This season, the Diamondbacks were on pace to spend nearly $100 million in payroll. That’s a pretty staggering number on its own, given that each win cost the team a pretty penny. For clarity, the $100 million figure is a little inflated. It was only $98.1 million, but the team shed some salary by trading Brad Ziegler and Tyler Clippard before the trade deadline, saving them something like $4 million in 2016. Add in some salaries from calling minor leaguers up and that eats into the money saved to some degree. So maybe the team spent just roughly $96 million. That still seems like a lot, even though they ranked in the bottom third of the league in the payroll department.

Heading into next season, there’s clearly a couple of roads the organization can go down. The bulk of that probably depends on what ownership wants to pursue and what the GM candidates they interview think is best for the franchise. They’ll hire someone who helps them clarify what the vision should be and how that meshes with what the decision-makers want that vision to be. We can’t say exactly what either of those things are at the moment, but that’s all to say that we can’t exactly pinpoint what the direction will be this winter. It’s a fluid situation, and a case can be made for re-tooling slightly and hoping to contend in 2017 just as well as a case can be made for blowing the whole thing up. No matter what direction the team goes, payroll will play a major role. Either they’ll be seeking to shed as much of it as possible, or managing it tightly as they try to get creative and built a more competitive team.

Effecting all of that will be the role arbitration plays in the process. The team has nine arbitration-eligible players heading into the winter, all of whom can be extended a contract or non-tendered, making them free agents. Welington Castillo, Shelby Miller, Jean Segura, Patrick Corbin, Randall Delgado, Chris Owings, Chris Herrmann, Rubby De La Rosa, and Tuffy Gosewisch all fall into this category based on service time as they’ve surpassed the thresholds that exhaust their team control at the league minimum. So, their 2017 salaries will be decided by a third parter arbiter this winter if they don’t come to terms with the team before a hearing (which is unlikely, they’ll probably be re-signed before it gets there).

The good news is, we don’t have to guess at the salaries. MLB Trade Rumors has projected salaries for all seven of the D-backs in question (including all other MLB arbitration-eligibles) through the work of Matt Swartz. These projections have been very good in the past, so there’s no reason to go away from them now. Instead, we should view the projected salaries as “the most likely outcome” as we’ve seen players and teams routinely come together at or near the projected figures in the past. Those figures for Diamondbacks players are as follows:

  • Welington Castillo, C: $5.9M
  • Shelby Miller, RHP: $4.9M
  • Patrick Corbin, LHP: $4.2M
  • Jean Segura, SS: $7.3M
  • Randall Delgado, RHP: $1.9M
  • Chris Owings, 2B/SS: $2.1M
  • Chris Hermmann, C/OF: $1.0M
  • Rubby De La Rosa, RHP: $3.0M
  • Tuffy Gosewisch, C: $0.6M

Segura’s obviously set for a nice raise after he made $2.6 million last season. Having one of the most productive seasons in the National League will do that for you. The rest of the players are getting more prototypical salaries with standard-ish increases from 2016. In arbitration, virtually everyone gets a raise each year. Case in point: Shelby Miller is expected to receive about $600,00 more next year even after the miserable season he just wrapped up. Arbitration pays players for service time in addition to performance.

This isn’t the time or place to debate the merits of how much money is projected. That’ll come later. What’s worth pointing out right now, however, is that heading into 2017, the D-backs are going to be right back in the thick of a payroll problem. Take a look at how things shake out on paper heading into next year, via Cots Contracts and the MLB Trade Rumors figures.


I should say that some of the money owed to Zack Greinke is deferred, so he won’t be paid $34 million next year. That number should be closer to $21 million, which could save the team some $13 million and give them flexibility as it would move their committed salary, should they retain all of their arbitration-eligible players, closer to $83 million. Then again, we don’t exactly know how the team is accounting for the deferred money they owe Greinke, so the let’s just call the situation “muddled” and maybe they have some money to work with, maybe not.

Then again, they also have some needs. The team has to address their bullpen and they’ve got a cloudy outlook at the corner outfield spots. David Peralta‘s wrist, even if “healed,” can pose problems and it’s yet to be seen if Mitch Haniger can hold down full time duty. If so, that puts Brandon Drury and Yasmany Tomas on the bubble. If not, the team will keep running out at least one extremely poor-fielding outfielder every day. And, let’s not forget, the starting rotation is probably an arm short of actually being okay, so there’s that, too. Like we said, the team has needs.

Should they wish to keep competing, their going to need some financial resources. Whether that’s a boost from their TV revenue or by trading Zack Greinke or through some other means, it’s going to have to happen if they want to put a winner on the field. If they decide to blow it all up, well, this all becomes moot. But it should be noted that things are already pretty tight and upgrades are desired to make use of 2017 and 2018 if that’s a priority. As the team continues courting GM candidates, the payroll situation looms large. No matter which way they decide to go, it’ll be an area of focus going forward.


13 Responses to How Much Money Do the D-backs Have To Spend This Winter?

  1. LEE KING says:


    • Red Sox wouldn’t take him, he doesn’t fit what they like offensively. Limited upside with a high strikeout rate and low walk rate, although they could fix that when he gets there. I don’t see the Red Sox biting on him.

  2. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Why is this team’s payroll still stuck at $100M, even with the new TV money now definitely set to be rolling in? Is ownership just pocketing that? What is going on here? Someone like Piecoro really needs to ask this question of the Diamondbacks, if indeed next year’s payroll stays flat.

    I am hoping it doesn’t, that the team can at least go up to $110M. I’m further hoping that the $13M of Greinke money being deferred doesn’t count against that number. That would leave the Dbacks with $27M or so to play with, even if they kept everyone.

