Matt Swartz has a very good model estimating what arbitration-eligible players will earn, and he has released his estimates for 2016 today on MLB Trade Rumors. Last year, Swartz ended up within $1.2 million of the $28.5 million the Oakland Athletics actually paid to their arbitration eligible players. The A's have 15 players eligible for arbitration, though it's a good bet that three or four will not be tendered a contract for next season.
So let's update the payroll projection for the next three seasons to get a sense of what moves the A's can make in free agency or what salaries the A's could pick up in trades. The only players on the table should be players that have received a multi-year contract or players that are in or will probably reach free agency by 2018:
|Oakland A's 25-man and contracted players payroll projection|
|Player||2016 (Swartz est.)||2017||2018||Type|
|Position Players||Coco Crisp||$11,000,000||Buyout||Contract|
|Josh Reddick||$7,000,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Sam Fuld||$2,300,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Brett Lawrie||$3,900,000||$6,000,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Danny Valencia||$3,400,000||$6,000,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Eric Sogard||$1,700,000||$2,500,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Stephen Vogt||$515,000||$3,000,000||$6,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Billy Burns||$515,000||$522,500||$3,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Mark Canha||$515,000||$522,500||$3,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Marcus Semien||$515,000||$522,500||$3,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Josh Phegley||$515,000||$522,500||$3,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Pre-arb Position Player 1||$515,000||$522,500||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 2||$522,500||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 3||$522,500||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 4||$522,500||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 5||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 6||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 7||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Position Player 8||$530,000||Minimum|
|Starting Pitchers||Jesse Chavez||$4,700,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Sonny Gray||$515,000||$5,000,000||$10,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Jesse Hahn||$515,000||$522,500||$2,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Kendall Graveman||$515,000||$522,500||$2,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Chris Bassitt||$515,000||$522,500||$2,000,000||Arb Est.|
|A.J. Griffin||$515,000||$522,500||$530,000||Arb Est.|
|Pre-arb Starting PItcher 1||$515,000||$522,500||Minimum|
|Relief Pitchers||Fernando Abad||$1,500,000||$2,000,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Fernando Rodriguez||$1,300,000||$2,000,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Jarrod Parker||$850,000||$2,000,000||FA||Arb Est.|
|Drew Pomeranz||$1,300,000||$2,000,000||$3,000,000||Arb Est.|
|Pre-arb Relief Pitcher 1||$515,000||$522,500||$530,000||Arb Est.|
|Pre-arb Relief Pitcher 2||$530,000||Minimum|
|Pre-arb Relief Pitcher 3||$530,000||Minimum|
|Coco Crisp (Buyout)||$750,000|
|September callups (15)||$1,266,393||$1,284,836||$1,303,279|
I have made a few changes since I made my last guess at this back in July, but the total numbers are generally where they were back then. This time, I'm going to guess that Ike Davis is a candidate to be non-tendered (though I list what Swartz estimates would be his salary if it is offered), but that is offset by the addition of Danny Valencia to the payroll for 2016 and 2017.
A.J. Griffin is listed because he actually will be eligible for arbitration after effectively spending the year on the major league disabled list. Swartz estimates he will receive the minimum salary after spending most of the last two years recovering either from Tommy John surgery or a shoulder issue.
Dan Otero is going to fall just shy of becoming a Super 2 player thanks to all the time he spent on optional assignment with Triple-A Nashville, and so does not show up in this projection because he can still be put on optional assignment next year.
Your favorite player that ended the year with less than one year of service time is excluded because there is a good deal of uncertainty whether that player will be on the 25-man roster long enough to reach Super Two status in 2018. For example, Jake Smolinski may well end up sticking on the big league roster for 2016 and 2017, or he could be optioned for just enough time to miss that significant arbitration raise.
Let me mention who can't be optioned out next year, players who are either out of options or can refuse a minor league assignment because they have exceeded five years service time:
- Position players: Ike Davis, Sam Fuld, Danny Valencia, Stephen Vogt, Jason Pridie, Coco Crisp, Billy Butler, Josh Reddick, Craig Gentry, Bryan Anderson
- Starting pitchers: Jesse Chavez, Felix Doubront, Sean Nolin
- Relievers: Fernando Abad, Fernando Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz, Arnold Leon, Evan Scribner
So there's around $20-40 million of payroll room for at least the next three years, if payroll is going to be in the $80-100 million range, perhaps enough to sign Josh Reddick to that extension, add a starting pitcher like Scott Kazmir, and then open the door for a surprise free agent signing or two. However, keep in mind that adding more payroll now limits flexibility for later, so maxing out payroll is not necessarily the goal for the offseason.
2017 and 2018 is about the time when at least some of the prospects in Double-A and High-A, such as Sean Manaea and Jacob Nottingham, could begin to replace the older, more-expensive-but-still-valuable-in-trade players ahead of them in the big league club.
There's still the significant matter of probably needing two more outfielders, preferably sooner rather than later. It's not clear whether Coco Crisp is even going to be on the roster next year or if the A's will eat his salary thanks to his neck problems, and I still wonder if Coco Crisp or Sam Fuld can put together a strong season on offense.
So there's lots of room to maneuver between now and the start of spring training. I have little doubt this offseason will be a busy one for the Oakland A's.