Small Market Success: Six Small MLB Clubs (and the Yankees) in First

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Small Market Success: Six Small MLB Clubs (and the Yankees) in First
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The New York Yankees’ 2010 payroll is $206,333,389 with the average player making over $8.25 million this season. New York has more than double the payroll of 22 of the remaining 29 ballclubs and more than triple the payroll of seven other teams. Not one of the other seven clubs who has a salary of over $100 million currently sits atop their division.

The Minnesota Twins are the biggest spenders, besides the Yankees, that lead their division. How much are the Twins spending this season you ask? $97 million which ranks them eleventh in the majors. As a matter of fact, the only other division leader that can come close to the Twins payroll is the Braves and they have shelled out $84 million this season ranking them right in the middle of the pack at fifteenth in the bigs.

The NL Central leading Reds are next in line with a payroll of $72 million ranking them nineteenth. Following the Reds is the club that is tied with the Yanks atop the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are twenty-first in MLB with a payroll just under $72 million, more than $134 million less than their AL East counterpart New York.

Last but not least we go to the 27th highest payroll and the 29th highest payroll. That would be the Texas Rangers and the San Diego Padres. Yes, they too sit atop the AL and NL West respectively. These two clubs combine for a payroll of just under $94 million. That $94 million would make up just 46% of the Yankees payroll and couldn’t even pay the salaries of Rodriguez, Sabathia, Jeter, and Teixeira. Those four overpaid stars combine for a salary of over $100 million in 2010.

So why all the success? Why can’t the Cubs or the Mets have this kind of success with a combined payroll of $278 million? First of all, K-Rod isn’t helping things for the Mets and we saw what the Cubs did with Derek Lee trading him and his $13 million salary to Atlanta Wednesday.

The reason for the success is a farm system approach of grooming players and making the right moves when it was time to clean house.

Teams like the Cubs and Mets are littered with players such as three $19 million men in Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, and Carlos Beltran. That’s almost $60 million that has gone to waste this season between those two ballclubs with all three players in extreme decline.

The press has applauded the Twins for years now as they have been able to have much success mainly through their two minor league products, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. The new M&M Boys each have their own AL MVP award and just recently the Twins were able to sign Joe Mauer to an eight year extension for the hometown discount of $23 million a year. That may not sound like much of a discount but that’s $10 milliona year less than A-Rod for a 27-year-old catcher with triple crown potential.

Teams such as the Reds and Rays have built up their team through their farm system as well and have refused to overpay free agents.

The Reds best pitcher and best hitter were both brought up through the farm system and because of it, Cincinnati is only paying Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto under $1 million combined in 2010. Moves like this have allowed Cinci to acquire key pieces to a championship such as 3B Scott Rolen and closer Francisco Cordero who makes more dough than anyone on the big red machine with a 2010 salary of $12 million.

The Rays are the best example of developing players through the farm system in order to obtain a smaller payroll. Arguably the three biggest stars on the team, (Evan Longoria, David Price, and B.J. Upton), all made their MLB debuts in Tampa Bay and in 2010 they will combine to make only $5.8 million.

The Padres and Rangers were fortunate enough to trade coveted, high-priced players in order to obtain the pieces that make up their success today.

At the trade deadline in 2007, the Rangers traded 1B Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves for four prospects and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia . While Saltalamacchia’s stay in Texas wasn’t half as long as his name, the Rangers did acquire Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus in the deal. In 2010, Harrison and Feliz have anchored a great Texas bullpen and Elvis Andrus is so good that he’s moved Gold Glove winner Michael Young over to 3B and the 21-year-old is batting .276 doing it.

Arguably the Padres’ two most important players, P Clayton Richard and 1B Adrian Gonzalez, were acquired through the trades of P Adam Eaton to Texas in ’05 and the trade of Cy Young winner Jake Peavy to the White Sox at the trade deadline last season.

Clayton Richard, who was involved in the Peavy trade, is 11-5 this season for San Diego with a 3.69 ERA and a measley salary of $423,700. Peavy is currently 7-6 with a 4.63 ERA and a $15 million salary. Advantage: San Diego.

This small market success is not uncommon. The Yankees and the Red Sox are the only two teams of the past decade to win a World Series title with a payroll over $100 million.

In 2003, the Florida Marlins and their miniscule payroll of $48.7 million were able to defeat the New York Yankees and their payroll of $125.9 million. I am not saying that the Padres or the Reds can do the same thing as the Marlins, but stranger things have happened. Money sure doesn’t hurt, but it also doesn’t guarantee a thing in today’s game of baseball balance from top to bottom of the payroll rankings.

-scf

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