The Teams With the Most Dead Money in MLB

There is an inherent optimism when contracts are signed. The Cleveland Indians believed they were putting themselves over the top three years ago when they signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to four-year deals. The team did not get the production they were hoping for, and after making the Wild Card their first year with the team in 2013, the team has won fewer games the last two seasons, and the Indians agreed to pay money to the Atlanta Braves to get rid of Bourn and Swisher while taking on the contract of Chris Johnson, who they have also jettisoned. As a result, the Indians have a larger percentage of their payroll going to players not playing for them in 2016 than any other Major League Baseball team.

The Indians might have the largest percentage of their payroll devoted to dead money, but they do not have the largest amount in total. The two franchises from Los Angeles both best the Indians. Thirteen of the 30 MLB teams have money going to players not currently on their 40-man roster. The graph below shows those 13 teams, with data collected from Cot’s Contracts.

DEAD MONEY ON MLB PAYROLLS

Almost all of the Los Angeles Angels money is going to the Texas Rangers so they can pay Josh Hamilton after the unusual falling out between Hamilton and the Angels organization. The team is also paying a portion of Erick Aybar‘s salary with the Braves. The Los Angeles Dodgers have spread their money out among many players. Hector Olivera with the Braves, Michael Morse for the Pirates, Matt Kemp for the Padres are all receiving some money from the Dodgers this season. In addition, the Dodgers are also paying Erisbel Arrabarruena, who is still with the organization, but appears to have been a big international acquisition for little payoff as he has been outrighted off the roster.

Of the amount above, about one-quarter of the money is still with the team, like Arrabarruena, and potentially could still pan out, although removing a player from the 40-man roster is generally a pretty good indication about the level of confidence a team has in that player’s future. The biggest expenditure  in this manner goes to Allen Craig, who is set to make $9 million this season and another $11 million in 2017 with a $1 million buyout for a $13 million option for the 2018 season. The players still with their organizations are in the chart below.

Dead Money Still In the Organization
Team Status 2016 Salary
Gerardo Concepcion Cubs Still in Org $1.2 M
Erisbel Arruebarruena Dodgers Still in Org $5.5 M
Allen Craig Red Sox Still in Org $9.0 M
Dian Toscano Braves Still In Org $1.3 M
Miguel Gonzalez Phillies Still In Org $4.7 M

The rest of the players are currently being paid money to players not to play for their teams at all. These groups are divided between trades, where the money was part of a larger deal, and players who were released, leaving the new team on the hook for only the minimum salary. First the players who were simply abandoned despite money still owed.

Dead Money For Released Players
Old Team Current Team 2016 Salary
Edwin Jackson Cubs Marlins $12.5 M
Chris Johnson Indians Marlins $7.0 M
Brendan Ryan Cubs Nationals $1.0 M
Jarrod Saltalamacchia Marlins Tigers $7.5 M

The Cubs took on Brendan Ryan and his $1 million player option in the Starlin Castro trade, but that deal is not really costing the team. One of Theo Epstein’s first major moves in signing Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million hurt the team’s financials a bit more. The Marlins started to pay Saltalamacchia to not play for them at the beginning of last season when the catcher played for Arizona in 2015 before latching on with the Tigers this spring. Chris Johnson was a salary dump, or more accurately, an exchange of bad salaries, when he moved from the Braves to the Indians. Cleveland decided to move forward without him and now Johnson will get a chance in Miami.

The majority of the dead money on payrolls occurs in trades. Of the 23 players with dead money, the remaining 14 players had money attached to a trade. There are 12 trades as Jose Tabata and Michael Morse were traded for each other and Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were involved in the same trade. Here are those 14 players and the money coming from their old teams this season.

Dead Money For Traded Players
Old Team Current Team 2016 Salary
Josh Hamilton Angels Rangers $26.4 M
Michael Morse Dodgers Pirates $8.5 M
Michael Bourn Indians Braves $7.5 M
Nick Swisher Indians Braves $7.5 M
Aaron Hill Dbacks Brewers $6.5 M
Prince Fielder Tigers Rangers $6.0 M
Hector Olivera Dodgers Braves $4.7 M
Jose Tabata Pirates Dodgers $4.7 M
Matt Kemp Dodgers Padres $3.5 M
Martin Prado Yankees Marlins $3.0 M
Erick Aybar Angels Braves $2.5 M
Cameron Maybin Braves Tigers $2.5 M
Drew Storen Nationals Blue Jays $2.1 M
Yunel Escobar Nationals Angels $1.5 M

While the teams providing money was divided among 13 teams, the recipients of the money are consolidated into 9 teams. The chart below shows which teams are receiving the most money to pay for players this season.

