Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats 2020 Payroll Projections: how much do we have to spend this off-season?


The final piece of the pre-2020 off-season analysis is payroll (well, except for non-tender analysis, which is just a few million one way or the other this year).

All the player/club options were already exercised, we’ve done rule-5, and we’ve done options analysis.

As we stand right now; we have 31 players on the 40 man roster and a whole slew of “holes” in the roster to fill.  Well, lets talk about how much money we have to spend by first starting with what we likely already have on the books for 2020.   Lets review by player category.

NOTE: the following tables do have “luxury tax” dollars and “real dollars,” but honestly i’m not sure why anyone cares about the real dollars being spent when the team is clearly attempting to stay under the luxury tax.  so, for my purposes I really only look at/care about the luxury tax dollars.

Under Contract for 2020 – 6

Player2020 25-man prediction?Current or 2019 Contract2020 Lux Tax2020 Real dollars
Scherzer, Maxx7yr/$210M (15-21), half deferred2868937635920616
Corbin, Patrickx6yrs/$140M2333333319416667
Eaton, Adamx5 years/$23.5M (2015-19), options95000009500000
Sanchez, Anibalx2yr/$19M with 2021 option90000009000000
Doolittle, Seanx5ry/$10.5M plus options65000006500000
Suzuki, Kurtx2yr/$10M50000006000000

Total of  $82,022,709 for these 6 players.  As we sign FAs, they’ll get added to this section.

Arbitration Eligible Players for 2020 – 9

Player2020 25-man prediction?Current or 2019 ContractMy Guess
Turner, Treax1 year/$3.725M (2019)8000000
Taylor, Michaelx1 year/$3.25M (2019)4500000
Strickland, Hunterx1 year/$1.3M (2019)2500000
Elias, Roenisx1 year/$910,000 (2019)1300000
Guerra, Javyx1 year/$800,000 (2019)1200000
Difo, Wilmerx1 year/$581,100 (2019)800000
Ross, Joex1 year/$1M (2019)1400000
Glover, Kodax1 year/$564,300 (2019)750000
Barrett, Aaronx1 year/minor league750000

Total of  $21,200,000 for all 9 players, assuming that we tender all 9 and that my estimates are close.  Cot’s total estimate for our 9 arb players is  $19,750,000 while MLBtraderumors is  $19,950,000; i’m a bit heavy on my estimates, mostly with what Michael A Taylor would fetch in arbitration.

We’ll do a non-tender post later on, but suffice it to say that between options crunches and 2019 performance of some of these players, we may “save” a few million in projected payroll here.

Pre Arbitration MLB players for 2020 – 16

Player2020 25-man prediction?Current or 2019 Contract
Fedde, Erickx1yr Minor League deal (19)
Suero, Wanderx1 year/$562,500 (2019)
Williams, Austen1yr Minor League deal (19)
Soto, Juanx1 year/$578,300 (2019)
Robles, Victorx1 year/$557,800 (2019)
Sanchez, Adrianx1yr Minor League deal (19)
Voth, Austinx1yr Minor League deal (19)
McGowin, Dustin1yr Minor League deal (19)
Read, Raudyx1yr Minor League deal (19)
Stevenson, Andrew1 year/$559,100 (2019)
Bourque, Jamesx1yr Minor League deal (19)
Rainey, Tannerx1yr Minor League deal (19)
Noll, Jake1 year/$555,000 (2019)
Barrera, Tres1yr Minor League deal (19)
Kieboom, Carterx1yr Minor League deal (19)
Braymer, Ben1yr Minor League Deal (20)

More than half the existing 40-man roster are pre-arb.  Instead of trying to guess what salary they’ll get assigned, we assume that the 11 pre-arb players required to fill out a 26-man each earn $580k, for a total of  $6,380,000.

