How Teams Are Allocating Their 2014 Payrolls

Spring training is in full gear. Opening Day — Australia style — is 26 days away. Several free agents still hoping for major-league deals remain unsigned, most notably Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana. They each received a qualifying offer from their last team, turned it down, and now sit waiting for a new team to pay them and agree to give up a draft pick. For the most part, though, teams have done the hard work to construct their Opening Day rosters, save for the usual spring training competitions for bench positions and the back end of the bullpen.

Combined, teams have committed more than $3 billion in salary for the 2014 season. The top spender is the Los Angeles Dodgers, at more than $220 million. The most frugal is the Miami Marlins, with approximately $42.5 million in salary obligations.

Every team, no matter the payroll, has to make decisions about how to spend the money allocated for player salaries. We wanted to know about those decisions. What percentage of a team’s payroll is spent on the highest-paid player? The starting rotations? The starting position players? The bullpen? The bench? How many pre-arbitration eligible players likely will be on each team’s Opening Day roster? Do big spending teams allocate their payroll in a different way than smaller spending team? If so, how? And so on.

We will answer those questions in a series of posts.

Today we will look at projected Opening Day payrolls for each team; the highest paid player on each team and the percentage his salary represents of the team payroll;  and how many pre-arbitration players are expected to be on each team’s Opening Day roster.

Tomorrow we will examine how much each team will spend on its starting rotation, starting position players, bullpen and bench, and how those salaries are distributed within the overall team payroll.

Projected Opening Day payroll for each team.

I started with each team’s 2014 – 2019 payroll obligations page on Cot’s Contracts. I then examined depth charts and did my best to pin point the number of pre-arbitration eligible players each team was likely to have on its Opening Day roster. For each such pre-arb player, I added $500,000 in salary. That’s the minimum salary for a major-league player this season. Players with one or two years of service time will make more than $500,000, but those players — and the rookies — may spend some time in Triple-A, thus reducing their time earning the minimum. Allotting $500,000 for each such player is a close approximation. After adding up each team’s salaries for 2014, I rounded to the nearest $500,000.

As of February 22, the projected Opening Day payrolls look like this:

Rank Team Projected 2014 Opening Day Payroll
1 Dodgers $223,000,000
2 Yankees $197,500,000
3 Phillies $175,500,000
4 Tigers $161,000,000
5 Red Sox $155,000,000
6 Angels $151,000,000
7 Giants $147,000,000
8 Blue Jays $136,000,000
9 Rangers $131,000,000
10 Nationals $130,500,000
11 Cardinals $108,500,000
12 Diamondbacks $108,000,000
13 Reds $106,000,000
14 Orioles $105,000,000
15 Brewers $100,500,000
16 Braves $96,000,000
17 Rockies $91,000,000
18 Royals $91,000,000
19 White Sox $89,000,000
20 Cubs $89,000,000
21 Mariners $87,500,000
22 Padres $86,000,000
23 Twins $82,500,000
24 Mets $82,000,000
25 Indians $80,000,000
26 Athletics $79,000,000
27 Rays $75,500,000
28 Pirates $71,500,000
29 Astros $49,000,000
30 Marlins $42,500,000

There will be some re-ranking to do after the last few free agents are signed. But the gap between the top-tier spending teams and the bottom-tier teams won’t narrow much, if at all.

The percentage of each team’s payroll spent on the highest-paid player.

This is a fun exercise, if not always an insightful one. Often a team’s highest paid player is in the back end of his contract, and no longer the most valuable or most productive player on the team (we’re looking at you Aramis Ramirez). Or the best player on the planet is in only his third full season and will make less than $1 million (hello Mike Trout).

Still, every general manager must construct a roster around the salary commitments he’s already made. So it’s worth looking at how much the highest-paid player ate at the salary buffet. The below chart ranks the teams by percentage of payroll spent on the highest-paid player. The Twins are ranked first, with Joe Mauer eating up 27.9% of the Twins projected Opening Day payroll. The Red Sox are last — which is partly a function of having a sizable payroll, but not entirely. Boston’s highest-paid player — Mike Napoli — will make $16 million this season. Among the highest-paid players on each team, that’s tied for 14th highest.

