MLB Free Agency: Ranking All 30 Teams' Chances of Making a Huge Splash

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2012

MLB Free Agency: Ranking All 30 Teams' Chances of Making a Huge Splash

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    Earlier this month, published each MLB team's total payroll commitments for the 2013 season.

    The list does not include players who have options that need to be decided on, or players who will likely be awarded through the arbitration process.

    Nonetheless, the list does present several surprises, and poses some interesting questions as to which teams have the financial flexibility to make some major moves this offseason.

    However, just because it appears a team has that flexibility doesn't mean it'll use it to vastly improve its roster.

    Bleacher Report will attempt to rank every team in terms of how active they'll be this offseason. We will also factor in options for current players and arbitration-eligible players as well.

    *Note: All salary figures are courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Team payroll figures for the 2012 season are courtesy of USA Today.

30. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Since late July, Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has been on a buying spree, adding well over $250 million in committed payroll.

    Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford alone added $72.5 million to the 2013 payroll. With $193.8 million in commitments, the Dodgers don't have a lot of wiggle room.

    In addition, they have decisions to make on Juan Rivera, Todd Coffey and Matt Treanor, and there will additional bumps for the likes of Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis, Javy Guerra and Dee Gordon.

    Joe Blanton, Randy Choate, Shane Victorino and Brandon League are all free agents acquired this season.

    Unless the Dodgers really want to carry a $240 million-plus payroll and pay a hefty luxury tax, they will have to be really creative this offseason.

29. Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have $123.5 million committed to seven players next season.

    Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are all taken care of. So what does GM Ruben Amaro do for the other 18 players?

    Decisions need to be made regarding option years for Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton and others. Amaro will have to decide whether to re-sign Juan Pierre, and raises will be in order for Antonio Bastardo, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry and Vance Worley as well.

    When all is said and done, the Phillies are looking at a 2013 payroll at least close to their 2012 Opening Day payroll of $172.1 million.

    And that's without even looking at free agency.

    Amaro will have his hands tied in making a major splash this winter.

28. Los Angeles Angels

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    While the Los Angeles Angels aren't quite at the nine-figure level in terms of 2013 payroll commitments, they're pretty darn close.

    The $92.3 million in committed money doesn't factor in decisions on option years for Dan Haren, Ervin Santana or Chris Iannetta, and it doesn't factor in choices on certain pay raises for Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Ernesto Frieri.

    Angels GM Jerry Dipoto will have decisions to make regarding the futures of Zack Greinke, Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales, Alberto Callaspo, Jerome Williams and LaTroy Hawkins.

    Owner Arte Moreno went all in last offseason with the purchase of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. If the Angels fail to make the playoffs, don't expect Moreno to do the same this winter.

27. New York Yankees

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    For five years in a row, the New York Yankees have eclipsed the $200 million mark in payroll. Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner would like to see that streak end.

    With $119.1 million in payroll commitments for the 2013 season, GM Brian Cashman won't have much wiggle room, especially considering the decisions he needs to make regarding several players.

    Options have to be decided upon for Robinson Cano ($14 million) and Curtis Granderson ($13M). Cashman needs to make decisions on the free-agency status of Nick Swisher, Ichrio Suzuki, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Russell Martin, and raises will be in order for the likes of David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and others.

    In all, it's looking like close to $190 million, even if Swisher isn't retained. While Steinbrenner wants to drastically reduce payroll, 2013 isn't looking like the year it will happen.

    While it may appear Cashman doesn't have much wiggle room, the Yankees can never be counted out. But if Steinbrenner persists, this could well be one of the quietest offseasons ever seen from the Yankees.

26. Cincinnati Reds

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    The Cincinnati Reds already posted the largest payroll in team history on Opening Day 2012. With their 2013 payroll commitments already at $74.1 million, they'll easily break a new record next season as well.

    The new multi-year contracts awarded to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips make up over a third of the 2013 total alone.

    GM Walt Jocketty has decisions to make on option years for closer Ryan Madson ($11 million), and on the free-agency status of Scott Rolen, Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Ludwick. Jocketty will also have arbitration-eligible players like Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Drew Stubbs.

    The Reds could well approach close to $100 million when all is said and done, and that's before Jocketty even delves into the free-agent market.

    Jocketty did an outstanding job this offseason bringing in players who were under team control and who mightily contributed to the Reds' cause in 2012.

    But don't look for Jocketty to spend outrageously this offseason.

