Baseball’s smallest division includes a big-spending defending champion, two clubs working on relatively tight budgets, and one team in the middle. Winding down our 2010 payroll outlook (we’ve covered the NL Central, AL Central, NL East, AL East, and NL West), so let’s examine the books of the Angels, Rangers, Mariners, and Athletics.

Los Angeles Angels
Projected 2010 payroll: $118,556,667 (seventh)
2009 spending: $116,709,000 (Opening Day), $121,947,524 (year-end)
Future commitments: $79.417 million for 2011, $37.167 million for 2012, $1 million for 2013

The Angels endured a turbulent 2009 season, losing top prospect Nick Adenhart in a fatal April car accident before rallying to win their fifth division title in six years. After falling to the Yankees in the ALCS, the Angels lost their leadoff man, cleanup hitter, and top starting pitcher to free agency. GM Tony Reagins retooled by extending Bobby Abreu in November, then signing free-agent deals with DH Hideki Matsui, reliever Fernando Rodney, and starter Joel Pineiro. Add a multi-year deal for infielder Maicer Izturis and raises in arbitration for a stable of young players, and team payroll will remain basically flat in 2010, with an Opening Day roster earning about $118 million, seventh in baseball. The Angels have committed nearly $80 million in salaries for 2011, but only $37 million for 2012, giving Reagins plenty of financial flexibility going forward. Nine players are signed to multi-year deals extending through 2011 or beyond.

Torii Hunter, CF
2010 salary: $18 million
Future commitment: $36 million for 2011-12

Hunter’s $90-million free-agent contract kicks into high gear in 2010, paying him $18 million a year through 2012, his age-36 season. Still a joy to watch play, he’ll have to stay healthy and ward off the natural effects of aging to not become a high eight-figure drag on payroll.

Bobby Abreu, RF
2010 salary:
$9 million
Future commitment:
$9 million for 2011, with a 2012 option

Abreu continues to roll along, taking pitches and getting on base. He figures to remain a fixture (and liability) in right field in 2010, with Matsui limited primarily to DH duty. Abreu’s contract includes a 2012 option, which becomes guaranteed at $9 million with 550 plate appearances in 2011 or 1,100 plate appearances in 2010 and 2011 combined.

Scott Kazmir, LHP
Age: 26
2010 salary: $8 million
Future commitment: $12 million for 2011, with 2012 option

The Angels hope Kazmir can continue to build on his successful return from a mid-season quad injury. The left-hander, who has adopted a new grip on his slider this spring, could provide stability in the rotation for the Angels, who hold a $13.5-million option on his deal for 2012.

Joel Pineiro, RHP
2010 salary: $8 million
Future commitment: $8 million for 2011

The ground-ball specialist moves to the American League from St. Louis, where pitching coach Dave Duncan helped Pineiro to a strong platform season before he hit the free-agent market. The Angels made the winning bid, shelling out $16 million to replace the innings left vacant with the departure of ace John Lackey.

Ervin Santana, RHP
2010 salary: $6 million
Future commitment: $19.2 million for 2011-12, with 2013 club option

Signed to a $30-million extension before the 2009 season, Santana made two trips to the disabled list with right elbow and forearm trouble last season. The staff’s presumptive ace, he skipped a spring start this week after bumping his elbow on a piece of furniture. The Angels hope he will return to the mound this weekend, putting him back on track to start the season.

Fernando Rodney, RHP
2010 salary: $5.5 million
Future commitment: $5.5 million for 2011

The hard-throwing reliever parlayed a full season as the Detroit closer into a two-year, $11-million deal as Brian Fuentes’ setup man.

Juan Rivera, LF
2010 salary: $3.25 million
Future commitment: $3.25 million for 2011

Rivera finally won a full-time job at the age of 30 in 2009, the first season of a club-friendly, three-year, $12.75-million extension.

Maicer Izturis, INF
2010 salary:
$2.6 million, plus $500,000 signing bonus
Future commitment:
$6.9 million for 2011-12

Izturis had been on schedule for free agency after the 2010 season before agreeing to a three-year, $10-million deal this winter. He’ll continue to provide insurance as a backup at second, short, and third for manager Mike Scioscia.

