For every budget-busting team like the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees, there are teams like the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays that seemingly scrap together a couple of million dollars to put together a squad, even with some surprising results.
The fact is is that most organizations don't have a ton of money to use to put together their squads (or simply would rather keep their profits at a maximum), and we will be taking a look at some of these clubs along with their highest paid players and best values.
I will be using Baseball-Reference.com for my research and what they have as the player's salary in the 2011 season, and in some cases beyond the upcoming season.
We will be using "Dollars Committed" (Baseball Reference's definition:Value of Guaranteed Contracts and that includes buyouts) as our numerical value for ranking the teams.
Dollars Committed: $71.9 M
Highest Paid Player: Carlos Lee ($18.5 M)
Best Value: Hunter Pence ($6.9 M)
Lee's contract has been a pretty good one up until his lackluster 2010 season. He is an offensive threat when healthy and puts up very consistent power numbers. Maybe a bit too much for him? Perhaps, but he is pretty good anyway.
Pence is like Lee, except at a cheaper price. Pence has put up at least a .269 average, 17 homers (25 three years in a row), 69 RBI and 11 steals every year of his four year career.
The Astros have a pretty weak farm system and aren't very talented at the major league level, but a couple of breaks here and there and spending money in a more balanced way could put them closer to competing again.
Dollars Committed: $67.7 M
Highest Paid Player: David Dejesus, Mark Ellis, and Josh Willingham ($6 M)
Best Value: Dallas Braden ($3.35 M)
The Oakland Athletics haven't had the success in recent years that they have wanted, but they always seem to contend despite being in the lower half in overall salary. They boast a great scouting department and Billy Beane is one of the best business men in the game.
Braden is just one of a foursome of very good starting pitchers in Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. The sky is the limit for the group. They should be in contention this year off of them alone but the offense is going to have to improve if they are to take the AL West.
Dollars Committed: $63.4 M
Highest Paid Player: Jose Bautista ($8 M)
Best Value: Ricky Romero ($750 K)
By now there have been hundreds of articles on whether or not Bautista will repeat, or even come close, to the performance that he gave last year (54 homers, 124 RBI). If he lands somewhere in the 30/100 range, he is one of the bigger steals in baseball.
Romero was fantastic last year with an ERA of 3.47 and an opponent's batting average of .239. His value is much higher than what he will be making in 2011, which you can see in the five million he is scheduled to make in 2011.
Dollars Committed: $51.8 M
Highest Paid Player: Kelly Johnson ($5.85 M)
Best Value: Justin Upton ($4.25 M)
Johnson's 2010 season was probably his best as he hit .284 with 26 homers. Will he be able to repeat that performance? We will have to wait and see.
Upton is one of the best pure athletes in the game today, with legit 30-30 tools. He has already amassed 60 homers and 41 stolen bases, and won't turn 24 until August 25th.
The Diamondbacks have been struggling in recent years, but they do have some talent to build around, and could be back on their way up in a few years.
Dollars Committed: $51 M
Highest Paid Player: Hanley Ramirez ($11 M)
Best Value: Josh Johnson ($7.75 M)
You could arguably say that Ramirez, at 11 million dollars, is a bargain, but I decided to go with Johnson in his place. Both guys are on contract through the 2013 (with Ramirez going through 2014). In 2013 their salary together will equal 29.25 million dollars, over half of what their current set salary is.
The Marlins have won two World Series titles in their short history, and after winning the championship both times they have had a "fire sale", getting rid of all their key players either through not signing them during free agency or trading them away for prospects to build around. This got them Hanley Ramirez after getting him in a trade for Josh Beckett, I would say that the Marlins have gotten the better end of the deal.
Dollars Committed: $40.8 M
Highest Paid Player: Travis Hafner ($13 M)
Best Value: Shin-Soo Choo ($3.98 M)
Don't worry Indians' fans, Hafner only has one more big year in his contract (another 13 million in 2012), and then that money can go to other matters of needs for the team.
Choo is a bona-fide star and you can be sure that the Indians will be doing their best to keep him around for the future. He is a 20-20 player, a rarity, and at the price is one of the bigger steals in the league as he is one of the league's best right fielders.
Dollars Committed: $38 M
Highest Paid Player: Heath Bell ($7.5 M)
Best Value: Mat Latos ($407.8 K in 2010, nothing for 2011 yet)
The Padres were able to hold off on a ton of cash as Adrian Gonzalez, their star first baseman for the past few years, is now in Boston. Bell's 7.5 million dollars is a good value for one of the most consistent and formidable closers in the game.
Latos was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year as he compiled a 14-10 record with an ERA of 2.92. He also struck out 189 batters in 184.2 innings pitched.
Latos is an arm that you can build a team around, but the Padres have a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball if they want to be serious contenders year in and year out.
Dollars Committed: $35 M
Highest Paid Player: Outfielder Johnny Damon ($5.25)
Best Value: Third Baseman Evan Longoria ($2 M)
Longoria is signed through 2013 with team options from 2014 to 2016. I can see Longoria being the player that the Rays decide to spend a great deal of money on to keep around, along with David Price. Both players are top of the line, so keeping both of them maybe
Having Damon at that price as your most expensive player says enough about how this team deals with its money. The team watched big money players walk away this past off-season in the likes of Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, and of course Carl Crawford among others.
The Rays have still had great success the past few years though, so don't expect that too change with the incumbent talent and what they have in the farm system.
Dollars Committed: $32.6 M
Highest Paid Player: Paul Maholm and Chris Snyder ($5.75 M)
Best Value: Andrew McCutchen (Made $422.5 K last year, for some reason nothing is coming up for this year)
The Pirates don't spend money and they haven't for awhile. they've had several very good players (i.e. Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, etc) that they have traded or let sign elsewhere. The Pirates do have some talent though, and are looking to build with some of the younger guys and make it big with them.
McCutchen is going to get a large contract at sometime in the next few years, but he isn't arbitration eligible until 2013. Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker are the rest of the position players that the Pirates are wanting to build on.
Dollars Committed: $30.6 M
Highest Paid Player: Jason Kendall ($3.75 M)
Best Value: Billy Butler ($3 M)
The Royals current major leage team is one that has been the butt of many jokes for years now, but that all could be changing very quickly, as the Royals have "the best farm system in baseball" according to ESPN's Keith Law.
The Royals should seemingly have plenty of money to spend on these players when the time comes, as only Butler is under contract past 2012, though some of there current players will undoubtedly be on the team then I'm sure.