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Oakland A’s expect payroll to rise in 2019

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Billy Beane, David Forst, and Bob Melvin talked budget and more in Monday’s press conference.

Will there be room for Lucroy and/or Lowrie?
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Oakland A’s were the first team in at least 30 years to make the playoffs with the lowest Opening Day payroll in the majors. In 2019, they should have some more money to work with as they look to return to October.

The club held a press conference on Monday to announce the contract extensions of VP Billy Beane, GM David Forst, and manager Bob Melvin, and Beane took the opportunity to address the future of the payroll. The main takeaway is that the budget will go up next summer, though a precise new figure hasn’t yet been determined. It should also continue to rise in the following years after that.

Below are Beane’s complete comments on the topic. The whole presser is embedded at the bottom of this story, or you can click here to see it on Facebook.

We’re gonna take a little more strategic view, looking over a longer period of time instead of just one year at a time, which I think is a good way to do it. And we’re having those conversations now. To give you a simple answer, yes we anticipate the payroll going up. ...

I’m not trying to be coy or anything (about the precise amount). We’re having those discussions now, but it will certainly go up. And it will go up continually over the next year after year after year. We’ve already had that discussion. Now, how we approach it, we may want to look at it in a pool type of situation, like X amount of dollars over a five-year period, but those are all things we’re talking with John Fisher about, and myself and (David Forst). We’re having a meeting tomorrow on this exact subject.

This news gives us our first clue as to how the A’s offseason might go. They have several free agents coming off the books, a slew of youngsters looking at raises, and some important holes to fill in the roster, and the big question is how much cash they’ll have to work with in order to get everything done. We now have an initial answer, albeit a vague one: More cash than before.

Oakland only has $14 million committed to 2019 at this moment, between guaranteed contracts for outfielder Stephen Piscotty and reliever Yusmeiro Petit plus some dead money from absorbing Brandon Moss’ salary last winter. However, they also have 11 arbitration-eligible players, and the raises for DH Khris Davis and All-Star closer Blake Treinen will be significant.

If the A’s tender all of their arbitration players, and exercise their option for reliever Fernando Rodney, then Baseball-Reference calculates their 25-man payroll at $76 million already before making any new additions. They opened 2018 just shy of $70 million (before inching closer to $80 million after their midseason trades), so the status quo on its own would represent a small increase over last April. Here’s a look at the current list, including Rodney, with quick rough estimates for the arby guys (they’re just meant to add up to $49.4 million, which is the overall arby figure on B-Ref):

Name Pos $M
Stephen Piscotty OF 7.3
Yusmeiro Petit RHP 5.5
Fernando Rodney RHP 4.3
Arbitration estimates
Khris Davis DH 16.0
Mike Fiers RHP 9.0
Blake Treinen RHP 7.0
Marcus Semien SS 5.5
Kendall Graveman RHP 2.5
Liam Hendriks RHP 2.4
Sean Manaea LHP 2.0
Cory Gearrin RHP 2.0
Ryan Buchter LHP 1.3
Josh Phegley C 1.0
Ryan Dull RHP 0.7
Other stuff
11 more players -- 8.5
Moss buyout -- 1.0
TOTAL -- 76.0

Note: The $8.5 million for minimum-salary players is a B-Ref estimate. Really, though, it will need to be 13 minimum-salary players, since Graveman and Manaea will definitely be out with injuries and must be replaced. That could cost as little as $7.1 million. However, I stuck with B-Ref’s number because that way it effectively includes fellow injured starters Jharel Cotton, Andrew Triggs, and Daniel Gossett.

There’s some wiggle room. Davis could sign a long-term extension with a lighter 2019 payday, Fiers could be traded for a cheaper option, or there could be non-tenders for the likes of Gearrin, Dull, or even Graveman as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps the starting point will wind up closer to $70 million than the current mid-70s estimate.

However, a lot must be done over the next few months. All-star second baseman Jed Lowrie and trusty veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy are each free agents, and it would make a ton of sense to bring back one or both. They’re perfect fits on the team, and each could possibly be had at relative bargain prices given their mid-30s ages and flawed resumes. On top of that, the rotation desperately needs helps after being demolished by injuries all summer long.

Oakland did a great job patching together a makeshift pitching staff throughout the year, but several of the emergency additions are now free agents. That includes starters Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, and Brett Anderson, as well as relievers Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley.

During the press conference, Beane wouldn’t comment on which free agents they’re hoping to bring back. However, he did make clear that bolstering the rotation will be a priority. Whatever directions the A’s go this winter, though, one thing we can say for sure now is that the top decision-makers are in it for the long haul. With Forst inked through 2023, and Melvin through 2021 plus a team option, management can plan not just for next summer but also beyond.

To that last point, there is one more thing Beane said that should be magic to our ears. Over the last couple years he’s begun to suggest that he’d like to see the A’s reduce the constant player turnover that has become their franchise identity, and instead begin to hold on to some star players long-term. He reiterated that desire on Monday: “We’ve had to turn things over (on past rosters) and we’re hoping those days are gonna end very soon.”

The A’s reached the postseason in 2018, and there is every opportunity for them to continue doing so next year and beyond. Now they’re ready to lay out some extra cash in pursuit of that goal.

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Here’s the full press conference:

Join us live for our press conference with Billy Beane, David Forst, and Bob Melvin. #RootedInOakland

Posted by Oakland Athletics on Monday, October 29, 2018