The Royals Or O’s Winning The Title Would Be Good And Bad: MLB Payrolls Part 2

Kauffman Stadium was newly renovated about 5 years ago.  It is a nice visual display of a ballpark, however it is far being in the top venues in the Majors for earning money.  The Royals fans saw the club struggle to finally end a 3 decade long playoff drought this year.  It is imperative that the MLB work with 'cost control' in the upcoming 'Collective Bargaining Agreement. Both KC and Baltimore had to endure lengthy stints of losing campaigns, before compiling enough top level draft picks to compete in their respective divisions.  Hopefully other small to mid market teams will not have to be bad for that amount of time in the future to obtain success finally.

Kauffman Stadium was newly renovated about 5 years ago. It is a nice visual display of a ballpark, however it is far being in the top venues in the Majors for earning money. The Royals fans saw the club struggle to finally end a 3 decade long playoff drought this year. It is imperative that the MLB work with ‘cost control’ in the upcoming ‘Collective Bargaining Agreement. Both KC and Baltimore had to endure lengthy stints of losing campaigns, before compiling enough top-level draft picks to compete in their respective divisions. Hopefully other small to mid market teams will not have to be bad for that amount of time in the future to obtain success finally.

Yesterday I addressed the Dodgers potentially winning the World Series in the next few years while bringing more attention to the inequities of the big and small market clubs. 

Even with LAD losing today and being eliminated, it doesn’t change the fact they will be playoff contenders for years to come based on their talent level, and super imposed revenue stream to outspend every team in the National League.

I identified the last several lower revenue teams that have had success, and pointed out that it took them big stretches of poor campaigns in order to collect on some good.

This is the biggest reason why baseball needs to adopt a salary cap – in order to leveling off the field.

Kansas City and Baltimore are perfect examples of this.  The narrative is great here  Franchises that haven’t appeared in the Fall Classic since 1985 and 1983 respectively, when both organization won their last Titles.

The Royals 29 years since that has been tough to stomach.  The later George Brett years, the core from the championship had aged or moved on by the time he hung up the cleats.

After the 1994 strike/1995 lockout, the Royals found themselves at the bottom of the division for years.

The Cardinals have been the best run franchise in the game of baseball in the last 14 years.  After winning their series vs the Dodgers, and eliminating them for the 2nd straight year, St. Louis has now made it to the NLCS for the 9th time in 14 years.  The organization has constantly built within their own system, and let high priced talent leave the nest, once they are north of 30.  St. Louis is considered a mid market team, but they have acted like a big market team in terms of championship pedigree.  The NL Central is the most balanced salaried Division, with them taking the lead with payroll at $128 MIL this season, and the Pirates holding down the lowest $ at around $65 MIL.  No doubt Pittsburgh could stretch themselves further down the wallet in upcoming years, but at least they don't have clubs approaching the Luxury Tax Threshold like all other Divisions have.

The Cardinals have been the best run franchise in the game of baseball in the last 14 years. After winning their series vs the Dodgers, and eliminating them for the 2nd straight year, St. Louis has now made it to the NLCS for the 9th time in 14 years. The organization has constantly built within their own system, and let high priced talent leave the nest, once they are north of 30. St. Louis is considered a mid market team, but they have acted like a big market team in terms of championship pedigree. The NL Central is the most balanced salaried Division, with them taking the lead with payroll at $128 MIL this season, and the Pirates holding down the lowest $ at around $65 MIL. No doubt Pittsburgh could stretch themselves further down the wallet in upcoming years, but at least they don’t have clubs approaching the Luxury Tax Threshold like all other Divisions have.

The White Sox and Indians ruled for the last half of the 90’s, while the Twins were the best regular season club from 2001 – 2010, and now the Tigers have reeled off four consecutive Divisions.

There were many rebuild projects and losing seasons for KC, and before 2013, the team hadn’t had a winning season since a ‘2003 led’ Tony Pena squad.

What was harder than that is watching franchise players such as Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye all go on to have nice career’s once they left the town.

Only Mike Sweeney failed to have more success once he left Kansas City.

The management of this team has done a great job over the last 4 – 6 years constructing this team.  Many of the core players are draft picks, or were acquired from guys they previously selected in the Amateur Draft.

Here is the problem.  It took the team being horrible for so long before the talent corrected itself.  Just like the Twins, Rays, Nationals and Pirates before them, the club stockpiled enough top homegrown selections to finally be competitive.

It is the only way that Kansas City can compete…Spending money on Free Agency is not in the cards.  They tried that once with Gil Meche (5 Years and $55 MIL), and the results never worked out.

I like the fact the Royals have kicked their playoff drought, and are in position to potentially make the World Series in 2014, but I am just hoping that the MLB won’t use this example of ‘how our system has worked’.

