According to one study, the American League Central is third in average team salary for the members of the division, with an average salary of $91.2 million. No surprises, the American League East is ranked first with an average team salary of $107.5 million.
The writer did however mention the AL Central is the only division in the league that can boast three teams with payrolls over $100 million (the Twins, White Sox and the Tigers). This season, the Cleveland Indians have a projected payroll of $53,900,000.
The Indians have shown in the past an ability to sign players and bring others up from their farm system who can produce in a cost-efficient manner. We will look at the best values for the Tribe this season, and how they compare to their AL Central salary-swollen colleagues.
Santana only played in 46 games last season before a home plate collision ended his brilliant rookie campaign far too early. He hit .260/6/22 in his limited time. An emerging prospect at catcher, Santana appears to have a breakout year in front of him in 2011.
The Indians are paying the second-year player $400,000 for this season. While hitting .260, Santana used his careful eye to make his on-base percentage balloon to .401 via being walked 37 times in only 192 appearances.
This means the Indians spent less than $1,000 for every point of his OBP, and this was done in only 46 games. Still sound expensive? Let's take a look around the AL Central to see how everyone else is fairing.
Note: For new acquisitions like Victor Martinez to the Tigers, I will use his 2010 stats and his 2011 salary, despite the fact that the Tigers didn't "pay for it."
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer ($31,094.52)
Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez ($21,937.32)
Kansas City Royals: Jason Kendall ($7,075.47)
Cleveland Indians: Carlos Santana ($997.51)
While I do understand that some of these players arguably have a higher value than Santana, this is merely a fun and interesting way to examine rosters.
Chris Perez emerged as the closer thankfully after Kerry Wood departed for the Yankees. He converted on 23 of his save opportunities, while posting a 1.71 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Even after signing his arbitration sheet this offseason, he will still only make $2,250,000 this season.
Just for fun, we will use this season's salary to figure out how much Perez is paid per save, along with the other AL Central closers.
Note: As of now, there is no closer listed on the White Sox's depth chart, so by default I will use Bobby Jenks. Also, the Joe Nathan was injured the whole year, and so the Twins had to platoon. For simplicity's sake, they will be omitted for this slide.
Detroit Tigers: Jose Valverde ($264,848.15)
Chicago White Sox: Bobby Jenks ($207,407.41)
Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez ($97,826.09)
Kansas City Royals: Joakim Soria ($69,767.44)
Not too shabby really. Especially considering Perez only earned $400,000 last season.
Carmona was the lone Indian to represent the club at the All-Star game. Last year, as the ace of the club, he put together a 13-14 record, with a sub-four ERA (3.77).
Maybe not necessarily "ace" material but at times he certainly did show flashes of his 2007 brilliance, when he was in the running for the AL Cy Young Award.
Carmona has the third highest salary for the Tribe this season at $6,288,000. He trails only Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore for highest on the team. Let's examine how Carmona falls in the division as far as value per win.
Chicago White Sox: Jake Peavy ($2,285,714.28)
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander ($713,888.89)
Cleveland Indians: Fausto Carmona ($483,6792.31)
Minnesota Twins: Francisco Liriano ($307,142.86)
Kansas City Royals*: Luke Hochevar ($293,333.33)
*The Royals paid Zach Greinke $725,000 per win in 2010, good for second on the list, before he shipped up to the Milwaukee Brewers this offseason.
Choo was an absolute monster last season. Above and beyond his .300/22/90 line, he also boasted a .401 OBP and swiped 22 bases. He will be an All-Star for the Indians this season.
Choo was undoubtedly the Indians most effective hitter, as he finished 14th in the MVP ballot. The Indians were able to avoid arbitration with Choo and signed him to a one-year deal worth $3,975,000 this season. An absolute steal.
For this examination, the most effective hitter from every AL Central team will be judged based on total hits, walks and stolen bases, and a dollar value will be assigned for each time reaching or stealing a base.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer ($98,712.45)
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera ($73,529.41)
Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko ($49,382.72)
Cleveland Indians: Shin-Soo Choo ($14,722.22)
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler ($13,565.89)
Masterson, the only Major Leaguer to hail from Jamaica, is the resident strikeout specialist for the Cleveland Indians. In 2010, he fanned 140 hitters, averaging 7.0 K's per nine innings of work (his career SO/9 is better than Roy Halladay's).
He is slated to be the No. 2 starter again. Although he was plagued with inconsistency last season (he went 6-13), he finished very strong, as he had a 2.09 ERA over his last 11 outings.
Masterson is going to make $400,000 this season as the team's No. 2 starter. Let's assign a dollar value to all the No. 2's of the AL Central for each punch out last season:
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle ($141,414.14)
Minnesota Twins: Carl Pavano ($68,376.07)
Kansas City Royals: Kyle Davies ($25,396.83)
Detroit Tigers: Max Scherzer ($8,152.17)
Cleveland Indians: Justin Masterson ($2,857.14)
I understand that many arguments can be made against looking at a roster in this fashion, and that these facts clearly "do not tell the whole story". As stated before, I think it is just an interesting way to look at team salaries and production.
Oh, by the way, here is how the AL Central's payrolls break down (by way of baseball-reference.com, where all stats and payrolls were taken from):
Chicago White Sox: $125.2 million
Minnesota Twins: $115.3 million
Detroit Tigers: $108.2 million
Cleveland Indians: $53.9 million
Kansas City Royals: $44.3 million