MLB Free Agents 2012: Ranking All 30 Teams on How Much They Have to Spend

Matthew Dicker@@MattDickerContributor IIINovember 7, 2011

MLB Free Agents 2012: Ranking All 30 Teams on How Much They Have to Spend

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    Now that the confetti has settled on the St. Louis Cardinals victory parade and fans of the other 29 teams have begun to recover from their disappointment, hope begins anew as free agency has begun, giving every team the opportunity to build for the future.  

    Though at this point each team has a 0-0 record in the 2012 season, all teams are not created equal in free agency. Some teams have the luxury of working with payrolls topping $100 million, while other teams must make do with far less. Yet even teams with comparatively small payrolls can create opportunities in free agency by being disciplined with their budgets, giving them the opportunity to spend their money on a player they believe to be critical to their success.

    Because of the lack of a salary cap, Major League Baseball budgets are difficult to predict, especially with teams who have seemingly unlimited resources to go after the best and most expensive players year after year. Yet based on previous year's budgets and public statements by front offices, estimates of each team's payroll can be made.

    With the invaluable help of Cot's Baseball Contracts, what follows is a ranking of how much each team will likely have to spend on the free agent market.

No. 30: San Diego Padres

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    Expected Available Money: $5 million

    Since Jeff Moorad's group purchased the Padres in 2009, the payroll has come in between $35 and $45 million.  The Padres are on the hook for only $11 million in 2012, and once arbitration is finished, that number could be close to $40 million.  

    If the Padres keep Heath Bell on the roster, the team won't have much money to spend in free agency.  If Heath Bell leaves for another team, where he could earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million a year, the Padres will have the $7-9 million they hope to give to Bell to spend on other players.  

    The Padres will likely spend somewhere between $3 million and $8 million in free agency, leaving them very little to spend on improving from there abysmal 2011 season. 

No. 29: Milwaukee Brewers

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    Expected Available Money: $5 million

    How the Brewers approach free agency will entirely depend on whether they believe they will be able to re-sign Prince Fielder. Without Fielder, the Brewers are on the hook for $58 million, which should jump up to $75 million or so after arbitration. Fielder expects to bring in a salary in the $20 million range, which would bump the Brewers payroll to $95 million per year, the highest in team history and more than $10 million higher than the 2011 payroll. Signing Fielder would prevent the Brewers from pursuing anyone but the cheapest options on the free agent market.

    If Fielder leaves Milwaukee for the Angels, Rangers or another team with deep pockets and a need for a big bat, the Brewers would have $10 million or so to spend in free agency. This would be enough to bring in some decent options, but not enough to find someone with Fielder's productivity.  

No. 28: Tampa Bay Rays

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    Expected Available Money: $7 million

    The Rays' precarious financial situation makes it tricky to predict their payroll; it climbed to $72 million in 2010 before dropping back to $42 million in 2011.  The Rays are obligated at just over $23 million, and their arbitration class, led by David Price, should push that to $40-45 million.  

    The Rays payroll will likely top the 2011 payroll, though it is unlikely to approach the 2010 level.  Expect the Rays payroll to come in at around $50 million, leaving them $5-10 million to spend in free agency. 

No. 27: Houston Astros

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    Expected Available Money: $7 million

    The Houston Astros roster is in rough shape, and it is likely to get only rougher as the team attempts to cut payroll as the recent purchase of the Astros is finalized by Major League Baseball.

    The team is currently committed to spend just over $47 million in 2012. The team has already managed to deal several of the players who would have been costly in arbitration, and the remaining players shouldn't raise their payroll too much.  Assuming the Astros come in at $50 million, that would leave them $25 million below their 2011 payroll.  

    The Astros will have to spend more than $50 million on their roster if they want to field a team that is remotely credible, since the majority of their payroll is tied up in Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez. However, don't expect the 2012 payroll to reach anything near the $75 million spent in 2011. The Astros will likely try to keep their payroll under $60 million, and will not be making a run at any pricey free agents. 

No. 26: Oakland Athletics

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    Expected Available Money: $8 million

    The Athletics have five players entering free agency—Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Rich Harden, and Hideki Matsui—and they have not made offers to any of them.