25. San Francisco Giants

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    San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is going to have a very busy offseason just trying to figure out how he's going to finagle his roster financially.

    The Giants already have $81 million committed for the 2013 season, over three-quarters of that figure just for three starting pitchers (Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain).

    Sabean has several key decisions to make. Right fielder Hunter Pence has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining, coming off a year in which he made $10.4 million.

    Brian Wilson, Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are all free agents, and Sabean will likely have holes to fill with the expiring contracts of Aubrey Huff, Ryan Theriot, Freddy Sanchez and Xavier Nady.

    The Giants had an Opening Day payroll this season of $131.3 million, easily the highest in franchise history. I can't imagine Sabean and team owner Bill Neukom are looking to exceed that number in 2013.

24. Oakland Athletics

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    With the surprising Oakland Athletics holding on to the top wild-card slot in the American League and threatening the Texas Rangers in the AL West, they are clearly the example of a small-market team making good against the big boys.

    Oakland entered the season with an Opening Day payroll of $55.3, just slightly higher than the San Diego Padres at the bottom of the pack in the majors.

    In addition, the A's home-field attendance is the third-worst in the American League, so a limited revenue stream is the order of the day in Oakland.

    Oakland has only $23 million committed in payroll for the 2013 season. For any other franchise, that would seem like chump change.

    However, we're talking Oakland here. The team begging for a new stadium. The team constantly crying poor-mouth. The team that consistently trades off players when they get too expensive.

    Do you honestly think that's going to change anytime soon, regardless of the team's success?

    GM Billy Beane did an outstanding job getting quality return via trades this past offseason. Don't look for the A's to suddenly become players in the free-agent market as a result.

23. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Even without Albert Pujols on the books, the St. Louis Cardinals posted their largest team payroll in franchise history this year.

    The Cardinals are also already locked in to $92.8 million for the 2013 season. GM John Mozeliak will have holes to fill with expiring contracts as well.

    Lance Berkman and Kyle Lohse are both free agents at the end of the season, and Mozeliak will have to decide on the 2013 option year for Adam Wainwright as well ($12 million).

    Fortunately, many of the Cardinals' key contributors are under team control (Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Daniel Descalso, Allen Craig, John Jay, Edward Mujica) so Mozeliak does have a measure of cost control.

    The Cardinals could be players this offseason in the free-agent market, but I'm not expecting a huge splash. With just a few decisions to be made, they'll already be over their 2012 payroll figure.

22. Cleveland Indians

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    With only $11 million in payroll commitments for the 2013 season, it would appear that the Cleveland Indians would be well-positioned to make a huge splash in free agency this winter.

    However, we're talking about the Cleveland Indians. And we're talking about owner Larry Dolan.

    We're also talking about the second-worst home attendance in the American League.

    Indians fans have seen their team implode in the second half for the last two seasons, and have seen nothing in the way of help, either.

    Unless of course you consider Casey Kotchman a way of helping. Or Derek Lowe, for that matter.

    Ask an Indians fan what they expect this winter from owner Dolan and GM Chris Antonetti. They'll likely laugh and launch into an expletive-driven tirade.

21. Chicago White Sox

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    The Chicago White Sox have committed $83.3 million in payroll for the 2013 season, and that's without several positions needing to be filled.

    GM Kenny Williams has already given strong indications that he won't pick up the 2013 option for third baseman Kevin Youkilis. A $22 million option for starting pitcher Jake Peavy is unlikely to be picked up.

    In addition, options for Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd are forthcoming, as well as a decision to be made on the free-agency status of A.J. Pierzynski, whose in the midst of a career year.

    The Sox shaved $30 million off their payroll from 2011 to this season, and with their commitments already locked in for next season, further shaving is highly unlikely.

    But I wouldn't bet on the White Sox spending willy-nilly this winter, either.

20. Minnesota Twins

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    The Minnesota Twins are headed toward their second consecutive 90-loss season, and it would seem like a rebuilding could be in the works.

    The Twins have $68.3 million committed for their 2013 payroll, with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham taking up 65 percent of that amount.

    GM Terry Ryan has already indicated that the Twins' biggest need is pitching, but Ryan and the Twins have never been big on making huge free-agent signings during the offseason.

    A rebuilding will no doubt take place, but not in the way of huge signings. Don't look for owner Jim Pohlad and Ryan to start now.