The same thing can be said about the Baltimore Orioles.  From 1998 – 2011, the Orioles were routinely trounced in the AL East by the Yankees, Red Sox, and even the Rays for the last portion of those seasons.

Like their other AL East counterpart (and last team to have yet reached the playoffs since the 1994 strike) Blue Jays, it has been a  challenge to lock horns with the powerhouse New York and Boston clubs.

From 1998 – 2013, the Yankees or Red Sox have won a collective 8 World Series in 10 Appearances, taken part in 17 ALCS rounds – and were only taken down in the Division 2 times by the Tampa Rays for the years of 2008 and 2010.

Now Buck Showalter, combined with some great drafting and trading have perfectly situated the squad for a deep run in the playoffs.

The O’s and Royals are 15th and 20th in total team payroll.  Baltimore has to contend with the Yankees spending over $230 MIL per year. while the Boston Red Sox are throwing down around $170 MIL.

One of these teams is going on to represent the AL in this year’s World Series.

Now, it is a guarantee, that no matter who comes out of the NL, the Junior Circuit clubs will be the underdogs in the Fall Classic round, and it would be considered an upset if either squad takes out the  Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, or Cardinals.  The 1st,  5th, 8th and 11th payrolls in the MLB.

Baltimore is more thought of as a mid level market, but this run in the playoffs will not come cheap.  The O’s will likely say goodbye to Nelson Cruz and J.J. Hardy after this year. and many of their other players are in the last year of Arbitration in 2015 like Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.

Now the Yankees shot themselves in the foot, by not doing a salary reset, but will still probably be active on the Free Agents this winter, and be improved for 2015.

James Shields has helped changed the culture of the franchise for Kansas City, authoring a 27 - 17 record, and a 3.18 ERA during his 68 Game Starts with the club over the 2013 and 2014 campaigns.  The man turns 33 this offseason, and it is unlikely the Royals will be able to retain his services past this year.  I would do anything in my power to sign him for the squad going forward, however Kansas City is limited in how much money they can dole out for player contracts.

James Shields has helped changed the culture of the franchise for Kansas City, authoring a 27 – 17 record, and a 3.18 ERA during his 68 Game Starts with the club over the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. The man turns 33 this offseason, and it is unlikely the Royals will be able to retain his services past this year. I would do anything in my power to sign him for the squad going forward, however Kansas City is limited in how much money they can dole out for player contracts.

The Royals will lose James Shields after this season, although I were them, I would overpay for his services – and potentially offer him a 5 YR deal with similar cash to what Adam Wainwright makes.

KC could make the 1st 3 years guaranteed and then offer Vesting Options and bonuses, that would give them a chance to sign the RHP, but don’t hold your breath.

Even if the Royals and Orioles are competitive for the next 3 – 4 years, their payrolls will exponentially increase, and their total club revenues will provide a tough challenge to rise at the same time.

Trades will need to be done, with regards to money, and it is not going to appease the fanbases.

Deeper than the current state of these teams, is simply that it should not take a decade or longer of futility, just to compete for 3 – 4 year window.

If you look at a great team like the Atlanta Braves, they have been stymied in their progress in the NL East, by albatross contracts of B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla the last few years.

Mid to smaller market teams can’t fail when they make Free Agent decisions, or by extending their own talent.

Like the Dodgers being able to weather Andre Ethier‘s $16 MIL contract, along with Josh Beckett‘s cash brought over in that mega player salary dump trade with Boston.

LA can hide paying $10 MIL for Brian Wilson to be an 8th inning setup guy, or forking out several more dollars per annum with Brandon League, who may be their 5th or 6th best reliever.

The Yankees can withstand 4 of their opening days starters spending more than 2 months each on the DL, with 3 of them only making a half dozen – 10 starts each.

Yes the Bronx Bombers didn’t make the playoffs, but they still put forth their 21st straight winning season, reeling in 84 wins in total.

New York has been enduring a horrible string of draft picks, and bad contracts for the last 3 years.  Brian Cashman will even receive an extension soon, even though he has orchestrated an organization that has to sign 10 – 12 Free Agents.

The extra Wild Card game has staved off fan anger towards the MLB , by creating hope and a chance to make the playoffs for each team.

My worry is that the MLB will use KC and BAL as the measuring stick for parity in the game today. Or they can point to x amount of teams making the playoffs over the last several years.

I am going to liken this fact to the NHL never assessing losses in overtime, by granting wins to inflate point totals.

It is all a grand illusion.

For years, it was just the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies outspending everyone.  Now you have the Tigers, Giants, Rangers and Angels following suit.

The teams most affected by the economic shift in the last several years are the Blue Jays, Padres, D’Backs, Rockies, Twins, Indians. Mariners and Marlins.

The Cubs, Mets and White Sox have all been capable of spending and competing the last few years, but have chosen to rebuild.  Chances are they will be able to spend more at a later date when they are competitive.

In the interest of fairness, the MLB definitely has to investigate whether a floor of spending should be established as well.