Dead Money Received By Team
Dead Money Received
Rangers $32.4 M
Marlins $22.5 M
Braves $22.2 M
Pirates $8.5 M
Brewers $6.5 M
Padres $3.5 M
Tigers $2.5 M
Blue Jays $2.1 M
Angels $1.5 M

If we combine the dead money spent and the dead money received, we can determine the net, and the percentage of payroll teams are paying out or receiving to field their teams this year.

Percentage of Payroll to Dead Money
Opening Day Payroll Net Dead Money Paid Percentage to Dead Money
Indians $93.0 M $22.0 M 23.7%
Angels $164.6 M $27.4 M 16.6%
Dodgers $243.1 M $22.2 M 9.1%
Cubs $165.3 M $14.7 M 8.9%
Diamondbacks $96.1 M $6.5 M 6.8%
Phillies $80.1 M $4.7 M 5.9%
Red Sox $195.6 M $9.0 M 4.6%
Nationals $143.5 M $3.6 M 2.5%
Tigers $195.4 M $3.5 M 1.8%
Yankees $225.6 M $3.0 M 1.3%

That the Indians are expected to contend this year on a payroll under $100 million is an achievement unto itself. Contending with under $100 million and nearly one-quarter of that money not even on the roster would be pretty amazing, sort of like what they Rays have managed to do.
On the other side, we have seven teams who are receiving a bonus in terms of their payroll as other teams are paying for some of their players.

Percentage of Payroll Bonus From Dead Money
Opening Day Payroll Net Dead Money Received % Bonus from Dead Money
Braves $78.4 M $18.4 M 19.0%
Marlins $66.6 M $15.0 M 18.4%
Rangers $156.5 M $32.4 M 17.2%
Brewers $65.4 M $6.5 M 9.0%
Pirates $95.3 M $3.8 M 3.8%
Padres $97.7 M $3.5 M 3.5%
Blue Jays $135.0 M $2.1 M 1.5%

It might be convenient to pile on the Braves and the Marlins, but Edwin Jackson and Nick Swisher are not likely to provide a ton of value for the money they are receiving, and the money was necessary to make them palatable on the roster. The Rangers acquired money for Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder, but they are still paying Fielder $18 million per year for the next five years and Hamilton’s current value is questionable.

The total amount of $136 million is not a major factor for payroll overall, amounting to a bit under 5% of total payroll, but that amount can make a sizable difference for individual teams. The Indians are still paying down their big winter in 2013, and the Angels deal with Hamilton along with a desire to stay under the luxury tax has prevented them from making more improvements around Mike Trout. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have simply been able to erase mistakes and get better players through trades despite some poor signings.



Print This Post



Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards. His writing also appears regularly at VivaElBirdos.com where he is an Editor.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Zonk
Member
Member
Zonk
2 months 14 days ago

Great article, but some player contracts while not technically “Dead” money, are pretty much the equivalent.

The $35 mil the Phillies owe Ryan Howard…while not technically “Dead”, that money is certainly on life support……

Maybe you should do a piece on “Zombie” money

Zonk
Member
Member
Zonk
2 months 14 days ago

My point is: While the Cubs do have a fair amount of “Dead” money, they don’t really have any “Zombie” money. Maybe Montero isn’t worth 2/28 now, but that’s picking nits.

BOS, NYY, while lower on “Dead” money have quite a bit of “Zombie” money, though I suppose there is always hope for rebound….it does happen

Damaso
Member
Damaso
2 months 14 days ago

yeah Panda’s money is on life support now at least.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
2 months 14 days ago

This does not assuage my feelings about the Jays hiring Shapiro

tfil05
Member
tfil05
2 months 14 days ago

Haha I was thinking the same thing!

Go Rockies
Member
Go Rockies
2 months 14 days ago

No “Dead Money for Bobby Bonilla table”?

rosen380
Member
rosen380
2 months 14 days ago

Bonilla was more deferred $$$ than dead $$$. If we’re counting all deferred money as well, that’ll probably be a pretty decent list.

Bobby Ayala
Member
Member
2 months 14 days ago

Yeah, is there anyone else who’s dead money is due to retirement? Does that even count toward payroll for luxury tax purposes? I don’t know anything.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 months 14 days ago

Bonilla’s isn’t really due to retirement, it’s that the terms of the contract paid him beyond the years he was contracted to play.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
2 months 13 days ago

The only way there can be dead money after retirement is if the contract had deferred compensation, like Bonilla’s. Otherwise, if you retire you stopped getting paid.

