The World Series is underway with two 100-win teams battling each other for baseball supremacy - the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The teams represent two of the biggest markets in baseball, and the Dodgers topped all baseball teams in Opening Day salary this year at $225 million.
But the big money is not necessarily on the field for the Dodgers this World Series. If you take a look at their 25-man World Series roster, what the Dodgers actually paid them is less than the franchise-record $145 million the Royals paid for their 25-man Opening Day roster.
Dodgers 2017 World Series roster salaries
|Justin Turner||$13,000,000||Minor FA|
|Rich Hill||$12,666,667||Free agent|
|Brandon McCarthy||$11,500,000||Free agent|
|Kenley Jansen||$11,333,333||Amateur FA|
|Yasiel Puig||$8,214,286||Free agent|
|Kenta Maeda||$3,125,000||Free agent|
|Chase Utley||$2,000,000||Free agent|
|Brandon Morrow||$1,250,000||Free agent|
|Charlie Culberson||$535,000||Minor FA|
You can see much of the team was homegrown (Kershaw, Jansen, Bellinger, Seager) or acquired as cheap talent (Turner, Taylor). Now this is pro-rating salaries for players like Darvish, Watson, and Cingrani who were all acquired mid-season. But the cost to put together a team like this is within reach for the Royals.
So where did all that other money go? It is on the sidelines.
$108.2 million: Money that Dodgers paid to players this year who AREN'T on their World Series roster.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 25, 2017
That number includes Adrian Gonzalez ($22.3 million), Carl Crawford ($21.8), Scott Kazmir ($11.66), Hyun-Jin Ryu ($7.8), Alexander Guerrero ($7.5), Erisbel Arruebarruena ($5.5), Hector Olivera ($4.66), Yasiel Sierra ($3.5), Sergio Romo ($3), Matt Kemp ($2.75), and Franklin Gutierrez ($2.6). The enormous resources of the Dodgers allows them to take more risks and make more mistakes. The Dodgers went out and signed a ton of international free agents. Only one of them has made it so far - Yasiel Puig - and he has been a huge plus, making the investment worth it for the Dodgers.
On the flip side, however, the Dodgers’ mistakes have mostly been covered up by young, cheap players. Carl Crawford was a huge bust, but the Dodgers made up for in the outfield with Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, and Chris Taylor, cheap players that the Royals could have theoretically produced. Adrian Gonzalez is in the twilight of a massive deal, and no longer a productive player, but the Dodgers simply replaced him with a dynamic rookie making the league minimum in Cody Bellinger. The Royals had a flop with Alex Gordon, but were left with few alternatives to replace him (although perhaps they could have given more playing time to Jorge Bonifacio?)
The Astros World Series roster also comes in quite a bit under what the Royals paid this year. Here is what they are paying their players:
Astros 2017 World Series roster salaries
|Carlos Beltran||$16,000,000||Free agent|
|Yuli Gurriel||$14,400,000||Free agent|
|Josh Reddick||$13,000,000||Free agent|
|Charlie Morton||$7,000,000||Free agent|
|Luke Gregerson||$6,250,000||Free agent|
|Jose Altuve||$4,687,500||Amateur FA|
|Marwin Gonzalez||$3,725,000||Rule 5 draft|
|Juan Centeno||$535,500||Minor FA|
These aren’t teams loaded with high-priced players. Alex Gordon was the highest-paid Royals player this year at $16 million, and only four players in this series will earn more than this year - Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Andre Ethier, and Brian McCann.
And Dayton Moore understands this. He has called free agency a “flawed” way to build a team. Like the Royals teams of 2014 and 2015, these teams have a good nucleus of good young players on the rise - Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Dallas Keuchel for the Astros, and Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Chris Taylor for the Dodgers.
So don’t fret if you see the eye-popping payroll of the Dodgers and think the game is returning to the way it was in the late 90s, when you needed a Visa Gold Card to get your team into the World Series. These teams are showing the formula is still the same - develop good young talent, get lucky on a few acquisitions, and supplement the roster with free agents. Hopefully the Royals can get back on the road to building that next great Royals team.