MLB's 'Moneyball' Power Rankings: Who Is Overpaying/Underpaying the Most?
Of the 16 MLB teams that finished with a .500 record or better in 2013, seven (Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays) began the season with payrolls in the bottom half of the league.
The 14 teams with losing records included the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays, all teams with payrolls above $100 million to begin the season.
The seven aforementioned winning teams were obviously getting much more "bang for their buck" than the six aforementioned losing teams. A look throughout those rosters, and the differences are clear: more young and inexpensive talent on the winning side, and more overpriced veterans on the losing side.
While building a roster filled with high-priced veterans has proven to be effective on occasion, one of the keys to fielding a winning ballclub on a year-to-year basis without having to spend significantly in free agency is to consistently produce homegrown players who can fill an integral role on the team during the first four or five years of their career.
Signing those players to team-friendly contract extensions, as has been the focus of the Braves this offseason, to keep them beyond their arbitration years on salaries that aren't breaking the bank is another strategy that has often worked quite well.
It's the perfect balance, however, that can lead to the ultimate success of a world championship. A handful of veterans who are living up to their big salaries mixed in with several talented, young and inexpensive players is the foundation.
The X-factor is in the production that a team can get from the remaining group of roster-fillers, which normally consists primarily of waiver-wire acquisitions and free agents signed at rates that would be considered well below-average for a league-average player.
I've ranked the 30 teams, from worst (No. 30) to best (No. 1), based on who is likely to get the most value out of the dollars spent on their 2014 player payroll.
2014 salaries are listed in parentheses next to players listed in "overpriced," "underpriced" and "other potential values" categories.
30. Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $175 million
Overpriced: 1B Ryan Howard ($25M), SS Jimmy Rollins ($11M), RP Mike Adams ($7M), RP Jonathan Papelbon ($13M)
Underpriced: OF Domonic Brown (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: Ben Revere ($1.9M), Roberto Hernandez ($4.5M)
Teams that can afford $175 million payrolls have much more room for error. The Phillies, however, have made a few too many, resulting in disappointing seasons in 2012 and 2013. It will take major bounce-back seasons from Howard (pictured) and Rollins to reverse the perception that they're an aging team in serious need of a youth movement.
But aside from Brown, a 2013 All-Star, and the anticipated arrival of top third base prospect Maikel Franco, who could be ready to join the club later in the season, this roster doesn't have much hope of that happening internally anytime soon.
Regardless, this is not a team that should be counted out for 2014. The top three starters in the rotation are costly at $68.5 million this season alone, but any team with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and A.J. Burnett leading the way has a chance to be pretty good. They would just be doing it the "anti-Moneyball" way with several high-priced players earning every dollar of their paycheck.
29. New York Yankees
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $205 million
Overpriced: 1B Mark Teixeira ($23.125M), SP CC Sabathia ($23M), OF Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5M)
Underpriced: OF Carlos Beltran ($15M), OF Brett Gardner ($5.6M), SP Ivan Nova ($3.3M), RP David Robertson ($5.215M)
Other Potential Values: 2B Brian Roberts ($2M), 3B Scott Sizemore (minor league deal), IF/OF Kelly Johnson ($3M), RP Dellin Betances (pre-arbitration)
With several gaping holes to fill on their roster this past offseason, the New York Yankees didn't have the luxury of bargain shopping. They paid market value for top free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Hiroki Kuroda, and possibly overpaid to land Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka.
They did get Beltran, however, at a much lower rate than they would've had he been three to five years younger. He's still one of the best hitters in the game, though, and his three-year, $45 million deal could be the steal of the offseason.
Getting Alex Rodriguez's $25 million salary off the books due to his year-long suspension certainly helps, but this is still a team with more than $200 million owed to players in 2014 and too many question marks throughout the roster.
If players like Roberts and Johnson can give the team solid production from second base and third base, respectively, and two or three young pitchers can step up to help solidify the bullpen, the roster has a chance to be more balanced than anyone could've imagined.
28. Houston Astros
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $45 million
Overpriced: SP Scott Feldman ($12M)
Underpriced: C Jason Castro ($2.45M), 1B Chris Carter (pre-arbitration), 2B Jose Altuve ($1.44M)
Other Potential Values: OF Dexter Fowler ($7.35M), OF George Springer (pre-arbitration), SP Jarred Cosart (pre-arbitration), SP Brett Oberholtzer (pre-arbitration), SP Brad Peacock (pre-arbitration), RP Jesse Crain ($3.25M)
The Houston Astros got back to being players in free agency this offseason on the heels of a 111-loss season. In doing so, however, they gave $30 million over three years to Feldman, who is a No. 3 starter disguised as a staff ace in Houston.
While Feldman's presence at the top of the rotation should help a young staff, as will the addition of Fowler at the top of the lineup, this young Astros team isn't quite ready to make much of an impact in the AL West, so the big payroll increase won't go very far.
If the Astros continue on their current path, though, with several young prospects closing in on the majors, a very strong farm system in place and a savvy front office, they could possibly top this list in two or three years.
