We just met with Mariners president Chuck Armstrong to talk to him about the election of former Seattle general manager Pat Gillick to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But when you have the team president available, you also have to ask about other issues, particularly the Mariners financial situation.
About a month ago, a story from John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse quoted a source in the Mariners ownership group saying that the team would not lower payroll.
On Monday, Armstrong confirmed that report.
"As some of you noted, our player payroll will not be going down from last year," he said. "It doesn’t mean we are going to spend it all. Most of you have been pretty accurate with what you’ve estimated our cost to be. Last year, our player payroll budget was $94 million and it won’t be going down from that."
To be fair, most of the media estimated the player payroll to be about $91 million last season. But when you take into account signing bonuses from the draft and the international signings it adds to it.
Armstrong and GM Jack Zduriencik had to convince the ownership that reducing the payroll budget again this year would be a bad thing.
"We made a presentation - Jack did, I did - to why we didn’t think it would be in our best interest for fan expectations to further reduce our budget," Armstrong said. "We don’t have much flexibility now. If we had to reduce it, we might have had to do some things that might have been damaging in the long run. We’re not involved in any kind of salary dump. I’m grateful for us having the ownership to do that."
And of that $94 million, there will be $57 million spent on the contracts of Ichiro Suzuki ($17 million), Felix Hernandez ($10 million), Milton Bradley ($12 million), Chone Figgins ($9 million), Gutierrez ($4 million) and Jack Wilson ($5 million).
That leaves $37 million for the rest of the team. And don't forget, the Mariners have the No. 2 pick in the draft and Armstrong said director of international scouting Bob Engle also has some guys he's looking at.
"Unfortunately, because of the contracts we are locked into we don’t have as much flexibility this year," Armstrong said.
It means that the Mariners obviously aren't players for big free agents like Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee.
But with Jayson Werth getting a ridiculous 7-year, $126 million contract from the Nationals and Adam Dunn getting a 4-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox, there is still some trickle down effect to the free agents the Mariners would be courting.
"Boy, I don’t know with some of the signings that have come out in the last few days," Armstrong said. " I’m trying to figure it out. I think it’s kind of astounding. Hindsight will prove whether they’re good or not. They usually prove to not be. But all it takes is one team. And teams know their own needs. I really don’t want to cast dispersions on anyone else. We all have our own budgets and we know with what we can work with. You have to feel comfortable with what you are obligating your franchise to take on."
Armstrong confirmed that the Mariners are projecting that they will lose money in 2011. And that season ticket renewals are also down.
And yet the Mariners, were classified as a "payor" in the baseball revenue sharing agreement, and Armstrong said they will likely be the same again this year. Not sure what that means? Well try this, link, it explains it better than I could.
"We will be spending a lot of money this year," he said.
Yes, but probably not enough to make the Mariners a contender for this season.