Should there be a Minimum Payroll Requirement for Major League Baseball Teams

scott whittum
scott whittum

With a 200 million dollar plus difference in team payrolls between the Yankees at almost $229 million and teams like the Marlins and Astros at $39, and $24 million respectively it seems to be coming more crystal clear that Major League needs to at least as part of its revenue sharing program make teams like Marlins, Astros, Rays, and Pirates among others to have a minimum team payroll of at least $65 million dollars on an annual basis. This has to happen because its very possible the Marlins and Astros at the rate they are going can both threaten 120 losses and that is not good at all for the overall health of the sport. Sport at the professional level is about competition and to see teams purposely not even try to compete is just plain wrong and Bud Selig needs to step in and address this issue sooner than later.

Michael Walker
Michael Walker
Senior Analyst

Without getting into a debate about the redistribution of wealth, my biggest worry is the effect on ticket prices. Outfield seats at a baseball game is the only pro sport a lot of people can still afford to go to.

Alex Bell

Agreed with @Michael Walker. Basically all other ticket prices have become absurd.

@Kyle, @Dean Lake, The more I think about this the more I like the notion of baseball becoming like the NFL and getting rid of the guaranteed contract because I would very quickly the mindset of players changes when they know that if they don't perform they run the risk of being released

Michael Walker

C'mon guys. It's a good question. What do you think?

Dean Lake
Dean Lake

In the parenthesis below is the cost per win (in millions of dollars) if win percentages are extrapolated as static through the end of the season (all numbers rounded). Teams in bold are projected as Division winners. Teams in italics are projected as Wild Card teams (SF and Arizona are tied for the second Wild Card spot, so both are included).

Colorado and Kansas City not only are two of the best cost per win teams, but also have legitimate shots at winning their respective divisions. The Pirates also have a shot at the playoffs, even though they have the fourth-lowest payroll. So yes, a team can make the playoffs with a very low payroll.

Four of the top ten payroll teams are playoff bound, then four of the next ten, then three of the bottom ten - and each group has two projected division winners. A high payroll isn't a major factor to putting a quality team on the field - at least this year. If low-payroll teams can win, why force them to spend money? If Pittsburgh wants to spend 75% less money per win than the Yankees and they end up with the same number of wins, more power to them. Why should they be punished for great management? Why should the Yankees be rewarded for throwing money into the wind?

New York Yankees $228,995,945 ($2.313)
Los Angeles Dodgers $216,302,909 ($2.670)
Philadelphia $159,578,214 ($2.248)
Boston $158,967,286 ($1.407)
Detroit $149,046,844 ($1.694)
San Francisco $142,180,333 ($1.545)
Los Angeles Angels $142,165,250 ($2.154)
Texas $127,197,575 ($1.178)
Chicago White Sox $124,065,277 ($1.723)
Toronto $118,244,039 ($2.039)
St. Louis $116,702,085 ($1.133)
Washington $112,431,770 ($1.278)
Cincinnati $110,565,728 ($1.316)
Chicago Cubs $104,150,726 ($1.765)
Baltimore $91,793,333 ($0.909)
Milwaukee $91,003,366 ($1.071)
Arizona $90,158,500 ($0.980)
Atlanta $89,288,193 ($0.842)
New York Mets $88,877,033 ($1.201)
Seattle $84,295,952 ($1.453)
Cleveland $82,517,300 ($1.213)
Kansas City $80,491,725 ($0.856)
Minnesota $75,562,500 ($0.933)
Colorado $75,449,071 ($0.712)
San Diego $71,689,900 ($1.379)
Oakland $68,577,000 ($0.871)
Pittsburgh $66,289,524 ($0.721)
Tampa Bay $57,030,272 ($0.815)
Miami $39,621,900 ($1.132)
Houston $24,328,538 ($0.497)

caveat: I crunched these numbers in the middle of the day. Some of the day's MLB games were over and included in their win percentages, some games had not concluded and those games were not included in their win percentages.

Vance Keller
Vance Keller

Six projected playoffs teams pay more than 1 million per win, and six pay less. Yep, sounds like money has nothing to do with winning.

On the other hand, the top 15 payroll teams have 184 wins this season, the bottom 15 have 158 wins. The high-spenders have more teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot. I'm not sure whether that is a good thing or not (close but no cigar and spend a lot of money?). At least on average they put a better team on the field than some of these cheapskates.

It would be interesting to see how wins and/or money spent correlates to attendance. Maybe we should do this later on in the season.

Trevor Roberts
Trevor Roberts
Senior Columnist

I see what you guys are saying, but even if the minimum is say, 60 million, that will mean that only the Astros, Marlins and Rays will have to shell out. It's a disgrace the amount of money the Astros are paying based on their market, (the fifth largest metro in the US).

Michael Walker

Good point, Dean. Well illustrated.


@Michael Walker and @Dean Lake I completely agree with both of your points and by extension, the total point. If we can keep ticket prices low, and low payroll teams can compete that is a win for everyone.

What really matters isn't payroll, it is a smart front office. Look at the Mariners they have a nearly 90 million dollar payroll annually, but they cannot compete at all. Conversely, look at the A's or Rays. They aren't in the series every year, and they never "win" the offseason, but those teams are consistently competitive, and it is because they hired smart General Managers, scouts, managers, etc to win baseball games, not to appease the owner.

Michael Walker

The problem is the owners of the Yankees and Dodgers think they're either Jerry Jones or The Donald when it comes to spending money.


@Michael Walker they certainly do, and it would be a much bigger problem if they figured out how to spend it more smartly.

I'd add the Red Sox and Angels to your list as well

scott whittum
scott whittum

@Kyle, @Dean Lake, The more I think about this the more I like the notion of baseball becoming like the NFL and getting rid of the guaranteed contract because I would very quickly the mindset of players changes when they know that if they don't perform they run the risk of being released. Deep down I think that is the biggest thing that arguably has made the NFL the power that it is today from a business model. If you erase the guaranteed contract in baseball I have a strong feeling that the quality will only grow to even higher levels and baseball then again can become more relevant on the national scale in the ratings game on television.