27. Detroit Tigers
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $162 million
Overpriced: 2B Ian Kinsler ($16M), Rajai Davis ($5M)
Underpriced: 1B Miguel Cabrera ($22M), SS Jose Iglesias ($1.65M), SP Drew Smyly (pre-arbitration), RP Joe Nathan ($9M)
Other Potential Values: OF Andy Dirks ($1.625M), RP Bruce Rondon (pre-arbitration)
Trading away Prince Fielder when they did, following a subpar age-29 season and with seven years and $168 million remaining on his deal—the Detroit Tigers will pay $30 million of the remaining salary—may prove to be a wise move.
Failing to replace his production—Austin Jackson hit fifth in the team's first exhibition game—could very well come back and haunt this team, though. Paying the light-hitting Rajai Davis $5 million per season to be the team's fourth outfielder when Nelson Cruz ultimately signed for $8 million looks like a huge mistake.
The player they acquired for Fielder, Ian Kinsler, could also be on the downside of his career. He'll be entering his age-31 season after a solid, yet unspectacular 2013 season in which he had 13 homers and 15 stolen bases.
He's still owed $62 million over the next four seasons, however, based on the reputation he earned as an elite leadoff hitter who had two 30-30 seasons (at least 30 homers and 30 stolen bases) under his belt when he signed his current deal.
26. New York Mets
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $83 million
Overpriced: OF Chris Young ($7.25M)
Underpriced: 2B Daniel Murphy ($5.7M), SP Dillon Gee ($3.625M), SP Jon Niese ($5.05M), SP Zack Wheeler (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: C Travis d'Arnaud (pre-arbitration), 1B Ike Davis ($3.5M), SP Jenrry Mejia (pre-arbitration), RP Bobby Parnell ($3.7M)
While the New York Mets did add a reliable front-line starting pitcher in Bartolo Colon and a proven power hitter in Curtis Granderson, their offseason has fallen a bit flat with no clear direction taken.
They didn't go all out by acquiring three or four impact players, as some had expected with the lofty salaries of Jason Bay and Johan Santana finally off the books. They also don't have enough major league-ready talent to go to a youth movement, and they didn't focus on keeping the payroll down by acquiring potential bargains.
Young, while he may be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, signed for only $750,000 less than power-hitting Nelson Cruz, whose value was seemingly much higher.
Gee, Niese and Wheeler, who will make less than $10 million combined in 2014, are one of the reasons the team can have one of the lowest payrolls in the league and still have at least an outside chance to hang around in the playoff hunt for more than a couple months.
Losing ace Matt Harvey for the season hurts, but the Mets can't expect to compete with three players (David Wright, Colon, Granderson) accounting for more than half the team's payroll and trying to fill the remainder of the roster with a budget not much different than that of the Astros or Miami Marlins.
25. Minnesota Twins
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $84 million
Overpriced: 1B Joe Mauer ($23M), SP Ricky Nolasco ($12M)
Underpriced: 2B Brian Dozier (pre-arbitration), OF Josh Willingham ($7M), RP Glen Perkins ($3.75M)
Other Potential Values: C Josmil Pinto (pre-arbitration), 3B Trevor Plouffe ($2.35M), OF Oswaldo Arcia (pre-arbitration), SP Phil Hughes ($8M)
A $23 million salary for one of the best all-around catchers in the game and still in the prime of his career doesn't seem unreasonable. But if that catcher, who in this case is Mauer (pictured), is moved to first base, where his power drops to below average and his defense is a work in progress as he transitions to a new position full time, it's a much more difficult sell.
If Pinto can become an offensive force and at least an adequate defensive catcher, it would help to further rationalize the move. The impending arrivals of Byron Buxton, arguably the top prospect in the game, and power hitter Miguel Sano—both of whom will make very little for at least their first three big league seasons—could also ease the reality of the Twins star losing value in the position change.
The signing of Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal didn't appear to be a poor decision, especially considering the sorry state of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff. But the price drop for top free agents Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez—and likely Ervin Santana, who has yet to sign—to deals just slightly more than Nolasco's indicates that the Twins moved much too quickly and paid too much for a less effective pitcher.
If a change of scenery helps Hughes, a former 18-game winner with the Yankees, the Nolasco blunder could be much less forgivable.
24. Chicago Cubs
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $90 million
Overpriced: SP Edwin Jackson ($13M), RP Kyuji Fujikawa ($4.5M), RP Carlos Villanueva ($5M)
Underpriced: C Welington Castillo (pre-arbitration), 1B Anthony Rizzo ($1.54M), OF Nate Schierholtz ($5M), OF Ryan Sweeney ($1.5M), SP Jeff Samardzija ($5.345M), SP Travis Wood ($3.9M)
Other Potential Values: 3B Mike Olt (pre-arbitration), SS Starlin Castro ($5.857M), OF Junior Lake (pre-arbitration), SP Jake Arrieta (pre-arbitration), SP/RP James McDonald ($1M), RP Pedro Strop ($1.325M)
The Ugly: OF Alfonso Soriano ($14M) - When talking about overpaying, how can you forget that the Cubs are paying $14M of Soriano's $19M contract to the Yankees in 2014 (courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts)? It really does not get much worse than that and is a big reason the team falls at No. 24 on this list.
