an $8 million annual salary, so he'll probably cost at least $9 million. Vladimir Guerrero will essentially be this year's Abreu, trying to find a cheap one-year deal to rebuild his worth. Given his recent health, I don't see him making more than $4 million. If Darren Oliver doesn't retire, he'll be looking for a modest raise after his stellar season, that puts him right around $4 million as well. Finally, there is Chone Figgins who is the best leadoff hitter on the market and will thus be in high demand with estimates placing him at a $10 million salary. If the Angels bring those five back at those prices, they'd be forking over $44 million. You don't need a PhD in mathematics to know that $44 million is a whole lot more than $30 million and that sucks hard for the Angels.
I know it is sad, but the Angels are going to have to say goodbye to some fan favorites.
The Scott Kazmir trade and just about every single rumor from the front office has the Angels already throwing up the white flag on re-signing John Lackey. Remove him from the equation and the Angels are at $27 million spent. That fits their budget, but it also means they have just $3 million to find a fifth starter, fix the leaky bullpen and add another potent bat to the line-up. In other words, they are still screwed. That basically leaves the Angels with two option. Let Vlad walk and make just minor upgrades to the team with the remaining $7 million or say goodbye to Chone Figgins and try and make one big splash with $13 million. Either way the Angels seem to be looking at a 2010 roster that just isn't as good as the 2009 roster and the 2009 roster couldn't reach the World Series much less win it.
Those are some cold hard numbers that the Angel front office is going to have to find a way to overcome. Clearly just spending cash on free agents is not going to be a major part of their off-season plans, so expect Tony Reagins to be very active in seeking out trades this winter as a way of adding talent without adding to the payroll. In an economy where nearly every team is trying to cut spending as well, Reagins is really going to have his work cut out for him.
Is their a realistic plan that can work? Check back later this week for my plan for upgrading the Angels' 2010 roster.