    Oakland is currently attempting to shed payroll as it awaits Major League Baseball's recommendation as to whether the team should stay in Oakland or move to nearby San Jose. 

    The A's are only on the hook for $21 million in payroll, though they have several players up for arbitration, and that number will probably get close to $40 million if they aren't able to trade away some of the arbitration-eligible players.  

    $40 million is well below the $67 million spent in 2011, and the A's haven't dipped below $47 million since 2002. The A's will likely make moves for a few free agents, but are unlikely to sign anyone that would put them too far above $50 million in payroll. Expect the A's to spend somewhere in the $8 million range. 

No. 25: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Expected Available Money: $8 million

    The Dodgers franchise, one of the proudest in baseball, has become a mess, and the team is currently up for sale. The Dodgers payroll ballooned up to almost $120 million in 2011, and the team is committed to $50 million entering the offseason, including over $8 million to Manny Ramirez and over $3 million to Andruw Jones.

    Most of the Dodgers best players are up for arbitration, including Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney, and most will be getting significant raises. The Dodgers could end up spending $30-40 million in payroll raises, bringing their payroll to the $80-90 million range. This is well below the $120 million spent in 2011, and though general manager Ned Colletti would love to have $30-40 million to spend, he will have a much tighter budget due to the ownership situation.

    While Colletti won't be entirely restricted from signing free agents, he will likely be limited to filling roster holes and going after an undervalued veteran or two, not pursuing the big names that the team might pursue in other seasons. The Dodgers will be difficult enough to sell due to their complicated debt situation and owner Frank McCourt's decimation of the franchise's value, and the team, with the input of Major League Baseball, will not want to make matters worse by locking the team into long-term, expensive contracts.  

No. 24: Cincinnati Reds

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    Expected Available Money: $9 million 

    The Reds payroll has crept up from the the $45 million range at the start of the decade to $80 million in 2011. The Reds announced that they have declined the option on Francisco Cordero's contract and picked up Brandon Phillips' option.  

    The Reds are left with $63 million on the books, and will likely lose about $5-10 million in payroll in arbitration. This would leave the Reds with about $7-12 million in payroll, giving them little flexibility in free agency.  

    Of course, this could all change if the Reds change their minds and put Joey Votto and his $9.5 million 2012 salary on the trading block. Votto's payroll is set to jump to $17 million in 2013, and thus, if the Reds decide that they are in a rebuilding period, they may want to shed Votto's contract.

No. 23: Toronto Blue Jays

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    Expected Available Money: $9 million

    The Blue Jays have managed to drop their payroll down from near $100 million in 2008 to just over $70 million last year. The team currently has roughly $47 million on the books, and arbitration could push them north of $60 million, giving them little money to spend in free agency if payroll remains near $70 million.

    The Jays were solid on offense last season, but their pitching needs much improvement. Japanese pitcher Yu Darivsh is an enticing, unproven option, but he will be very expensive due to the high cost of signing Japanese talent, which would push the payroll well over $70 million.

    If the Jays don't sign Darvish, they will likely limit their payroll spending to $8-10 million.

No. 22: Cleveland Indians

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    Expected Available Money: $10 million

    Since the Indians hit a payroll of over $81 million in 2009, the highest since 2001, it was reduced to under $50 million in 2011. Their obligation heading into 2012 is under $30 million, a number which could jump closer to $45 or $50 million after arbitration.  

    If the Indians keep their payroll near their 2011 payroll, they will have almost nothing to spend in free agency. More likely, their payroll will be closer to their 2010 level, just above $60 million, leaving the Indians somewhere in the $10 million range.    

No. 21: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Expected Available Money: $10 million

    The St. Louis Cardinals free agency period will be almost entirely defined by one man: Albert Pujols. The team has roughly $56 million committed, largely to Matt Holliday and Kyle Lohse, which will jump to around $70 million or so after arbitration.

    Albert Pujols is priority No. 1, and the Cardinals will do everything in their power to get him back. If Pujols' suitors drive the price up so high that the team cannot afford to keep him in Missouri, the team's payroll will be $30 million or so shy of their 2011 total, and about $10 million below where they have been in recent seasons.  