Rank Team Highest Paid Player Highest Salary 2014 Payroll Percentage of Payroll
1 Twins Joe Mauer/1B $23,000,000 $82,500,000 27.90%
2 Mariners Robinson Cano/2B $24,000,000 $87,500,000 27.45%
3 Astros Scott Feldman/SP $12,000,000 $49,000,000 24.50%
4 Mets David Wright/3B $20,000,000 $82,000,000 24.40%
5 Indians Nick Swisher/1B $15,000,000 $80,000,000 18.75%
6 Rays David Price/SP $14,000,000 $75,500,000 18.55%
7 Rangers Prince Fielder/1B $24,000,000 $131,000,000 18.30%
8 Pirates Wandy Rodriguez/SP $13,000,000 $71,500,000 18.20%
9 Cardinals Adam Wainwright/SP $19,500,000 $108,500,000 18.00%
10 White Sox John Danks/SP $15,750,000 $89,000,000 17.70%
11 Rockies Troy Tulowitzki/SS $16,000,000 $91,000,000 17.60%
12 Brewers Aramis Ramirez/3B $16,000,000 $100,500,000 15.90%
13 Nationals Jayson Werth/RF $20,571,429 $130,500,000 15.75%
14 Marlins Giancarlo Stanton/RF $6,500,000 $42,500,000 15.30%
15 Angels Albert Pujols/1B $23,000,000 $151,000,000 15.25%
16 Braves Justin Upton/LF $14,458,333 $96,000,000 15.00%
17 Royals James Shields/SP $13,500,000 $91,000,000 14.85%
18 Orioles Nick Markakis/RF $15,530,000 $105,000,000 14.80%
19 Cubs Edwin Jackson/SP $13,000,000 $89,000,000 14.60%
20 Phillies Ryan Howard/1B, Cliff Lee/SP $25,000,000 $175,500,000 14.25%
21 Giants Matt Cain/SP $20,833,333 $147,000,000 14.17%
22 Blue Jays Mark Beuhrle/SP $19,000,000 $136,000,000 13.95%
23 Tigers Miguel Cabrera/3B $22,000,000 $161,000,000 13.70%
24 Athletics Yoenis Cespedes/LF $10,500,000 $79,000,000 13.30%
25 Padres Chase Headley/3B $10,525,000 $86,000,000 12.25%
26 Dodgers Zack Greinke/SP $26,000,000 $223,000,000 11.70%
27 Yankees Mark Teixeira/1B $23,125,000 $197,500,000 11.70%
28 Reds Joey Votto/1B $12,000,000 $106,000,000 11.30%
29 Red Sox Mike Napoli $16,000,000 $155,000,000 10.30%
30 Diamondbacks Aaron Hill/2B $11,000,000 $108,000,000 10.20%

Only three of these highest-paid players changed teams over the winter. Robinson Cano left the New York Yankees to sign with the Seattle Mariners. Scott Feldman joined the Houston Astros as a free agent after playing last season with the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. And the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers. The Tigers will send cash to the Rangers to soften the pain of Fielder’s contract, but those payments do not start until 2015.

We see several of the smallest market teams at the top of this list. That’s not surprising, as one big contract will eat up a big percentage of the team’s payroll. It’s also a stark reminder how hard it is for lower-budget teams to keep their home-grown stars in the post-arbitration years and still field a competitive team.

[Note: As several comments noted, the Astros are paying $5.5 million of Wandy Rodriguez’s salary, so suggesting, as I did, that the Pirates are in for $13 million on Rodriguez is misleading. I agree. Russell Martin should be noted as the highest paid Pirate at $9.5 million, or 13.4% of the team’s payroll.]

Here’s another way of looking at the numbers:

highestpaid2

What about those pre-arbitration players? How many are likely to be on the field when Opening Day rosters are announced, just before very loud jets fly over the ballpark to usher in the new season?

Our best guess? The Astros will be the team with the highest number of pre-arb players:

Rank Team Projected 2014 Opening Day Payroll No. Pre-Arb Players on Opening Day Roster
1 Astros $49,000,000 16
2 Cardinals $108,500,000 13
3 Brewers $100,500,000 13
4 Twins $82,500,000 13
5 Mets $82,000,000 13
6 Marlins $42,500,000 13
7 Mariners $87,500,000 12
8 Rockies $91,000,000 11
9 Angels $151,000,000 10
10 White Sox $89,000,000 9
11 Athletics $79,000,000 9
12 Pirates $71,500,000 9
13 Braves $96,000,000 8
14 Indians $80,000,000 8
15 Phillies $175,500,000 7
16 Tigers $161,000,000 7
17 Blue Jays $136,000,000 7
18 Diamondbacks $108,000,000 7
19 Royals $91,000,000 7
20 Padres $86,000,000 7
21 Rays $75,500,000 7
22 Orioles $105,000,000 6
23 Yankees $197,500,000 6
24 Reds $106,000,000 6
25 Red Sox $155,000,000 5
26 Giants $147,000,000 5
27 Rangers $131,000,000 5
28 Cubs $89,000,000 4
29 Dodgers $223,000,000 2
30 Nationals $130,500,000 2

This is the most interesting chart so far. Look at the St. Louis Cardinals, with 13 pre-arbitration players and an Opening Day payroll at $108 million. That’s what a roster of home-grown talent plus targeted free-agent acquisitions looks like.

