The Indians announced the formation of their new television network on Monday, and made a big deal of saying the proceeds from the new venture would be put in the payroll budget, raising that number to around $60 million. In 2005, the club spent an estimated $43 million on their players’ salaries. However, looking at the transactions Mark Shapiro has made this winter, it appears he has most of that money left on the table.
Cleveland lost Kevin Millwood, who signed a ridiculous five year deal with Texas, and replaced him with Paul Byrd, who is making the same $7 million as Millwood did in 2005. Bob Wickman re-upped with the club at roughly double his $2.5 million salary in 2005. The team also lost free agents Bob Howry and Scott Elarton, but signed innings eater Jason Johnson from Detroit at $3.5 million for 2006.
So, it appears before the raises being given to the younger players like Sabathia, Hafner, Martinez, etc., The Indians increased their payroll by about $4 million, leaving $13 million left for Shapiro to spend. Let’s say those raises talked about earlier add up to about $5 million, so Shapiro still has about $8 million left to dole out. Where will it go?
The front office complains about the lack of buzz surrounding the team even though they won 93 games last season. However, it is hard to create interest when your chief competition, the White Sox, has added Jim Thome and Javier Vasquez to a team that won the World Series in ’05, and you signed Paul Byrd. I’m sure the Tribe’s marketing department is wondering how to promote the ’06 Tribe.
This is not to say Shapiro should have given huge jack to guys like Burnett, Ryan, and even Millwood. Those would have been bad investments. Will this team use the $8 million or so it has to spend to obtain players from a team looking to cut payroll? There is still a month and a half before training camp opens, so there is plenty of time to upgrade the roster.
Taking low risk gambles on Danny Graves and Steve Karsay are smart moves, but they don’t create a big splash, and they certainly don’t sell tickets. Shapiro has some money, and he certainly has the smarts. Will he make a creative move to take on payroll and improve his club? Could the extra cash be spent on bringing Manny Ramirez back to the Wigwam?
Let’s see what happens in these next six weeks to see if the Indians can create a buzz going into the 2006 season.