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A’s payroll nets out even after Andrus and Fiers moves, but now with money to spend

Oakland addresses two roster needs without adding 2021 salary, and picked up extra cash in the process

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s finally made a couple of offseason moves over the weekend. They traded away their highest-paid player, got back a new highest-paid player in his place, and also re-signed one of their 10 free agents.

These transactions had significant effects on the team’s tight payroll, so let’s take an updated look. Before this all started, Oakland was paying around $72 million for their 26-man roster, or slightly over. They hadn’t committed a single dollar to adding an MLB player from outside the organization.

The A’s now have 14 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.

  • 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
  • Chad Pinder: $2.275m
  • Frankie Montas: $1.8m
  • Tony Kemp: $1.05m
  • Lou Trivino: $0.9125m
  • Burch Smith: $0.705m

That adds up to around $65.1 million.

On top of that list, there are 12 more roster spots to fill. That includes pre-arbitration players like Ramon Laureano, Sean Murphy, and Jesús Luzardo, as well as whoever wins the backup catcher job and the last spots in the bullpen. The MLB minimum salary is $570,500, and some will get a few bucks more, which works out to something in the neighborhood of $7 million.

Add it up, and the A’s payroll after picking up a shortstop and a veteran starting pitcher is ... around $72 million, or slightly over. They netted out almost exactly even after these moves but filled two needs on their roster, thanks to shedding the contract of Khris Davis, who is mired in a two-year slump and had lost his place in the everyday lineup.

But Oakland gave up more than just Davis in the trade, also parting with a pair of prospects, and that helped them get back something else useful — a stack of cash, in the range of $13.5 million. After spending all winter strapped financially and unwilling to spend, they will reportedly use that windfall as an opportunity to upgrade their bullpen, meaning that when all is said and done the final payroll will presumably finish north of the current $72 million mark. (Note that not all the acquired money is available this year.)

Yes, they could have perhaps found other options who didn’t require selling off young catcher Jonah Heim, but if they sign an impactful free agent with the money they acquired then it will effectively work out like they traded Heim for that new player. They also added 2022 salary since Andrus has another year under contract, but they’ll deal with that next year when they aren’t coming off an unprecedented season with no ticket sales.

Of course, the coolest thing would have been to see the A’s simply set a higher budget in the first place, like last year’s $92 million Opening Day price tag, but the situation dictated differently so these are the parameters they’re working under. Within the restriction of not adding 2021 salary, they got a lot done.

There’s still over a week to go before spring training. The payroll is the same as it’s been all winter, but there are a couple new names on it at key positions, and for the first time in months there’s the realistic possibility of seeing a couple more additions join them.