Judgement Day is looming in our near future. We have 14 expiring contracts in 1950. Many of these are key players: Musial, Brecheen, Jansen, Marion, Schoendienst, Roe, and Kluszewski. We must find a way to get through this massive renewal without busting our budget. Some of these players are operating on rookie contracts and will command huge raises at market prices.
Compounding the problem, we only have six expiring contracts in 1949, and we want to renew four of those players. That would only leave two roster spots for five 1950 Amateur Draft selections. Those draft picks are the life-blood of the organization, and we don't like to pass on them.
This is a delicate and challenging problem that will keep us occupied in the office during 1949 while the team tries to repeat as champions on the field. We go to work on the easiest of the group. Stan Musial accepts our offer of a 2-year extension at his current salary, locking him up for four years. That's 1 down, 19 decisions to go.
Howie Pollet's contract expires after this season, and we don't want that to be a distraction. We offer a 1-year extension at a 10% raise, making him the highest-paid pitcher on the team by $1,000, and he accepts. This action really doesn't solve the problem but it does forestall it. By moving his extension decision to after the 1950 season, we make it coincide with the decison on Brecheen.
We lock up our "big three" starters for two years, and we will see how the scouts view their future after the 1950 season. We can decide to renew one, both, or neither depending upon what we have in the pipeline to replace these pitchers. Brecheen wil be 36 by then, beyond our usual age marker for top-of-the-rotation pitchers. Pollet will only be 30, so he is a more likely candidate for a short renewal at top money.
We also have Larry Jansen expiring in 1950. We don't want all three of our top pitchers bolting at the same time. We offer Jansen a 2-year extension at his current salary, and he accepts. He will only be 32 when that contract expires and he has been very durable, so a 4-year contract seems like a good risk. That's 2 down, 18 to go.
Cal McLish wants $8,000 per year for a 5-year contract. That's pretty reasonable and he is a great prospect, so we do that one also. 3 down, 17 to go.
It is truly a no-brainer to extend contracts like Musial, Jansen, and McLish because they can be traded anytime that we want to unload the contract. The problem renewals are those for players with limited trade value or huge salary demands. There are no more easy decisions left, so we separate the rest into three categories: must renew, won't renew, not sure.
must renew: Garagiola, Schoendienst, Roe, Kluszewski, Wilber (or some other 4th catcher)
won't renew: Northey, Fannin, Kurowski, Dobson, Leonard
not sure: Paige, Pollet, Brecheen, Marion, Staley, Wade, Diering
Garagiola falls into the "must renew" group because his contract expires before we expect Burgess to be ready. We always want four catchers anyway, and two must be major-league caliber. We can't get an equivalent free-agent replacement for less than Garagiola's salary demand, so his will be the first renewal when we find the money.
We hate to give up on Fannin but we must face reality. He deserves a shot to play somewhere before he gets too old to be an attractive prospect. Northey could be a good pinch-hitter for a few years, but we already have Robinson for that role. We also have Zernial and Mueller at AAA.
Kurowski has a very large salary. If we move his contract for a player with an expiring contract, it solves two problems. We will create enough budget for one of the "must renew" group, and we will free a spot for a draft pick. I will need to choose two more players from the "not sure" group for the same treatment before the trade deadline. It's too early to make the decision now, but the leading candidates are Wade and Diering. Their loss would have the least immediate impact on the club. Paige could be a candidate also, but it depends upon his early performance. We have bullpen alternatives and we would get his services for this season anyway. It's really a choice between whether Paige or Wade would be more valuable in 1950.
We contacted the agents of the "must renew" group to see how much budget expansion we will need to sign them all.
Wilber (not much)
So we need $155,000 in salary budget to renew them all, and that leaves nothing for the "not sure" group. NOW you see the magnitude of the problem.