The Indians 2020 Payroll Window is Open, Will They Push Through It?

Mark Warmuth

Sometimes it seems like the Cleveland Indians can't get out of their own way.

They have been one of the American League's best teams in the past 10 years, winning three AL Central titles and making four playoff appearances since Terry Francona became manager in 2013.

Since the wild card era began in 1994, coincidentally aligned with the opening of Jacobs (now Progressive) Field, the only two AL teams with more post-season berths are the league's behemoths, the Yankees and Red Sox.

Despite all this success in the last quarter century, there isn't a buzz around the franchise. The current Tribe has two of the game's most exciting and best players in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and fans seem ambivalent.

Not a mention a Hall of Fame manager.

The front office needs to seize the day with this current roster. Besides the duo we just mentioned, the Indians have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, even after dealing two time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

However, the Indians' ownership continues to cut the amount of money allocated for payroll. This despite winning 93 games last season.

No, they didn't make the playoffs, but in many seasons, that victory total gets you a chance to play in October.

We have said many times, Cleveland cannot live in the same payroll neighborhood as Boston and New York. And we aren't asking them to do so.

In 2018, the Indians' payroll was $134 million, the highest ever. And yes, we know minority owner John Sherman was involved at that point.

Right now, according to Baseball Reference Cot's Baseball Contracts, the current 26 man roster payroll in a little under $92 million, that's a drop of $42 million from two years ago.

And that includes arbitration settlements, meaning Lindor's $17 million salary for 2020 is included in that number.

Playing devil's advocate, let's say the $134 million isn't sustainable for the Dolan family. Last year, the Tribe's payroll was slightly under $120 million, according to the same site.

No doubt the Indians will make some minor signings before spring training arrives, so the actual number for 2020 will be around $100 million unless a trade or big ticket free agent signing is yet to come.

This will mean another $20 million will be lopped off the payroll from last season, $34 million has been eliminated over the past two seasons.

That certainly doesn't indicate to the ticket buying public a commitment to winning a championship, and it absolutely doesn't get fans in a mode to come out to Progressive Field this season.

As an aside, the schedule maker didn't help Cleveland either with 16 home games in April, where it will be rare a game time temperature will reach 60 degrees.

It is without a doubt a "chicken or the egg" scenario.

Ownership would like better attendance, and fans want a reason to buy tickets.

Last season, Philadelphia season ticket sales increased by 7% when they signed Bryce Harper.

Now, we know the Indians can't do this (especially with Lindor on the cusp of free agency), but why not do something that creates some excitement around this group of players.

Here's hoping Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff still have one more move up their sleeves before spring training to add a piece (not trade Lindor). They should have some money available.

Perhaps they were waiting for the potential arbitration cases to be settled.

Cleveland sports fans deserve some excitement, especially something not associated with a Browns' coaching search.

There's a window of opportunity for the Indians, time to go for it.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

There is no way to justify a payroll in the low 90's with the team they have. What ever happened to, we will spend when the time is right? No wonder the fans don't come to the games. The interest is still high just look at the tv ratings. How's they are giving them a 'lifetime achievement award,' it just makes me sick to think what we could have if they would just spend a reasonable amount on payroll. Instead they cut it and waste what is probably Frankies last year here.


As a tribe fan, it’s disappointing to see them cut payroll so much the past two years. What owner slashes payroll a year after making the playoffs. What’s the point of owning a competitive sports team if your not trying to improve and actually try and compete. I knew when he bought the team he wasn’t wealthy enough. Jacobs should have never sold to Dolan. So here we are and the twins keep spending. Just signed Donaldson for $$. At least one small market team is spending money to win. We don’t deserve a player like Lindor. We are wasting his best years.