The most successful team in baseball is the Florida Marlins.
Professional sports are a business. Businesses make money. The Florida Marlins almost always have the lowest payroll. Last season, the Marlins finished with a payroll of 37 million dollars.
The only team lower then them was the Pirates with 25 million dollars. The Marlins have finished over .500 each of the past two seasons.
How do they keep doing it?
Like the Rays, they stock up on young talent.
Young talent comes very cheap. If you trade for enough young players, some are bound to be successful.
Think Hanley Ramirez. The Marlins sent 3B Mike Lowell, SP Josh Beckett, and RP Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox for SS Hanley Ramirez, SP Anibal Sanchez, and P Jesus Delgado.
The Marlins knew they couldn't keep Beckett or Lowell, so they made a trade. It worked out for them, and Hanley Ramirez is now considered one of the top players in baseball.
But you know what?
There's going to be a time in a few years, where his contract runs out and he's going to want to be paid like the big star that he is.
That's exactly what the Marlins did with top slugger 1B Miguel Cabrera. They couldn't pay him, so they shipped him to the Tigers for prospects.
This system has worked well for the Marlins, as I have previously mentioned. It's basically their only option as a mid-market team.
It also comes down to young patient managers. As good of a manager Joe Torre is, he has had a lineup full of players that have already been developed. Fredi Gonzales and Joe Girardi are the kinds of guys that the Marlins target.
For all these mid-market teams it comes down to scouting—who's going to develop faster than this other player?
That's a common question because mid-market teams need to squeeze all the talent that they can before their contact runs out.
Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox can afford (no pun intended) to take time with these guys.
Think Joba Chamberlain. They don't have to rush him anymore because their stockpiled with ready-made big league pitchers.
All mid-market teams (except for the Rays) need to follow the Marlins' success.
Remember, most fish live for five years at most, then new ones replace them.