The baseball offseason has begun. With the Bearded Ones of Boston winning the World Series, we can now look forward to, and fear, the things which Dayton Moore and David Glass may or may not do. Last year's offseason was quite eventful, as Moore struck early by trading for Ervin Santana and struck in December by trading Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and Mike Montgomery for "Big Game James" Shields, Wade "Hochevar" Davi(e)s and Elliot "Rays Destroyer" Johnson. Moore's dastardly plan to win games (something Kansas City Royals fans barely knew was possible) worked--to an extent. Kansas City ended 2013 with 86 wins, their first winning season since 2003 and largest win total since 1989, two years before your humble author was born.
The Royals also failed to make the playoffs for the 28th consecutive season.
This year's Royal payroll was the highest payroll in Kansas City history, at $81.2 million. This would have been above average--in 2005. As it stands, though, the Royals were $25.1 million below the average; KC was actually closest to average in 2010, where they were $19 million below the average. The Kansas City Metro population is a tick over 2,000,000, one of the smallest totals among MLB teams, and therefore Kansas City will never have a giant payroll.
That being said, Boston's World Series opponent, St. Louis, manages to keep a competitive payroll with a Metro of only 2,800,000. In addition to the competitive payroll, the Cardinals have another couple of things the Royals don't have: playoff appearances and World Series victories.
During the World Series, I thought of the World Series teams of recent years. Boston. Philadelphia. St. Louis. New York. Detroit. Texas. All of these teams seemed to have one common thread--money. Now, we know that money is not inextricably tied to winning, as Oakland and Tampa Bay (and now Pittsburgh) have proven for years. However, I set out to find, with the help of the Baseball Prospectus website, what sort of relation money has to World Series appearances.
The results? David Glass had better open up his wallet.
My methodology was simple: look at each World Series from the past decade, find out the average payroll of that year, find out each teams payroll for that year, and calculate how much above or below average that team was, in percentage points. The results are as follows:
Average: $106.3 million
Boston: $150.7 million, 41.8% more than average
St. Louis: $116.6 million, 9.7% more
Average: $100.7 million
San Francisco: 132.0 million, 31.1% more
Detroit: 133.1 million, 32.2% more
Average: $96.1 million
St. Louis: $109.8 million, 14.3% more
Texas: $96.7 million, 0.6% more
Average: $94.2 million
San Francisco: $97.0 million, 3.0% more
Texas: $58.5 million, 37.9% less than average
Average: $92.1 million
New York: $203.3 million, 120.7% more
Philadelphia: $137.8 million, 49.6% more
Average: $91.1 million
Philadelphia: $100.5 million, 10.3% more
Tampa Bay: $47.1 million, 48.8% less than average
Average: $84.0 million
Boston: $147.6 million, 75.7% more
Colorado: $57.1 million, 32.0% less than average
Average: $79.1 million
St. Louis: $89.1 million, 12.6% more
Detroit: $85.2 million, 7.7% more
Average: $73.4 million
Chicago: $75.7 million, 3.1% more
Houston: $78.8 million, 7.4% more
Average: $69.4 million
Boston: $128.5 million, 85.2% more
St. Louis: $81.9 million, 18.0% more
Here is the breakdown of the teams and their payroll:
Less than average: 2010 TEX, 2008 TB, 2007 COL
0-10% more than avg: 2013 STL, 2011 TEX, 2010 SF, 2006 DET, 2005 CHI, 2005 HOU
10-50% more than avg: 2013 BOS, 2012 SF, 2012 DET, 2011 STL, 2009 PHI, 2008 PHI, 2006 STL, 2004 STL
50%+ more than avg: 2009 NYY, 2007 BOS, 2004 BOS
Some quick hits about World Series payroll:
- Only 3 teams out of 20 had a below average payroll
- All 3 of these teams lost the World Series--which means all World Series winners for the past decade had an above average payroll
- All of St. Louis's World Series appearances coincided with above average payrolls, and three times it was above 10% more--let no Cardinals fan tell you that their team payroll is 'average'
- The average World Series team had a payroll 20.3% above average for that year
The A's and the Rays have proven you can win, repeatedly, regardless of payroll. However, it is telling that only once did either team make the World Series. Money matters. It does not excuse bad judgment--which is why New York didn't make the playoffs this year with $200 million going to its players--but it does afford some advantages. First, a competitive payroll means that you can sign most controlled players to long-term deals and not have to worry about parting with them or trading them all the time. Second, holes can easily be filled via free agency, holes that otherwise would be open or filled but paid with prospects. Third, a competitive payroll allows for a cushion if a contract or two goes bad. Fourth, it allows the team to take on contracts that other teams can't handle or don't want.
The best teams are the ones who draft well, sign well internationally, develop players quickly and effectively, and have the money to fix whatever is left, the money to keep your stars. This is why Boston and St. Louis were in the World Series and why they are consistently good. Money does not mean success, but, from the list of World Series teams, it is vital to the highest success.
What does this mean for the Royals? Well, first, the data does not say that a team can't win a World Series with a poor payroll, just that it hasn't happened--at least in the past 10 years. The Royals should aim for winning a World Series, just as any other team should do. To have a good shot at this, Kansas City needs to have a larger payroll. Kansas City is big enough to sustain a $100 million payroll, and its fans are passionate enough to go to games. This is the same city whose NFL fans are the loudest in the world, the same city whose MLS fans fill Sporting Park every single game.
At some point, David Glass needs to take a leap of faith, and increase the payroll. Now is that year.