    The loss of Pujols would mean the beginning of a rebuilding period, and the Cards would not likely want to tie up money in expensive free agents if Pujols leaves, especially given the young talent on the team. The Cardinals will likely keep their free agency spending to a minimum, with the exception of returning Prince Albert. If Carpenter doesn't return, they would be able to spend a bit more money. 

No. 20: Chicago White Sox

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    Expected Available Money: $10 million

    The White Sox payroll swelled to over $125 million in 2011, more than four times greater than the payroll a decade ago. The expiring contracts of several players, most notably Mark Buehrle, will free up some payroll, but the Sox are still on the hook for $94 million. Carlos Quentin is the biggest name up for arbitration, and the Sox payroll will likely expand about $15 million to somewhere in the $110 million range.  

    The Sox have kept their payroll near the $100-125 million range for the past six years, and are unlikely to stray from this figure, especially as they attempt to rebuild with a new manager. Assuming the Sox stick to a payroll of $120 million, this leaves them around $10 million to spend on the market.

    The White Sox were 18th in runs scored, 17th in batting average, 18th in ERA and 21st in batting average allowed, and thus, the team needs help in a lot of areas. If the team is committed to rebuilding under new manager Robin Ventura, they could look to sign some young talent instead of the expensive big names they have gone after in recent years. 

No. 19: Kansas City Royals

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    Expected Available Money: $10 million

    The Kansas City Royals were able to move a number of players from their payroll and ended up with a 2011 total of only $38 million. Only $23 million of that will carry into 2012, though a number of players are eligible for arbitration, which could send the committed number back towards $35 million.

    The Royals had a strong season with their young, cheap team, and will likely raise their payroll a bit past $38 million, but will not get anywhere near the $70 million of the previous two seasons. Assuming the payroll goes to $45 million, the Royals will have about $10 million to spend in free agency.  

    There is talk the Royals will go after C.J. Wilson, a move which would certainly push them past $45, but most likely, they will stick to rebuilding through prospects and youth.   

No. 18: Colorado Rockies

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    Expected Available Money: $12 million

    The most significant Rockies player to hit free agency is pitcher Aaron Cook, a fixture in the organization since 1997, who has struggled with health and productivity in recent seasons. The team will likely let go of free agents Aaron Coo and Kevin Millwood, though they could make offers for J.C. Romero and Mark Ellis.  

    The Rockies are on the hook for $65 million, and will likely only spend an additional $5 million or so in arbitration.  The team's payroll has hovered a little over $80 million for the past few seasons, giving the Rockies $10-12 million in money to spend on free agents.   

No. 17: Detroit Tigers

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    Expected Available Money: $12 million

    After a payroll of a whopping $134 million in 2010, the Tigers dropped down to a still generous $107 million in 2011. Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen both hit free agency this year, and the Tigers are unlikely to bring either back, freeing up over $20 million between them.

    The Tigers are currently committed to roughly $83 million after picking up the option on Jose Valverde, and another $10-12 million could be committed after arbitration. This leaves the team about $12 million below their 2011 payroll, but owner Michael Ilitch has been willing to sign off on payroll increases when the right player is available.  

    The team's payroll has gone up after far less successful seasons than 2011 was for Detroit, so the $12 million number is a conservative estimate.

No. 16: Washington Nationals

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    Expected Available Money: $12 million

    The Nationals have been on a spending spree lately, and though their payroll only hit $68 million last season and their obligations are around $53 million before arbitration, the Nats must be careful due to the structure of a few of their contracts. Jayson Werth will earn roughly $13 million in 2012, but that number jumps to over $16 million the following season, and then will top $20 million each season for the final three years of his career. If the Nats are not cautious, they could end up with a payroll spiraling out of control.

    The Nats will likely have $63 million or so on their books after arbitration. The front office has hinted they are willing to spend more than their payroll again for the right player, but the Nationals needs might not be met by the current free agent crop. The Nationals need hitting and are rumored to be in the hunt for both Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.  The Nats needs are greater in the outfield, so a more logical—and cheaper—option might be Grady Sizemore

    The Nats look to be big spenders in the coming years, but this offseason will likely not be one in which the Nats make a big splash. 

No. 15: Texas Rangers

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    Expected Available Money: $12 million

    Buoyed by their recent success and upcoming television deal, the Rangers figure to be aggressive in the free agent market in coming seasons. The team's payroll shot up to $92 million last season, and they are currently obligated to spend roughly $67 million. Arbitration could push that number somewhere near $90-95 million.