In addition, a 2011 option for closer Brian Fuentes becomes guaranteed if he finishes 55 games in 2010. The Angels’ most pressing financial issues for 2011 will be their nine arbitration cases, which could include first baseman Kendry Morales, starters Jared Weaver and Joe Saunders, second baseman Howie Kendrick, shortstop Erick Aybar, and catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis.

Texas Rangers
Projected 2010 payroll:
$63,852,320 (24th)
2009 spending:
$72,178,798 (Opening Day), $77,208,810 (year-end)
Future commitments:
$27.7 million for 2011, $23.45 million for 2012, $16.5 million for 2013

The Rangers have traveled a long road from the days of $100-million payrolls in 2002 and 2003. Owner Tom Hicks has sold controlling interest in the club to Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and team president Nolan Ryan. Where the club once was weighed down by significant financial commitments to expensive free agents like Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park, the Rangers’ front office now has assembled one of the best minor-league systems in baseball.

Texas will open the season with a payroll of about $64 million, an 11 percent drop from 2009’s Opening Day figure. With only two players signed to high-dollar, long-term deals, GM Jon Daniels enjoys payroll flexibility for the future. Third baseman Michael Young will earn $16 million a year through 2013, though roughly $3 million annually is deferred. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is locked in for at least three more seasons, with salaries of $4 million, $6 million, and $7 million. The Rangers hold a 2013 option worth $10 million.

Daniels got out from under a $15-million commitment to Kevin Millwood for 2010 by dealing the right-hander to Baltimore. The Rangers sent $3 million to Baltimore as part of the trade, freeing up $12 million for short-term, moderate-risk deals for Vladimir Guerrero ($6.5 million) and Rich Harden ($7.5 million). Both deals include mutual options for 2011. Daniels also provided the starting rotation with another boost in signing right-hander Colby Lewis to a two-year, $5 million contract with an option for 2012.

Two potentially expensive arbitration cases loom for Texas in 2011: left fielder Josh Hamilton ($3.25 million in 2010) and lefty C.J. Wilson ($3.1 million). But the Rangers are not only committed to emerging talents like Elvis Andrus, Chris Davis, Neftali Feliz, and Justin Smoak, they are positioned financially to keep the young core intact.

Seattle Mariners
Projected 2010 payroll:
$88,825,833 (14th)
2009 spending:
$98,904,166 (Opening Day), $102,343,617 (year-end)
Future commitments:
$69.596 million for 2011, $54.263 million for 2012, $37.513 million for 2013, $21.2 million for 2014

The team inherited by GM Jack Zduriencik after the 2008 season had lost 101 games, despite spending more than $100 million for a second consecutive year. The Seattle roster and payroll were weighed down with high-priced veterans who were no longer cost-effective, such as catcher Kenji Johjima and pitchers Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, and Erik Bedard. In just a year and a half, Zduriencik has both cut payroll and improved the club, which jumped to 85 victories in 2009 and is poised to contend for a division title in 2010. The Mariners project to open the season with a payroll of about $89 million, which should rank 14th in baseball.

Seattle’s offseason began with the happy news that Johjima had decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract and return to Japan, saving the club about $16 million. Then, in a span of 10 days in December, Zduriencik signed on-base machine Chone Figgins and acquired lefty Cliff Lee and left fielder Milton Bradley in trades. Once the calendar flipped to 2010, the Mariners locked up two key players with multi-year extensions for ace right-hander Felix Hernandez and defensive standout Franklin Gutierrez, two of six players signed for 2011 and beyond.

Ichiro Suzuki, RF
2010 salary: $17 million
Future commitment: $34 million for 2011-12

After a slight drop in production in 2008, Ichiro returned to right field full-time in 2009 and posted improved numbers, both at the plate and in the field. At 35 years old, the only suggestion of decline showed up in his base-running and stolen-base numbers. His deal allows the club to defer an undisclosed amount of his annual salary, reducing the club’s present value to about $16.5 million a year.

