What A New Stadium Means for Payroll

I read here, and in other places like the sfgate.com Drumbeat Blog, opinions on what would happen if the A’s suddenly had a Target Field like infusion of revenue. Opinions vary from “Lew Wolff is cheap and won’t spend anymore” to “The A’s will spend more money than the Angels!” The real answer, they will spend more but won’t be a West Coast version of the Yankees or Red Sox, is much more interesting. While I will never be a GM for any self-respecting MLB franchise, I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Which means, I have ideas for what a future A’s roster/dynasty might look like.

First things first, how do we set a projected payroll? First, we have to have an idea of what revenues might look like (thanks ML). Second we have to have an understanding of how revenues impact Major League payrolls. Forbes has an answer:

Data Provided by Forbes

A few interesting factoids from this table. First, if we are to believe Forbes, only two MLB teams took a loss in order to fund their on the field product this season. Only one of those teams took a “significant” loss. Neither of those teams factored much into the playoff picture. Do you smell what I am cooking? As much as you can’t blame the Yankees for their $200M payroll, you can’t harp on A’s ownership for their smallish payroll. The days of teams spending way more than they have, in order to be competitive, are history. Revenue matters.

The second factoid, that MLB teams spend an average of 55% of their revenue on payroll, sets the stage for what could be. In ML’s piece, he split the difference between Wolff’s number and that of Forbes. Here, I am just gonna run with the numbers provided by Forbes to keep it simple. So, a new stadium should provide, roughly, a 14% increase (that was ML’s number, $149M plus 14% is $170M) for this article we will assume that number is $177M ($155M*1.14). That SWAG number puts the A’s in the neighborhood of the Rangers and their $95M payroll. Heck, if the A’s wanted to “go for it” they could actually have a payroll of $106M and be within the range of Operating Income makers on the Forbes chart ($177*.6).

That gives us a range of $95M to $106M…. Oh, how I salivate. What’s better? As ML pointed out, the A’s have huge payroll flexibility in the coming seasons, if we assume they have this new revenue stream. To keep the core together, the A’s would need to have an $80M payroll in 2013. If they are in limbo, forget about it. If they are in construction… $80M is great… That would give them up to $26M to spend on players in the first year (assuming a 2014 opening). So who could they add?

Assuming the A’s have locked up the new Big Three, Anderson, Cahill and Gonzalez.  Max Stassi has taken over for Suzuki and is a second year player. Grant Green is manning Short Stop and in his second year at the big league level. Adrian Cardenas, or Eric Sogard, is Green’s double play partner and relatively cost controlled. Daric Barton, Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are rocking 1B, LF and RF collectively. Bullpen roles are what they are. That leaves the A’s with a definite need for a Center Fielder, a 3B and a couple of starting pitchers.

Zack Grienke anyone? Tim Lincecum anyone? Certainly not both, but would the A’s really need both? The new Big Three, the New Jack Bash Brothers and the developed youngsters make it so that only one would be required.

Or, Ian Krol and Clay Mortenson have developed into a fine back of the rotation. Matt Kemp in center?

The more I think about it, the more I realize the possibilities are infinite. I am just highlighting shock and awe type moves. Silver bullets, if you will. Reality, if Billy Beane’s past is an indication of his future, is that the money would be spread around and the sum of multiple parts would be greater than the any single player. The point is that Wolff could keep payroll right in alignment with what is normal now, add in the new revenue, and we would all be really happy with the result. Here is my wishful glance at a 2014 roster/payroll with a lot of crystal ball gazing (and rose colored performance projecting) mixed in:

25 thoughts on “What A New Stadium Means for Payroll

  1. With their new found “mid-market” spending capability, i sense the A’s investing in as many ‘rent-a-vet’ Ben Sheets-types as possible in an effort to create the most stocked farm system this league has ever seen.

    …. i’m only half-kidding

    To bring this all back to the issue of a newballpark, we can assume Beane has run similar spreadsheets to Jeffery’s hundreds of times (maybe while sleeping, maybe even after coming back from a late night at the bar).

