Last year the Seattle Mariners made the biggest signing of the offseason, forking over $240 million for the privilege of employing Robinson Cano for ten years. It was speculated at the time that this signaled some kind of “going for it,” and that payroll would be stretched to accomodate more high-quality players as the Mariners made a run at the AL West. Instead, the M’s complained about being out of budget room, signing mostly low-risk reclamation guys like Corey Hart. They stretched late and found room for Fernando Rodney. Yeah, not the most efficient spending strategy.
It seemed off. How could the team spend so much on one guy while seemingly not thinking until after the fact that they wouldn’t be able to afford the needed complimentary parts? Rodney showed that the team could stretch the budget, but that they didn’t necessarily want to. This came up again in July when the M’s absorbed the remainder of Kendrys Morales‘s contract. There were signs the budget could expand, but that the team didn’t feel they had to spend with urgency.
87 wins later and we have this. Mariners president Kevin Mather went on Brock and Salk yesterday and gave a really great interview, speaking candidly about the trade deadline, the competitive nature of the 2014 season, and ownership’s checkbooks. Turns out the Mariners went over their 2014 budget by roughly one Fernando Rodney contract. Turns out all the winning made that matter a whole lot less. Ownership likes winning. And winning means more money from ownership.
The Mariners set aside $91 million for player payroll this season, but ended up at $107 million as the team chased upgrades and set out to compete with Cano in their lineup. Did this upset ownership? Not one bit, we’re told. In fact, they aren’t worried about bringing the budget back. Their main concern, instead, is adding six wins to the 2015 team.
Wins cost money. Like, $6 million per win, at the least, on the free agent market. That doesn’t mean the M’s are committed to a 2015 budget in the $140 million range. It doesn’t appear the Mariners are poised for a drastic, Dodgers-style spending increase, or that the goal is to exclusively add wins through free agency. Rather, this seems a simple acknowledgement that payroll isn’t going to decrease. Which should be a given, since, you know, 87 wins.
Maybe the budget for 2015 is $110 million, or maybe it’s $130 million. Maybe it’s $107 million, with name-brand exceptions for a Victor Martinez or a Jon Lester who’s willing to sign on with Seattle. The budget holds, unless V-Mart wants to play here. Or maybe ownership has approved an additional $50 million in budget space, to be spent incrementally or all at once. Maybe they don’t care, as long as the team wins 95 games. We can’t know, until things have happened.
So here we are, enjoying the opening overtures of the 2014 playoffs, thinking about the next Mariners team and their budget. We don’t know what it will be, or how the team will use it. All we have is an assurance that it won’t be a hindrance. We’ll see how this plays out.