Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Biz of Baseball: Cubs opening day payroll up 8.75%

The fantasist website, Biz of Baseball, posted their estimates on payroll changes over the past year based on opening day payroll numbers.  From payroll numbers published in USA Today they said that the Cubs entered the season with a $146,609,000 payroll, ranking 3rd in all of baseball (behind the Red Sox and Yankees).

This number differs slightly from the on that Cot's Baseball Contracts has...$144,359,000.

Both sites agree with the 2009 number...$134,809,000.

So depending on which number you agree with for 2010, the Cubs have indeed increased their payroll by 8.75% or 7.1%

The Cubs did exactly what the said they would when the Ricketts family took over...increase payroll slightly. 

Here is the problem...the Cubs are basically chasing two other teams right now for supremacy in the NL...the Cardinals and the Phillies.  (I still believe the Dodgers are a mess, so I exclude them from just about everything right now).

After decidedly winning the NL Central last year, the Cardinals could have sat on their hands and stayed the course...but they actually increased their payroll significantly.  The Phillies, who have won 2 straight pennants, could have done the same, but they also increased their payroll significantly.

The Cardinals had an increase of 20.56% in payroll over the last year.  Now a large part of that was spent on Matt Holiday.  And remember that the Cardinals actually had a substantial decrease in payroll between the 2008 and 2009 seasons.  They weren't supposed to contend last year...and when the ended up with a chance to win the division, they went out and spent some money.  Re-signing Holiday was their #1 priority this offseason.  I have also maintained that the Cardinals are actually no better than they were last year.  If true, they spent a lot of money just so they could maintain their level of success.

The Phillies are a slightly different story.  They have had a steady increase in their payroll over the last 5 years.  The results have been obvious.  They have met with considerable success as they've paid out more.  But in 2010, how much of their increase was due to signing new players and how much of it was due to general salary increases to current players?  Well, the big addition to their payroll this year was the trade for Roy Halliday.  Now the Phillies did dump Cliff Lee in that trade, but remember that Lee wasn't on the Phillies at the start of 2009 either.

Halliday gets paid $15.75 million this year...that's all new.  Ryan Howard got a salary increase of $6 million (at a total of $19 million for 2010).  Chase Utley gets a pay raise of $4 million.  Raul Ibanez, $5 million.  Jason Werth, $5 million.  That's $20 million in pay raises to just those 4 players.  (And the Phillies have some very big pay raises next year too.)

The Phillies now have a payroll which is approaching the Cubs, at about $142 million.   Why are the Cubs so criticized while the Phillies are, well, so good?

I'm going to look at the top 4 contracts from both of these teams:



Player AgeYears$ Player Age Years $
Soriano 318$136 Halliday 334$75.75
Zambrano 275$91.5 Howard 293$54
Ramirez 295$75 Utley 287$85
Fukudome 314$48 Ibanez 373$31.5

Age is the year they signed the deal...in the case of Roy Halliday, his contract (3 years $60 million) doesn't start until 2011...so I added the this year on to it.

Does anything really stand out here as a glaring difference?


Number of All Star appearances before contracts were signed:
Phillies: 8
Cubs: 8

The only difference between what the Cubs have and the Phillies have is that the players they signed actually had a Cy Young and an MVP to their credit.

So what's wrong here...why are the Phillies good and why do the Cubs struggle so much to get a back on top?

The answer must be how they pay players at the mid and lower tiers of their payroll.  I'd guess that the talent level at those level between the Cubs and Phillies is vastly different, and the payroll is much more efficiently spread out for the Phillies.

Also, you could consider the fact that the Phillies success began before they started paying out all these players, which could indicate that they had to pay as a result of success as opposed to paying to achieve success. 

This blog is getting too long already and I'm starting to ramble, but that may need to be something to look at in the future.  The question becomes what do the Cubs do in the future?  Over the next two seasons, a number of large contracts start coming off the books.  Will the Cubs rebuild or use the extra money to explore free agency again?  Will the Cubs remain the highest payed team in the National League next year?

Ok...now time to refocus on crappy baseball games.