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SF Giants On a Spending Spree? Not So Far

Tucked away deep inside the steel-crossed superstructure of AT&T Park there is, I imagine, an elite Owners Club Room. It’s very plush with big leather chairs, a long leather bar, leather napkins, and… well let’s just say there’s a lot of leather.

Inside that room earlier this week San Francisco Giants upper management must have gathered to slap each other on the back and pop a couple of bottles of  J. Lassalle Champagne. And smile at the latest news about their former World Championship team.

Because there’s a story being put out in the sports media that the Giants have been “big spenders” this off-season. You know, taking the lead, free-spending lots of money and wrapping up the players they need to win in 2014.

Several SF Chronicle sports writers have made that story their lead the past week. And after the Giants signed starter Tim Hudson, two MLB-TV program hosts roundly touted San Francisco for jumping ahead of the pack and writing checks this way and that.

The trouble is, the Giants haven’t spent an extra dime so far this off-season. In fact, to date their payroll is significantly down from last season. But they are getting credit for opening their wallets and dishing out payroll money like M&Ms.

While San Francisco has signed outfielder Hunter Pence, Hudson, Tim Lincecum, and lefty relief specialist Javier Lopez, they’ve also dropped payroll. A lot of payroll.

Let’s take a look, (from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and note that all future multi-year contract money has been averaged over the length of the contract):

 Player  2013 salary  2014 salary  Difference
 Hunter Pence  $13.8 million  $18 million  +$4.2 million
 Tim Hudson  0  $11.5m  +$11.5m
 Javier Lopez  $4.25m  $4.33m  +$80,000
                                                                     Total   + $15.780 million
 Player  2013 salary  2014 salary  Difference
 Tim Lincecum  $20.25 million  $17.5 million  -$2.75 million
 Barry Zito  $20m  $7m (buyout)  -$13m
 Ryan Vogelsong  $5m  $300,000 (buyout)  -$4.7m
 Andres Torres  $2m  0  -$2m
                                                                      Total  – $22.450 million


Let’s see. Carry the one, subtract the decimal, add the differentials, and regularly wash your underwear.

Hey, whadda ya know! The Giants are up $6.67 million so far this off-season! Wow, if that’s what the media is calling being a “big spender” then I am impressed with their peculiar notion of advanced mathematics.

But wait, you scream. The Giants aren’t paying Hunter Pence just $18 million, they’re paying him $90 million (divided over five years). Same with Lincecum– he’s actually going to make $35 million over two years. So you are wrong, sir! The San Francisco Giants really are big spenders.

Sorry, bunky. Just sit back on the couch, pull the tab on another PBR and let’s use our logic skills and all our fingers.

Sure the Giants signed Pence to a long term contract– and they do owe him $90 million. But it’s year by year, not payable all at once. So think about it. San Francisco is going to pay salaries for 25 players every year. If it’s not Pence, it’s someone else. So you can sign Pence to a five year deal or you can sign a new right fielder each year for five years. At about the same price.

The number of years in a given contract doesn’t matter– the Giants’ front office is going to pay someone every year. I will guarantee you that some guy is going to play right field for the Giants every season and get paid for it.

If anything, by the time Hunter Pence gets to the second or third year of that contract the average cost for a player of his caliber (at his signing age) will be a lot higher than $18 million a year.

So looking at the Giants 2013 payroll versus what they’ve dropped for 2014, they are doing pret-ty good. Where are we at? Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, and Javier Lopez have just replaced themselves. And let’s say for the sake of argument that Tim Hudson replaced Barry Zito.

That means we still have two slots to fill: Andres Torres in left field and Ryan Vogelsong’s spot in the starting rotation. And, sure, there is other unfinished salary business yet to be done– Brandon Belt, etc. It’s just nice that San Francisco GM Brian Sabean will face all those payroll projects with an extra $6.6 million sitting in the bank.

Now the Giants can really do what they’ve been given credit for all over the media but haven’t actually done yet: become big spenders.

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