Ranking MLB's Cheapest Teams This Offseason
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Of the big four professional sports in North America, only Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap.
The loudest critics of game will point to the New York Yankees and their $200 million payroll as an example of a team just buying a championship.
Even as the Los Angeles Dodgers join the Yankees in that $200-million club, there are several teams that put together rosters on the cheap that are just as ridiculous.
We are not talking about the Tampa Bay Rays or Oakland Athletics, who are forced into pinching every penny because of being in a bad stadium.
Nope, the subjects are teams that will not spend money they have access to or just openly pocket the millions of luxury-tax dollars given to them by MLB.
Salary information as a whole is not released. Baseball Reference has done the math and estimates what payrolls will be in 2013, while Cot's Baseball Contracts supplies the Opening Day payroll numbers from 2012.
Based on those numbers, here are the five cheapest teams in baseball.
Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates fans—who have suffered with owners being cheap for years—can relax. Your teams are making the effort to spend and compete, and are not on the list.
5. Chicago Cubs
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2012 Opening Day Payroll: $109,316,000
2013 Estimate: $81,000,000
Of the six teams that play in the country’s three biggest markets, the Cubs have the lowest payroll of the group.
Even the New York Mets—still feeling the sting of ownership involved in the Bernie Madoff mess—have an estimated payroll of $85.9 million.
While the Cubs did make a good-faith effort to sign starter Anibal Sanchez, they seem to be a team that is content not trying to contend for a playoff spot.
Considering they play in one of the most iconic parks in sports in Wrigley Field and still have a national following on WGN, that is a surprise.
In 2010, they spent $146.6 million on salaries. They have gone from spending too much to spending too little.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
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2012 Opening Day Payroll: $98,150,333
2013 Estimate: $67,200,000
You would think that with shedding $27.5 million off the books for 2013, the Brewers would have been a bit more active in the free-agent market.
Milwaukee is not in a big market. After contending the last few years in the National League Central, however, one would expect them to have a bit more flexibility with money.
The other two small-market teams in their division—the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates—have added payroll. In fact, the Reds have pushed their spending to an estimated $96.7 million in 2013!
We understand that having payrolls so high for so long is tough, but the Brewers get a lot of fan support both on television and at the gate.
There was not one hole they could have tried to plug?
3. Minnesota Twins
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2012 Opening Day Payroll: $100,435,000
2013 Estimate: $75,000,000
Sad to see the Twins go back into rebuilding mode again.
By all accounts, they did great in trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere, but they are sitting on some money.
Target Field opened in 2010 and got the Twins out of their terrible stadium situation at the Metrodome.
Now, they play to good-sized crowds and enjoy a decent television contract.
The Pohlad family is worth over a billion dollars. The resources are there if they choose to use them.
2. Miami Marlins
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2012 Opening Day Payroll: $101,628,000
2013 Estimate: $40,900,000
It took all of one season for the Marlins to return back to their cheap ways.
To be fair, the Marlins were in a bad stadium before. That is why they got the taxpayers of Florida to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to build them a new place.
Owner Jeffery Loria promised to spend enough to make the Marlins contenders, but instead he just overspent.
The Marlins are now crying poverty again, shipping off their big payroll to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays. That allows them to pocket more luxury tax money in the future.
Fans and politicians alike are rightly angry. They were sold a bill of goods that the notoriously cheap Loria wanted to change Miami into a destination baseball city.
Instead, it is the same underachieving team with a shiny new wrapper.
1. Houston Astros
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2012 Opening Day Payroll: $60,799,000
2013 Estimate: $24,900,000
Welcome to the American League, Houston.
There is absolutely no excuse for this team to be spending so little in fielding a club.
They are not playing in little Burlington, Vermont here, but the fourth-largest city in the country.
The Astros have a new television contract and a relatively-new stadium as well.
With guaranteed multiple home dates now with the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, drawing fans should not be a problem.
Even under new ownership—recruited by Bud Selig himself—there just is no way to claim that the Astros are losing money.
They could seriously challenge the 1962 New York Mets and lose 120 games in 2013 with a roster primarily made of players not ready for major league ball.
This is the best example of why baseball needs a salary floor and not a cap. A team cannot seriously compete when they make less as a team than what Josh Hamilton makes by himself.