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Rays Owner Plans to Cut Payroll After 2010 Season

Feb 17, 2010 – 4:35 PM
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Josh Alper

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Rays owner Stuart Sternberg really wants a new stadium. That's not a particularly big secret, of course, and he's already got Tampa and St. Petersburg fighting with each other about who gets to build that new stadium. It never hurts to chum the water a little bit, though, which helps explain why Sternberg went on the radio earlier this week and guaranteed significant cuts to the team's $72 million payroll.

"It won't be 70 [million] and it won't be 60 [million]," Sternberg said. "We did outspend ourselves last year and completely outspent ourselves this year, and we'll feel the effects of that next year."

It's gotta be about the stadium, right? Why else would the owner of a team trying to convince fans to spend money on them openly admit that they won't be trying very hard to keep players like Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena after this season?

Both of those guys are free agents and their departures would slice $20 million off of the payroll. The Rays are better situated than most teams when it comes to replacing free agents because of their deep farm system, but that's not going to be enough to keep them competitive.

With Matt Garza, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and others set for arbitration and sizable raises after this season, a good chunk of that money will already be accounted for before the team even thinks about ways to replace Crawford and Pena. Even getting all of them signed under the $60 million cap Sternberg proposes could be awfully difficult if they all have strong seasons in 2010.

That could mean trades, either next offseason or during the second half if the Rays don't play as well as they'd hope over the first 100 games or so. And, thanks to Sternberg, that would put them at a disadvantage in deals since teams would know that their main priority would be dumping salary to save money in 2011.

That's not good business, which means this has to be about the stadium.

Filed under: Sports