    The Rangers will work hard to bring back free agent C.J. Wilson, the ace of their staff. Wilson will be pricey and would push the team over $100 million in payroll. The Rangers showed discipline in not overpaying for Cliff Lee last season, and will likely take the same hard-line approach to Wilson.

    If Wilson isn't signed, the Rangers could take the money earmarked for him and pursue another bat for their lineup. The Rangers could choose to be aggressive and go for Prince Fielder, or even Pujols, but either player would tie up a significant portion of their upcoming television contract money.  

    The Rangers have been disciplined in their spending, and it is unlikely they will break that habit this offseason. 

No. 14: Atlanta Braves

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    Expected Available Money: $15 million

    After the Braves payroll fell in 2010 to under $84 million for the first time in a decade, the payroll jumped back up to $91 million in 2011. The team doesn't have many contracts coming off the books this year; relief pitcher Scott Linebrink's $5.5 million in 2011 is the most significant. The team also shed $5 million by trading Derek Lowe to the Indians—they remain on the hook for $10 million of his contract—leaving them with roughly $75 million after expected arbitration.  

    If the Braves keep their payroll near $90 million, near where it has been for the past decade, this leaves the Braves roughly $15 million to spend in free agency.  

    The Braves will likely use their money to pursue at least one pitcher to replace free agents George Sherrill and Scott Linebrink, and will have to replace shortstop Alex Gonzalez if they do not re-sign him. Gonzalez was paid $2.5 million last year, and though he only batted .241, his 15 home runs were an unexpected and pleasant surprise for the Braves. 

No. 13: Baltimore Orioles

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    Expected Available Money: $15 million

    Baltimore's 2011 payroll of roughly $85 million was more than twice that of their division rival Tampa Bay, yet the Rays 22 more games than the Orioles. The Baltimore Orioles franchise has become such a mess that they are finding it difficult to find some interested in their vacant general manager job.  

    Last year, the Orioles attempted to bolster their team by signing big name free agents Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee. While Guerrero had a solid year for Baltimore, the O's gave up on Lee and traded him midseason.  

    The Orioles currently owe roughly $43 million in contracts. Their players due arbitration will likely push them to the $65-70 million range, similar to the team's payroll between 2008 and 2010, but well below the 2011 payroll. The Orioles will likely be willing to stick near their 2011 payroll, and thus have $15-20 million to spend on the open market.  

    The Orioles have a tendency to go for the quick fix and sign big-name free agents, and they might make a run at some of the biggest names on the market this year.  

No. 12: Miami Marlins

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    Expected Available Money: $15 million

    The Marlins have twice built a championship team, only to dismantle it in order to reduce payroll. Though the Marlins are a long way from being a championship caliber team, 2012 could be the first season in a long time in which Miami isn't sweating bullets over payroll.

    The Marlins are set to play in a new stadium, have changed the name of the team, announced a new manager and will don new uniforms, and the front office is expected to heavily pursue big name free agents in order to drum up support for the new-look Marlins.

    The Marlins are obligated at just under $50 million, and the Marlins will have to spend a significant amount, perhaps as high as $15 million, in arbitration, putting the payroll near $65 million, the highest payroll in team history.  

    The front office has been coy about what the budget will be, but the Miami Herald reports it to be in the $70-80 million range, giving the Marlins $5-15 million to spend in free agency.  

    The Marlins are expected to gauge the interest of big name free agents Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, and if the interest is mutual, could raise the payroll higher than the $70-80 million range in order to make the most of the organization's fresh start. It wouldn't be shocking to see the team's payroll significantly higher than $80 million, but they'll likely only do it if they can get a superstar; otherwise, expect the Marlins to come in at around $80 million.  

No. 11: San Francisco Giants

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    Expected Available Money: $15 million

    The Giants are obligated to spend roughly $73 million next year, down from their 2011 payroll of $118 million, but that number will jump dramatically once they figure out what to do with Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is up for arbitration, and he could pass Barry Zito as the most expensive player on the roster.

    Dealing with Lincecum will probably push the Giants over $90 million, and other arbitration cases could push the Giants closer to $105 or $110, leaving them much less flexibility if they want to stay near their 2012 payroll.

