A Quick Payroll Update After the Josh Bell Trade

I had planned on providing a more in-depth payroll breakdown later in the offseason, likely somewhere after the New Year. After Josh Bell—the team’s projected second-highest paid player—was traded on Christmas Eve, I thought I would provide a quick update on where my projection sits right now. On the heels of some of Ben Cherington’s candid (for him) comments bracing fans for more trades, I may try and hold that more in-depth look as long as I can.

As I mentioned, Bell was projected to be the team’s second highest paid player—anywhere between $5.1M and $7.2M, based on MLB Trade Rumors’ estimates. I’ve been using the highest projections for all the remaining players yet to agree to a contract—nine as of now—so I had Bell penciled in for the $7.2M salary before he was shipped off. There seem to be reports floating around that he had agreed on a $6M salary. I’m not sure where that came from, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be based on anything that was actually reported, so estimates definitely seem to be the safe bet.

When estimating payroll for an upcoming season, I personally project a 40-man roster from the pool of players strictly currently in the organization and calculate a payroll based on what that ultimately looks like. I had Bell starting at first base, with Colin Moran on the bench. Bell’s departure opened up a starting position for Moran, but also a bench spot in the process. To fill that, I recalled Jared Oliva and slotted him at $580,500—a 3% raise on his Major League minimum salary of $563,500 from last season. This left an opening at the bottom of the Reserve List, where I simply slotted in Wil Crowe at $93,000—the Major League minimum for a player in the minors with Major League experience. While I can see the argument for placing Crowe into the starting rotation, I figured that big-league experience of just three starts in 2020, a lack of success in those starts, and a full rotation at the moment was enough to reasonably leave him down for now. This can be revisited, but at the moment he’ll cancel out Oliva’s minor league salary, leaving just the difference in Bell’s departing salary and Oliva’s salary as his replacement.

Before the trade, I was projecting a payroll of $55,763,200. Currently, the projection sits at $49,143,700, a difference of $6,619,500. As I mentioned already, I have been using the highest estimates from Trade Rumors, so this is probably on the higher side. At the two lower tiers, projections come in at just $41,943,700 and $41,243,700, respectively.

With more trades from the pool of remaining arbitration cases the most probable—thus the highest projected salaries—and likely little movement on the free agent market, final totals going into 2021 could get to historically low levels.

Stay tuned