Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

2013 playoff team payroll analysis


One little spreadsheet I like to put together at the end of each baseball season is the subject of this post: a look at the payrolls of the 30 teams compared side-by-side with their seasonal performance and then looking at the playoff teams.

Here’s the table; the teams are sorted by the Opening Day Payroll as calculated by Cots.   I used Cots’ numbers because they were far more accurate than other typical sites that report these types of things  (Googling leads to tables at Newsday, CBS and USAToday among others).  Cots are the most accurate because they take into account payments to former players, which is significant in some teams.  The other lists do not take this into account, just summing the payroll of the players still on the roster.  The team this makes the most difference for in 2013 is the New York Mets, who released Jason Bay but are still on the hook for his $17M payroll this year; that took them from the #23 payroll to #15 just by itself.

Team Cots Opening Day Payroll Cots Opening Day Rank Final W/L W/L Rank Playoff Status Payroll/Record Delta (CBS)
New York Yankees $228,106,125 1 85-77 14 -13
Los Angeles Dodgers $216,753,286 2 92-70 8 NL West -6
Philadelphia Phillies $159,585,714 3 73-89 24 -21
Boston Red Sox $154,555,500 4 97-65 1 AL East 3
Detroit Tigers $148,693,600 5 93-69 6 AL Central -1
Los Angeles Angels $137,271,250 6 78-84 17 -11
San Francisco Giants $136,908,777 7 76-86 18 -11
Texas Rangers $125,340,100 8 91-72 10 -2
Toronto Blue Jays $119,277,800 9 74-88 20 -11
Chicago White Sox $118,914,500 10 63-99 28 -18
Washington Nationals $118,289,679 11 86-76 12 -1
St. Louis Cardinals $116,790,787 12 97-65 1 NL Central 11
Cincinnati Reds $106,855,533 13 90-72 11 NL WC 2
Chicago Cubs $106,837,810 14 66-96 26 -12
New York Mets $93,684,590 15 74-88 20 -5
Baltimore Orioles $92,238,333 16 85-77 14 2
Atlanta Braves $90,039,583 17 96-66 3 NL East 14
Milwaukee Brewers $88,828,333 18 74-88 20 -2
Arizona Diamondbacks $86,300,500 19 81-81 16 3
Seattle Mariners $84,199,643 20 71-91 25 -5
Minnesota Twins $82,010,000 21 66-96 26 -5
Kansas City Royals $81,871,725 22 86-76 12 10
Cleveland Indians $80,605,733 23 92-70 8 AL WC 15
Colorado Rockies $73,949,071 24 74-88 20 4
San Diego Padres $68,333,600 25 76-86 18 7
Pittsburgh Pirates $66,805,000 26 94-68 5 NL WC 21
Oakland Athletics $61,964,500 27 96-66 3 AL West 24
Tampa Bay Rays $61,928,975 28 92-71 7 AL WC 21
Miami Marlins $50,526,900 29 62-100 29 0
Houston Astros $26,105,600 30 51-111 30 0

The “delta” column gives a barometer for teams who over performed or under-performed based on their salary.

Some interesting observations in bullet-form:

  • The Jason Bay note from above: nearly 20% of the Mets’ payroll this year is dead money.
  • 3 biggest over-performers this year shouldn’t be a surprise: Oakland, Tampa and Pittsburgh.
  • The biggest under-performer also isn’t much of a surprise: Philadelphia.
  • Only 3 of the most expensive 10 teams made the playoffs.
  • Half the top 10 payroll teams finished with a LOSING record.  That’s amazing.
  • The Dodgers spent nearly as much as 3/5ths of its divisional rivals (San Diego+Colorado+Arizona’s payroll).
  • I didn’t realize just how much payroll the White Sox were carrying this year, for a last-place finish.
  • Miami more than halved their payroll from last year to this.  Los Angeles more than doubled theirs.
  • Washington, despite the disappointing season, finished almost exactly where they should have based on their payroll; they had the 12th best record of any MLB team and had the 11th highest payroll.
  • The only two teams to “under-perform” their payroll and make the playoffs were Detroit and the Dodgers.
  • Boston was the only team to “over-perform” their payroll rank of the 11 highest payroll teams.  That’s a lesson for you.

The playoffs consisted of:

  • 3 high-payroll teams (LA, Boston, Detroit)
  • 3 mid-league payroll teams (StL, Cincinnati, Atlanta)
  • 4 lowest third of the league payroll teams (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Tampa)

This post dovetails nicely into my next coming post, which looks at the roster construction of the 10 playoff teams and talks about team building mechanisms.

Written by Todd Boss

October 18th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Baseball in General

Tagged with ,

9 Responses to '2013 playoff team payroll analysis'

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  1. Nice post. It will be interesting to see how the Nats’ payroll evolves over the next 3-5 seasons. Keeping the band together will start getting expensive soon.

    John C.

    19 Oct 13 at 4:19 pm

  2. Interesting… Would be really interesting to see payroll by games dressed to weed out injuries. Would also be interested to see this overlay on service time to see which teams are better at drafting/developing vs. those best at finding value.


    19 Oct 13 at 5:34 pm

  3. I always liked to look at the end of the year at the dollars-per-win number. Surely the Yankees have to come close to last in that system.