    The Giants will need to figure out how to improve their horrendous 2011 offense, and with limited free agent money it could be tough. If the Giants bring back Carlos Beltran, they will have little money to pursue a big-name free agent like Pujols or Fielder, but the Giants are unlikely to let Beltran go unless they can get a bigger bat.  

No. 10: New York Mets

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    Expected Available Money: $20 million

    The Mets successfully shed payroll during the 2011 season, as they removed Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez from their books. Their obligation in 2012 is down to $67 million, far below their $140 million 2011 payroll. After arbitration, the Mets will owe near $80 million.

    The Mets need to keep their payroll low as they cope with their precarious financial situation, but the Mets will still spend more than $80 million. Reyes hopes to earn $20 million per year, but the Mets are unlikely to offer much more than $15 per year to Reyes.  

    If Reyes stays in Queens, the Mets will likely be quiet on the free agent market, using the available money to plug a few holes. Should Reyes leave, the Mets have a bit more money to spend, but they will likely remain conservative in their spending.  

No. 9: Seattle Mariners

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    Expected Available Money: $20 million

    The Mariners are obligated to spend approximately $60 million heading into free agency, and even after pay raises from arbitration, the team should be in the $70-75 million range, well below the $90-100 million that the team has spent on payroll in the last three seasons.  

    In 2011, Seattle was last in baseball in runs scored and batting average, and that will be the first issue that management looks to address in the offseason. With somewhere between $15 million and $25 million in payroll to spend, the team could go after Prince Fielder, but could also look for a cheaper alternative in someone like Grady Sizemore. 

No. 8: New York Yankees

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    Expected Available Money: $20 million

    The Yankees payroll has topped $200 million four years in a row, and there is no reason to think the Yankees won't have a similar payroll in 2012. After their recent re-signing of C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees are obligated to spend roughly $173 million, and though they face a number of arbitration cases, none will break the bank.  

    The team is also likely to let Jorge Posada go elsewhere, freeing up his $13 million 2011 salary. Assuming the Yankees obligation comes in at about $185 million, this leaves the team with $15-25 million to spend in free agency.

    The Yankees have several players entering free agency, including Andruw Jones, Bartolo Colon and Eric Chavez, and signing one or more of these players could push them north of $190 million.

    The Yankees are likely to focus on starting pitching in free agency, and the team has reached out to C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt. Landing an ace such as Wilson would likely cost the Yankees most of their available money, and unless the Yankees offer a surprise by going after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, their payroll should be similar to the 2011 level.

No. 7: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Expected Available Money: $25 million 

    The Pirates are committed to spending less than $10 million in 2012, about one quarter of where the payroll has hovered for the past two seasons. The Pirates released all of their players who they held options for in 2012, and their arbitration will not be terribly expensive. The Pirates will likely only owe $15 million or so in 2012, leaving the team with $25 million in flexibility in free agency, impressive for a team with such a miserly payroll.

    The Pirates could stealthily be active bidders in free agency, as few teams have as much to spend as the Pirates. Currently, the team does not have a single player earning more than $4 million per year, and the team is unlikely to want to tie up a large percentage of its very limited budget in one or two players. Still, expect the Pirates to use their flexibility to be a bit aggressive in free agency.

No. 6: Minnesota Twins

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    Expected Available Money: $25 million

    The Twins are obligated to spend $65 million, a big drop from their 2012 payroll of $113 million. Half of their money is tied up in two players, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Francisco Liriano will be the priciest of their arbitration cases, and they could see their obligations jump to $75-80 million million.

    The Twins team president told ESPN Radio that while the payroll in 2012 was higher than planned, there likely will not be a big cut in 2012.  

    Despite having $25-30 million to spend in free agency, the team is unlikely to pursue the biggest names in free agency. The team has a number of needs, most notably in both starting pitching and the bullpen, and the Twins will not want to lock their funds up in one or two players. The Twins will be active players on the free agent market, and will spend a great deal of money if worthwhile opportunities present themselves, but will not likely throw money away.   

No. 5: Los Angeles Angels

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    Expected Available Money: $25 million

    The Angels payroll has steadily increased over the past few seasons, reaching a high of $141 million in 2011. The front office has stated that they do not want the payroll to go increase much over $140 million in 2012.