The Astros and Marlins have abused the current CBA, to wither their teams $ paid to miniscule amounts.  At one point in 2013, Houston was paying just $16 MIL on talent that was playing on the team.

Toronto, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Washington have shown they can carry payroll in the $110 – $140 MIL threshold, but it would be so much nicer, if these middle markets could not have to fight with the upper tier clubs still outspending them by 2 or 3 ALL – Stars.

Baseball is lucky that franchises like the A’s, Rays, Twins and Orioles have had stretches of being incredibly run in the last while, otherwise there maybe already a plea to narrow the margin of discrepancy from higher to lower payroll in teams.

Why a cap works so well.

It means everyone is on an even playing field for spending.  If you make mistakes on players, you can’t buy your way out of it, by picking up salary dumps, or buying Free Agents at will.

The Luxury Tax Threshold is not enough of a deterrent!

The way it is set up, a team can spend any amount of cash they want, and only suffer a penalty to pay.

A team like the Yankees is capable of spending $300 MIL on a year salary basis.  Had they reset their Luxury Tax (by falling under $189 MIL limit), they could have only had to pay $14 MIL on a 1st time offender claim ($111 MIL over the Threshold times 12.5%).

Good luck for the Padres, D’backs or the Rockies ever competing in the NL West for the next 3 – 5 years.  By opening up the 2nd Wild card slot a few seasons, at least they can strive for is the 2nd Wild Card.

The Pirates, who have made the playoffs in back to back years, are going to have a tough time locking down players as their Arbitration players come up.

I think the Cubs are going to be on the rise for the next several years, and if the Mets can ever rid themselves of the Wilpons, then the have’s and have not’s will separate themselves more as the year wane on

Projecting 4 – 5 years down the road, the big market clubs like the Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Astros, Rangers, Dodgers and Angels will continue to use their infrastructure to sign players at will .

All it will take is some proper management, and we can see some serious retreats from the A’s, Rays, Reds, Brewers, Braves, Royals, Orioles and Blue Jays.

To have an entity have this kind of advantage for bigger market clubs should not happen in the modern age.

The NFL has a salary cap for all 32 teams, and while some teams have been more successful than others recently, it has a more to do with management, rather than where the team is located.

The NBA and NHL have salary caps that are based on league revenue’s.  I am not sure that model would be conducive for the game of MLB, I do think a cap is necessary.

I would definitely make it the forefront on the new CBA docket after the 2016 year.

With $3.4 BIL in player salaries. I would love to see the league have about a $110 MIL cap mark, with maybe a cap floor of $60 MIL for lower teams.

At the very least, I have also suggested they re-align the MLB to have higher market teams play in the same league and divisions, with geography playing a big role there too.

The third scenario would be to have more of a balanced schedule between all clubs, to effectively give the smaller market teams a chance to make the playoffs, even if they are in a murderous division.

Kind of like the Blue Jays having to play Division big markets like New York and Boston, while competing with the Rays and Orioles going through a rapid acceleration in talent through drafting, Baltimore has had a multitude of obstacles to overcome to get this far.

MLB franchises should not have to suffer for prolonged periods of time, just to hit the right circumstances to compete every year like the big market clubs It should be more dependent on year to year talent evaluation – with all clubs playing on a more level playing field.  

A salary cap would go a long to doing that, however if either of the Orioles or Royals win the title this year, it could set back the ‘MLB’ from this kind of thinking for another generation.  

Buck Showalter arrived in the last half of the 2011 season, and his team has been winning ever since.  It was the right culmination of homegrown talent, mixed in with a great deal of moves by the management in roster transactions, that have enabled the franchise to have its best run in 30 years.  With New York and Boston currently on a relative short down swing for age and spending, the O's must take advantage of their chances during this year and the near future.

Buck Showalter arrived in the last half of the 2011 season, and his team has been winning ever since. It was the right culmination of homegrown talent, mixed in with a great deal of moves by the management in roster transactions, that have enabled the franchise to have its best run in 30 years. With New York and Boston currently on a relative short down swing for age and spending, the O’s must take advantage of their chances during this year and the near future.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

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About chuckbooth3023

I played competitive baseball until 18 years old and had offers to play NCAA Division 1 University Baseball at Liberty University. Post-concussion symptoms from previous football and baseball head injuries forced me to retire by age 19. After two nearly made World Record Attempts in 2008, I set a New World Record by visiting all 30 MLB Parks (from 1st to last pitch) in only 24 Calendar Days in the summer 0f 2009. In April of 2012, I established yet another new GWR by visiting all 30 Parks in only 23 Calendar Days! You can see the full schedule at the page of the www.mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker . In 2015, I watched 224 MLB Games, spanning all 30 MLB Parks in 183 Days. Read about that World Record Journey at http://mlbreports.com/183in2015/229sked2015/
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