After spending $52 million on the disappointing Edwin Jackson last offseason and close to $20 million combined to bring in relievers Fujikawa, who went down in early 2013 with a season-ending elbow injury, and Villanueva, who is an unnecessary $5 million per season luxury as a swingman on a bad team, the Cubs at least stayed committed to their rebuilding process this offseason and spent very little.
By bringing in players on low-cost, low-risk deals—such as the re-signing of center fielder Ryan Sweeney and former Pittsburgh Pirates starter McDonald, as well as one-year deals to Jason Hammel and Jose Veras, two potential July trade chips—the Cubs have set themselves up for a season in which they can get much more out of their payroll dollars than they did in 2013.
This will especially be the case if Castro returns to his pre-2013 form, when he appeared on the brink of stardom.
As long as ownership remains patient, the Theo Epstein regime should eventually produce a team that would be near the top of this list. The elite farm system is now in place, and Jackson, barring a bounce-back performance for the remaining three years of his contract, would be the only player considered to be overpriced.
23. Los Angeles Angels
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $152 million
Overpriced: 1B Albert Pujols ($23M), OF Josh Hamilton ($17.4M), SP Joe Blanton ($7.5M)
Underpriced: DH Raul Ibanez ($2.75M), OF Mike Trout ($1M), RP Ernesto Frieri ($3.8M)
Other Potential Values: David Freese, 3B ($5.05M), OF Kole Calhoun (pre-arbitration), SP Garrett Richards (pre-arbitration), SP Hector Santiago (pre-arbitration), SP Tyler Skaggs (pre-arbitration)
Take away Mike Trout (pictured) and the handful of payroll-friendly moves made this offseason, and the Angels are ranked No. 30 on this list. It's probably not even close.
Trout, who won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason, might be the best value in all of baseball, though, and his presence alone gives the team a big boost. The additions of Ibanez, Freese, Santiago and Skaggs could pay huge dividends, and they will have cost the Angels less than $10 million in 2014.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $230 million
Overpriced: 1B Adrian Gonzalez ($21.857M), OF Carl Crawford ($21.1M), OF Andre Ethier ($15.5M), SP Josh Beckett ($17M), SP Zack Greinke ($26M), RP Brandon League ($8.5M)
Underpriced: C A.J. Ellis ($3.55M), OF Yasiel Puig ($3.714M), SP Clayton Kershaw ($6.57M), SP Hyun-Jin Ryu ($4.33M), RP Kenley Jansen ($4.3M), RP Paco Rodriguez (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: OF Matt Kemp ($21.25M), SP Dan Haren ($10M), SP Paul Maholm ($1.5M), RP Chris Perez ($2.3M)
For a team that has a likely fourth outfielder making $15.5 million, a pitcher making $17 million who isn't a lock for a rotation spot and a relief pitcher who is in danger of being released prior to the season making $8.5 million, the Los Angeles Dodgers aren't in that bad of shape.
The deep pockets of their ownership group allows much room for error, but they had a rather fiscally responsible offseason with the additions of several veterans on low-cost and potential high-reward deals and a solid core of young talent in place.
And despite several key players being listed as "overpriced," they are still highly productive, especially Gonzalez and Greinke. They're just being paid like the top players in the game, and they're a notch or two below that group.
Kershaw's last season as an "underpriced" player helps, as well as international signees Puig and Ryu, who won't top the $7 million salary mark until the 2016 season. If Kemp can bounce back to his MVP-caliber form, even he'd be underpaid at his $21.25 million salary for 2014.
The roster isn't without question marks, however, which is due in part to a $230 million payroll having too many flaws that have resulted in an imbalanced roster.
21. Miami Marlins
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $43 million
Underpriced: OF Giancarlo Stanton ($6.5M), OF Christian Yelich (pre-arbitration), SP Nathan Eovaldi (pre-arbitration), SP Jose Fernandez (pre-arbitration), SP Jacob Turner ($1M), RP Steve Cishek ($3.8M), RP Mike Dunn ($1.4)
Other Potential Values: 1B Garrett Jones ($2.75M), 3B Casey McGehee ($1.1M), OF Marcell Ozuna (pre-arbitration), SP Henderson Alvarez (pre-arbitration), RP Carter Capps (pre-arbitration)
While the Astros and general manager Jeff Luhnow have drawn rave reviews for their rebuilding process, the Marlins really aren't that far behind in regard to their farm system and might be a step ahead in the race to become contenders once again.
Two stars, Fernandez and Stanton (pictured), have already emerged in Miami, while Yelich could break out in 2014. Several veterans, including Jeff Baker, Rafael Furcal, Carlos Marmol, Jones and McGehee, were all signed to low-cost deals in an attempt to buy another year for a bevy of other prospects who could fill holes in 2015 and beyond.
There is a reason that the aforementioned players were cheap, however, and it's too early to judge the offseason based on what might be if each of them has a good year.
20. San Francisco Giants
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $148 million
Overpriced: SP Tim Lincecum ($17M)
Underpriced: C Buster Posey ($11.28M), 1B Brandon Belt ($2.9M), SP Madison Bumgarner ($3.95M), RP Sergio Romo ($5.5M)
Other Potential Values: SS Brandon Crawford (pre-arbitration), OF Michael Morse ($6M)
The Giants' projected 25-man roster consists of 15 players with guaranteed contracts and five others who agreed to contracts to avoid arbitration. Several players from that group, however, were acquired off the scrap heap at some point or are homegrown players who were signed to contract extensions, which accounts for a majority of a near $150 million payroll.
