Mike Freire - A Quick Look At Team Payrolls (2010-2019)


After reading fellow Mack's Mets' writer Tom Brennan's recent piece on Gerrit Cole's new deal with the Yankees, it piqued my interest about team payrolls over the last decade.  Specifically, who is spending what, has it been successful and how have the Mets fared in the "money standings", if you will.

If I asked each of you who were the "big spenders" in MLB, the familiar teams would likely populate that list, such as the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Red Sox.  All of the listed teams would be good guesses, so let's first take a look at the top ten teams with regards to team payrolls for the 2019 season to get an initial idea.

1. BOS       $229 million

2. NYY      $223 million
3. CHI-N   $222 million
4. LAD      $201 million
5. SFG       $178 million
6. STL        $174 million
7. WAS      $172 million
8. HOU      $169 million
9. LAA      $161 million
10. NYM   $161 million

***The listed salary totals were taken from the website Sportrac.com

***I also took the liberty of rounding the figures down to what is listed, for simplicity's sake.

Upon first blush, the top two teams are not a surprise, but there may be a few teams on this list that
are unexpected.  In my humble opinion, I did not expect to see the Cubs, the Giants or the Cardinals on this list.  They are all well run organizations, but they are also not shy about spending money, it seems.

The fact that our "penny pinching" Mets are just barely in the top ten with a team payroll of 161 million dollars is mildly surprising.  Especially if you accept the public narrative that Fred "Scrooge" Wilpon prefers to hide his money in his closet, instead of investing in the team.

Oh and coming in at #7 are the defending World Series champions, which turned out to be a trend that I will elaborate on in a few minutes.

Since a one year snapshot isn't always accurate, let's take a look some of the top franchises with regards to team payrolls over the last ten years (2010-2019);

1.  NYY     $216.8 million (0 titles)

2.  LAD     $205.5 million (0 titles)
3.  BOS     $191.5 million (2 titles)
4.  SFG      $160.4 million (3 titles)
5.  LAA     $154.7 million (0 titles)
6.  CHI-N  $150.3 million (1 title)
7.  STL      $134.7 million (1 title)
8.  WAS     $134.4 million (1 title)

***The Mets average team payroll for the listed decade was $130 million dollars per season and as we know, they did not win any titles (although they came pretty close in 2015).  Their average rank in team payrolls for the last decade was 12.4, or not far off of the top ten.  Not great, but a bit better then average, I suppose.

Taking a look at a much bigger body of statistics reveals a few interesting facts.

Again, there isn't much of a surprise at the top three teams on this list, right?  Unless you expected the Dodgers to be the top spending franchise, that is.  A deeper look at their finances shows that they were an average spending ball club early in the decade (2010-2012), before they hit the proverbial gas pedal and upped their spending tremendously.  Since 2013, the Dodgers team payroll has averaged $245.3 million dollars annually, which would easily be the top figure on our list.

So, what happened?  The team was sold by a financially frugal owner to a group that is quite the opposite.  Does this sound familiar, Mets' fans?  Let's hope that Steve Cohen comes on board and has a similar effect (fingers crossed that the sale is approved and that it doesn't take five years).

The Giants are third on this list, which is still surprising to me since they do not get the same scorn as the other elite teams like the Yankees.  Another thing that they did well this decade was win 3 titles with a team that was based on strong pitching and good fundamentals.  Maybe there is a lesson somewhere in there?

You also might be wondering where the Astros are?  They had a four year window from 2012 through 2015 where they were "tanking" and they had ridiculously low team payrolls (like Tampa Bay Rays low).  They built the core of their current team in that window and it resulted in an eventual title in 2017.  Now that core wants to get paid and the team's payroll has steadily risen, but their decade long average is still pretty low.

In closing, does spending more money lead to championship seasons?

Well, yes and no.

The top two clubs on the list (NYY, LAD) have not won a title in the last decade, despite their spending habits (but they have come close).  However, eight of the last ten champions appear on this list, so there seems to be a correlation of sorts.  The only teams to win a title (KC,  HOU) that are not on this list were in the upper echelon of spending franchises during the year that they won their championship, so that is more evidence to support the notion that spending gives you a better chance at success.

