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Where the Giants’ payroll stands, and why a trade for J.D. Martinez might be the last hope

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The Giants are probably close to max payroll for 2017, but it’s the 2018 payroll that might be the biggest problem.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Melancon is on the Giants. He will be compensated rather well. This has ramifications. And one of them might be that J.D. Martinez is the Giants’ only hope to improve the outfield.

Because the luxury tax is based on the average annual value of the salary, as well as benefits and bonuses, the Giants are already into the penalty. There was no tiptoeing around it this year, as they’ve tried to do in recent years, and they didn’t even pretend. They’ll pay a 40-percent tax on every dollar spent on salary over $195 million, and they’re already over.

Or, to dumb it down: If they sign Colby Rasmus for a one-year, $40 million contract, they would pay $40 million to him and an extra $16 million to a league slush fund. On closer inspection, I do not think they should offer that contract to Colby Rasmus.

Every player is automatically 40 percent more expensive to the Giants now, and that’s before you get to the part about California income tax being the highest in the country. Another free agent signing is unlikely right now.

In terms of raw payroll, though, here’s where the Giants are: (Figures courtesy of Baseball-Reference, Roster Resource, Spotrac, and some dude named Reuben.)

The names at the bottoms are placeholders, and I might have overshot the major league minimum by too much on some, but what’s $100,000 among friends? If you think it’s going to be Gorkys Hernandez and not Jarrett Parker, for example, pretend the words “Extra Outfielder” appear instead of Parker’s name.

So the Giants are at roughly $183 million in raw salary, but this is where I’m going to plead ignorance. They gave Melancon a huge signing bonus, with $12 million paid up front, and his actual salary next year will be $4 million. I’m counting it as $16 million for practical purposes, but there might be a reason why the Giants wanted that discrepancy. The bonus is a 2016 expense, whereas the $4 million might help the organization with their official 2017 numbers if they make an addition.

Uh, you know. Fiscal years. Amortization. Equity and IRAs. You know what I’m talking about. Write-offs. That’s what these big teams do, you know. They just write everything off.

Okay, so I’m in the dark about specifically why Melancon’s base salary is so low, and while I’m assuming it has to do with expenses in a calendar year, and I’ll just lump all that salary into next year to be save.

Now we’ll look at the team’s payroll since 2010 and see how much it increases every year.

2010 - $97,023,833
2011 - $118,198,333 (18% increase)
2012 - $131,980,298 (10% increase)
2013 - $136,908,777 (4% increase)
2014 - $149,439,474 (8% increase)
2015 - $173,179,277 (14% increase)
2016 - $172,086,611 (slight decrease)

The Giants are already more than $10 million over last season, which is just about as far as they’ll usually go. If there’s an extra $10 million in the coat pockets, I’d be surprised, and that’s not going to be enough to sign Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, or Jose Bautista, for example.

Also, keep in mind next season, when the Giants have $135 million committed to just eight roster spots.

  • Buster Posey - $21.4 million
  • Jeff Samardzija - $19.8 million
  • Hunter Pence - $18.5 million
  • Brandon Belt - $16 million
  • Brandon Crawford - $15.2 million
  • Madison Bumgarner - $12 million
  • Mark Melancon - $12 million
  • Matt Moore - $9 million (if option picked up)
  • Matt Cain - $7.5 million (if option declined)
  • Denard Span - $4 million (if option declined)

This is assuming that Johnny Cueto opts out. If he doesn’t, well, I don’t even want to know why he wouldn’t opt out. Because he loves you. You, the person reading this. He’s staying for you.

(He is not staying for you.)

In addition to those seven players, the Giants will have Joe Panik, Will Smith, and Hunter Strickland in arbitration, making millions instead of half-millions. The extensions to homegrown players were exciting and necessary, and most of them still look wise, but they weren’t cheap. Except for poor Madison Bumgarner.

That means the 2018 Giants will have to find 14 players or so for $50 million, give or take. Pre-arbitration players like Ty Blach and Mac Williamson will help, certainly. But you can guess why they didn’t want to dish out $30 million to Yoenis Cespedes. They might have to re-sign Cueto, too.

A bunch of numbers short: There ain’t gonna be a Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, or Jose Bautista this offseason.

Not unless the team is committed to blowing past the salary cap luxury tax next year and paying 40 percent over whatever contract they’ll have to offer to woo these players. None of those players really fill me with confidence as automatic, don’t-worry-about-it solutions for next year, which is what that kind of commitment would need to be.

That leaves two options for the outfield: a one-year deal, a trade for a young player on a cheap deal, or a trade for a player on a one-year deal.

More specifically, it’s these players or bust:

  • Jay Bruce
  • J.D. Martinez
  • Jarrod Dyson
  • Lorenzo Cain
  • Curtis Granderson
  • Melky Cabrera
  • lol

There are no young players on that list because any pre-arbitration player the Giants could afford to trade for with their prospects would probably be a lateral move from Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker. That goes for one-year deals to outfielders, too.

Stop looking at Melky Cabrera’s name and giggling. It’s not funny.

It’s possible the Giants would blow up next year’s payroll for the right player — say, Andrew McCutchen -- but I’m almost certain that’s the short list up there. Cross Cain off because other teams would outbid the Giants (and his name would mess up the good folks in HR). Cross Granderson off the list because the Mets prefer to keep him.

Your choice is Martinez or Bruce, basically. And Bruce isn’t very good.

So when the Giants say, “We’re okay with Parker and Williamson in left,” what they’re really saying is, “We’re not going to put all their eggs in J.D. Martinez’s basket, because that trade might not happen.”

I’m still holding out hope for J.D. Martinez. He makes waaaaay too much sense to dismiss. But he’s just about the last hope. That’s what the payrolls for 2017 and 2018 hath wrought.