Non-active roster 40-man players – 14

At some point we’ll assume we’ll have a full 40-man roster, with the remaining 14 players each estimated at $150k.  14*150k = $2,100,000.

then, we have to add in a benefits estimate of $15,000,000 for the team.

that gives us a grand total current payroll estimate for 2020 of:

82022709<-- under contract
21200000<-- arb
6380000<-- pre arb
2100000<-- 40-man
15000000<-- benefits
126702709<-- total payroll estimate right now
208000000<-- Luxury tax cap for 2020
81297291<-- room under cap right now

So we’re right around $126M in committed dollars right now, and we have about $81M to play with in the FA market.

Coincidentally i’m not the only one doing this analysis: i’m roughly $855k off from Cots’ estimates and pretty close to other Nats bloggers doing the same.

plenty of room to give Strasburg and Rendon $35M each!  (just kidding; probably only really possible to get one or the other and still handle all our other needs).



Written by Todd Boss

November 25th, 2019 at 1:40 pm

11 Responses to 'Nats 2020 Payroll Projections: how much do we have to spend this off-season?'

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  1. I thought that the hit against the CBT was calculated on a pro-rated basis. Looking especially at Adam Eaton here – although admittedly if the option wasn’t assumed then picking up the option would be at full value.

    I don’t know why anyone assumes that the Nationals are planning to stay under the CBT. Getting under it in 2019 resets the penalty levels to a low level and maximizes the comp picks should one or both of the QO players leave. The team has shown little hesitation to go over the CBT in the past. With money coming off the books soon, the Nationals can make long term investments without committing to exceeding the CBT indefinitely.

    John C.

    25 Nov 19 at 4:49 pm

  2. I totally agree with John — between the reset from staying under the CBT in ’19 and the additional postseason revenue in “real dollars,” I don’t expect the Nats to be constrained by the CBT in ’20, and probably not in ’21, if they see opportunities to continue competing for championships.

    One of the real takeaways from ’19 is that the really important thing is to make the playoffs; then ANYTHING can happen. There was nothing fluky about the Nats’ win — as Boz noted in his chat yesterday, the Nats beat teams collectively with the most wins in the history of the playoffs, plus their record after the first 50 games was better than all of them. That said, all the pieces certainly fell into place, with the five wins in elimination games. You can’t “expect” to replicate that type of clutch run.

    There’s a reason that no team has repeated in two decades, no matter what pieces you have. The ’19 Astros were better on paper than the ’17 ones. So we shouldn’t “expect” the Nats to win it again. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try; more that they should try to set up for multiple opportunities, like the Giants in ’10/’12/’14. That ’14 team in particular wasn’t that great (as we know), but it made the playoffs and took advantage of the opportunities with its battle-tested guys.

    If the Nats do go over the CBT in ’20, they’ve got a fair amount of money potentially coming off the books next offseason with Eaton, Sanchez, Doolittle, and Suzuki. After ’21 it will be Max. They’ll either have to bring back some of these guys or replace them with more above-average players, but the point is that they’ll have some built-in budget flexibility in both offseasons, even if they have to break the bank this year to bring back Stras and Rendon . . . or comparable replacements.


    26 Nov 19 at 5:18 am

  3. I will add that I don’t think the Nats will particularly have to go over the tax line if they don’t/aren’t able to bring back both Stras and Rendon. If they do, I don’t think it will be quite $35M each, but I would guess it would be a collective cap hit of $62-65M.

    Frankly, I’ll be surprised if Stras leaves, so bank $30-32M against the cap to start. There’s no one else out there among the hitters anywhere close to Rendon’s price range, though. There’s also no one else out there I would want at the plate in Game 7 of the World Series, so you get what you pay for.

    Do the Nats go big, or sorta big, if Rendon leaves and go for injury-prone Donaldson or low-contact Moose? Or do they go with Kieboom at 3B and spend less for someone at 2B? I’m hoping they bring back Cabrera either way, but if Rendon leaves, maybe they consider bringing back Dozier as well, although for less than $9M.

    Another thing to remember is that they don’t have to fill all of their holes with FA signings. If it’s me, Taylor and Fedde are available for trade, and they’ve also got a large collection of minor-league arms from which to deal. Individually, these trade pieces might not bring much, but three or four together might net someone of note.