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks will likely not have an opportunity to get back to the playoffs this season after winning the NL West in 2011. Despite an aggressive offseason by GM Kevin Towers, the D-Backs largely disappointed.

    The Arizona payroll for 2012 fell just short of the $75.5 million high set in 2010. Entering the 2013 season, the Diamondbacks already have $55 million in commitments.

    Closer J.J. Putz is a free agent at the end of the year, and raises are in order for several players under team control.

    There is a strong likelihood the Diamondbacks could be active this offseason, but it could come more from the trade market rather than through free agency. baseball expert Buster Olney indicated as such earlier this month:

    The Arizona Diamondbacks spoke to multiple teams about Justin Upton during the season, and rival executives expect they will trade the right fielder this winter. But some club officials also believe Arizona will move center fielder Chris Young, as well. Arizona could go into next season with an outfield of Gerardo Parra, Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton if it deals both Upton and Young, and the team's clear focus will be adding a shortstop, such as the Rangers' Elvis Andrus.

    Free-agency splash? Unlikely. Trade splash? Don't count the Diamondbacks out.

18. Baltimore Orioles

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    While everyone is still waiting for the Baltimore Orioles to somehow stumble, they continue surprising and contending at the top of the AL East.

    And they're doing it with only the 19th highest payroll in the majors.

    Looking ahead to next season, the O's have $53.2 million in committed payroll money. Vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has decisions to make on option years for Randy Wolf ($10 million) and Mark Reynolds ($11 million), and will need to decide whether to re-sign free agents Joe Saunders and Nate McLouth.

    Jim Johnson, Jason Hammel and Darren O'Day are all arbitration-eligible, and raises are likely in order.

    It's unlikely that the options for Reynolds and Wolf will be picked up, and Saunders probably won't be back, so Duquette has some flexibility.

    Still, Duquette is not looking to repeat free-agency mistakes made by previous Orioles GMs, so I don't see major splashes this offseason. Considering how well Duquette did in constructing the 2012 roster, that's not a bad thing.

17. Toronto Blue Jays

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    The Toronto Blue Jays will be entering the offseason with $61.3 million in committed payroll for the 2013 season. They'll also be entering the offseason with a lot of questions.

    General manager Alex Anthopoulos needs to make decisions on several free agents, including Kelly Johnson, Brandon Lyon and Jason Fraser. An option for Rajai Davis ($3M) and several arbitration-eligible players need to be resolved as well.

    Anthopoulos has been more about working deals via trades, so a free agency splash may not be in the cards this winter. A possible last-place finish in the AL East is a bitter pill to swallow, and the Jays may be more committed to prospects than participating in a free-agent market that's considered particularly strong.

16. Detoit Tigers

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    With the fifth-largest payroll in baseball, the Detroit Tigers are desperately clinging to life in the American League playoff race.

    Tigers owner Mike Ilitch spent $214 million for the services of first baseman Prince Fielder, indicating that money was not an option in bringing a championship back to Motown.

    The Tigers have $90.2 million committed for next season already, and GM Dave Dombrowski will need to fill holes in left field and at closer.

    Both Delmon Young and Jose Valverde will be free agents, and Dombrowski has decisions to make on the option years for shortstop Jhonny Peralta ($6M) and reliever Octavio Dotel ($3.5M).

    Anibal Sanchez is also a free agent, but don't expect him back, given his performance since joining the Tigers.

    The Tigers will likely be close to $115 million after making decisions on current players, so Dombrowski could be in position to spend this winter. But will owner Ilitich give the green light once again?

15. Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals increased their payroll dramatically this season, close to 35 percent higher than their 2011 payroll.

    Obviously, the results show.

    The Nationals have $58.6 million committed for the 2013 season. Decisions need to made regarding the option of Adam LaRoche ($10M), the free-agency status of Edwin Jackson and Chien-Ming Wang, and arbitration decisions on John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Jesus Flores.

    GM Mike Rizzo will be well-positioned to make a splash, but the Nationals may be one of the more well-positioned teams heading into the offseason without needing to make a splash.

    Doesn't mean they won't, but a big splash may not be all that necessary.

14. Kansas City Royals

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    The Kansas City Royals entered the 2012 season with the fourth-lowest payroll in MLB ($60.9M), and they're once again looking at a 90-loss season.

    There is always a measure of hope in Kansas City, however. Hope that youngsters like Danny Duffy, Jake Odorizzi, Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and others can gel as a team and bring the Royals back to respectability.

    However, they've been saying the same thing in Kansas City for years.