Belt (pictured), entering his first year as an arbitration-eligible player, has the best potential to far exceed his salary with his on-field performance, while Posey's salary is still a bargain at less than $12 million. His salary jumps to over $17 million in 2015 and no less than $20 million in any year throughout the remainder of his contract.
Lincecum's two-year, $35 million deal might be partly a reward for his several years of dominance as the staff ace, but he'll have to bounce back further than the solid, but not great pitcher he was for most of the 2013 season.
19. San Diego Padres
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $87 million
Overpriced: OF Cameron Maybin ($5.1M)
Underpriced: C Yasmani Grandal (pre-arbitration), 2B Jedd Gyorko (pre-arbitration), SS Everth Cabrera ($2.45M), OF Will Venable ($4.25M), SP Andrew Cashner ($2.4M), SP Tyson Ross ($1.98M)
Other Potential Values: 1B Yonder Alonso (pre-arbitration), OF Carlos Quentin ($9.5M), OF Seth Smith ($4.5M), SP Josh Johnson ($8M)
A San Diego Padres team with the highest payroll in team history also has the ability to be one of the best. And it's still a fairly young team with only one player, third baseman Chase Headley, making over $10 million ($10.25M) and only six others making more than $5 million.
Even Maybin, who is considered overpriced at $5.1 million, can easily reverse that perception if he can just stay healthy and provide some offense to go along with his strong center field defense.
Quentin (pictured) and Johnson could be the X-factors, though. Both are former stars still in the prime of careers that have been derailed by injuries. For what each can potentially provide if they can stay on the field for the entire season, their respective $9.5 million and $8 million salaries will be among the biggest bargains in the game.
18. Chicago White Sox
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $88 million
Overpriced: DH Adam Dunn ($15M), IF Jeff Keppinger ($4M), SP John Danks ($15.75M)
Underpriced: OF Alejandro De Aza ($4.25M), OF Adam Eaton (pre-arbitration), OF Avisail Garcia (pre-arbitration), SP Jose Quintana (pre-arbitration), SP Chris Sale ($3.5M), RP Nate Jones (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: 1B Jose Dariel Abreu ($8.67M), 1B Paul Konerko ($2.5M), 2B Gordon Beckham ($4.175M), SS Alexei Ramirez ($7M), SP Erik Johnson (pre-arbitration) SP Felipe Paulino ($1.75M)
Once Dunn is off the books after the season and if their promising core of young talent can make progress in 2014, the Sox are in terrific position to skyrocket up this list next season. They're not quite there yet, though.
Even before injuries derailed John Danks' career and he had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter, the five-year, $65 million contract extension he was given seemed lofty. The 28-year-old is now returning from shoulder issues and will be making $15.75 million over the next three seasons without any guarantee that he'll ever get back to the pitcher he was from 2008-2010 (3.61 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 7.0 K/9).
The Sox have also failed to get consistent production from their middle infield combination of Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, who will earn a combined $11.175 million in 2014. Both players have enough talent, however, to reverse the trend and outperform that salary.
17. Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $136 million
Overpriced: SP Mark Buehrle ($19M), SP Ricky Romero ($7.75M)
Underpriced: C Dioner Navarro ($3M), 1B Edwin Encarnacion ($9M), OF Jose Bautista ($14M), OF Colby Rasmus ($7M), RP Steve Delabar (pre-arbitration), RP Casey Janssen ($4M)
Other Potential Values: 3B Brett Lawrie (pre-arbitration), SP R.A. Dickey ($12M), SP Brandon Morrow ($8M)
Don't let the Blue Jays' disappointing 2013 season fool you—or their extremely quiet offseason. This is still a very talented team with a balanced roster and, aside from Romero, the potential to get its money's worth out of every high-priced veteran.
Bautista and Encarnacion have two of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball, and while he isn't close to being a $19 million-per-season pitcher, Buehrle is reliable and should give the Jays another solid season.
Of course, things could continue to go wrong as they did in 2013. Injuries and poor performance from key players and their roster depth will once again be put to the test.
16. Texas Rangers
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $132 million
Overpriced: 1B Prince Fielder ($24M)
Underpriced: 1B Mitch Moreland ($2.65M), 2B Jurickson Profar (pre-arbitration), OF Alex Rios ($12.5M), SP Yu Darvish ($10M), RP Neftali Feliz ($3M), RP Tanner Scheppers (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: C J.P. Arencibia ($1.8M), SS Elvis Andrus ($6.725M), OF Shin-Soo Choo ($14M), Leonys Martin ($3.75M), SP Colby Lewis ($2M), SP Alexi Ogando, SP ($2.625M), SP Martin Perez ($1M)
The team's lone overpriced player, Prince Fielder, may not be worth his $24 million salary if his numbers don't improve over last year's (.819 OPS). But, at least on paper, the Texas Rangers lineup looks so much more dangerous with him in the middle of it.
