So, matters didn’t turn out quite as the Texas Rangers may have liked during the 2010 World Series. But, you can bet in offices throughout the Rangers organization – well before the World Series ended – were looking at how player payroll would be structured for the club in 2011 and beyond was well underway.
So, just what do the Rangers have on their plate? The amount of money the Rangers have going out in contract obligations along with the increased salaries of those players eligible for salary arbitration is the starting off point.
Rangers Salary Arbitration With Josh Hamilton As Key
The Rangers spent $8.3 million in salary arbitration leading up to the 2010 season on Chris Ray, Scott Feldman, Frank Francisco, Esteban German, Josh Hamilton, Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Nippert, and C.J. Wilson. To place it in perspective, those 8 players earned $4,271,760 in 2009 salary.
The biggest increase of the Rangers players last season ($3,250,000 up 486 percent from his $555,000 salary for 2009), will certainly be the one that garners the most this arb season as well: Josh Hamilton.
Josh Hamilton will be in his second year of salary arbitration eligibility, won ALCS MVP honors, just earned his second Silver Slugger Award, led the league in Batting Average (.359), Slugging % (.633) and OPS (1.044) ranked 5th in the AL in Home Runs (32), 6 in the league in Total Bases (328), making Hamilton not only ALCS MVP but a solid candidate for AL MVP when the BBWAA compiles their votes. With the awards and solid stats for the 2010 season, Hamilton is in line for another big paycheck in 2011. The question is, how much?
(See As MLB Salary Arbitration Set to Begin, Detailed Report Shines Light on Process and page 32 of the attached PDF to see details for the Rangers in salary arbitration last cycle)
Hamilton will have 4 years of Major League Service Time this year. The top four players in salary arbitration for 2010 between 4 and 5 years of MLST last year were all pitchers: Jonathan Papelbon ($9.25 million), Bobby Jenks ($7.5 million), Justin Verlander ($6.7 million), and Felix Hernandez ($6.5 million). It’s not until you get to Ryan Ludwick at #5 that you get into position players where he earned $5.45 million. Hamilton is surely going to pull in much, much more based upon all the award hardware and statistics he pulled together for 2010. It’s more than possible that Hamilton could land $10 million or more if he and the Rangers don’t reach a multi-year deal. One could easily imagine Jon Daniels and Hamilton’s agent Michael Moye discussing such scenarios, using comps such as Matt Holiday who had 4 years of MLST in January of 2008 when landed a 2-year $23 million deal that earned him $9.5 million in 2008 and $13.5 million in 2009. But, Hamilton may never be in such a position to garner a single season payout like he is this year. And may therefore forego the option of any multi-year contract. Still, at 29, Hamilton may see value in banking money over multiple years. All will depend on how Hamilton is viewing his priorities with his career.
The other player likely to get a handsome raise through salary arbitration is C.J. Wilson who saw his stock rise not only through the regular season, but the postseason, as well. Given that he is in his final year of salary arbitration eligibility, saw a 68 percent raise from $1.85 million in 2009 to $3.1 million in 2010, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see a raise of double-digit or triple digit percentage increase. Joe Blanton is fair comp pulling in $7 million salary arbitration last season as part of a 3-year, $24 million deal.
Other Rangers salary arb players that were eligible last year include Brandon McCarthy (third salary arb year, and saw $1.3 million in 2010, Dustin Nippert (second salary arb year, saw $650,000 in 2010), and Mark Lowe (second salary arb year, and saw $1.15 million in 2010).
First time salary arb players for the Rangers include Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, and Darren O’Day. Cruz is likely to land in the $3 million range after seeing him approve in nearly every statistical category over 2010. O’Day is likely to pull in mid-$400,000s while Murphy could land between $1-$2 million.
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE HOW CLIFF LEE FACTORS IN, AND JUST WHAT THE RANGERS PLAYER PAYROLL WILL BE FOR 2011
Cliff Lee and Other FA Considerations
Cliff Lee is going to be Job #1 for the Rangers this offseason as it pertains to free agents. The Rangers have solid revenues to pull from after renewing their television deal with FOX Sports Southwest that is reportedly 20-years in length and is worth somewhere between $3 billion and closer to $2 billion with up-front cash in play. On top of the TV deal, the Rangers expect a solid increase in season-ticket sales, and there is likely 2010 postseason revenues that are in the 8-digit range. So, while there is a lot of talk about the Yankees winning the battle of the wallets, don’t expect the Rangers to roll over and play dead. If the Yankees win this battle over cash, it’s going to take a sizeable chunk out of their wallet. And that doesn’t include the impacts a Lee-to-Yankees deal would have on their Luxury Tax bill (don’t forget, there’s CC, Tex, A-Rod, as well as Jeter’s new contract in the mix).
Outside of Lee, there’s also Jorge Cantu, Christian Guzman, and Frank Francisco. The Rangers have one less FA player to worry about after they outrighted Jeff Francour, he cleared waivers and refused his outright assignment.
If we use CC Sabathia as the barometer for any Cliff Lee deal with the Rangers, the key may be the AAV (Average Annual Value) of the contract as opposed to total dollar value that Sabathia landed with the Yankees. At 7-years, $161 million, the total of Sabathia’s deal doesn’t make much sense. Lee is 31, while Sabathia was 28 when his mega-deal was reached in 2008. But, looking at a shorter term deal with at least one or more years in the $23 million AAV range that Sabathia is earning could keep Lee in the fold in Texas.
Multi-Year Obligations for 2011
Here’s who is already on the books for 2011 as part of multi-year contracts
- Michael Young ($16 million as part of 5-year, $80 million deal that expires in 2013)
- Ian Kinsler ($6 million as part of 5-year, $22 million deal that runs through ’12 with club option for ’13 with a $500,000 buyout)
- Colby Lewis ($3 million as part of 2-year, $5 million deal that runs through next season with $3.25 million club option for ’12 with a $25,000 buyout)
- Darren Oliver’s $3.25 million option year was contingent on him pitching in 59 games or more. He was in 64 games this past season, and therefore, the option year was triggered for the Rangers.
- The Rangers declined Vladamir Guerrero’s $9 million mutual option, paying him the $1 million buyout as part of the deal, but that doesn’t mean that the club isn’t thinking about getting him back on the roster depending on what kind of deal might be worked out under the $9 million option year that was on the table.
What Will the Rangers 2011 Payroll Wind Up Being?
The answer to the question is, it depends. The number will be keenly tied to resigning Cliff Lee, and to a lesser extent Jorge Cantu, Christian Guzman, and Frank Francisco. In addition, there are rumors that the club is thinking of pursuing Victor Martinez for behind the plate.
The Rangers ranked 27 out of 30 clubs for Opening Day payroll in 2010. Their End of Year payroll, which won’t be available until mid-December will have them jump up considerably from that position due to the free agent acquisitions during 2010, namely Lee.
But, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see $90-$95 million for the Rangers when the 2011 Opening Day payrolls come out. That would have placed them anywhere between #14 and #11 in payroll ranking this year.
One thing seems certain: The Texas Rangers liked the taste of the postseason in 2010 and have every intent on being there again in 2011.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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