Free Agent Contracts: Less is More

Free Agent Contracts: Less is More
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MLB Free Agent Contracts :: Less is More

A look into MLB teams who have bought big in free agency recently.

At first glance, the casual baseball fan opening their daily sports section might assume the MLB standings were printed upside down. There's no way perennial payroll powerhouses could be sitting in the basement of their divisions, right? Their seemingly bottomless bank accounts have allowed them to sign premier talent to expensive contracts, basically assuring them success, right?

Well through Wednesday night, the first quarter of the season has proven to be quite opposite as the top five payrolls in baseball have combined for a record of (107-114). This is hardly impressive considering the group has an average payroll of $166,494,602, but seems even more underwhelming when compared to the $94,525,187 average payroll of the six division leaders. Here's a closer look at the payroll breakdown of each division:
American League

AL EAST

Team Record Payroll Payroll Rank
Baltimore 28-17 $81,428,999 19
Tampa Bay 27-18 $64,173,500 25
Toronto 24-21 $75,489,200 23
New York 23-21 $197,962,289 1
Boston 22-22 $173,186,617 3

AL CENTRAL

Team Record Payroll Payroll Rank
Cleveland 25-18 $78,430,300 21
Chicago 22-22 $96,919,500 11
Detroit 20-23 $132,300,000 5
Kansas City 17-26 $60,916,225 27
Minnesota 15-28 $94,085,000 13

AL WEST

Team Record Payroll Payroll Rank
Texas 27-18 $120,510,974 6
Oakland 22-23 $55,372,500 29
Seattle 21-25 $81,978,100 18
Los Angeles 20-25 $154,485,166 4
National League

NL EAST

Team Record Payroll Payroll Rank
Washington 26-18 $ 81,336,143 20
Atlanta 26-19 $83,309,942 16
Miami 24-20 $118,078,000 7
New York 24-20 $93,353,983 14
Philadelphia 22-23 $174,538,938 2

NL CENTRAL

Team Record Payroll Payroll Rank
St. Louis 25-19 $110,300,862 9
Cincinnati 24-19 $82,203,616 17
Houston 21-23 $60,651,000 28
Pittsburgh 20-24 $63,431,999 26
Milwaukee 18-26 $97,653,944 10
Chicago 15-29 $88,197,033 15

NL WEST

Team Record Payroll Payroll Rank
Los Angeles 30-14 $95,143,575 12
San Francisco 23-21 $117,620,683 8
Arizona 20-25 $74,284,833 24
Colorado 16-27 $78,069,571 22
San Diego 16-29 $ $ 55,244,700 30
The 'Big 5'
  1. New York Yankees: With so much talent there's no need to panic, but their .500 record is well below Yankee standards and their league leading payroll. A few key injuries hasn't helped, but another dreadful start from first baseman Mark Teixeira and inconsistent hitting from other cornerstone players have played a role in the slow start. There's no way the offense struggles all year and it should be good enough to keep them in contention, but there's still major questions about the pitching staff going forward.
  2. Philadelphia Phillies: Key injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard left some glaring holes in the lineup and the offense struggled immensely as a result. But their bats are starting to heat up, and the return of the right side of their infield in the coming months can only help. In the meantime, Philadelphia's dominant pitching staff can shoulder the load and keep them in the thick of it.
  3. Boston Red Sox: Last year we saw Boston get off to an all-time slow start with many questioning if they were already out of it in May. They were able to climb back into the race by going (20-6) in July, but ultimately missed the playoffs after their (5-20) September collapse. So what do we make of this year's slow start? One has to think the offense will eventually get it together, but there's definitely some cause for concern about the pitching. So far, Carl Crawford's massive deal hasn't paid dividends, and John Lackey is looking like Boston's version of Carl Pavano in New York.
  4. Los Angeles Angels: Off to the most disappointing start in baseball, their spending spree in the offseason hasn't translated to wins so far. C.J. Wilson has been impressive, but the well documented struggles of Albert Pujols' dragged down the offense and contributed to their slow start. Still, this lineup won't stay dormant forever, and one of the league's best pitching rotations will keep it afloat until better days come.
  5. Detroit Tigers: At least for this season, the huge addition of Prince Fielder was immediately sobered by the loss of Victor Martinez. Imagine what Martinez would add to this lineup hitting between Miguel Cabrera and Fielder. Instead, they'll hope for increased production from the bottom of their order…and maybe another 11-game win streak out of Justin Verlander. Detroit is the man among boys in the AL Central so there's no reason to think they won't be in it down the stretch. Still, many questions exist for a team that was unanimously considered to run away with the division.
Michael Ginnitti, Managing Editor of Spotrac

Michael Ginnitti

As the managing editor of Spotrac, his role includes much of the player data entry, content generation/development for our Research & News sections, social media marketing, & all things public relations (including media requests).

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