With several players expected to outperform their salaries and plenty of others with a chance to do the same on a very talented roster, Fielder's salary is not likely to draw much of a negative reaction in Texas.
Darvish, who could be the top pitcher in the American League in 2014, will make just $10 million, while Rios' $12.5 million will be a bargain if he can come close to his 18-homer, 42-stolen-base season of 2013.
15. Seattle Mariners
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $84 million
Underpriced: 3B Kyle Seager (pre-arbitration), OF Corey Hart ($6M), OF Michael Saunders ($2.3M), SP Hisashi Iwakuma ($6.5M), SP Taijuan Walker (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: 1B Justin Smoak ($2.64M), 1B/OF Logan Morrison ($1.75M), SS Brad Miller (pre-arbitration), OF Dustin Ackley ($1.7M), SP Scott Baker ($1M), SP James Paxton (pre-arbitration), RP Danny Farquhar (pre-arbitration), RP Fernando Rodney ($7M)
There will come a time when Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez could become overpriced. That is unlikely to happen in 2014, though. If anything, both players are capable of outperforming their $24 million and $22.86 million respective salaries.
If the Seattle Mariners can produce a winning team despite two players accounting for more than half of the team's payroll and 20 players on the 25-man roster making between the minimum salary and $2.8 million (Willie Bloomquist), general manager Jack Zduriencik deserves a ton of credit.
Corey Hart (pictured), who was one of the most productive hitters in the game from 2007-2012, and Logan Morrison, a once-highly touted prospect with the Marlins, were "buy low" acquisitions who are coming back from injuries. Former Twins ace Scott Baker, who is nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, could prove to be another low-cost, high-reward pickup.
They'll be counting on several players not yet eligible for arbitration, including top pitching prospects Walker and Paxton, which is why the outlook might not be great in 2014. But they appear to be in pretty good shape for the foreseeable future, at least until Cano and Hernandez pass their prime and are still making well above $20 million.
14. Colorado Rockies
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $95 million
Underpriced: C Wilin Rosario (pre-arbitration), 3B Nolan Arenado (pre-arbitration), OF Carlos Gonzalez ($10.93M), OF Michael Cuddyer ($10.5M), SP Tyler Chatwood (pre-arbitration), SP Jorge De La Rosa ($11M), RP Rex Brothers (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: 1B Justin Morneau ($5M), SS Troy Tulowitzki ($16M), SP Brett Anderson ($6M), SP Jhoulys Chacin ($4.85M)
Gonzalez and Tulowitzki, for at least another season, have a solid chance to outperform their respective salaries. Both players are signed to long-term deals with salaries that jump significantly in 2015.
The key to a successful 2014 season weighs heavily on the health of those two stars, along with several other players set to fill integral roles. Possibly more than any team in the league, the Colorado Rockies have players who could fall well short of expectations or far exceed them. If things go well, a roster with less than a $100 million payroll could be a force.
That's a big "if," however, because of the question marks surrounding their starting rotation. Chacin, who is currently battling shoulder inflammation, and the oft-injured Anderson are being counted on to stabilize a starting rotation that could be pretty good as long as it can avoid the injury bug.
Top pitching prospects Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler could both reach Colorado by midseason, giving the team two inexpensive top-of-the-rotation starters for the next several seasons. Not many teams have that luxury, though it's hard to know how they'll fare in the hitter-friendly environment of Coors Field.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $109 million
Overpriced: C Miguel Montero ($10M), OF Cody Ross ($9.5M), SP Brandon McCarthy ($10.25M), RP J.J. Putz ($7M)
Underpriced: 1B Paul Goldschmidt ($1.1M), OF Gerardo Parra ($4.85M), OF A.J. Pollock (pre-arbitration), OF Mark Trumbo ($4.8M), SP Pat Corbin (pre-arbitration), SP Wade Miley (pre-arbitration), RP Addison Reed (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: SP Archie Bradley (pre-arbitration)
After Goldschmidt's 2013 breakout into MVP-caliber player, the D'backs may have the best value in all of baseball on their roster. For an elite first baseman in Goldschmidt (pictured), they'll pay just under $47 million through his age-31 season.
Top prospect Archie Bradley, who won't break a million dollars in salary for at least three more years, is closing in on the majors, as is rookie Chris Owings, who will push Didi Gregorius for the starting shortstop job this spring.
While veteran infielders Aaron Hill ($11M) and Martin Prado ($11M), along with starting pitchers Bronson Arroyo ($9.5M) and Trevor Cahill ($7.9M), certainly have the potential to become "overpriced" with down seasons, the quartet of aforementioned players who are more likely to fall below expectations aren't drastically overpaid and all have the ability to turn things around in 2014.
The D'backs appeared willing to push their payroll much higher in order to land Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, but they went the safer route with Arroyo, who has been one of the most consistent and reliable starters in the game over the past decade.
12. Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $101 million
Overpriced: 2B Rickie Weeks ($11M), 3B Aramis Ramirez ($16M)
Underpriced: C Jonathan Lucroy ($2.1M), 2B Scooter Gennett (pre-arbitration), SS Jean Segura (pre-arbitration), OF Ryan Braun ($11M), OF Carlos Gomez ($7M), SP Marco Estrada ($3.325M), RP Jim Henderson (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: 1B Juan Francisco ($1.35M), 1B/3B Mark Reynolds ($2M), OF Khris Davis (pre-arbitration), SP Matt Garza ($12.5M), SP Kyle Lohse ($11M)
With Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez and Yovani Gallardo accounting for a combined $38.5 million in options that are controlled by the team in 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers have the potential to enter next offseason with a fairly clean slate.
They'll be in a very good position to build a cost-effective roster with some pretty good young talent already in place, two solid veteran starters in Garza and Lohse who are being paid as such and some money to spend in free agency.
In 2014, though, they'll pay an estimated $101 million for a roster that probably isn't good enough to compete for the playoffs unless Weeks can bounce back, Ramirez (pictured) can stay on the field for much more than the 92 games he played in 2013 and Gallardo returns to his pre-2013 form.
11. Washington Nationals
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $132 million
Overpriced: 1B Adam LaRoche ($12M), OF Jayson Werth ($20.571M)
Underpriced: C Wilson Ramos ($2.09M), SS Ian Desmond ($6.5M), OF Bryce Harper ($2.15M), SP Doug Fister ($7.2M), SP Gio Gonzalez ($8.6M), SP Stephen Strasburg ($3.975M), SP Jordan Zimmermann ($7.5M)
Other Potential Values: 2B Anthony Rendon ($1.8M), OF Denard Span ($6.5M)
It will be expensive to keep this team together beyond the next few seasons, but the Washington Nationals have done a terrific job assembling a group of young and talented players that has at least a couple more years left in their window of contention.
A majority of the roster is making between $1 million and $8.6 million (Gonzalez), which is why the Nats are so high on this list. Many will be in line for big-money contracts when they reach free agency, though, so the Nationals will need to make good decisions on which players to keep long term and continue producing major league-ready talent to step in for those who do depart as free agents.
Without success in those areas, they'll be forced to go the free-agent route, where players like LaRoche and Werth (pictured) get a ton of money beyond their best years and the injuries and drop in production become more common.
10. Cincinnati Reds
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $106 million
Overpriced: OF Ryan Ludwick ($8.5M), RP Jonathan Broxton ($7M)
Underpriced: 1B Joey Votto ($12M), 3B Todd Frazier (pre-arbitration), OF Jay Bruce ($10.042M), SP Homer Bailey ($9M), SP Tony Cingrani (pre-arbitration), SP Johnny Cueto ($10M), SP Mat Latos ($7.25M), RP Aroldis Chapman ($5M), RP J.J. Hoover (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: C Devin Mesoraco (pre-arbitration), OF Billy Hamilton (pre-arbitration), SP Mike Leake ($5.925M)
The Cincinnati Reds are a team built primarily from within, which is key to their success in a small market. That ability to produce talent from their farm system will be put to the test more than ever in 2014 with Shin-Soo Choo departing for a big-money deal with Texas and unproven rookie Billy Hamilton, who struggled in Triple-A last season, being asked to step into his spot as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Although Homer Bailey was signed to a long-term contract extension, three others from the starting rotation are eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Votto (pictured) and Bailey will also be making at least $38 million combined by 2016. Needless to say, there are some big challenges ahead.
For now, they'll still be able to field a very strong ballclub with a relatively low payroll.
9. Cleveland Indians
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $81 million
Overpriced: OF Michael Bourn ($13.5M), 1B/OF Nick Swisher ($15M)
Underpriced: C Yan Gomes (pre-arbitration), C/1B Carlos Santana ($3.7M), 2B Jason Kipnis (pre-arbitration), OF Michael Brantley ($2.375M), OF Ryan Raburn ($2.225M), SP Justin Masterson ($9.76M)
Other Potential Values: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (pre-arbitration), OF David Murphy ($5.5M), SP Corey Kluber (pre-arbitration), SP Danny Santana (pre-arbitration), RP Cody Allen (pre-arbitration), RP John Axford ($4.5M)
Signing Bourn (pictured) and Swisher to long-term deals last offseason may not have had the effect they had hoped for—Bourn had a .676 OPS; Swisher had a .763 OPS. But the Indians have a relatively young team, which is necessary as a mid-market organization, so adding two experienced veterans may have been what they needed to return to their winning ways and back into the postseason.
With two aging players taking up a big chunk of the team's payroll, though, it'll need to focus on getting as much value as possible out of players not making a lot of money.
A case in point is the team's relatively quiet offseason where the top acquisitions (Murphy, Axford) were players whose values had taken a dive over the past year and will be looking to bounce back with the Tribe.
Still, this is a team that won 92 games last season and, aside from starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, will have a very similar look and low payroll in 2014.
8. Kansas City Royals
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $86 million
Overpriced: SP Wade Davis ($4.8M)
Underpriced: C Sal Perez ($1.5M), DH Billy Butler ($8.5M), 1B Eric Hosmer ($3.6M), 2B Omar Infante ($5M), OF Norichika Aoki ($1.95M), OF Alex Gordon ($10M), RP Greg Holland ($4.675M)
Other Potential Values: 3B Mike Moustakas (pre-arbitration), OF Lorenzo Cain (pre-arbitration), SP Danny Duffy (pre-arbitration), SP Jason Vargas ($7M)
It may have taken a year or two longer than the team's fanbase had hoped, but the Royals have successfully put together a legitimate playoff contender with a roster consisting primarily of homegrown core players.
