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Are the 2013 Yankees the Worst Penny-for-Penny Roster in MLB History?

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Are the 2013 Yankees the Worst Penny-for-Penny Roster in MLB History?
Elsa/Getty Images
CC Sabathia is one of the familiar faces still healthy and on the field for the Yankees in 2013.

The New York Yankees' payroll is also going to be a topic of conversation because of how much money is spent to put a product on the field. However, this season is different due to all the money being invested for what is clearly an inferior product. 

According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), the Yankees enter this season with the highest payroll in Major League Baseball history at $230.4 million.

That news has to be shocking to a lot of fans and analysts, as all offseason we kept hearing about how the front office desperately wants to trim payroll to around $189 million before the 2014 season to avoid paying luxury tax fees to MLB

Hank Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman did not exactly cut off the spending, as the Bronx Bombers spent over $60 million to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki and bring in Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Brennan Boesch, Lyle Overbay and Ben Francisco. 

Those free agents are not exactly the kinds of players Yankees' fans are used to hearing about over the winter. They are accustomed to being in the market for the likes of Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, to name the two biggest free agents this season. 

So for $230 million, New York has bought a team that is starting the season with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes on the disabled list. Those five players account for $90.3 million (via Cot's Baseball Contracts). 

The rest of the money that is being spent in New York this season went toward putting this starting lineup on the field against Boston on Opening Day:

NEW YORK YANKEES 2013 STARTING LINEUP
 1. Brett Gardner, CF
 2. Eduardo Nunez, SS
 3. Robinson Cano, 2B
 4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
 5. Vernon Wells, LF
 6. Ben Francisco, DH
 7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
 8. Jayson Nix, 3B
 9. Francisco Cervelli, C

That's not exactly the worst starting lineup you will ever see—it probably wasn't even the worst one this season. Gardner, Cano and Suzuki are all above-average or better players when they are healthy. 

But the rest of the lineup left a lot to be desired. Even Youkilis is clearly past his prime and a shell of what he used to be as a hitter. 

Looking at the rest of the roster, it is hard to see where all the money is going. (Active roster courtesy of Yankees.com)

POSITION PLAYERS
 Infielders/DH  Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner
 Outfielders  Brennan Boesch
 Pitchers  CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Cody  Eppley, Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Adam  Warren, David Phelps

Certainly, you can see talent mixed into that group. It is just when you start looking at how much the Yankees are spending to field this particular team that the problems arise. No one is talking about the Astros or Marlins and how bad they will be because they aren't spending money right now. 

Here is a look at some of the other high-priced rosters in Major League Baseball history that could rival the Yankees' ineptitude this season. 

Note: All payrolls reflect Opening Day salaries and don't include trades that may have been made midseason.


2009 New York Mets, 70-92 record ($149 million payroll, via Cot's Baseball Contracts)

POSITION PLAYERS
 Infielders  Omir Santos, Fernando Tatis, Daniel Murphy, Luis Castillo, Alex Cora, David  Wright, Brian Schneider, Jose Reyes
 Outfielders  Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur, Angel Pagan, Ryan Church, Jeremy  Reed
 Pitchers  Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding, John Maine, Nelson  Figueroa, Oliver Perez, Pat Misch, Bobby Parnell, Ken Takahashi, Sean Green,  Brian Stokes, Pedro Feliciano

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Gary Sheffield's career ended after the 2009 season in which the Mets paid him to 10 home runs.

There are a number of disappointing Mets teams you could choose from in the late 2000s, but it was the 2009 team where everything really fell apart for the franchise. It was still spending money hand over fist, only to see its record go from 89-73 in 2008 to 70-92. 

This was the team's first year in Citi Field, when the park was a wasteland for hitters. David Wright was coming off a season when he hit 33 home runs, only to see that total drop down to 10 in 144 games. 

New York did have four offensive players finish the season with an OPS over .800 (David Wright, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur). 

Six players were making at least $10 million with Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana getting at least $20 million. Oliver Perez was in the first year of that brilliant three-year, $36 million deal he signed and posted a 6.82 ERA in 27 games. 

Francisco Rodriguez was making more than $9 million to close games for a team that finished fourth in the National League East, 23 games behind Philadelphia

Just going around the roster, there are so many bad players on this Mets team. Mike Pelfrey, Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding all had ERAs over 5.00. Omir Santos and Alex Cora put up OPS totals of .688 and .630, respectively. 

Injuries did take their toll on the team, as Santana was only able to start 25 games and Jose Reyes missed 126 games. They were outscored 757-671 en route to a disastrous finish. 

 

2010 Chicago Cubs, 75-87 record ($144 million payroll, via Cot's Baseball Contracts)

POSITION PLAYERS
 Infielders  Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Koyie  Hill, Jeff Baker, Blake Dewitt, Mike Fontenot, Darwin Barney
 Outfielders  Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin, Xavier Nady, Sam  Fuld, Brad Snyder
 Pitchers  Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly,  Carlos Silva, Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Andrew Cashner, James Russell,  Justin Berg, John Grabow, Bob Howry

Brian Kersey/Getty Images
At least Cubs fans got a glimpse of what Starlin Castro can do in a forgettable 2010 season.

The Cubs spent a lot of money over the last four years with nothing to show for it, but the 2010 season was the height of Jim Hendry's lunacy. 

Just based on dollars spent, what is the worst roster compiled?

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Alfonso Soriano was still an abomination, posting a .322 on-base percentage. Geovany Soto had not yet reached the point where he was a backup, putting up an .890 OPS. Aramis Ramirez had a .294 on-base percentage. Derrek Lee was breaking down physically, putting up a .751 OPS in 109 games. 