    For me, this increases the likelihood that the A’s jump at the first real opportunity they get to build a downtown ballpark, regardless of wether its in Oak or SJ. Their window to compete is officially open, and while it could remain that way for a while if Carter, Taylor actualize Bash Brothers part 3, there’s still plenty of motivation to obtain the revenue that would allow this team to bring in veteran reenforcements.

    By the way, this my first post after following for about a month. Keep up the great work! You guys blow everyone else on the interweb completely out of the water.

  2. when an ownership group gets a new stadium, payroll may or may not increase, as you surmised. (One actually also assumes that a higher payroll means better players.) The only real stats that are out there are win-loss records, and they do not show much difference last time I checked. So the fans that show up for a game have a better experience in a new stadium (but traffic / parking hassles ?), the ones watching on TV see the same win-loss record … Or am I too pessimistic ?

  3. @erw – You’re half right. It’s not so much about attaining better players, as there will always be limits for the A’s in that regard. It’s about being able to keep the good players that the team has developed. A franchise quality player may not cost a team more than $10 million over the first six years he plays for the team, but after that he might cost more than $10 million per year. As grizzly mentioned, there will always be opportunities for “high health risk” players since they tend to be devalued.

    As for traffic/parking hassles, there really aren’t many cases of teams not being able to attract fans because of that. If you love the team or venue enough, you figure out a way.

  4. Grizzly,

    I think you are right on the “stocked farm system.” Joking, or not. Look at the number of .45’s in that sheet. Those all come from a stocked farm system. Hell, half those .45’s will probably be traded between now and 2014 for guys who fit the needs that BB identifies, anyway.

  5. I just realized I left off a backup catcher. Way to go me!

  6. Great illustration. The possibilities are fun to explore but I really hope I never see this term ever again: “Gabe Gross Type.”

  7. Briggs,

    I just meant a guy who could spend defensive innings at each outfield position, passably, which is probably what Corey Brown will end up being.

  8. @Jeffrey: No worries. I hear ya.


    On a different note, I threw together a similar spreadsheet back whenever Forbes published their numbers on rev/debt and I think I got the payroll info from AP or CBS Sports– I forget. Anyway, I also found Detroit to be an odd outlier. I just assumed one of Detroit’s numbers was off. When adjusted for debt-owed, it came up that Detroit was spending over 90% of its revenue on its MLB roster. Again, I just threw together my spreadsheet quickly to satisfy a passing curiosity, but it’s interesting that Detroit is also a outlier on your table.

  9. Jeffrey,

    You don’t think Corey Brown may become an everday starting OF? His stats in AA were pretty impressive last season, though he is almost 25. I’m almost at the point of considering him close to Taylor and hoping just one of those guys turns into a solid 5/6 hitter…

  10. In my wildest alcoholic nightmares/dreams… Brown is in Center, Taylor is in Right, Carter is in Left. I just think, based on actual performances so far, that Taylor has had success at AAA (I know, it was only 30 games, but he crushed and he played a lot better toward the end of last year), while Brown has not.
    Even if Brown becomes an above average, defensively, 4th outfielder with a decent bat (like way better than Gabe Gross) he would be a huge value. I’d take that.
    I imagine, the best possible (realistic) scenario is that one of the two becomes a productive everyday major league outfielder. I think Taylor’s track record (over 900 OPS in both 2008 and 2009 at various levels) with a stick in his hands shows it is more likely to be him. Of course, if Brown can stick in Center Field his offense could be above average. It’d be great if they both make it happen, if that’s the case then the A’s can avoid spending Beltran like money on Kemp and use it somewhere else.
    What do you expect out of Corey Brown?

  11. There’s also an outside chance Michael Choice will be popping up around then too.

  12. Briggs,

    The Tigers went for broke a few years ago and the salaries are still winding their way through the pipeline. You are right about their debt, too. I had a column for that in the original spreadsheet. No matter how you slice it, they make you shake your head and think “WTF?”
    Add to that they just signed Brandon Inge , who has sucked recently, to a two year extension at “good player” money. They caught lightening in a bottle in 2006. They gambled on several fronts and won. Since, they have acted like they think that was more than luck. Which, it was to some degree, but… Yowsers.