3D
Member
3D
2 months 13 days ago

Notice how there’s no mention of the Mets in this article at all, meaning they’ve successfully rebuilt and cleared off a ton of dead money in the last 5 years and become really efficient; but there still has to be a mindless “Bonilla” comment for his paltry $1.2M.

Famous Mortimer
Member
Member
2 months 14 days ago

“The Hamiltion”…”the Theo Epstein”…is this some Mango from SNL tribute?

As a Cardinals fan, reading about how much money is left on his contract makes me believe in Cardinals devil magic. I’d have traded him for a bag of peanuts, so the fact we got a ton of classic Lackey for it is the icing on the cake. Has to be the best trade of recent years for the Cards.

kbn
Member
kbn
2 months 14 days ago

It was an outstanding trade for the Cardinals. I do think that Kelly was really the centerpiece, and Craig was more of a throw-in, but there’s no question that Cherrington massively overestimated Craig’s bounceback potential. Kelly is still a work in progress. If his command develops, he could single-handedly flip the scales on the trade value as his pitches (in terms of velocity and movement) are already good enough to put him into ace territory. Seems unlikely though.

Famous Mortimer
Member
Member
2 months 14 days ago

I actually forgot about Joe Kelly til I read a Red Sox spring training report this morning. I liked him, hope he does well for the Red Sox (you might be right about him making the value up eventually).

sgvette
Member
sgvette
2 months 13 days ago

While it was a good trade for the Cards, its a little overblown. Lackey wanted out. They should have received more for him, but I suppose throwing STL a bone after the last 2 WS matchups between the teams is the polite thing to do. And I notice no commentary about Kelly finishing 2015 8-0? Besides, poor trades like this helped the Sox get rid of Ben and hire an adult to fix the team, which he’s begun fairly well.

Sam Samson
Member
Sam Samson
2 months 14 days ago

As a Red Sox fan I sadly concur.

Fireball Fred
Member
Fireball Fred
2 months 5 days ago

As a Red Sox fan, I actually think this was the dumbest deal ever. Lackey was a unique “low salary” dump – the Sox unloaded him because they thought he was paid too little, and took on dead money in exchange. There’s still a chance (Ramirez, Kelly) that Cherington didn’t burn $400m in a year, but there’s a reason he was fired.

Outta my way, Gyorkass
Member
Outta my way, Gyorkass
2 months 14 days ago

Is this analysis considering deferred money, like the type of contracts Max Scherzer and Chris Davis signed? Or, is deferred money not considered part of the official payroll?

For example, didn’t the Brewers defer some money on the Lohse and Ramirez contracts of a few years ago?

TJ
Member
TJ
2 months 14 days ago

I’m a bit confused. As you say, the Indians traded Swisher, Bourn, and cash for Chris Johnson. Johnson is mostly being paid by the Indians in 2016, but Swisher and Bourn are not. So why are you counting their money as phantom payroll? I would think it’s just Johnson’s $7M, not the total $22M in Fig. 1.

HarryLives
Member
HarryLives
2 months 14 days ago

The 2016 Atlanta Braves new slogan:

“Well, at least someone else is paying these bums.”

brittle.fuz
Member
Member
brittle.fuz
2 months 14 days ago

With Hamilton it’s addition by subtraction, at least

kseg22
Member
kseg22
2 months 14 days ago

We might suck this year, but to finally not see Dan Uggla’s name on lists like this makes my nips hard.

Squid_Mantle
Member
Squid_Mantle
2 months 13 days ago

Huh, the “% bonus from dead money” concept is a really interesting way of looking at a team’s payroll. So, while the Braves are paying out $78.4 million to players, they have $96.8 million worth of salaries on the team. It’s as though the team’s payroll is effectively $96.8 million, with the caveat that a significant chunk of it is probably going to be bringing back precious little production in return.

Brad
Member
Brad
2 months 13 days ago

Hey Craig. Doesn’t the $7.5M the Pads sent the Cards in the Gyorko trade count?
http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2015/12/8/9871332/cardinals-trade-jon-jay-for-jedd-gyorko-receive-cash

jgaztambide
Member
Member
jgaztambide
2 months 13 days ago

What about money being paid to players who you wish weren’t playing for you anymore? Can you re-run the Red Sox numbers to include Hanley and Panda?

sgvette
Member
sgvette
2 months 13 days ago

Probably something every team could do.

tom@cgm
Member
2 months 13 days ago

What about the Bonilla money, does that fit into this article?

wpDiscuz