St. Louis Cardinals: How Will the Cardinals Fill Their Third Base Hole?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
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St. Louis Cardinals
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Financials: How much money have the St. Louis Cardinals committed to the payroll?

There are a lot of moving parts that figure into how much the St. Louis Cardinals can afford to spend over the next few years. These parts include growing revenues, a new TV deal, arbitration projections, contract extension projections, and other payroll-related items. I’ll start by looking at the team’s payroll. Keep in mind that many of these numbers are estimates.

With payroll, the easiest part is current contracts, which are available at Spotrac and Baseball Reference. The next step involves players under team control, including renewable contracts and arbitration-eligible players. For renewable contracts, I assume the team will fill contracts at the league minimums under the new CBA, available here.

For arbitration-eligible players, the process is a little more muddy. First, I use $/fWAR to value how much a player is worth in a given season. I start with the generally accepted $8.5M/WAR for this offseason, and grow that rate at 5.5%, based on an analysis of opening day payroll inflation. While this $/WAR method is not perfect, it is a sound proxy to employ for this type of analysis.

For arbitration-eligible players who have signed a deal for 2017, I use the 25/40/62 rule to estimate their value in the free agent market once eligible, and discount that value to a projected dollar amount for each arbitration eligible season. If these players will reach free agency in 2019 or before, I use that implied free agent value if I expect the St. Louis Cardinals to keep that player once they are no longer under team control.

For players who are not arbitration-eligible this offseason, but will be in 2018 or 2019, I use Steamer Projections and an average aging curve to determine that player’s value in his first season of free agent eligibility.

For Aledmys Diaz, whose arbitration eligibility starts after his current contract expires, I assume the St. Louis Cardinals renew his deal at the same amount as his current deal, $2.5M. For Michael Wacha, I assume he gets the $3.2M he filed for, and determine his future salaries based on that amount.

I project two contract extensions over this period, both beginning in 2019. Using the aforementioned $/WAR and average aging curve, I predict the St. Louis Cardinals extend Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina at three years each, earning $11.8M and $10.1M, respectively.

I also project that some players will be non-tendered. This occurs after their projected WAR falls below zero, or they become too expensive relative to their value and opportunity cost to keep. The non-tendered player slots are highlighted in black. Notably, I do not expect Lance Lynn to be re-signed. This is mostly due to the depth of young starting pitching behind him.

I did not include every player in this payroll matrix. To fill the active roster, I assume the Cardinals will use players currently in the farm system, and thus pay the league minimum. The result is the following:

St. Louis Cardinals
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