Nov 19, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
The Nationals have done an impressive job building a successful franchise, mostly with home-grown prospects, but there are ramifications of such an endeavor.
Such as an ever-increasing payroll.
When Mike Rizzo replaced Jim Bowden as general manager in 2009, the Nationals’ payroll stood at $60 million, a figure that ranked 27th among MLB’s 30 franchises. In the ensuing five seasons, that payroll has nearly doubled, evidence both of the club’s higher-profile acquisitions and the continued development of young players whose salaries increase via baseball’s arbitration process.
The Nationals opened 2013 with a $114 million payroll, which ranked 12th in the majors. And it’s only going to keep rising in 2014.
Several prominent players will receive raises next season. Jayson Werth’s salary increases to $20 million from $16 million. Adam LaRoche’s increases to $12 million from $10 million. Gio Gonzalez gets a $2.25 million raise to $8.5 million.
That’s to say nothing of Washington’s eight arbitration-eligible players — Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler, Wilson Ramos and Ross Ohlendorf — who all are guaranteed raises, in some cases of several million dollars.
Put it all together and the Nationals are almost certain to top the $120 million mark in 2014, shattering the franchise’s previous high payroll mark and likely ranking among MLB’s Top 10. And if Mike Rizzo were to go out and sign another veteran starting pitcher or experienced left-handed reliever or seasoned bench player, that number will only continue to rise.
Nobody’s complaining about any of this, mind you. Unless your last name is Lerner and you’re physically signing the checks, you should be pleased to see a franchise that for years made efforts to keep payroll down is now operating like the big-market club it is.
But it’s fair to question just how much higher this number can go, and whether someone in ownership will actually put a hard cap in place at some point, restricting Rizzo’s options.
For now, let’s simply run through the entire roster’s 2014 salaries. For these purposes, we’ve constructed a 25-man roster using only players already under contract to the Nationals, plus pitching prospect Matt Purke (who has a guaranteed, major-league contract even though he has yet to reach the big leagues).
Salaries for arbitration-eligible players and those with less than three years of big-league service time are estimated. Those figures won’t actually be finalized for several months…
3B Ryan Zimmerman 14,000,000
1B Adam LaRoche 12,000,000
SP Jordan Zimmermann 10,000,000*
SP Gio Gonzalez 8,500,000
RP Rafael Soriano 7,000,000^
SS Ian Desmond 7,000,000*
OF Denard Span 6,500,000
RP Tyler Clippard 6,000,000*
SP Stephen Strasburg 6,000,000*
RP Drew Storen 3,500,000*
SP Ross Detwiler 3,000,000*
OF Scott Hairston 2,000,000+
OF Bryce Harper 2,150,000
C Wilson Ramos 2,000,000*
2B Anthony Rendon 1,800,000
RP Ross Ohlendorf 1,500,000*
RP Craig Stammen 1,375,000
SP Matt Purke 1,037,500
2B Danny Espinosa 550,000*
RP Ryan Mattheus 525,000*
IF Steve Lombardozzi 525,000*
OF Tyler Moore 510,000*
RP Ian Krol 505,000*
SP Tanner Roark 505,000*
C Jhonatan Solano 505,000*
*-Estimated figure, 2014 salary not yet finalized
^-Soriano’s actual salary is $14 million, but $7 million is deferred until later dates
+-Cubs will pay $500,000 of Hairston’s salary
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