TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels, traditionally one of baseball's big-time spenders, will have the fourth-lowest player payroll in the American League this season, according to salary information obtained by The Times.
The Angels' 1993 player payroll for their projected opening day roster is $24.143 million, which includes the $2.3 million they are obligated to pay Kelly Gruber, their injured third baseman.
The American League franchises with lower player payrolls are the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers and the Minnesota Twins. The Angels, whose 40-man payroll is estimated at $25.5 million, are expected to have the 20th-lowest payroll in the major leagues.
This will be the Angels' lowest player-payroll since 1990 when they spent $21.96 million in player salaries, but at that time, they had the sixth-highest payroll in baseball.
"The size of our budget doesn't make any difference," said Dan O'Brien, vice president/baseball operations. "What makes a difference is performance. Having a high budget does not translate into winning."
The Angels reduced their $32.5 million player budget from a year ago, according to Angel President Richard Brown, because the club lost $7.5 million. They came up with a budget that will allow them to break even if they draw 1.9 million fans.
"We want to be equitable and fair to our players," Brown said, "and at the same time show some profit. Right now, we believe we're at a break-even point."
The Angel payroll, primarily because of 13 players with less than three years' experience, is vastly disproportionate. The salaries of starters Chuck Finley ($5 million) and Mark Langston ($3.25 million) are 33% of the payroll.
Seven players--Finley, Langston, third basemen Gary Gaetti ($3 million) and Kelly Gruber ($2.3 million), outfielder Luis Polonia ($2.475 million), designated hitter Chili Davis ($1.75 million) and reliever Chuck Crim ($1.1 million)--are guaranteed $18.875 million. The average salary for the seven players is $2.7 million.
The remaining 19 players on the opening day roster will earn $5.268 million, an average salary of only $277,263.
Unless the Angels revert to their previous philosophy and resume luring high-priced free agents, their player payroll could continue to be among the lowest in baseball. They are committed to paying only $11.9 million in guaranteed salaries after the 1993 season--the fourth-lowest total in baseball. Finley is the only player on the roster whose salary is guaranteed past 1994.
"It is not our intent to see players like J.T. Snow, Tim Salmon, Gary DiSarcina and Damion Easley let go because of financial reasons," Brown said. "When they retire, I want them to go out as Angels.
"Right now, it's just easier to build a team going from $25 million up than it is from $40 million down."
The biggest variable in the Angels' payroll this season likely will be whether they're able to trade Gaetti, or convince the American League office that the Toronto Blue Jays should pay at least the first two months of Gruber's salary while he remains on the disabled list.
The Angel payroll could also rise by more than $1 million because of various incentives and bonuses in player contracts:
--Chili Davis is eligible to earn an additional $600,000 if he stays healthy nearly the entire season. He receives an additional $125,000 once he reaches 300 plate appearances, and could earn the full $600,000 if he has 500 plate appearances. Davis never has had fewer than 500 plate appearances in his 11-year career.
By reaching the incentives, Davis could actually earn an extra $1.95 million over the next two years. The money earned from this year's incentives will be added to his $1.75 million base salary in 1994, and he also will be eligible for the same incentives next season.
--Reliever Gene Nelson, whose contract will pay him $350,000 only if he makes the opening day roster, can double his wages if he pitches in at least 50 games this season. He has an incentive that will pay him $11,250 for every game he pitches beginning with his 21st game and ending with his 55th, for a possible total of $393,750.
--Starter Scott Sanderson, who will earn $500,000 if he's on the opening day roster and $250,000 if he's sent to the minor leagues, can earn an additional $300,000 if he pitches 180 innings.
--Starter Julio Valera has the most titillating incentive. He's eligible to earn an additional $2,500 on the first day of each month beginning in May if he reaches the Angels' body-fat specifications.
--Outfielder Stan Javier, who's expected to be a utility player, will earn $25,000 for every 50 plate appearances once he reaches 350 plate appearances, up to a maximum of $125,000.
--Catcher John Orton, who may wind up platooning with Greg Myers, can earn $20,000 if he plays in 100 games, and $30,000 if he plays in 120 games.
--Starting shortstop DiSarcina, who played in 157 games last season, will earn $25,000 if he misses only seven more games, and plays in 150 games during the season.