But, not only do you have to spend money to win, you have to spend money WISELY in order to reap the benefits.  Since this is a Mets' blog, that is the ultimate lesson I hope the team learns under the next ownership group. Being the 12th or 13th highest payroll consistently will not result in a title, so increasing the team payroll in future years seems necessary.  You just have to avoid spending money on the Yoenis Cespedes' of the world, which is easier said then done.

Do you agree?


Tom Brennan said...

Simply put, there is a large correlation between the Mets spending slightly above middle over the past 10 years and there middle-of-the-road performance during that time.

Spend more, win more, draw more...simple.

John From Albany said...

Mike, I agree. Especially your point "you have to spend money WISELY in order to reap the benefits." You also have to build a foundation throughput your minor league system that emphasizes fundamentals, speed and defense. Fonzie did that last year in Brooklyn and won while having none of the teams top 20 high priced prospects most of the year. It is brains not money that wins.

John From Albany said...

Tom - stuck in the middle is exactly the Mets problem. They do not have a consistent plan. They decided to add big contracts like Cano and Cespedes but don't extend Wheeler or Syndergaard while they can.

Tom Brennan said...

Very nice analysis, by the way.

It is not just about winning it all. If the Mets had achieved the non-World Series post season and regular season records of the Yanks over the past 10 years, I'd be a lot happier camper. Difference? Primarily spending.

Maybe Wheeler shouldn't have been extended. He got paid 23 million for 5 years vs Cole's $36 million for 9 years because the two are light years apart. Wheeler could excel - or stumble. Time will tell.

Mack Ade said...

Great teams are built with a mix of big names, free agents, and organizational guppies.

Teams like House are successful because of the great job they have done both in the draft as well as the International market.

The Mets began to correct their errors at these two layers three years ago and I was very excited to see what's going on in the Columbia-DSL portion of our pipeline.

IF these chips develop as they seem to be, and if our new team pour more money into the international market, we should mirror the kind of depth these young, exciting teams have.

Mack Ade said...

And please let's not forget who we 'developed' this past season...

J.D. Davis, Wilson, McNeil, and Alonso

Not bad for a team that does nothing.

Mack Ade said...

And BTW...

I would not let Betances hold a gun to my head and demand $10mil for one year.

I will gladly going into the tank for another year until our new leader shows up with his special checking account and allow guys like Villines and Gilliam to develop more.

Mike Freire said...

I agree, Mack.......I think the "seeds" of our future success have already been planted (lower minors). We just need to be patient and let them develop, or maybe I should say Brodie needs to be patient and not trade away anyone else in the next couple of years.

Couple that with Cohen's $$$ and we very well could be Dodgers like before you know it.

Jon Messinger said...

but I'll bet that if you subtracted monies collected from insurance claims due to injury (e.g.: Cespedes, Wright) from the total payroll for all the teams, the Metsies would be much lower on the list.

bill metsiac said...

You've got to give to get in any trade. Choosing between long-term, big $$$ FA deals vs trading prospects is not as easy as flipping a coin.

Looking back to 1986, for example, we had a fine core group of home-grown players, but where would we have finished without the trades for the player version of GKR, plus others like Sid and Bobby O?

The Yankees always lead everyone in spending, but how many WS Champs (or even appearances) have they had since 2000?

Yes, the new Phillies owners went on a huge spending spree last year, adding Harper, Realmuto and Arrieta, among others. And it brought them a 4th-place finish.

Meanwhile, bottom - feeders like the Rays, As and Twins manage to contend year after year.

I believe we have a solid core, with talent at EVERY position, a solid rotation, and a pen with potential but in need of additions.

We're coming off a 2nd half with an amazing 2nd half of 46-26, 20 games over .500! Just a HALF-decent season from Diaz and Familia would've put us into the post-season, where our rotation could've taken us all the way.

Repair, don't replace.

Mack's Mets © 2012