  13. I don’t really know what to expect from either player in all honesty.

    At this point i’m not getting too greedy and would be happy if 1 of them turned into a solid everyday major leaguer who could hit somewhere 2-6. Given the A’s newfound fondness of stealing bases though, it would be great if both made it and gave the A’s not only power but also speed in the lineup.

    Then you could bat singles hitter like Cardenas, Sogard behind the meat of the order to drive these guys in. Now i’m getting ahead of myself though….

  14. Michael Choice. Me like.

  15. I’m hoping the Brandon Inge extension doesn’t play into a possible Kouzmanoff/A’s deal if they decide to keep him around. I don’t know how an arbiter specifically makes their ruling, but $4m for Kouz is acceptable. $6m? He better have a great season. If they just sign a 2-yr deal to take him into free agency, I think $5m per. Not so bad, but with either arbitration or 2-yr deal, I’m thinking Kouz is looking at $400k – 650k more now.

  16. I am in favor of nontendering Kouz. Defense is great, and all, but the A’s need a bat and third base is a spot where they can upgrade through trade (Though, offensively, they can upgrade everywhere).

  17. Under better circumstances, I’d be in favor of non-tendering Kouzmanoff too, but the 3B market is looking pretty bleak. Using the past 3 seasons as a sample, a little over a dozen thirdbasemen have put up better offensive production. But each of them are either in a locked up in a sturdy contract or are pre-arb hotshots that are likely untouchable. So, just through negation I’d go with Kouzmanoff for another season. Unless anyone can name an viable alternatives. Mark Reynolds would be entertaining but even under the best of conditions, he’s only a marginal improvement but for a much more hefty price tag.

  18. If you can get the Dbacks to throw in Stephen Drew (to play second) I’d trade for Reynolds and give them salary relief along with low level prospects. Crap, even Cardenas and Mazzarro

  19. along those same lines, Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee from Milwaukee would instantly give the A’s some power from the infield.

  20. @grizz

    Those are both promising bats, but why would Milwaukee trade either of them especially on the eve of losing Fielder? The A’s have a wealth of young prospects, but it’d take a proven MLB talent like Cahill or Gio to pry those pre-arb guys away and that’s just not worth it. We may think the world of Vin Mazzaro, Tyson Ross or Josh Outman, but if I were the Brewers GM, none of those arms would be enough to cut a deal for Weeks or McGehee.

  21. I wouldn’t be a huge fan of dealing Gio or Braden, but there’s also a good chance Mazzaro steps up next year… how often are clubs able to negotiate extensions with players as a contingent to trading for them (thinking about Weeks here)?

  22. I like your pitching staff, but I think your everyday lineup is suspect from a power standpoint. The corners are weak with Barton, a nice player who unfortunately has little power, and the unproven Cardenas, who hasn’t showed much. Carter in LF—another place where you want power—also hasn’t shown much. Taylor is a huge guy; maybe he’ll become a real banger. You might even want to think about moving Taylor to 1B—he is so big and heavy that one wonders how well he can really get around in the OF—which would free up Barton for a good trade. Maybe for that DH. And why assume Suzuki will be done? He won’t be that old and he’s a pretty good catcher, who can also hit some.

    And how did you end up with Matt Kemp? The Dodgers gave up on him? Or he gave up on the Dodgers? Keep an eye on Kemp. He regressed this year and a lot of people in LA think he may end up going the way of Raul Mondesi. Kemp is the five-tool guy, but Ethier has turned out to be the prize on the Dodgers. Dodger fans are accordingly grateful to Billy Beane.

