Ouch. It hurts in large part because Olbermann speaks the truth.
The Mariners have about $68.3 million in payroll commitments for 2014 as of right now. That figure will go up once the Smoak, Saunders, and Logan Morrison arbitration cases are figured out, but all of them are in their first years eligible. Let's say that they make $10 million total between them. Let's also assume that both Corey Hart and Franklin Gutierrez reach all of their incentives. That's another $10 million or so. That brings the payroll to around $88-90 million.
I guess, theoretically, that's why the Mariners say their payroll is about spent. They had an $84 million team last season, though apparently budgeted $95 million. If the Mariners want to pinch back the payroll a bit further because of sagging attendance and assume all possible extra payments happen, then perhaps they've hit their limit. It would be a very conservative approach to payroll budgeting.
You know what isn't conservative though? Spending $240 million on Robinson Cano. I really hope the Mariners are simply posturing to gain some bargaining leverage with free agents. The front office has used this tired line of "extra money available for the right player" for years now. It would seem to me that Robinson Cano is the "right player," and intelligent budgeting at this point would suggest that the Mariners should extend the payroll some more - so that, you know, Cano's massive deal has a chance of working. The team already has the exception under contract that justifies deeper pockets!
The Mariners stopped being fiscally conservative the instant they inked Cano. Their window of opportunity needs to be now. Cano isn't getting any younger. Neither is Felix. Young guys like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino aren't as good as they will be (hopefully), but they are also only going to be league-minimum cheap for the next 2-3 years. It is painfully obvious that the Mariners would be wise to overextend RIGHT NOW, because this is when they will get their best bang for the buck with the roster they have.
At the absolute least, I would hope that the Mariners see the $10 million they saved last year as money they can tack on to this year's payroll. I would also hope that they consider Hart and Guti's incentives as non-factors; if they reach those incentives, the team is better and likely earning more money. Just looking at the budget with those two tweaks opens up $20 million to spend. Pretty much anyone still available (with the possible exception of Shin-Soo Choo) can be signed, or fit within the budget, with that kind of cash. I wouldn't even consider that outlook very aggressive. I see room to be much more aggressive, particularly with the regional sports network revenue just around the corner, and the new MLB national deal that doubles payouts to each team starting this year.
The Mariners better still have payroll room. They are in the midst of their latest tactical blunder if they don't. They really are the worst if they opened up their pockets for Robinson Cano and then shut them again, leaving Jack Zduriencik to scrounge for pennies behind the couch.