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Indians payroll for 2015 likely to be slightly lower than in 2014

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Unless there's a surprising addition, the Opening Day payroll will be slightly lower in 2015 than it was last year.

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The Indians were able to work out contracts with each of their six arbitration-eligible players this week, meaning the team won't have to be involved in any hearing this year. Each of the six players signed a one-year contract:

  • Brandon Moss: $6.5 million
  • Marc Rzepczynski: $2.4 million
  • Carlos Carrasco: $2.337 million
  • Lonnie Chisenhall: $2.25 million
  • Bryan Shaw: $1.55 million
  • Josh Tomlin: $1.5 million

Those six deals add up to ~$16.5 million. All told, the Indians now have 17 players under contract, for a total of ~79.3 million. Unless there's someone else added on a Major League deal, or someone signed to an extension that changes their 2015 cost, the other eight spots on the roster will go to guys making roughly the league minimum (~500,000), which would means the Indians have an Opening Day payroll of $83-84 million. That would be just below the 2014 figure of $85.4 million (according to Cot's).

I am sure the possibility of a payroll even slightly lower than last year will lead to a certain amount of "Dolunz ar cheep!" from some portions of the fan base, but I'm not bothered by it in the least. Given the contracts that were already on the books heading into this offseason, I think the Indians did fairly well, adding a power bat and someone who could be a very solid #4 or 5 starter, both for what might be considered below-market costs.

The other factor to keep in mind with the team's payroll is that between raises due to a number of players who previously signed extensions, and raises likely to come to a number of arbitration-eligible players next winter, the 2016 payroll projects to be high by franchise standards.

David Murphy, Gavin Floyd, Mike Aviles, and Ryan Raburn are each going into the last year of their contract, or have a team option for 2016 that currently seems unlikely to be picked up. If none of them are back, it would drop payroll by ~$15.5 million in 2016. However, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and Yan Gomes each have a raise of at least $1.5 million coming, adding a total of $7.25 million in 2016.

All six of the players the team just avoided arbitration hearings with will be eligible for arbitration again next offseason, and while odds are good 2 or 3 of them will be non-tendered at that point, at least a couple of them will almost certainly be back at higher costs. Let's say the Indians keep Moss, Carrasco, and Chisenhall, while non-tendering the other three, and that the three they keep each receive a 50% raise: If everyone else on the roster were just making the league minimum, the Indians would now have something like $80 million spent for 2016. That leaves out the guys who'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason. Zach McAllister shouldn't cost a huge amount, but if Cody Allen has another good year he'll cost a fair amount... and if Corey Kluber has another good year, he'll cost a whole lot.

If the Indians don't make any serious moves in the next 12 months, they're likely looking at a payroll of at least $95 million for 2016, and that's for a team that lets all of its free agents walk while replacing them with league-minimum guys. There are some promising league-minimum guys in the farm system (such as Francisco Lindor), so we shouldn't think of things as grim, but we also shouldn't expect any significant outside additions in the next 18 months.