    I think the A’s are on the right track. The pitching is very promising and the team made great strides this year. But now the Rangers have replaced the Angels as the power in the West. And, after not having seen them all year and now seeing them in the playoffs, it’s clear they’ve done an excellent job, with a relatively low payroll. That’s a good team and the A’s have their work cut out for them. A guy I golf with has bet $100 at 38-1 odds that they’ll sweep the Giants. The relocation and the new stadium are needed for the A’s to compete. But they have to be very smart on the player acquisition side. If the new stadium materializes as you see it, I also think you A’s fans should be agitating for a payroll higher than your projected $83M. I think that $95-106M is a whole lot better. Might need it if you’re paying Matt Kemp $16M.

  23. oldblue… Carter has slugged out of his mind throughout the minors. The only level he has a career Slugging Percentage below 500 (and it’s .499) was in Single A He is gonna be a 30 HR guy most seasons, a potentially a 40 HR guy in his prime… He may strike out 200 times, but I’ll take it.
    Taylor and Barton are guys I consider similar hitters. Not exactly the same, Taylor will hit more HR’s and Barton will walk more. Both will hit plenty of Doubles. Daric Barton hit 33 this season. If he can increase that number with experience, and hit around 10 HR’s while playing excellent defense he will be an asset worth keeping. Taylor is a very athletic guy, I used to watch him play at Stanford all the time. He is going to be fine in the outfield for a good long while.
    Matt Kemp is a much better all around player than Andre Ethier. Do you follow advanced stats like WAR? Andre Ethier was a 2.2 WAR player this season, primarily because he is a horrible fielding outfielder. Matt Kemp had an off year, but last season he was a 5 WAR player, primarily because he is good at everything and plays Center Field. The reason i included him on this roster is because he would be a Free Agent (assuming he doesn’t sign an extension between now and the end of his contract) in 2013.
    Lastly, you hit right on my main point… that “roster” I threw up there is ONLY 83 Million. Imagine what $95M can bring and the core can be kept mostly intact. Taylor doesn’t work? Fine, buy someone who will. Cardenas doesn’t work out? Fine, package a lot of the young, inexpensive dudes and get a better young, inexpensive dude.

  24. Jeffrey, I agree with you about Kemp v Ethier. As I noted, Kemp is a five-tool guy, where Ethier is not. Yeah, I know about the WAR, but Ethier really isn’t that bad a fielder. No, he’s not in Kemp’s league, but he’s adequate. He’s also a very good bat—although not so much against lefties—plus, and this is important, he’s a good presence on the team. You’ll note I wrote Kemp regressed. There is some feeling in LA that’s he may be a head case, thus my mention of Mondesi. You have to have followed the Dodgers to realize just what talent that guy had and what he did to undermine it. The A’s have had one of those kind of guys, too, by the name of Canseco. The Giants once had a player named Bobby Bonds, who was also a five-tool player. In an era when players could only go to another team if traded by the current team, and where salary levels were severely limited, Bobby Bonds ended up playing for eight different teams. He was essentially finished at the age of 34. Five tool guy, puts up good numbers, and then gets traded. His reputation was not the best. Matt Kemp strikes out like Bobby Bonds and has other similar playing characteristics, but if he’s a drag on the team, is he worth it?

    WRT “Chris Carter,” it turns out there are two Chris Carters in MLB. William Chris Carter, born in 1982, is with the Mets. The other, Vernon Chris Carter, born 1986, is with the A’s. Inasmuch as I don’t follow the A’s that much since I left the Bay Area, I thought you were penciling in the older Chris Carter on your team. His stats aren’t impressive. But you’re clearly referring to the younger Carter, whose stats are not bad. WRT Taylor, just hope he can move in the outfield like Josh Hamilton. But huge guys aren’t known for it. I’d put him at 1B and use Barton, a good player w/out power, as trade bait. And speaking of 1B guys without power, but who can knock in runs and field, you may see James Loney leaving the Dodgers. They want more power. In fact, the more I think of it, there are a lot of similarities between the Dodgers and the A’s. Wanta take Casey Blake and Russell Martin off their hands?

  25. Yep… the old “Which Chris Carter, again?” Ha!

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