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Sad-sack Indians to sport sub-$50 million payroll in 2011

Nov 14, 2010, 1:00 PM EDT

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes, the Indians’ 2011 payroll is expected to fall in the $40 million-$50 million range, potentially making the team baseball’s thriftiest.

The Indians opened 2010 with a $61.2 million payroll, down from $81.6 million to begin 2009.  That ranked them 24th among the 30 teams.  The only two clubs last year to start below $50 million were the Padres and Pirates, and both of those clubs figure to spend more next year, though the Pirates may yet fall below the Indians.

With the approximately $26 million spent on Jake Westbrook, Kerry Wood and Jhonny Peralta off the books, Cleveland is currently on the hook for $26.6 million in 2011 dollars: $13.5 million to Travis Hafner, $7.5 million to Grady Sizemore and $6.1 million to Fausto Carmona.  

Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez are eligible for arbitration for the first time, and Choo could ask for at least $5 million after another impressive season.   Those three have to be penciled in for about $10 million, and then a trio of less expensive relievers — Rafael Perez, Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis — could make about $1 million each unless traded or non-tendered.   That already gets the Tribe up to about $40 million for nine players, and even if everyone else is making the major league minimum, that’s $6.4 million for the remaining 16 players on the roster.

So those Indians fans hoping for reinforcements this winter shouldn’t hold their breath.  The team will find a new Austin Kearns to help in the outfield and probably a couple of middle relievers from the Jamey Wright class.  But the upgrades will be slight.

  1. uyf1950 - Nov 14, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    The AL Central Division is a joke. Yesterday the piece about KC and their potential payroll in 2011 and now this piece on Cleveland and their payroll for 2011. No wonder both teams are consistently in the bottom 20% in MLB attendance. There is no excuse for any major league team to have a payroll in the $40 to $50M range in this day and age with revenue sharing, etc…
    If teams don’t want to invest in their clubs to make them competitive, MLB should find new owners and/or relocate them to more profitable cities or in the worse case contract them. Several months ago there was a piece about the Marlins ownership diverting money from the team. If Selig and MLB wants to do something to make baseball more competitive get rid of these owners or get rid of the teams. There is nothing magical about 30 teams in the Major Leagues.

  2. simon94022 - Nov 14, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    Baseball teams have been following this moronic business model for a century, and it isn’t the fault of the people of Cleveland or KC. The basic pattern is team starts losing, so attendance drops (naturally), so team further cuts payroll, so attendance drops some more, etc. And instead of trying to break the cycle, the owner eventually blames the fans and says his city must not be “a baseball town.”. This is the way even the great Connie Mack destroyed the Philadelphia A’s franchise he had so brilliantly built.

    Fans won’t come to a ballpark unless they have hope, along with confidence that their team is at least trying to win. This is true everywhere — New York, Boston, Philly, St. Louis and all the other supposedly great baseball towns. Give folks in those cities the kind of hopelessness that fans in KC, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and Washington have to put up with, and you’d get the same kind of attendance declines. The only way an owner can help himself is to break the cycle by clearly trying to win. Doesn’t mean you have to spend big bucks on free agents. But it does mean you have to avoid ridiculous stinginess of the Indians.

  3. Lukehart80 - Nov 14, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    I don’t think Cleveland’s case can accurately be described as “owners go cheap so fans don’t show.”

    3 years ago, the Indians were a win away from the World Series, a World Series they’d have been favorites in. They can reasonably be called the 2nd best team in baseball that season. They ranked just 21st in attendance. They were in 1st place a quarter of the way through the 2008 season, but drawing no better.

    Cleveland was the 23rd biggest city in the U.S. twenty years ago. It has dropped to 43rd as of 2009. Only Kansas City and Milwaukee have smaller urban areas among major league markets. Cleveland and its urban area continue to shrink.

    I don’t like the idea of contraction, though its merits could at least be debated; the same could be said for the idea of moving teams into open markets. Less debatable: in th current economic climate, with baseball’s current economic structure, consistently competitive baseball is not viable in Cleveland.

    • uyf1950 - Nov 15, 2010 at 10:41 AM

      Lukehart80, I have to disagree with you about the Indians. Could possibly the reason their attendance was down in 2007 even though they made it to the ALCS be because they were coming off a terrible 2006 season where they went 78/84 and finished 4th out of 5 teams in the Central Division. Sure economic conditions have had an effect on Cleveland as it has on all Major League teams. But with the the exception of 2001 when the Indians filled their park to 92% when they went 91-71 through 2006 their attendance has been for the most part pathetic.
      There win/loss record with the exception of 2005 coincides with the poor attendance. Factor on top of that, that in the last 10 years the Indians have had only 3 winning seasons. Generally not a receipt for fan loyalty. I don’t know that the economy can be blamed for the drop offs in the early part of this decade. It seems to me all things being equal if teams consistently put a competitive/winning product on the field the fans will come.

  4. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Nov 15, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    Cleveland has a way of blowing up teams, historically speaking. I think we need more patience in owners for sure, but these are also tough times we live in, and as profitable as MLB is and as much as revenue sharing has helped, there is that business reality right now.

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