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What Will Be The Indians 2012 Payroll?

| On 13, Oct 2011


In the Indians end of season press conference, General Manager, Chris Antonetti was clear that the team would be increasing its payroll significantly for the 2012 season. Since Antonetti’s promise of increased payroll, writers, radio talk show hosts and bloggers alike have all been willing to help the Tribe GM spend his money.

However, one big question remains, how much will the Indians spend for 2012?

While fans yearn for the day the Indians spend $100 million on payroll and sign a big name free agent like Prince Fielder, it is much more realistic to see the Tribe raise their payroll to the $75-78 million range for 2012. This might not seem like enough to contend, but if the Tribe manages their money correctly, it should be plenty to take down the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division and compete for an AL crown.

Over the previous five seasons, attendance and Indians payroll are closely tied together. When attendance rises or falls, the club’s payroll does the same the following season. In 2007, when the Tribe found themselves a game from the World Series, they did it with a payroll of just under $62 million. Attendance was over 2.275 million that season and the payroll rose to almost $79 million for 2008. After a struggling season, but one that drew over 2.1 million fans, the team pushed toward a championship again by raising the payroll to $81.5 million for 2009.

However, after 2008 and 2009 left the team falling short of expectations and C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee traded to contenders in the middle of each season, attendance in 2009 fell to 1.766 million and payroll dropped back to $61.5 million for the 2010 season. With the team struggling to its second consecutive 90+ loss season in 2010, attendance fell to under 1.4 million and this season’s payroll was only $49.4 million.

Since the Indians had a good season in 2011, and attendance rose 25%, up to 1.8 million, it is safe to assume that payroll should rise as well. Considering the Indians suffered several rainouts, cancellations and rescheduled day-night doubleheaders, including two after the team was out of contention, the team has to expect a better weather season in 2012 and better attendance again.

Also, when Antonetti acquired Ubaldo Jimenez in July, the team made their direction very clear for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, all-in. A year ago, the Tampa Bay Rays felt they were all-in with players like Rafael Soriano and Carl Crawford ready to file for free agency and leave for greener pastures. The small market Rays had a $72.8 million payroll in 2010. This season, the Milwaukee Brewers are in the same plight with Fielder headed to the free agent frenzy this winter. They have a payroll of $83.5 million this year.

The market has been set for your small market teams and their payroll expectations for when they decide to go for it. Considering 2011 is the first season of payroll surge, the Indians will probably find themselves somewhere in between the $72-83 million marks. If the team plays well, and attendance is there, the Indians would probably be willing to take on payroll and get near the top of that pay scale in a midseason trade and playoff push.

So, if the Indians are looking to spend between $75-78 million for the 2012 team, how far can that money go?

Currently, the Indians only have two players under contract for the 2012 season, Travis Hafner ($13 million) and Jimenez ($4.2 million). They have seven players who are arbitration eligible and will each result in sizeable raises.

According to MLBTradeRumors, they project Shin-Soo Choo ($5 million), Asdrubal Cabrera ($4.9 million), Justin Masterson ($4 million), Chris Perez ($4.3 million), Joe Smith ($1.9 million), Rafael Perez ($1.9 million) and Jack Hannahan ($1.9 million) for a approximately $24 million in salaries of arbitration eligible players.

While the Indians have not announced anything yet, it will be surprising if they do not pick up Fausto Carmona’s $7 million option for 2012. While Carmona struggled in 2011, he’s actually valued at a $1 million discount if his option was not exercised and he was offered arbitration by the ballclub. In comparison to pitchers similar to Carmona, who have been inconsistent over the years but have high upside, he again is a discount.

With the Indians existing payroll, plus arbitration cases and Carmona’s option, the team will find themselves investing $48.1 million in 10 players. If the other 15 players on the roster each make around the league minimum with their service time, the Tribe will take on another $6.75 million, raising their payroll to around $59 million. The team would still not have a first baseman or a third outfielder.

If the Indians intend to spend around $75-78 million in 2012, that leaves them around $15-18 million to spend on the open market via free agency or trades this winter. With that money, Chris Antonetti must decide whether to pick up Grady Sizemore’s $8.5 million option for next season and how to find a right-handed bat for the middle of the order and possibly a starting pitcher.

Other teams have won in the last couple years with similar payrolls and similar all-in strategies. This winter Antonetti has to use the chips he has available to make his hand hold up in 2012.

Photo: AP Photo File


  1. Nice article ! I really like this site so far.I’ve been a Tribe fan for about 55 years. I have two grown sons and the three of us have been collecting baseball cards together for at least 20 years.I have nearly 11,ooo Indian cards from the 1920’s to 2011. All in binders,alphabetically by year, card brand and player name! I am an Indian fan but also a baseball history fanatic. I have started a Cleveland baseball history section on my baseball card blog but haven’t added to it lately. That’s part of my winter project. If I can be of any help in any way, feel free to ask !

    • Tribe's Ultimate Wingman

      Thanks for the feedback. We appreciate any ideas or contributions, just send them to us at We would love to add a writer who could do some Indians history and day to day coverage.

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