Three of those homegrown players (Butler, Gordon and Perez) were all signed to long-term contract extensions early in their careers, giving the team three highly productive and underpriced players in their prime.
Filling a handful of roster voids this offseason with two mid-level free-agent signings (Infante and Vargas) and the acquisition of Aoki (pictured) gives the team an even better chance to improve upon an 86-win season without adding a whole lot to its payroll and without subtracting from a farm system that is still relatively strong after trading away two of its best prospects (Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi) last offseason.
7. St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $110 million
Overpriced: SS Jhonny Peralta ($15.5M), SP Jaime Garcia ($7.875M), RP Jason Motte ($7.5M)
Underpriced: 1B Matt Adams (pre-arbitration), 1B/OF Allen Craig ($2.75M), 3B Matt Carpenter (pre-arbitration), SP Joe Kelly (pre-arbitration), SP Lance Lynn (pre-arbitration), SP Shelby Miller (pre-arbitration), SP Michael Wacha (pre-arbitration), RP Carlos Martinez (pre-arbitration), RP Trevor Rosenthal (pre-arbitration), RP Kevin Siegrist (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: 2B Kolten Wong (pre-arbitration), OF Peter Bourjos ($1.2M), OF Oscar Taveras (pre-arbitration)
When nearly half of a team's roster consists of players not yet eligible for arbitration and that roster is still one of the best in baseball, you know that organization is doing a lot right. And it's no surprise that this is the reality of the St. Louis Cardinals.
While they aren't poor by any stretch, they don't need to be aggressive on the free-agent market. They have a wealth of talent that is consistently arriving from the minors, and they've been one of the best in baseball at locking the best young players up long term.
The four-year, $53 million deal they gave shortstop Jhonny Peralta is risky, but it's one that they can overcome if it goes wrong because they have so much inexpensive talent on their roster.
Not getting anything out of injured and expensive pitchers Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte in 2013 would've put a huge damper on the season of most teams. The Cards had enough depth to get by, but their surplus of young pitching talent, including Michael Wacha (pictured), also helped lead the team to the World Series.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $74 million
Overpriced: SP Edinson Volquez ($5M)
Underpriced: 2B Neil Walker ($5.75M), 3B Pedro Alvarez ($4.25M), SS Jordy Mercer (pre-arbitration), OF Starling Marte (pre-arbitration), OF Andrew McCutchen ($7.46M), SP Gerrit Cole (pre-arbitration), SP Francisco Liriano ($8M), SP Charlie Morton ($4M), RP Jason Grilli ($4.25M), RP Mark Melancon ($2.6M), RP Tony Watson (pre-arbitration), RP Justin Wilson (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: 1B Gaby Sanchez ($2.3M), OF Gregory Polanco (pre-arbitration), OF Jose Tabata ($3.17M), Jameson Taillon (pre-arbitration)
The Volquez signing could be the biggest head-scratcher of the entire offseason, especially considering it's the only significant move the Pirates made. But their patient approach to building a perennial winner has finally paid off, and they weren't about to go away from it by spending big in free agency.
Instead, they're taking a $5 million risk that a very talented pitcher like Volquez can be "fixed" by the Pirates coaching staff, as they did with Liriano in 2013. They'll continue to look for the next Jason Grilli to solidify their bullpen. And they'll also keep reloading players as their top prospects inch closer to the majors.
Marte and Cole have arrived in back-to-back seasons, and Polanco and Taillon could help in 2014. None will make a whole lot of money for another four or five seasons, which is why the Pirates will be able to keep their payroll down and only spend big when it's absolutely necessary. The signing of star Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension would be a good example of that.
5. Baltimore Orioles
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $105 million
Overpriced: OF Nick Markakis ($15.35M)
Underpriced: 1B Chris Davis ($10.35M), 3B Manny Machado (pre-arbitration), SS J.J. Hardy ($7.41M), OF Nelson Cruz ($8M), OF Adam Jones ($13.33M), SP Wei-Yin Chen ($4.155M), SP Chris Tillman (pre-arbitration), RP Darren O'Day ($3.2M)
Other Potential Values: SP Kevin Gausman (pre-arbitration), SP Miguel Gonzalez (pre-arbitration), SP Ubaldo Jimenez ($11.25M), SP Bud Norris ($5.3M), RP Tommy Hunter ($3M)
Whether it was their intention or not, the Orioles may have gotten two of the best values of the offseason with recent signings of Jimenez (pictured) and Cruz to deals much less than had been anticipated for two of the top free agents on the market.
But since taking over back in November 2011, general manager Dan Duquette has taken a cautious approach in regard to his team's payroll and has made several low-cost moves that have paid off in a big way.
With Markakis' lofty salary off the books after the season and several very good pitching prospects closing in on the majors, Duquette could likely continue his cost-efficient ways while still fielding a competitive ballclub.
