WTNYSeptember 30, 2003
Payrolls in 2004
By Bryan Smith

Will your team be spending or selling this offseason? Today's article is a primer on what 15 teams will be doing as a whole in the winter months.

Anaheim- BUYERS- New owner Arturo Moreno is going to spend a lot of money this offseason. The team has spoken about reaching the $90M mark, which is about $20M more than this season. Miguel Tejada is expected to sign here, and the team will also pursue a top starting pitcher free agent. The team will still be smart fiscally, and should non-tender Adam Kennedy when Tejada jumps aboard. Next season expect the Angels to be contenders again, thanks to Tejada protecting Garret Anderson, and an improved starting staff.

ARIZONA-SELLERS- En route to a World Series championship, Jerry Colangelo made some bad decisions. His choices to defer millions of dollars in contracts will hurt the team next season, as they'll have to sell. Expect Junior Spivey and Matt Mantei to be the first one's out the door. The team will investigate trading Curt Schilling, because they will not re-sign him after 2004. Any spare money should be spend acquiring a top-notch right fielder, the only real hole on offense.

ATLANTA- SELLERS- The problem with corporate ownership will be shown with the upcoming Braves offseason. Ya think AOL/Time Warner's troubles correlate to the Braves dropping payroll. Oh yeah. Luckily, the team does not need to trade players to lose payroll, just let some go. Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Darren Holmes, Javy Lopez, and Vinny Castilla combined to make salaries in the $43M range in 2003, and all of them are free agents after the playoffs. Maddux will surely bolt, and I doubt Sheffield will turn down the Yankees. Lopez could be headed elsewhere due to Johnny Estrada, and Darren Holmes will not get big-time money. The Braves may be a player in the free agent market, but there is no way that payroll will near $100M in 2004.

Baltimore- BUYERS- Peter Angelos is finally putting money into his product, now that Major League Baseball threatens to put a team in Washington D.C.. Actually, the team had tons of contracts that didn't matter last year, and this team may have more spending money than anyone else. The Orioles could possibly offer Guerrero $20M per year, and have money to fill the rest of their holes. Albert Belle and Scott Erickson will be stricken from the record books next season, and Baltimore should finally turn a corner.

Boston- BUYERS- Theo Epstein's fantastic season deserves a lot of credit, and may be the reason the team boosts payroll next season. The team surpassed a $100M payroll last year, and should do the same next season. Epstein is going to pursue such starters as Javier Vazquez and Curt Schilling, and probably won't need to take on big salary. And think that this team will be paying Pedro, Nomar, and Manny somewhere in the $50M range. The Red Sox need to be buyers to compete with the Yankees, and as long as Yawkey Way stays crowded, John Henry won't complain.

Chicago Cubs- BUYERS- The Cubs will have roughly $15-20M to spend on players not signed next season, although who knows where they'll spend the money. Miguel Tejada will likely end up in Anaheim, and Andy Pettite should be staying in New York. Pursuing Jose Vidro and Javier Vazquez in a blockbuster trade is one idea, stocking the team with mid-level veterans like Luis Castillo and Ugueth Urbina is another. But don't test Jim Hendry's creativity, he's done enough to prove he'll do anything to win.

Chicago White Sox- NEITHER- The Sox should be looking to sign from within this season, and little else. Rumors have it that Bartolo Colon is about to re-sign, and he's Ken Williams' top priority. The team also wants to re-sign Roberto and Sandy Alomar, Tom Gordon, and possibly Carl Everett. Either Carlos Lee or Paul Konerko should be traded, and Carlos could demand much higher value. But its Frank Thomas that determines the future of the club: will he stay in Chicago for $8M in 2004?

Cincinnati Reds- NEITHER- I put neither because the team already did all of its selling out. This is a club that could legitimately compete in 2004, but management would need to boost payroll about $7M. That won't happen. The fact that Barry Larkin re-signed baffles me, but the Reds often do. Can this team afford Jason La Rue and Richie Sexson, probably not. Are they stuck with them? Quite possibly. Dumping Casey to the Dodgers and signing Kevin Millwood could make this team a contender next season. Instead, they'll be in a war for last place.

Cleveland- NEITHER- Ownership is waiting until the rebuilding plan is over until they allow a boost in payroll. Instead, don't be surprised if the payroll is a little less next season. Danys Baez and Ellis Burks should be goners, giving the team money to fill holes with. Signing a short-term 2B/3B plug is a good idea, as is a innings-eater or two for the rotation. Mark Shapiro is a genius GM, and the Indians should be increasing payroll and wins by 2006.

Colorado Rockies- NEITHER- Don't expect a big difference in Rockie payroll next season. The team should trade Jay Payton away for pitching, allowing Rene Reyes a starting job. Garrett Atkins is ready to start at third, and an improved Mark Bellhorn should be present next year as well. This team needs some starters to step up, and could use a solid closer. But until Todd Helton or Larry Walker stop congesting the payroll, this team will be limited.

DETROIT- NEITHER- Well, it can't get much lower, and there's no way its getting higher. I'll be writing an article later in the week on this team, but there really is no bright spot in the future. They lose the big Dean Palmer contract this season, and stop paying Damion Easley next year. The Tigers should be present in the free agent market, but won't be spending more than $5-10M on roster fillers.

Florida Marlins- BUYERS- I say this hesitantly. The Marlins were buyers during this season, and their payroll won't increase too much next season. But ownership is making strides to improve this team, and doing everything to make baseball work in Florida. I would trade Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, and Brad Penny, to make room for future arbitration dollars. Next year Miguel Cabrera becomes a star...you've been warned.

Houston Astros- SELLERS- Drayton McLane is in financial trouble, and the Astros will suffer as a result. Either Billy Wagner or Richard Hidalgo will be traded this offseason, and there's a possibility both get dealt. Don't expect Brad Ausmus to be re-signed, unless he takes really low numbers. Wagner can easily be replaced by Dotel, and Hidalgo by Jason Lane. To acquire one of these players, the Astros need to add serious starting pitching depth. If Houston hadn't pitched Jeriome Robertson and Ron Villone against Milwaukee, maybe the Cubs wouldn't be in Atlanta right now.

Kansas City- BUYERS- David Glass proved if fans come watch, he'll treat them with respect. The team won't be re-signing Raul Ibanez, but expect Carlos Beltran to be retained. There's a lot of veteran depth on this team, and it will be interesting to watch the future of Rondell White, Joe Randa, Brent Mayne, Brian Anderson, Graeme Lloyd, Curt Leskanic, Al Levine, and Jason Grimsley.

Los Angeles- NEITHER- Until a rich ownership group takes over this team, they won't be adding payroll. Yet the team has the responsibility to adding a lineup to their repertoire, because the pitching is already there. My advice to Dan Evans would be to pursue Richie Sexson will all of his power. The team must also hang onto Hideo Nomo, whom has proven to be the perfect Dodger Stadium pitcher.

OK, really tired....must go to bed.
2003 Playoff Division Series Predictions
Giants in 5
Cubs in 4
Yankees in 4
Red Sox in 5