The Giants’ 2018 payroll has been an Excel spreadsheet art installation thematically representative of chickens coming home to roost. It has been the perfect storm of escalating salaries exceeding performance and injuries and the Giants will have to carry these various abscesses into 2019. How bad is it?
First, the competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold will rise from $197 million this season to $206 million in 2019. Excluding arbitration cases and some choice free agents they might want to re-sign (Hundley and Holland), the Giants have firm CBT figures for the following players:
That’s $130.7 million committed to nine players, one of whom will, for sure, not be contributing much of anything next season (talking about Cueto). Factor in that nebulous $18-$20 million in player benefits and et cetera (for these purposes, I’m using $20 million), that puts the Giants at $150.7 million.
Beyond that, Samardzija and Melancon are huge question marks and certainly can’t be counted on to contribute very much over the course of the season, so that’s another $33.5 million just sitting there dragging the team down. Samardzija, Melancon, and Cueto represent 42.2% of the Giants’ $150.7 million in commitments for 2019 and 26.78% of their CBT threshold.
That’s a huge chunk of money to have tied up in pitching that won’t help them win very much in 2019 (being generous, injury-free version of Melancon and Samardzija might net the Giants 1 win above replacement), and the pending arbitration raises will eat into another chunk of the figure. Will Smith has been made a closer, which automatically inflates what he’d get in a salary arbitration and this upcoming arbitration will be his final year of arbitration. I’m not an arbitration expert, but let’s figure he gets a hefty raise off of his 2018 salary of $2.5 million and is in the $5 million range. Joe Panik and Sam Dyson might combine to cost an extra $10 million.
Hunter Strickland, Gorkys Hernandez, Kelby Tomlinson, and Josh Osich are all supposed to be arbitration eligible as well. Strickland will be in his second year of arbitration and after racking up so many saves, despite breaking his hand because of anger issues, he’ll still also get a hefty raise. Figure the latter three will amount to about $3.75 million while Strickland (let’s get wild) raises his 2018 salary of $1.55 million to something like $3.25 million (again, because of the saves, which are extremely valuable in arbitration hearings) and that’s another $7 million.
That puts the Giants at nearly $173 million for 16 players. After a 98-loss season, the Giants got creative with their payroll by stuffing it full with name brands in hopes of getting lucky. After definitively losing one arm they banked on for 2018 and two huge question marks emerging behind two others they had hoped to count on for 2018, they don’t have the luxury of approaching 2019 the same way.
As good as Rodriguez and Suarez have been, they’re still young. The big names in the lineup will be a year older. For better or worse, the Giants will need to replace Andrew McCutchen’s offense somehow. Some people might jump to the conclusion that I think the Giants should rebuild. No. I think the Giants should get creative. They have not been up to this point.
At some point, and somewhere in this roster, the Giants will have to make a tough call and move some of that certainty in one area to gain it in another and hope that by shifting their luck they can make the luck they’ve been banking on since 2015.