White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave 10 minutes of his time to Ben Finfer and Bruce Levine on 670 The Score Saturday morning, during which he gave us a little bit of information about the White Sox' offseason budget.
"[Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams] have a number that they can spend, and they're not at it yet. They are well below the budget number that we can afford to spend this year. If they have a player that's going to increase the payroll, as long as it fits within my budget, they can do it."
That's not necessarily a revelation, but it does narrow the possibilities of a spending floor. The Sox have about $60 million committed to the 2014 payroll, which is about half of 2013's Opening Day payroll. If you use MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration estimates, add roughly $11 million for Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo.
During the general managers meetings, Hahn estimated the current payroll at $80 million, so that probably means he's lumping Jose Abreu's $10 million salary bonus as part of the 2014 budget, although only a prorated portion will be accounted for on the official Opening Day payrolls.
Hahn also said he's expecting to budget $15 million on amateur spending -- roughly $10 milllion for the draft, $5 million for international signings, both of which practically double each of last year's pools.
So even factoring in all the extras and money not yet spent, if the Sox are "well below" Reinsdorf's mystery number, it sounds like the payroll isn't going to be slashed as much as a disappointing year at U.S. Cellular Field could suggest. The Sox opened last year at $113 million, so another nine-figure payroll isn't out of the question -- although it may officially be short of $100 million on the official ledgers, due to the Abreu bonus.
That lends a little credence to another thing Reinsdorf said to Finfer and Levine:
I think that the trade for [Avisail] Garcia and signing Abreu is a statement that we're not ripping it apart and trying to get bad before we get good. [...] We're certainly trying to get this thing better. We're not stripping it down -- I think that's the message we sent."
If the Sox have significant wiggle room on the payroll, it does make those mid-tier contracts easier to hand out. They probably won't have to cut corners on a stopgap catcher, for instance.
I can't imagine it makes the Sox players for the cream-of-the-crop free agents, nor should it. The front office should probably find out what they really have in Garcia and Abreu before they really commit to the next vision, and since 2015 was going to be a turnover year before they dumped Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, they're technically already ahead in the transition, without a massive cash infusion to artificially propel it. Reinsdorf might expect Abreu to contribute quickly, but history says that credible baseball players forget how to play baseball for a year after joining the Sox, so I'm not expecting major first-half fireworks.
I think it's fair to expect a return to professional-looking baseball, and Reinsdorf probably wants to make sure he gives Hahn enough resources to restore dignity to the White Sox uniform, if nothing else.
Two other items of interest from Reinsdorf...
No. 1: Indeed, the official line is that Paul Konerko controls his destiny.
It's totally Paul's option. He's earned the right to come back if he wants to come back. He's been the most popular player over the last 15 years that we've had ... he's basically a White Sox lifer. He's a terrific teammate, he's our captain, and he just has to make a decision on whether he wants to come back or not.
Reinsdorf did leave an out, saying, "I don't believe Paul would want to come back unless he felt he could contribute to the team."
No. 2: A.J. Pierzynski might be in the picture. In response to an open-ended question about Reinsdorf's breakfast with his former catcher at the meetings, he left some room for speculation about a return:
"Well, not today, but who knows about next week or the week after or next year."
But as the answer continued, Reinsdorf spoke more about Pierzynski's broadcasting skills than his catching, so perhaps he considered Levine's question more in terms of Pierzynski's post-career career.