Goessling: Nationals have a smaller payroll in 2011

Ben Goessling of MASN.com broke down the Washington Nationals payroll for 2011, and believes it will be smaller than 2010:

“They have 14 players signed for 2011, at a total cost of $51.5 million. At least two of those players – Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper – have little to no chance of being on the Opening Day roster, so we’ll say the Nationals have 12 spots accounted for. They have three arbitration cases in John Lannan, Michael Morse and Doug Slaten, and we’ll assume a rough cost of $5 million or so for those players, though that may be a touch high. But if we plan for $5 million being gone, the Nationals are still only at $56.5 million, with 10 pre-arbitration spots to fill. They can likely get those players signed for another $5 million (which could again be a touch high). Even then, though, the payroll would be $61.5 million, or nearly $5 million less than last year’s payroll.”

One thing for sure is that the Nationals roster is far less bloated than it was last season. The club entered 2010 with several large expiring contracts that were the last remnants of the Jim Bowden era, and with them out of the way Washington is younger, more fresh, and ready to prove themselves with both their gloves and their bats. 

Goessling’s math here looks correct. The club has $51.4 million allocated this season before arbitration, and last years total payroll was $66.3 million, about $5 million more than expected if the Nationals are done shopping this winter. If $61.5 million is their final number it will also be lower than their payroll in 2006, which was $6.3 million. 

It is my guess that this low payroll is a result of the Nationals wanting to have landed at least one more major star before the winter was over, probably a pitcher. Jayson Werth is making “only” $10.6 million in 2011, the lowest total he will make throughout his seven year contract with Washington. His contract grows as the Nationals presumably will have more revenue as Rizzo hopes that the team will win going forward. This means that the contract was probably structured so that the team could sign more talent for 2011, it just didn’t work out that way.

Below are the clubs major commitments for 2011 (In millions of dollars):

Jayson Werth: $10.6
Ryan Zimmerman: $9
Jason Marquis: $7.5
Adam LaRoche: $7M
Stephen Strasburg: $4.4M
Ivan Rodriguez: $3M
Yunesky Maya: $2M
Bryce Harper: $1.8M
Rick Ankiel: $1.5M
Sean Burnett: $1.4M
Livan Hernandez $1