The BWB Primer is a series of commentaries to provide rule interpretations and hints - something a bit more than you get out of the rules. See the Primer Index for the entire series.
Hopefully, none of you has lost enough hope that you're simply planning out for next year, but as we near the halfway mark of the season I just want to quickly explain how cash works from one season to the next.
2010 Salaries and Salary Cap
Salaries are determined by player performance. 2/3 of the 2010 salary will be based on performances in 2009 and 1/3 of the salary is the player's 2009 salary. In addition, players ranking in the top of certain hitting/pitching categories and for post-season awards will have a bonus attached to the 2010 salary - making premium players worth a premium price.
The salary calculations are shown in the rule book.
Once the salaries are complete (usually mid-November), the salry cap is calculated. Again, see the rules for the actual formulas, but the idea is to allocate so much money for the top salaries, an additional amount for mid-tier players, and an additional amount for minor leaguers. As overall salary levels themselves rise and fall, the salary cap will also change.
There's not really a hard cap on team salary - instead the "cap" is used to determine how much cash each team gets in the off season. The cash distribution for every team in a league will be the amount needed to get the team with the lowest balance up to the cap level.
For example, if Team X has the lowest cash balance in the league at 100,000 at the end of the season and the salary cap is 48 million, each team in that league will get 47.9 million. Any bonuses for playoff performance or player of the year awards will come after that.
You get to keep up to 28 players from your roster. You must pay for those players immediately when you select them in December. You'll get only a 50% rebate if you cut them later in the off-season. Your remaining cash is all you'll have to sign players in the Redistribution Draft or in free agency until the season begins. Note - you do NOT have to sign a player to a contract during the season in order to keep him next season (more on that in Primer #8 regarding multiyear contracts)
Just before the 2010 season will begin, any team with more than 5 million in the bank will have their cash balances reduced to 5 million. So you need to spend wisely in the off-season, but you can't hoard your cash either.
One way to save cash for the next year is to sign players for 2010 at their 2009 salary. This is the subject of the next chapter to come soon.