The Washington Nationals budget tightens after the signing of Matt Wieters is official. How much room do they have left? Can they add more?
With Wieters making $10.5 million this year—once the deal becomes official—the payroll jumps to roughly $165 million. Although that is $30 million under the new competitive balance tax for 2017, it is within $5 million of Washington’s perceived budget limit.
Baseball-Reference breaks it down this way, 16 players are under contract already for a total estimate of $147.9 million. Wieters jumps that number to $158.4 million. With eight roster spots to be filled-roughly adding $6.3 million, you get an estimated Opening Day payroll of $164.7 million.
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That is the highest total in the National League East and would mark the highest in franchise history. In comparison, the number last year was—according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts–$145,178,886. By the end of the season, it jumped to $170,876,032.
Based on conversations in the past, $170 million is the ceiling Washington can afford. Without trading an active player on the major-league roster, they have less than $6 million left to spend. That leaves little wiggle room if they need a closer or another pitcher at the trade deadline.
If the Lerner family feels the Nationals are within reach of a championship, then all bets are off. Yet, they now have a surplus of catchers, including Derek Norris at $4.5 million. Whatever moves they need to make either come subsidized by the other team or on a salary dump.
The Wieters moves makes sense on many levels. That extra few million not offered to Greg Holland or Sergio Romo earlier came in handy to get their ideal catcher. If they landed Holland or Kenley Jansen, there would be no Wieters. Washington could not afford both.
In the end, they spent the money on a player filling an offensive role. In order for the salary to remain stable now, either they find an in-house closer, or dangle players to other teams when the time comes.
Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo threw a few curveballs before Spring Training solidified the bench and catcher. Now he begins another juggling act keeping the team stocked in case of injury without blowing up the budget the rest of the year.
It might be a struggle, but the more full houses Washington plays in at Nationals Park, the easier it becomes to grab another piece. In a television-revenue driven sport, those extra dollars at the gate makes a difference.