The Cubs had the 15th highest payroll and the second most losses in MLB last season.
It’s exactly the kind of payroll inefficiency that put the Cubs in this mess, and exactly why GM Jed Hoyer is focused on changing Chicago’s spending habits moving forward.
“We talk a lot about payroll efficiency. A lot of that is getting to that point where you feel like it’s a payroll you’ve created based on contract lengths that you like. One of the things we’re very wary of is sort of jumping back in and muddying those waters because we know there’s a time in the future where it really becomes a lot more efficient. We’re not dealing with some of the contract issues we’ve been dealing with the last couple of years. I think our ability to have an efficient payroll is really important.” –Jed Hoyer
A common held belief among baseball fans is the team that spends the most wins the most, which simply isn’t true.
That doesn’t mean payroll disparity in the league is a non-issue, but the chart below shows it’s not necessarily ‘how much’ a team spends on player talent but ‘how’ they spend that lends itself to winning.
Granted five of the 10 playoff teams this year were in the Top 10 in payroll, but five other postseason contenders actually spent fewer dollars than the Cubs to reach October.
Oakland won its division with the second lowest payroll in the league. Washington ranked 20th and posted the most wins in all of baseball.
Meanwhile, big spenders such as Boston (3) and Miami (7) absolutely tanked with each team finishing well below .500 at 69-wins apiece.
The real issue is the league’s huge payroll disparity, which allows teams such as the Yankees to recover from its payroll inefficiencies more quickly than say the Indians or Rays.
New York enjoys the luxury of paying its ‘bad contracts’ to go away. And when in need of better talent the Yankees can essentially ‘buy” whatever they need–even at the cost of overspending to get it.
If baseball ever decided to level the playing field similar to the NFL, which I don’t anticipate, it would curtail the ability of large market clubs to buy its way out of ill-advised, low efficient contracts. Then imagine how differently the Bombers would operate.
The Cubs are actually quite fortunate under the current system being a large-market team with Tom Ricketts’ deep pockets. In fact, Ricketts has spent nearly as much money eating bad deals (Zambrano) as he had on last year’s entire payroll.
All said, it’s only a matter of time before Team Theo’s more efficient payroll approach has Chicago not just rejoining the top spending teams in the league, but also the postseason.