4. Boston Red Sox
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $152 million
Underpriced: DH David Ortiz ($11.5M), 2B Dustin Pedroia ($12.625M), SS Xander Bogaerts (pre-arbitration), OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (pre-arbitration), OF Daniel Nava (pre-arbitration), SP Clay Buchholz ($7.95M), RP Koji Uehara ($4.25M)
Other Potential Values: 3B Will Middlebrooks (pre-arbitration), OF Grady Sizemore ($750K), SP Jon Lester ($13M)
Just because the Boston Red Sox's payroll is over $150 million doesn't mean they're not good at this aspect of the game. The Dodgers' willingness to take on several bad contracts in the blockbuster trade of 2012 was the first necessary step in the right direction, though.
Once the Red Sox rid themselves of a couple hundred million dollars in future salary, general manager Ben Cherington took advantage of his clean slate and made several cost-effective moves to fill holes throughout his roster. No player received more than a three-year contract. When it was all said and done, there were still no guaranteed salaries on the books beyond 2015 and he had put together a World Series champion.
Keeping their own star players in town and replacing those who depart with one of the deepest farm systems in the game—shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (pictured) are penciled in to start at two of the most important positions on the field—is a recipe to remaining at a championship-caliber level for a long time.
3. Atlanta Braves
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $95 million
Overpriced: 2B Dan Uggla ($13.2M), CF B.J. Upton ($14.05M)
Underpriced: C Evan Gattis (pre-arbitration), 1B Freddie Freeman ($5.48M), 3B Chris Johnson ($4.75M), SS Andrelton Simmons ($1.14M), OF Jason Heyward ($5M), SP Mike Minor ($3.85M), SP Julio Teheran ($967K), RP David Carpenter (pre-arbitration), RP Craig Kimbrel ($7.25M), RP Jonny Venters ($1.625M)
Other Potential Values: SP Brandon Beachy ($1.45M), SP Alex Wood (pre-arbitration)
The lack of production from two of the team's highest-paid players, Uggla and Upton, drops this roster down a few notches, but the fact remains that the defending NL East champs were led mainly by players in their early to mid 20s and still years away from free agency.
Long-term contract extensions for Freeman, Kimbrel, Simmons (pictured) and Teheran set the Braves up to be in good shape for the next several years and in a position where they're not forced to make a risky free-agent signing to fill a roster void.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $76 million
Overpriced: RP Heath Bell ($9M)
Underpriced: 1B James Loney ($2.67M), 2B Ben Zobrist ($7M), 3B Evan Longoria ($7.5M), OF David DeJesus ($4.375M), OF Desmond Jennings (pre-arbitration), OF Matt Joyce ($3.7M), OF Wil Myers (pre-arbitration), SP Chris Archer (pre-arbitration), SP Alex Cobb (pre-arbitration), SP Matt Moore ($1.1M), RP Grant Balfour ($4.5M), RP Joel Peralta ($3M)
Other Potential Values: C Ryan Hanigan ($2.75M), SS Yunel Escobar ($5M), SP Jeremy Hellickson ($3.625M)
Year in and year out, the roster assembled by Rays general manager Andrew Friedman looks like it was assembled on a shoestring budget. And that's because it is.
Regardless, he continues to produce winning ballclubs on the strength of an excellent farm system and the ability to acquire talent at a low cost. Keeping that talent once they rebuild their value with the Rays is challenging, although the team was able to re-sign Loney (pictured) to a three-year, $21 million deal this offseason.
The Rays won't be able to retain ace David Price, however, once he's eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. But you can bet that they'll trade him at just the right time and receive a great package of young talent and not miss a beat as they continue to contend in a very tough AL East.
1. Oakland Athletics
2014 Estimated Payroll, Courtesy of MLBDepthCharts.com: $84 million
Underpriced: 1B Brandon Moss ($4.1M), 3B Josh Donaldson (pre-arbitration), SS Jed Lowrie ($5.25M), OF Coco Crisp ($7.5M), OF Josh Reddick ($2.7M), SP Sonny Gray (pre-arbitration), SP A.J. Griffin (pre-arbitration), SP Jarrod Parker (pre-arbitration), RP Ryan Cook (pre-arbitration), RP Sean Doolittle (pre-arbitration)
Other Potential Values: OF Yoenis Cespedes ($10.25M), SP Dan Straily (pre-arbitration), RP Eric O'Flaherty ($1.5M)
More than a decade later, the A's are back to doing what they did best—building a playoff-caliber roster with one of the lowest payrolls in the game.
General manager Billy Beane has put together one of the deepest rosters in all of baseball, and even with the acquisition of two pitchers—starter Scott Kazmir and closer Jim Johnson, who'll make a combined $19 million in 2014—the A's still have one of the lowest payrolls in the game.
While many organizations who have success without spending big in free agency do it because of homegrown talent, the primary core of this A's team was not drafted or originally signed by the organization.
Of the 40 players on the 40-man roster, 24 were acquired via trade—more than any other team in baseball—five were acquired off of waivers and five were signed as free agents. Only five are homegrown, including three-fifths of their projected rotation (Gray, Griffin, Straily).
A stronger farm system would take some pressure off Beane, but he continues to prove that he's one of the best in the game at getting a lot out of a very little.
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