The Texas Rangers payroll situation for 2016, as things stand now, consists of quite a bit of money committed for a roster that doesn't really have much in the way of holes to fill. There are some decisions to be made on arbitration cases, but really, Texas is going to decide if they want to stick with the main pieces that won the A.L. West in 2015, or if they want to move an expensive piece in order to free up some cash to look for an upgrade.
Taking a look at the existing obligations, courtesy of Cots Contracts, we see the Rangers have nine players under contract for 2016:
Josh Hamilton -- $26.41M
Prince Fielder -- $24M
Cole Hamels -- $22.5M
Shin-Soo Choo -- $20M
Adrian Beltre -- $18M
Elvis Andrus -- $15M
Yu Darvish -- $10M
Derek Holland -- $10M
Martin Perez -- $2.9M
That's $148.81M for 9 players. However, the Angels are kicking in $24M for Hamilton next year, the Tigers are kicking in $6M for Prince, and the Phillies are kicking in an estimated $3M for Hamels. That drops the overall obligations the Rangers have for these nine players to $115.81M.
(And yes, I know the dollar values above vary from Cots' numbers -- that's because Cots, when doing their future obligations, includes the pro-rated portion of any signing bonuses).
The Rangers also have 12 arbitration-eligible players -- Cots has 13, but I believe Kyle Blanks gets credit for a full season this year, even though he was in the minors for a short while, and even if he doesn't, the Rangers aren't going to be offering him arbitration.
Of the 12 arb-eligible guys, there are 5 players who seem like locks to be offered arbitration. We can look at MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration estimator to plug in what we think they will make:
Mitch Moreland -- $5.6M
Shawn Tolleson -- $2.6M
Robinson Chirinos -- $1.4M
Jake Diekman -- $1M
Jurickson Profar -- $508K
That gets us to just north of $11M, putting the overall amount for fourteen players at $127M.
Nick Tepesch and Tanner Scheppers are both arbitration-eligible, and while it is possible they could be non-tendered, it seems very unlikely, especially since they both project to come in at less than $1M.
We also have Leonys Martin, who is a question mark, both because of his disappointing season and his refusal to go to Surprise to work out with the Instructional League players to stay ready after it was determined he wouldn't be on the playoff roster.
The MLB Trade Rumors projection doesn't really work for him, because he was already on a major league deal, and his salary for 2016 will be based in part on what he made in 2015. I'd estimate a $4.25M arbitration figure for Leonys in 2016, a $500K raise over his 2015 salary. Given the Rangers' need for a backup centerfielder (and, realistically, a backup outfielder they will be comfortable getting a lot of playing time, with Josh Hamilton's perpetually questionable status), I'd guess at this point they keep Leonys, but it wouldn't surprise me if they opted to dump him instead.
If we assume he stays, though, that gets the payroll to around $133M.
The other four arbitration cases are Anthony Bass, who was picked up as a minor league free agent and who Texas might not want to use a 40 man roster spot on this offseason, and the three catchers -- Carlos Corporan, Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson. My guess is that either Corporan or Gimenez sticks around, and with the estimates coming in at $1.2M for Corporan and $1M for Gimenez, I think the Rangers might play one off against the other to see who they can get to take the more team-friendly deal.
Once we add in the minimum-salary guys, that puts payroll at about $140M for 2016. The Rangers opened the 2015 season with payroll right around $140M, so that doesn't give you much spending room this offseason.
Of course, you don't necessarily need a lot of spending room this offseason. Among position players, you've got all your starting positions covered, as well as backup OF and backup C. Your UIF and your 4C guy could be filled internally, if you wanted, and even if you'd rather have Hanser Alberto in AAA rather than sitting on the major league bench, if you go the veteran NRI UIF route, you're not paying that guy more than $1M. You might want to bring back Mike Napoli or go get another veteran 4C (or 1B/COF/DH) type instead of relying on Ryan Rua, but otherwise, your position spots are filled.
Similarly, while you probably want to go get a veteran starting pitcher -- someone like Colby Lewis -- to shore up the rotation while you wait for Yu Darvish to return, you at least have internal options to keep things afloat until then. You want to get a veteran starter in here, but if you have to use Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez as your #4 and #5 starters until Yu is ready, its not the end of the world. And the bullpen seems pretty well settled...the Rangers might take a cheap flier on someone, but they aren't going to devote significant dollars to bringing in an outside reliever.
This is what makes the coming offseason hard to figure out for the Rangers...their main issues, on the surface, appear to be addressing a couple of bench spots and sweet-talking Colby Lewis into returning, at which point they'll have a payroll that ends up in the $145-150M range.
But if the Rangers want to upgrade the middle of the order with a righthanded bat, either payroll will have to jump up significantly, or the Rangers would have to shed one of their big contracts -- likely either Shin-Soo Choo or Prince Fielder, since a middle of the order RH bat would likely play the same position Choo or Prince does. And even if the Rangers didn't shed one of their big contracts, adding an outside free agent or trade acquisition would mean having to shuffle someone aside to make room for that player in the lineup, whether that is Choo, Prince or Mitch Moreland.
This dynamic is made more potentially complicated by the fact that Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson all appear poised to be challenging for major league jobs in spring, 2017, and they play the same positions that the hypothetical acquisition you'd be dumping Choo or Prince would play. The front office has to ask, do we want to commit, say, 6 years, $130M for Yoenis Cespedes while paying $20-30M for someone to take Choo or Prince, when we think these other three players are going to be ready in the near future? Or do we stand pat, make minor moves on the periphery, bring our core back for 2016, and phase Gallo/Mazara/Brinson in once Moreland and Beltre are free agents?
Its not an easy decision, and until the offseason starts and the Rangers have a better idea as to who is available on the trade market, what the potential trade market for Choo and Prince is like, and what the market for the key free agents is going to look like, its impossible to say which option is best.