Milton Bradley, LF
2010 salary: $9 million
Future commitment: $12 million for 2011

Zduriencik dumped the sunk cost that was Carlos Silva in a December trade of problems with the Cubs. To facilitate the deal, the Mariners agreed to pay a portion of Silva’s salaries for the next two seasons ($3.5 million in 2010 and $5.5 million in 2011). If Bradley can stay happy and healthy, he should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs as a cog in the middle of the Seattle lineup.

Chone Figgins, 2B
2010 salary: $8 million, plus $2 million signing bonus
Future commitment: $26 million for 2011-13, plus a 2014 option

Seattle’s new second baseman will provide a speedy complement to Ichiro at the top of the order, and his ability to get on base should give the Mariners’ lineup a boost. A 2014 option is guaranteed at $9 million with 600 plate appearances in 2013.

Felix Hernandez, RHP
2010 salary:
$6.5 million, plus $3.5 million signing bonus
Future commitment:
$68 million for 2011-14

Had he continued to sign one-year contracts, King Felix was on schedule to hit the free-agent market after the 2011 season at the age of 26, likely putting him in line for a massive deal that would have made him the game’s highest-paid pitcher. Instead, he delayed his free-agent adventure by three seasons, signing a five-year, $78-million extension to continue performing at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field with the Mariners’ pitcher-friendly defense behind him. He’ll receive an affordable $11 million in 2011 before his salaries surge to $18.5 million in 2012, $19.5 million in 2013 and $20 million in 2014, his age-28 season.

Jack Wilson, SS
2010 salary:
$5 million
Future commitment:
$5 million for 2011

Acquired in a July trade from Pittsburgh, Wilson’s glove—and the absence of his predecessor at shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt—immediately improved Seattle’s defense. The Mariners were impressed enough to sign Wilson to a two-year, $10-million extension, despite a disappointing final two months at the plate.

Franklin Gutierrez, CF
2010 salary:
$2 million, plus $1.25 million signing bonus
Future commitment:
$17 million for 2011-13, plus 2014 club option

Seattle bought out one year of free agency—and possibly two—in signing their center fielder to a four-year, $20.25-million extension over the winter. With the deal, Zduriencik locked up the best defensive outfielder in the game through his age-31 season. Seattle holds a $7.5-million option for 2014, with a $500,000 buyout.

As many as nine Mariners could be eligible for arbitration next offseason, including newly acquired first baseman Casey Kotchman and closer David Aardsma.

Oakland Athletics
Projected 2010 payroll:
$55,557,500 (27th)
2009 spending:
$62,396,066 (Opening Day), $61,688,124 (year-end)
Future commitments:
$6.8 million for 2011, $250,000 for 2012

The A’s will open the 2010 season with a payroll of about $55 million, which projects to rank just behind Cleveland and ahead of just Florida, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. Nearly 40 percent of the total will go to two players: corner infielder/DH Eric Chavez ($12 million) and free-agent acquisition Ben Sheets ($10 million). Chavez enters the final guaranteed year of a six-year, $66-million contract signed in 2004. The deal includes a $12.5-million club option for 2012, but, given his checkered injury history, Oakland is all but certain to decline the option and pay a $3-million buyout. Sheets, who missed the 2009 season with a torn flexor tendon, hopes to return to form and anchor Oakland’s young starting staff. A’s GM Billy Beane made an eight-figure bet that Sheets can rebound, if not provide a chip to play on the trade market in July.

Oakland rewarded a strong 2009 performance from reliever Michael Wuertz with a multi-year contract in January, signing him t a two-year, $5.25-million deal with an option for 2012. However, no other Athletics player is signed beyond this season. Oakland holds 2011 options on second baseman Mark Ellis ($6 million, with a $500,000 buyout) and center fielder Coco Crisp ($5.75 million, with a $500,000 buyout). But beyond that, Beane has all the payroll flexibility a GM could want.

That’s not to say the A’s are without financial decisions ahead. Oakland faces as many as nine arbitration cases next winter, including potential hearings with third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, DH Jack Cust, outfielders Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney, catcher Kurt Suzuki, and lefty starter Dallas Braden. As a low-payroll club which values cost certainty, the A’s are likely to discuss multi-year deals with some from that group, as well as pre-arbitration pitchers Brett Anderson, Andrew Bailey, and Brad Ziegler.  

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