Starlin Castro did make his debut in 2010 and hit .300/.347/.408 in 125 games. He provided the one hope the Cubs had on offense that season, as a young, cost-effective player at a premium position. 

Surprisingly, the starting staff wasn't that bad. Ryan Dempster struck out 208 in 215.1 innings and posted a 3.86 ERA. Randy Wells had the highest starter's ERA at 4.26. Even Carlos Silva had an ERA of 4.22 in 113 innings. 

Chicago had eight players making over $12 million, led by Soriano's $19 million and Carlos Zambrano's $18.9 million. Ramirez's electric season cost the Cubs $16.8 million. 

For reasons known only to Hendry, Silva was making $12.8 million in the second year of a four-year, $48 million contract. 

Ryan Theriot was hilariously not only taking up a roster spot, but starting at second base. He was also making $2.6 million to post a .647 OPS. 

The good news is that, even though their record has gotten worse in each of the last two seasons after 2010, Chicago was able to bring in a new regime before the start of 2012 that actually knows what it is doing and the payroll has dropped by $41 million in the last three years. 

 

2003 Detroit Tigers, 43-119 record ($56 million payroll, via BaseballProspectus.com)

POSITION PLAYERS
 Infielders/DH  Brandon Inge, Carlos Pena, Warren Morris, Ramon Santiago, Eric Munson,  Shane Halter, Dmitri Young, Omar Infante, Matt Walbeck
 Outfielders  Craig Monroe, Alex Sanchez, Bobby Higginson, Kevin Witt, Andres Torres, Gene  Kingsale, Ben Petrick, Cody Ross
 Pitchers  Nate Cornejo, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Adam Bernero, Gary Knotts, Matt  Roney, Chris Spurling, Jamie Walker, Franklyn German, Steve Sparks, Wil  Ledezma, Chris Mears, Fernando Rodney

Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Mike Maroth was one of several young pitchers hung out to dry by the Tigers in 2003.

Looking back at the worst team most of us will ever see, at least based on record, it is astounding to think that $56 million was spent to put the 2003 Detroit Tigers together. 

To make matters even worse, the highest paid player on the roster was Bobby Higginson, who made $11.25 million and hit .235/.320/.369 in 139 games as the primary right fielder. According to the Baseball Prospectus page that calculated team's payroll also listed Higginson's WARP (BP's version of WAR) as -0.25. 

As bad as Higginson was, shortstop Ramon Santiago actually had the worst WARP on the team at -1.23 after hitting .225/.292/.284 in 444 at-bats. Using Fangraphs' defensive metrics, he also cost the team five defensive runs and had a UZR of -8.3. 

All told there were 11 players on the Tigers' roster who had a negative WARP. That seems almost impossible to do, yet this group somehow managed to pull it off. 

 

2012 Houston Astros, 55-107 record ($60.8 million payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts)

POSITION PLAYERS
 Infielders  Jason Castro, Chris Snyder, Carlos Lee, Brett Wallace, Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie,  Chris Johnson, Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Dominguez, Tyler Greene
 Outfielders  J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer, Brian Bogusevic, Justin Maxwell, Fernando Martinez,  Brandon Barnes
 Pitchers  Lucas Harrell, Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Dallas  Keuchel, Brett Myers, Fernando Rodriguez, Wilton Lopez, Rhiner Cruz, Wesley  Wright, Fernando Abad, Brandon Lyon

This team is obviously very misleading, because the Astros under general manager Jeff Luhnow had a very specific plan to trade any and all big league assets to both shed payroll and add as much talent to the farm system. 

But that $60 million payroll does fit the rules of what we are trying to figure out. It is amazing to look at the roster Houston put together for 2012 and think that it actually cost that much money. 

It is a similar situation to what Detroit did in 2003, though the Astros were in the process of tearing everything down while the Tigers had already hit bottom and were trying to build themselves back up. 

There were some surprising performers on this Houston team. Lucas Harrell posted a 3.76 ERA in 193.2 innings. Jose Altuve continues to defy the odds, as he became a fan favorite by hitting .299/.340/.399 in 147 games at second base. 

No one—either a starter or bench player—had an OPS higher than Matt Dominguez's .787 that he put up in just 31 games. 

 

Spending used to yield results

Al Bello/Getty Images
Derek Jeter's broken ankle in last year's ALCS could have been a symbolic ending for the Yankees.

You can see why the Yankees loved to spend money hand over fist for the last 13 years, as they won more games than anyone else in baseball from 2000-2009 (965) while spending a total of $1,685,300,000 to get those victories. 

According to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated in January 2010, the Bronx Bombers spent more money per victory than any team. It cost $174,600 for every victory they had over the course of an entire decade.

Now, with the highest payroll in franchise history, the Yankees are facing a crisis where none of that money is going to produce anything better than a .500 record. It is possible everyone comes back healthy and puts up numbers they did at their peak, proving the world wrong. 

 

Conclusion

Pool/Getty Images
Yankee pride is still very much a part of the franchise, but it is going to be a long season in 2013.

Based on the total amount of money being spent, the quality of talent on the roster to get the payroll up to $230 million and the most likely result for the team this year, it would be easy to say that this year's Yankees roster is the worst in history. 

Even the Dodgers, who have been going after virtually every big contract in baseball over the last eight months, are "only" spending $214.8 million in 2013, and they have a much better collection of talent right now. 

Years of handing out long-term contracts that were always going to end badly have finally caught up to New York. It is going to be a long summer for the pinstripes, as they fight to stay over .500 in a very good American League East. 

Apparently $230 million doesn't buy what it used to. 

 

For more talk on all the things you can buy with $230 million, as well as the fun side of baseball, be sure to check me out on Twitter. 


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