    But they shouldn’t keep everyone, and the one that the new regime should try to move most diligently is Tomas. Dealing him would not only instantly improve the team by putting a more valuable person in left or right (it almost doesn’t matter whom, so long as they can play defense and run the bases at average levels), but also clear another $9M in salary, or something close to it if the Dbacks have to eat some of that.

    A lot of AL teams with 1B/DH openings this offseason: Rangers, Red Sox, etc. Maybe the Dbacks can find a taker.

    I know that I’ll be judging the new regime by whether it seems like they understand the need to move Tomas. Seriously.

    Should Tomas be dealt, and the other hopes above be fulfilled, then you have $36M to play with. Now you can do some things and don’t need to blow up the team.

    But we’ll see. This ownership definitely doesn’t inspire confidence.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      You’re right on, as per usual, Lamar. It’s a matter of direction. They’re “stuck” at a familiar number, $100M. That’s kind of where they’ve hovered around. The $30M in TV revenues that were supposed to expand the budget haven’t seemed to have that effect, but there were comments made initially that money coming to the team (in the future) allowed them to sign Tomas in the first place. I read that as they borrowed from the future to get Tomas signed.

      And you’re right, he’s been problematic in a lot of ways. He has to be a priority to trade, even if it’s just for relief help. Teams know he’s a liability and not nearly a helpful as his HR totals would suggest. Plus, he’s owed a lot of money. I think there’s enough value to get a little something back, but nothing major, and that’s okay at this point.

      The free agent market this year stinks, so offensively, I think you’re mostly looking at a hope for returned health and internal fill-ins/improvements. On the pitching side, they’re not likely to do a ton in the starting market unless they want to keep making trades. Relievers are a little easier to come by, and I think that’s where they can do some damage.

      Even with money to spend, there aren’t a lot of guys to spend it on with this class of free agents. I’d try to add some rotation depth, scoop up some relievers by signings and trades, and maybe look for a cheap way to extend the bench a little. They’re largely going to have to play their way into being better — they can’t buy it. There’s not enough money and there aren’t enough candidates.

      The good news is, there are some easy ways to make the roster better, and that starts with Tomas being gone and Peralta/Pollock being healthy. If they can make the bullpen better and improve on the mound with their own candidates, they can take a pretty substantial leap forward. Is that enough for the playoffs? Probably not.

      • Jimbo says:

        Can’t wait for Tomas to be traded and then the following hand wringing about how to replace his offense with guys who can play defense, but can’t hit their weight–like some other utility players that we try to validate statistically as being starters.

  3. Eduardo Cuadras says:

    To be able to get rid of Yasmani, the team might either eat salary and receive poor compensation, or throw in some very good prospect/mlb ready player to get something decent in return. What about throwing Lamb in a trade for a decent OF or a SP? His upside is at the best now but for me, even though he is better at defense, I will pluck in 3B Brandon Drury. The OF needs to be players that are capable of go fast, as we were always complaining (by we I mean AZ fans and analyst) about poor defense players (Tomas, Trumbo, etc) and we prefer more defense inclined guys. Having Peralta, Pollock and some other unidentified OF (Haniger, Brito) can help to have a better balanced team. With the money we can save from Yasmani’s contract, we can start to think about Goldschimidt’s future. I can also think about trading Ahmed but his value is so low that I have no idea who would want it (and what kind of return we can get) and I believe in shortstop, his defensive value means more than his bat. Leting go Inciarte was really a big blow to this team.

    • Eduardo Cuadras says:

      Let me rephrase some stuff.
      1) Lamb, upside is good because of power barrage this season, but low average and low OBP. This perhaps was his best season, or maybe not, but he along with Tomas can get us a speedy contact OF.
      2)Ahmed value. Not so low, I meant as a batter, cause in defense he is one of the best, but usually players with great defense and low batting skills end up being bench replacements or utility.

  4. Joe says:

    I don’t think spending a lot in FA is all that necessary. Put that money into experienced managing and front office. Just a few tweaks with the roster and they’ll be fine.

  5. shoewizard says:

    Most of the deferred Greinke money is counted against current year salary as they have to separately fund the lions share of the deferral.

  6. Jason says:

    With such a poor FA market, any decent GM should be able to move Tomas. Moving Tomas isn’t about getting anything back. A bag of crackerjacks in return would be a win. If the new GM cannot figure this out, we’re in trouble.

  7. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    With Hazen hire I assume you guys are polishing your resumes. Look forward to you helping build a real, non-veterinarian-centric analytics department here.

  8. Sean says:

    Bottom 1/3 payroll in baseball? Try bottom 1/6th. They had the 5th lowest payroll in baseball last year. And I really don’t want to hear anything about the “market” we’re in. It’s a giant tv market that they’re making gobs of money off of, and lots of other teams have small attendance figures. They aren’t losing money, I guarantee that. The payroll has been +/- $96M since the 2013 season. That’ll be 5 straight seasons of essentially no payroll growth if things stay the same. And just imagine what it’d be like if they didn’t go out and sign ONE marquee player like Greinke.

    • Larry Person says:

      Sean, according to Cot’s Contracts, the D’backs were #21, I.e. Barely in the bottom 1/3. Where do you get your numbers?

      I don’t buy the argument that they “must” spend more money. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. The Yankees, with more than double the payroll of the D’backs didn’t make the playoffs (nor did 11 other teams with higher payrolls than the D’backs). Conversely, the Indians, with a payroll lower than the D’backs, are on the verge of winning the World Series. So, as a fan, I’m not insisting that the D’backs throw money at the problem. That’s not even close to the number one avenue toward a solution. The FO’s choices and the coaching staff’s ability to get the most out of the existing players are both higher priorities for me.

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