I have a question about the possible ripple effect of the signing of Soriano based on a number of assumptions I am making.
1. My recollection is that Sternberg and the Rays do not intentionally lie or mislead the press or public about their intentions. They may be mute, or circumstances may force them to alter their initial policy, but I cannot recall an instance when they said one thing and did exactly the opposite. Yet Sternberg said the Rays were not adding any $7 million closer, and apparently they have done exactly that. Is that simply that the opportunity was too good to pass up (but they had to know that a talent such as Soriano was always available when he made the statement), or does it mean there will be some other moves that make the cost of Soriano much less in context?
2. I don't think the Rays have changed their fundamental view that it is foolish to pay big bucks to relievers no matter how good they are. Obviously paying Soriano, albeit for just one year, flies in the face of that view, and even if the difference is made up elsewhere he will receive, by Rays' standards, a disproportionate amount of the total payroll. Still, in a year when they are going all out, it might not be entirely a change of mind if they can save elsewhere and not hurt their chances.
3. Since trading for Soriano means the Rays are after the prize in 2010, it makes no sense to speculate that they are going to save money by trading any core members of the team before the season starts. So the two most expensive players, Crawford and Pena, are staying unless the return is an upgrade for 2010, most unlikely to be that and also less expensive.
4. If the trade of Burrell for Bradley happens, it has no effect on the payroll of 2010 as both are getting the same money this year. I doubt the Cubs will pay all of Bradley's 2011 salary, although perhaps they might split the payment so that some came this year and some next. I do not know if that is possible or if it is the sort of thing the Rays would consider beneficial.
5. So who does that leave, and how much can the Rays expect to save? Aybar is due $1.35 million, so the most to be saved there is under $1 million. Balfour got $1.4 million in 2009 and probably gets a raise, but is he likely to be dealt? Bartlett made almost $2 million in 2009 and is due for more. So I suppose by using Brignac the Rays could save near $2 million there. Navarro made $2.1 million so if he goes, the saving is something over $1.5 million if the replacement is minimum salary. But the big number among the small numbers is Wheeler's $3.5 million due in 2010. Wouldn't he be the most easily replaced with a cheap alternative and the biggest saving?
6. So here is the question. Does the Soriano contract mean that some combination of the above players are replaced by minimum salaried ones to total at least $4 million of Soriano's contract in savings, or do we think the Rays, when you add guaranteed increases to other players we know will be on the roster, will enter the 2010 season with a payroll approaching or even exceeding $70 million?