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A’s payroll update: It finally went up!

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Still down from the last couple years, but up from January

Division Series - Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics - Game One
Bullpen Dad is happy
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s suddenly had a full offseason, reeling off a rapid series of late moves to upgrade their roster. They signed four free agents in the span of five days in mid-February, shelling out a notable amount of money after spending three months holding all their chips.

Let’s catch up to the last time we checked in with the team’s budget. The A’s opened the 2020 season with a $92 million payroll, but after chopping 10 free agents off the books they spent most of this winter sitting around $72 million for their 26-man roster. Then they made their big Elvis Andrus trade, which cut a few mill off the top due to the removal of Khris Davis, and they used those savings to sign Mike Fiers.

At that point they were still around $72 million, and were newly armed with a bunch of cash the Rangers sent over as part of the Andrus deal. That’s when the latest shopping spree began.

Now there are 18 players under contract for more than the minimum. A few of them aren’t fully guaranteed because they were arbitration settlements, but let’s leave that aside for now and assume everyone is staying. Rosenthal’s $11 million salary is mostly deferred, and only $3 million of it is due in 2021, so that’s all we’re counting here.

  • Elvis Andrus: $14m
  • Stephen Piscotty: $7.58m
  • Mark Canha: $6.925m
  • Matt Chapman: $6.49m
  • Sean Manaea: $5.95m
  • Matt Olson: $5m
  • Chris Bassitt: $4.9m
  • Jake Diekman: $4m
  • Mike Fiers: $3.5m
  • Trevor Rosenthal: $3m (another $8m deferred)
  • Yusmeiro Petit: $2.55m
  • Chad Pinder: $2.275m
  • Mitch Moreland: $2.25m
  • Sergio Romo: $2.25m
  • Frankie Montas: $1.8m
  • Tony Kemp: $1.05m
  • Lou Trivino: $0.9125m
  • Burch Smith: $0.705m

That adds up to just over $75.1 million.

With more veteran additions locked in, we don’t need to factor in as many minimum-salary placeholder spots to fill out the rest of the roster. There will still be a few pre-arbitration players, like Ramon Laureano and Sean Murphy and recent acquisition Adam Kolarek, but now we only need to account for eight minimum-salary spots on top of the above list of contracts. That comes out a little under $5 million.

Put it all together, and the A’s will pay around $80 million for their newly upgraded 26-man roster. That’s a bump from where they were last month, though still far below last season. The increase is around $8 million, and according to Cots they are getting $6.25 million of their $13.5 million from the Rangers this year (with the rest next year), so they so appear to have gone slightly over the cash infusion they got in the Andrus trade.

Not only did the A’s finally spend some money, but they spent it well.

2022 and beyond

Another consideration is the future salary added. Andrus is still due $14 million in 2022, with around half paid for by Texas, and Rosenthal is due $3 million in 2022 and another $5 million in 2023 even though he won’t be on the team anymore in either season.

With money especially tight this winter, the A’s used an alternate strategy to capitalize on their time-sensitive window of contention. They effectively put their purchases on the credit card, pushing the bill until later. They got the players they needed now while spending almost no extra cash, and one way they did so was by taking on extra salary commitments for next year.

They’ll have to deal with the repercussions of that decision down the road, but for now they’re not wasting time maximizing the prime years of the Matts and the rest of their star core.