    26 Nov 19 at 8:24 am

  4. OH, man I forgot to include deferred payments on the worksheet. One question I have is this: we pay buyouts on contracts for Gomes, Zimmerman, etc; does that money go against 2020? Or 2019?

    good points on CBT. Honestly, when teams like Chicago, Boston and the f*cking Yankees cry poor and say they have to stay under it i just assume that every team now considers it a salary cap. Its continually amazing to me that the MLBPA so badly screwed themselves by allowing this tax line to go into place so that they could get a couple more perks for their 10-year veterans. Another conversation.

    however; if the team were to buy Stras and Rendon and add $70M or so of payroll just with those two … then they go out and spend another $20 or so to get all the other parts they need … they’re not getting under the line anytime soon. Look at who comes off the books next year: Sanchez, Eaton, doolittle, Suzuki. that’s four core starters totalling about $30m. Who do we have internally to replace those guys? Nooooobooody. Our farm system is barren. I see no corner outfielder, no catcher, no closer. So we’re buying/trading for all those assets, and i daresay its going to cost more than $30M to buy replacements.

    Maybe you’re right; maybe the ownership doesn’t care and wants to blast it out. What evidence do we have that they have that appetite? I mean, they went through hell and high water to get under the cap two season ago and failed to be come a 2-time loser … and when they went over barely the season before it cost an Ass’t GM his job for cap mismanagement. If the team was willing to blast it out a few years ago, why didn’t they go up to 240M or 250M? No instead they acted all along as if they were trying to stay under.

    Todd Boss

    26 Nov 19 at 11:40 am

  5. First — there is NO reason for the Nats to be restrained by the CBT. After the reset, they can basically spend with impunity for two more years without serious penalty. And I do think winning will loosening the purse strings a bit. It may also “help” having such a significant opponent in the Braves within the division, a bogeyman that Rizzo can use as leverage to get the Lerners to spend.

    The question then becomes spending smartly. Yes, the Nats could bring back both Stras and Rendon and still be able to fill out the rest of the roster, albeit likely not still under the CBT, at least not in 2020. I think the big decision is on Rendon. I’m guessing there is more or less mutual agreement on Stras’s return. So that’s the root question: are the Nats a better team with Rendon, or with more budget flexibility?


    26 Nov 19 at 1:38 pm

  6. KW. No argument that we all know that the billionare owners of this team CAN increase. They could have increased with impugnity this whole decade really.

    What prior evidence do we have that this ownership group has the appetite to do that?

    Boston? Yes; they had a $240M payroll this year.
    New York? Sure; they’ve shown they’re willing to blow it out.
    Los Angeles Dodgers? Yeah; they had a frigging $282M payroll a few years back.

    Washington? no evidence that they’re willing to “blow it out.” when they did go over the last two years, it seemed like it was a mistake, not a conscious decision.

    Todd Boss

    27 Nov 19 at 9:48 am

  7. It’s not the tax on going over the threshold that hurts, it’s the loss of picks and international money that really kills you.

    Without international money, we don’t have Juan Soto and Victor Robles.

    Mark L

    27 Nov 19 at 10:08 am

  8. I don’t think the Nats would have to go way over. I think collectively, the bill to keep both Stras and Rendon would be around $65M. They will need $20-25M to fill out the rest of the roster, totaling $85-90M on free agents — putting them just $5-10M over the CBT line. I would not want them to skimp to stay under, like going with Difo over bringing back Cabrera. But they might if they started doing that dance.

    Anyway, if I was Rizzo, my argument with the Lerners would be that this is just a one-year overrun, predicated on staying championship-caliber. As noted above, there are a bunch of guys coming off the books after ’20 (although as Todd noted, without a lot of internal replacements available), then the $28M hit on Max drops after ’21.

    Can the Nats win another title without Rendon? Yes. Would it be harder without him? Yes. It’s very unlikely they would have won, or even advanced to the WS, without him this season. If he leaves, though, but Stras stays, they do have a lot of cash to play with and still be under the CBT, something close to $50M. Moose and Ryu together (both Boras clients, BTW) would total 7.6 fWAR and offset TTB’s 7.0, at least theoretically. Maybe the Nats are in a position to add Walt Harris if Rendon leaves, but probably not if he returns.