    Mark L

    20 Oct 13 at 7:54 pm

  4. I agree on this group getting expensive. Already have two $100M contracts, Desmond clearly is going to merit a contract that large, and then you have Strasburg and Harper who could go even larger. Its why I think this team may think about flipping Zimmermann as the odd-man out, trying to pad the farm system and replace his payroll from within as a way to manage costs.

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 13 at 11:06 am

  5. It’s hard to see the team managing costs until they actually win at least a pennant, much less a World Series. The payroll is probably going to exceed $130 million in 2014 even if they don’t pick up a major free agent. If you add the given numbers from Cot’s to MLBTradeRumors estimates of arbitration numbers, you get a payroll of about $119-120 million for the top 19 players. And that’s includes and MLBTR’s estimate that Strasburg’s arbitration award is $3.5 million, which would be a pay cut from his current salary (MLBTR has said they may rework that number, because there formula assumes a player is going from league minimum). Adding a couple of million for Strasburg and then assuming close to the major league minimum for the rest of the 40 man roster gets you to about $130 million.

    John C.

    21 Oct 13 at 4:37 pm

  6. Who knows what their actual budget it; for years we thought it was $65M or there abouts, then suddenly they’re spending $120M this year. I’m sure Bowden is pissed that he gets shown the door and only then does the team spend money.

    I just saw the arb estimates too; Clippard’s estimate may make him expendible too. Trade him to a team looking for a closer for not a ton of cash (Detroit?) and make do. Soriano’s pay and lack of performance keeps looking more and more glaring. See if you can get Jordan Zimmermann on a 7/$85M deal

    My fear is that this team turns into Philadelphia, who gave out long, sometimes very questionable extensions and are now completely stuck.

    Todd Boss

    21 Oct 13 at 4:41 pm

  7. Hey MarkL: here’s the same data sorted by Dollars/win. Some quick interesting notes here:
    – Only 3 of top 10 $/win teams made playoffs (Dodgers, Red Sox, Tigers).
    – 3 of your playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Tampa, Oakland) are ranked 27-28-29th in $/win.
    – The Nats are 12th, almost exactly ranked where they were in total payroll. So they’re not really under- or over-achieving

    Team Final W/L $/win
    New York Yankees 85-77 $2,683,601.47
    Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70 $2,356,013.98
    Philadelphia Phillies 73-89 $2,186,105.67
    Chicago White Sox 63-99 $1,887,531.75
    San Francisco Giants 76-86 $1,801,431.28
    Los Angeles Angels 78-84 $1,759,887.82
    Chicago Cubs 66-96 $1,618,754.70
    Toronto Blue Jays 74-88 $1,611,862.16
    Detroit Tigers 93-69 $1,598,855.91
    Boston Red Sox 97-65 $1,593,355.67
    Texas Rangers 91-72 $1,377,363.74
    Washington Nationals 86-76 $1,375,461.38
    New York Mets 74-88 $1,266,007.97
    Minnesota Twins 66-96 $1,242,575.76
    St. Louis Cardinals 97-65 $1,204,028.73
    Milwaukee Brewers 74-88 $1,200,382.88
    Cincinnati Reds 90-72 $1,187,283.70
    Seattle Mariners 71-91 $1,185,910.46
    Baltimore Orioles 85-77 $1,085,156.86
    Arizona Diamondbacks 81-81 $1,065,438.27
    Colorado Rockies 74-88 $999,311.77
    Kansas City Royals 86-76 $951,996.80
    Atlanta Braves 96-66 $937,912.32
    San Diego Padres 76-86 $899,126.32
    Cleveland Indians 92-70 $876,149.27
    Miami Marlins 62-100 $814,950.00
    Pittsburgh Pirates 94-68 $710,691.49
    Tampa Bay Rays 92-71 $673,141.03
    Oakland Athletics 96-66 $645,463.54
    Houston Astros 51-111 $511,874.51

    Todd Boss

    22 Oct 13 at 11:58 am

  8. From the Nationals’ perspective, the system strongly works in their favor for Clippard. They can keep him on a year-to-year basis for the next couple of years without having to commit to a longer term deal that would potentially damage their ability to sign other, non-bullpen players to extensions. If he gets hurt/becomes ineffective, they can essentially let him go. For Clippard it doesn’t work well, because the basic principle of “don’t invest in relief pitchers” means that he will have to keep throwing for two more years before being able to get a longer term deal. And even that is likely to be a 2- or 3-year deal. No one signs a relief pitcher to a 5 (or more) year contract.

    And the Nationals shouldn’t cut ties with him now unless they get real value, because they don’t have someone who can reasonably be counted on to replace his performance. The value of an extra three games or so that the bullpen would hack up without Clippard back there is really high to the Nats, because it could mean the difference between a division title and the wild card, or even potentially between making the playoffs or not making it.

    John C.

    22 Oct 13 at 12:30 pm

  9. MLBtraderumors site intimated that the team should look to move Storen, who has reclaimed some of his value with a strong finish to 2013. I could be for such a move, flip him for some prospect depth.

    Todd Boss

    22 Oct 13 at 12:39 pm

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