    The team is locked in to spending just over $100 million, and with arbitration, will come in around $115 million. This leaves the Angels with roughly $25 million to spend in free agency, giving them significant room to go after top free agents.  

    The Angels have enough pitching talent that C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle would be a luxury, but $25 million allows for a luxury or two. Stealing C.J. Wilson from their division rivals would be a major boost to their playoff chances, as would landing one of the big whales of the free agent class. 

No. 4: Boston Red Sox

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    Expected Available Money: $25 million

    The Red Sox have the potential to change their look more than any other team during the offseason. After their epic late season collapse, someone has called for the shunning of nearly every player on the team. It is difficult to determine exactly how much cash the Red Sox will have available to them, since a trade of a big name like John Lackey or Josh Beckett would radically change the team's budget.

    As it stands now, the Red Sox are committed to spend approximately $125 million, due in large part to the expiring contracts of J.D. Drew, Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz. Some big names, namely Jacoby Ellsbury, are eligible for arbitration, and the payroll could jump past $140 million. The team spent approximately $165 million in each of the past two seasons, though the Sox payroll has swung dramatically in recent seasons.

    Assuming the Sox keep their payroll roughly where it was in 2011, the team should have somewhere in the $25 million range if no major trades are made.

    The team will likely consider going after Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, but more pressing needs may be created if major trades are made. 

No. 3: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Expected Available Money: $30 million 

    After two years with payrolls over $70 million, the Diamondbacks payroll fell to $56 million in 2011, and could fall even further in 2012 if the team declines to spend heavily in free agency.  

    The Diamondbacks recently declined their club option on Zach Duke, freeing up a little under $5 million on their payroll, and thus, they are presently on the hook for less than $30 million. The payroll will likely climb somewhere between $5-10 million during arbitration, with recent Gold Glove Award winner Gerardo Parra likely earning the biggest raise. This leaves the D-Backs spending somewhere between $35-40 million, $15-20 million below 2011 payroll and $35-40 below 2010 payroll levels.  

    The Diamondbacks will likely spend somewhere between the two numbers, and will first attempt to either re-sign Aaron Hill or replace him at second base. Arizona will also look to strengthen their pitching staff, as their team ERA was 14th in baseball. With their large war chest, the team could make a stealth move for some big name free agents.   

No. 2: Philadelphia Phillies

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    Expected Available Money: $35 million

    After hovering in the $90 million range from 2004-2007, the Phillies payroll has ballooned in recent years, hitting a high of $165 million in 2011. With Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez and others entering free agency, the Phillies are on the hook for $114 million next season.

    The Phillies declined their options on Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge, both expensive options that would have limited their free agency spending.    

    Cole Hamels will be their most expensive arbitration case, and their arbitration costs should be in the $15 million range if they don't sign Hamels to a long-term contract first. This leaves the Phillies at about $130 million.  

    If the Phillies bring back Rollins or other free agents, their spending money will be generous, but not unusual for a team in their financial situation. If Rollins leaves, the Phillies will have big money available in free agency. Rollins wants to stay in Philadelphia, and expect him and the Phillies to work together to make a deal to keep him on the Phillies. 

    The team is already reportedly chasing Michael Cuddyer, who would provide the Phillies flexibility and a right-handed bat.  Few of the big-name free agent options make sense for the Phillies, but expect the team to focus on strengthening their offense to complement their unrivaled pitching staff.  

No. 1: Chicago Cubs

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    Expected Available Money: $35 million

    The Cubs roster could change dramatically in free agency, as they are committed to only $72 million of their $134 million 2011 payroll.  This should suit new general manager Theo Epstein just fine, as he attempts to work his magic on a poorly constructed Cubs roster. The Cubs will free themselves of even more expensive contracts after the 2012 season, which will give Epstein the leeway to create a new team practically from scratch.

    The Cubs payroll has been in the $135-145 million range for the past few seasons, and they face some significant costs in arbitration. If their obligations jump to the $85 million range, the team could have up to $50 million to spend in free agency. The Cubs are unlikely to spend all of that, unless they can sign one of the whales of free agency, namely Albert Pujols. Expect the Cubs to look to spend somewhere in the $30-40 million range.

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