    The Royals have $34.9 million committed thus far for the 2013 season. But owner David Glass won't be expected to suddenly have an epiphany and green-light a spending spree.

13. New York Mets

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    The New York Mets may finally have the monkey called the Bernie Madoff scandal off their back, but are they now in a position to spend?

    That's the question facing the Mets this offseason as they prepare to upgrade their roster. Unfortunately, attendance at Citi Field has declined each year since it opened in 2009, and owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz still needed a cash infusion from investors.

    The Mets have $54.5 million in commitments for next season. That does not include the $15 million option for third baseman David Wright or the $5 million option for potential Cy Young Award candidate R.A. Dickey.

    Upgrades are needed in the bullpen and in the starting rotation. GM Sandy Alderson will be tasked with making those upgrades, but will it be with a band-aid like in 2012?

12. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Because of their outstanding play over the past several weeks, the Milwaukee Brewers are still holding out hope for a playoff berth in the National League.

    These are the Brewers that let free agent first baseman Prince Fielder walk and sent starting pitcher Zack Greinke packing, realizing they simply wouldn't be able to meet his demands in free agency.

    The Brewers have $52.4 million in payroll commitments on the books for the 2013 season. They will have decisions to make regarding potential free agents Francisco Rodriguez and Shaun Marcum, and will need to decide whether to bring back shortstop Alex Gonzalez after he tore an ACL in early May.

    Brewers owner Mark Attansio is a competitive guy. He has never been one to give up. However, the Brewers are in the smallest TV market in the majors, and without that extra revenue, it's hard to keep up with the big boys year after year.

    Expect some spending, but a payroll exceeding $100 million is a major financial risk.

11. Tampa Bay Rays

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    When I saw that the Tampa Bay Rays only had $18.6 million committed for payroll thus far in 2013, I had to do a double-take.

    But the Rays are contending with players under team control. They'll have decisions to make at first base (Carlos Pena) and center field (B.J. Upton), but they'll certainly have the flexibility to make those decisions. It's likely neither will be seen in Tampa Bay next season.

    Options for James Shields ($9 million), Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million), Luke Scott ($6 million) and Jose Molina ($1.8 million) are in order as well.

    Considering their pattern of avoiding huge free-agency signings like the plague, I don't see a big winter in Tampa Bay.

    Then again, maybe GM Andrew Friedman will surprise us all.

10. Colorado Rockies

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    The Colorado Rockies have always been a team full of surprises in terms of guessing what they'll do each offseason.

    This past winter, GM Dan O'Dowd made a bevy of moves in the hopes of bolstering his pitching staff. Obviously, none of them worked.

    The Rockies have $46.5 million in committed payroll for the 2013 season. Decisions on the option for Jorge De La Rosa will need to be made, a raise for center fielder Dexter Fowler is in order, and O'Dowd and his team will have multiple decisions on players under team control.

    After all is said and done, the Rockies could be approaching $70 million, well short of their $81 million payroll in 2012.

    It's difficult to get a read on the Rockies, but a big splash could be in order.

9. Miami Marlins

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    The Miami Marlins' opening day payroll of $101.6 million represented the first time in franchise history the team reached nine figures.

    Needless to say, that significant jump didn't have an impact.

    With some of their in-season moves made after they realized their season was lost, the Marlins now have $67.5 million in payroll commitments for the 2013 season.

    Decisions need to be made on free agents Carlos Lee and Carlos Zambrano along with several players still under team control.

    It's not inconceivable that the Marlins could attempt to once again make a splash this offseason. There will be wheeling and dealing done in Miami, but much of it could be in the form of trades of players currently on their roster, like Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.

    I am not one who is convinced that the Marlins will conduct another fire sale. There is a new stadium to be paid for, after all.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the 2012 season with the fifth-lowest payroll in baseball and inched closer to a playoff bid.

    Entering Wednesday night's game with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pirates were still in contention for the final Wild Card in the National League, but with a record of 74-73, they could find themselves with a record 20th consecutive losing season instead.

    Still, progress was clearly made this season, and the Pirates are currently only on the hook for $27.9 million in payroll commitments for the 2013 season.

    Raises will be in order for Joel Hanrahan, and Andrew McCutchen's contract is very team-friendly for the next two seasons, so flexibility is there for GM Neal Huntington.

