Last season, two small market A.L. teams, the Rays and Athletics, reach 90 wins. Both of these teams didn't use the lack of finances like an excuse. They knew their limitations and built 90 win teams on small budgets. The Royals have the same limitations, but didn't even sniff the 90 wins. Not even .500. Here is how each team built their 2012 team and where the Royals went wrong.
To start with, here is the breakdown of Tampa's salary and production by pre-arbitration, arbitration eligible, and free agents.
For players who have a contract that covers their pre-arbitration and arbitration years, I counted their salary towards the category they would have fallen in considering their playing time. For example with Sal Perez, his $.75M contract is counted towards the pre-arbitation players, not free agents.
Also, the total amount of pre-arbitration players may be high as I just gave each player $0.5M in salary if they didn't have a contract and didn't look at their playing time.
The Rays had most of their value in arbitration players like David Price, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and James Shields. They are the ideal small market franchise since they fill most of their needs in house and then going outside for free agent help. In 2012, they needed help with at DH, signed Luke Scott and Hideki Matsui, and with the bullpen, signed Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth.
The A's got their production on 2 fronts, pre-arbitration and free agents. With pre-arbitration players, the A's got most of the value from pitching.
Jarrod Parker: 3.7 WAR
Tommy Milone: 2.7 WAR
Sean Doolittle: 1.6 WAR
A.J. Griffen: 1.3 WAR
Travis Blackley: 1.2 WAR
Additionally the free agents were all hits with Bartolo Colon, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Jonny Grimes all producing more than 2 WAR each. Billy Beane has found trading arbitration eligible players seems to bring him back the most value. He use the money saved for under-priced free agents.
|Free Agents||-0.1||$15.2||Don't Ask|
With pre-arbitration and arbitration players, the Royals fall between the production of the other two clubs in each category. Here are the totals:
Rays: 41.6 WAR
Royals: 33.0 WAR
A's: 26.9 WAR
To get near the 42 to 45 WAR range of the other two teams, the Royals needed 11 to 13 WAR from the free agents and they got NADA. Yep, F-ing nothing. When a team is spending over $15M on Jeff Francoeur, Bruce Chen, Jonathan Broxton and Batter Nine, You Sucky, what else should be expected. Using the league wide cost for free agent talent, the Royals should have gotten on average 3 to 4 WAR from the quartet. The Rays spent almost the same amount and got 4 WAR. The A's did double the amount, but ended up with 15.5 WAR. The Royals don't have to throw the money down the toilet.
With the current Royals ownership, they will always have a limited free agent budget. They need that budget to produce. Last season, they didn't get any positive production from the free agents. Maybe that will change in 2013. Maybe. Well, I kinda doubt it.