    I’m not nearly as down on the chances of Rendon returning as a lot of folks are. I’d say that there’s still a better than 50% chance that he’s back. We’ll see. It would be very interesting to know Rizzo’s contingency plans, though!


    27 Nov 19 at 11:43 am

  9. Spending on scouting and player development is pennies on the dollar. The Nationals would do well to capital reinvest on domestic (US) and international scouting. The former, to improve and already improving draft performance; the latter, to expand a highly successful international scouting.

    Perhaps it’s great to have a lot more allotment to spend on international signees. But Juan Soto cost the Nationals 1.6 million and Gilbert Lara cost the Brewers 4.1 million. Just as Yasel Antuna was 3.7 million while Luis Garcia was 1.3 million. And more impressively, Rey Lopez was 15K and Victor Robles, 225K.

    A few other thoughts on what is to come:

    1) I don’t buy the Rizzo is on his honeymoon talk. There is no way that Mike Rizzo would have stepped away from the hot stove until his 40-man for 2020 is in the can. He could just as soon have scheduled a honeymoon for late January.

    2) I can’t help but think the Nationals are at a point of several signings/deals that are to be triggered in cascade. Rizzo is too quiet, and there are certain players to whom the Nationals have not at all been linked. Rizzo is too proactive.

    3) I think the configuration of the team has been predestined as a veteran group, with key selective youngsters. There is no way this team will not have an experienced veteran or someone exceptional on defense behind the plate to pair with Suzuki. I’ve written here before about Posey as a target (who would then also be a replacement for Suzuki coming off the books and a mentor for Barrera or Reetz or (insert trade target here). And it would not be so far fetched (though it would be for rivalry reasons) to envision a Wilson Ramos return, or for that matter, the return of Pedro Severino.

    4) I’m alone in this, yes, but I had me a sad moment for the signing away of Marmolejos, the left handed first baseman, by the Mariners. With nine rosters spots with which to protect anyone more than Ben Braymer, I can’t help but think of what a cheap option he might have been as opposed to the available options. And by the way, I will never understand how Adam Lind could disappear after the year he had with the Nationals in 2017. Domestic violence abusers get more chances to return than he has…

    5) The early free agent signing periods appear to be for the (perceived) overpays, the players teams target and snag to avoid a slower developing bidding war. Naturally I would scratch my head at the Pomeranz deal, likely the most years since Corbin. But then I remember how I fell out of my chair over what the Rangers paid Lance Lynn. Oh well. We’re just fans, and that’s why they get the bucks.

    6) I love Paul Menhart, but I’d love it if the Nats found a way to bring Ray Searage into the organization. If you can’t have too much pitching, then you can’t have too many pitching whisperers.

    7) On replacements – I can’t yet give up on Yadiel Hernandez as a corner outfielder to replace Eaton, or even Stevenson (or Taylor) for that matter. I just think Taylor is going to get traded this winter, as may Yadi. If not, only an injury away (to anyone in the outfield) from getting the chance to get AB. And all three of the starters have had long stretches of being out, in their careers. I’m also confident that in 2020, some starter in the Nats system will establish himself as a #4 to replace Sanchez. Will Jackson Rutledge be ready in 2021? Will Cronin (Doolittle)? All low cost options.

    I do not at all agree that the farm system is barren, only undervalued by many. The Blue Jays did not think they were giving away Hudson, nor did the Mariners believe they were pawning off a young lefty who had closed and was controllable. They were satisfied with prospects that many thought little of. The same Mariners who just brought in Marmolejos used our farm system’s Guilbeau and Adams last year, the latter establishing a secure place for 2020.


    27 Nov 19 at 3:39 pm

  10. Great signing by the Nats with Gomes. Very affordable and gives Tres Barrera another year to develop. With the usual shortage of catchers in baseball this stabilizes the Nats for awhile.

    Mark L

    28 Nov 19 at 10:27 am

  11. Agreed. Nice job. I like that the deal is incentivized.

    Realmuto FA next year.

    Roster 32.


    28 Nov 19 at 12:51 pm

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