The most surprising ranking?  The Chicago Cubs, a team undergoing a substantial rebuilding process, may field only four pre-arbitration players to start the season. Even if you add in Anthony Rizzo — whom the Cubs inked to a long-term deal covering his pre-arb and arb years — that still only brings them up to a total of five; quite a difference compared to the rebuilding Astros and fewer than the free-spending Yankees.

Munch on these numbers, charts and graphs today. Tomorrow, we’ll break the payrolls down even further.



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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


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David
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David
2 years 3 months ago

Wow the Nats only have two prearb players? Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, I assume. Danny Espinosa will probably make the team too and he’s prearb.

emdash
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emdash
2 years 3 months ago

I would guess the Nationals will have 6 pre-arb players, all told – Harper and Rendon, Espinosa, Lobaton, whoever wins the last bench spot, and at least one pitcher in the bullpen.

cavebird
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cavebird
2 years 3 months ago

Actually, Harper is the one not counting for the Nats. He is still on the five year major league contract he signed when he was drafted. His salary for this year is $2.15 million.

cavebird
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cavebird
2 years 3 months ago

Memo to self. Don’t open screen, then come back and hour later and comment. Somebody will have already posted the same or better answer. Oops.

LHPSU
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LHPSU
2 years 3 months ago

Are we already assuming that Stephen Drew is going to be a second baseman?

LHPSU
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LHPSU
2 years 3 months ago

…and outfielder Kendrys Morales? Is there some sarcasm here that just flew way over my head?

Ed
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Ed
2 years 3 months ago

The Mariners seem to think that Corey Hart and Logan Morrison can be outfielders so why not Kendrys as well?

matt w
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matt w
2 years 3 months ago

For what it’s worth, the Astros are paying $5.5 million of Wandy Rodriguez’s salary this year. If you count the Pirates as spending $8.5 million on Rodriguez (tied with Russell Martin), then they’re spending 12.9% of their payroll on their highest-paid player, which drops them from eighth to 24th.

Biesterfield
Member
Biesterfield
2 years 3 months ago

Major nitpick but the Red Sox are second-to-last not last on that chart

RC
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RC
2 years 3 months ago

Threw all this in excel, and did some quick correlations:

TotalSalary-to-wins: -.12
HighestSalary-to-wins: -.47
PercentHighestofTotal-to-wins: -.45

These are last years win numbers to next year’s salaries, so a little messy there, but that looks to me like paying anybody lots of money is a bad thing.

RC
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RC
2 years 3 months ago

Nevermind that, have some pasting issues, new numbers in a minute.

RC
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RC
2 years 3 months ago

Actually having the right numbers changes things a bit:

TotalSalary-to-wins: .103
HighestSalary-to-wins: .35
PercentHighestofTotal-to-wins: -.45

So, quick take, having highly paid player, good. Having highly paid player take up much of your total budget, bad.

DNA+
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DNA+
2 years 3 months ago

Including this year’s salary with last year’s wins is problematic for your conclusion with regard to Percent Highest of Total, since the Mariners are among the extremes with regard to highest paid player relative to overall payroll with the Cano signing. The fact that the Mariners lost a lot of games is partly driving your negative correlation, but this is not a useful datapoint, since Cano did not contribute to any of the losses, except for as a member of the Yankees!

Thanks for running the numbers though.

RC
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RC
2 years 3 months ago

I’m terrible at this. Changed the Mariners to use FHernandez’s salary (just under 20M), and noticed I have my numbers backwards.

.13 (updated) is the Highest-Salary-to-Wins.
.35 is the overall payroll to wins
-.45 is the percentage of highest player of total to wins.

dl80
Member
dl80
2 years 3 months ago

DNA+ makes a good point. What about rerunning with projected WAR totals for this year? The Mariners would come in at 34.9 WAR for this year.

Obviously this won’t be perfect, not least of all because some players haven’t signed yet, and projections are never perfect.

But it might be closer to what you are looking for.

jiveballer
Member
jiveballer
2 years 3 months ago

The Cubs and arb-elig players: as a Cubs fan I would like to believe it is a result of their long-term strategy. They are being very patient with their prospects – requiring sustained success at every minor league level before promotion. The current roster consists of a lot of low-priced placeholders. Hopefully they will be near the top of that list in two years.