    I have to think that despite owner Bob Nutting's unwillingness to spend during the offseason, the Pirates really are that close to contending for the NL Central Division title in 2013. Spending this offseason could be in order. Certainly not like the old-time spending of the New York Yankees and others, but certainly more than has been seen from Pittsburgh in the past.

7. Texas Rangers

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    The Texas Rangers are on the verge of winning their third straight AL West Division title, and they have a golden opportunity to get back to the World Series for the third straight season.

    With $84.4 million in payroll commitments for next season, the Rangers already have several players locked in.

    However, Texas also has several players who will be free agents at the end of the season, including Josh Hamilton, Ryan Dempster, Mike Adams and Mike Napoli.

    If the Rangers pass on Hamilton, expect them to be active this offseason. Even with Hamilton on board, they could as well. Ownership has certainly shown it's not afraid to add the pieces to keep winning, so this winter will be worth watching for Rangers fans.

6. Seattle Mariners

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    The Seattle Mariners have been a solid team in the second half of 2012, posting a 34-29 record and seemingly playing with more focus since the deal that sent Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees.

    The Mariners are well-positioned for the 2013 season with $40.5 million in committed payroll and few of their own free agents to worry about re-signing.

    Almost all of their contract issues this off-season involve arbitration-eligible players, so even when GM Jack Zduriencik resolves those contracts, the Mariners will be well under their 2012 opening day payroll of $84.9 million.

    Considering their success in the second half, Seattle could emerge as a player in free-agent negotiations this offseason.

5. Houston Astros

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    The Houston Astros will be trying to avoid the 110-loss mark as the 2012 season winds down, and many players are currently auditioning for 2013 roster spots, including interim manager Tony DeFrancesco.

    With the purging of just about every veteran on the roster by GM Jeff Luhnow, the Astros only have $5.5 million in committed payroll for next season.

    Astros owner Jim Crane has talked in the past about keeping payroll down, but even after signing most of the players they want coming back in 2013, they'll be well under $60 million.

    With the move to the AL West next season, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see activity in Houston this winter. Will it measure up to the type of activity in other cities in recent years in terms of dollars (Angels, Rangers, Tigers, Marlins)? Very doubtful, but they are certainly in a position financially to make a splash.

4. San Diego Padres

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    The San Diego Padres, like the Seattle Mariners, have shown vast improvement in the second half of the 2012 season.

    With only $26 million in payroll commitments for the 2013 season, the Padres could be positioned to be players this winter.

    A new ownership group will be looking to show fans its desire to build a winning franchise. I'm not expecting the Padres to turn into free-wheeling spenders, but flexibility is there for ownership to make a statement this winter.

3. Atlanta Braves

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    I know that fans of the Atlanta Braves may be surprised to see their team ranked so highly on this list, but the Braves could well be players in 2013.

    The Braves currently have $15.2 million committed in payroll next season. Decisions on options for Brian McCann ($12M), Tim Hudson ($9M) and Paul Maholm ($6.5M) could potentially drive that number up to $42.7 million.

    GM Frank Wren will need to make a decision on whether to offer center fielder Michael Bourn a long-term contract, and several arbitration-eligible players will need to be dealt with as well.

    If Bourn opts to sign somewhere else, the Braves will have money this offseason to re-load. Braves fans may not be thoroughly convinced that ownership group Liberty Media will spend lavishly, but wiggle room could well be there for a big splash.

2. Chicago Cubs

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    With all of the wheeling and dealing done by the Chicago Cubs over the past year, payroll has already been whittled down significantly.

    Payroll was slashed by $25 million from last year to this year, and only $41.8 million is currently on the books for the 2013 season.

    Starting pitcher Matt Garza will likely command around $10 million, and arbitration bumps and natural raises for players under team control will put the Cubs somewhere around $70-$75 million.

    President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has talked about a long-term building of the farm system and making prudent decisions regarding free agency to build a long-term winning franchise. But that doesn't mean the Cubs will be silent this winter, either.

1. Boston Red Sox

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    With one trade in mid-August, the Boston Red Sox freed up $60 million in payroll for next season.

    Now with only $45.6 million in payroll commitments for next season, the Red Sox and GM Ben Cherington are absolutely primed for a re-loading this winter.

    The John Henry ownership group has never endured a losing season until this year. I don't think there's any question it'll allow Cherington to do whatever it takes to upgrade the roster.

    Is Cherington going to sign players to Carl Crawford-type deals? No, but he's got plenty of wiggle room, and Henry and the boys will not stand for another losing season.


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.