Dan
Member
Dan
2 years 3 months ago

one footnote for Wandy Rodriguez on the Pirates is that the Astros are actually on the hook for 8.5 milli of that 13.5 I believe. He’s probably still the player with the most payroll committed to him because the Pirates and why am I still a fan

matt w
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matt w
2 years 3 months ago

See above and below Russell Martin and better they should make the playoffs with cheap players than miss them with expensive ones.

jg941
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jg941
2 years 3 months ago

Wendy – a little more homework needed. Re: the Pirates, it’s wildly misleading (in that the actual is quite the opposite) to say they are near the top of the list in terms of % of payroll committed to their highest-paid player. They are actually the 3rd-lowest in baseball in this regard, given that their committment to Wandy Rodriguez is only $7.5 million in 2014, not the $13 million listed. The Astros pay the other $5.5 million (that’s also in the Cot’s Contracts notes for Wandy).

The actual correct number(s) for the Pirates would then become Russell Martin’s contract at $8.5 million, with a resulting payroll committment to Martin of 11.19%, the Pirates’ highest in 2014.

Don’t know how many of the other players above that this might apply to (didn’t seem to be any obvious ones besides Wandy), but that’s a fairly important piece of the equation when talking about what a team is actually willing to commit to one player. In fact, the Pirates used just that argument – that they WON’T give that high a percentage to one player – as part of their (misguided, IMO) justification in their refusal to offer AJ Burnett the QO this year.

FYI

Jefftown
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Jefftown
2 years 3 months ago

Detroit is also paying $30 million to Texas for Fielder. Not sure if that moves the needle that much, but thought I would mention it.

Trotter76
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Trotter76
2 years 3 months ago

Detroit’s contributions to Fielder’s salary don’t kick in until 2016 so it doesn’t factor for this year.

Big in Japan
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Big in Japan
2 years 3 months ago

I love this stuff! Well done. Couple of things I’d like to know – can you break down the number of players on each team who compose 50%/90% of that team’s payroll? Also, can you give us baseball’s Gini/Robin Hood coefficients, for us economics geeks? There’s a spreadsheet in this web site to make your job easier: http://www.peterrosenmai.com/lorenz-curve-graphing-tool-and-gini-coefficient-calculator Thanks!

Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo
2 years 3 months ago

Is it just me or is it very odd to see Nick Swisher, Wandy Rodriquez, Nick Markakis, and Aaron Hill as the highest paid players on a team?? Not exactly superstars.

RC
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RC
2 years 3 months ago

None of them are getting superstar money. They’re all getting 11-15M, which is about what 2 WAR costs today.

The Yankees had 8 guys making >$15M last year.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 3 months ago

And, perhaps most egregious of all, Mark Buerhle. Yuck.

siggian
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siggian
2 years 3 months ago

Actually, compared to the sinkhole that was the rest of the Blue Jay rotation outside of Buehrle and Dickey, I can live with that salary. It’s an overpay, but at least he delivered what was expected.

Chris from Bothell
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Chris from Bothell
2 years 3 months ago

Good topic and a nice straightforward breakdown.
I’d be interested to know the % of payroll taken by the top 3 players on a given team, though, as I think it would put some teams into even sharper perspective.

For example: if I’m reading Cots right, for the Mariners, it’s Cano ($24m), Felix ($22m), and Rodney ($7m). That’s what, about 60% of their 2014 payroll in those 3?

budman3
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budman3
2 years 3 months ago

If you take into account the 4 million dollars owed Price in deferred salary from last year, the Rays are paying 23.84% of their payroll on him.

Aaron
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Aaron
2 years 3 months ago

It should also be noted that the Cubs are paying $14 million of Alfonso Soriano’s contract this year, and I believe Edwin Jackson’s contract is structured in such a way that he was paid an $8 million signing bonus with the remaining $44 million being divided evenly among the four years.

Sean D
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Sean D
2 years 3 months ago

I suspect that the payroll number for the Padres was done wrong. Cot’s currently has no values for Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal, but you can’t assume they’d make $500K in 2014. Alonso made $1.12M in 2013 and Grandal (had he not been suspended) would have made $1.24M. The CBA does not allow for them to take such a big pay cut as to go down to $500K each. In fact, they will likely earn small raises.

Also, Cory Luebke will start the year on the DL thereby adding another $500K player to replace him.

I keep track of the payroll numbers myself and I can’t see the Padres having less than an $88M payroll.

The Party Bird
Guest
The Party Bird
2 years 3 months ago

Low-budget team or not, it’s staggering to see that Scott Feldman is responsible for a quarter of the Astros’ budget. Very interesting article!

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