Money For Nothing


Sept. 19, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell (52) reacts in the dugout against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium. Yanks won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIREAs another regular season passes in the MLB, so does another chance for the Toronto Blue Jays to make the playoffs.

Granted, the Jays were not expected to make the playoffs this year, but were expected to gain momentum in their push for the postseason in the near future. What happened instead was the Jays slipping from a .500 team to a team that lost 8 more wins than the previous year. As I mentioned before in a previous article, the injury bug played a big part of the downfall. What I did not mention were some of the positives.

With some of the call up came glimpses of the near future in Adeiny Hechavarria and Anthony Gose, one of which may stick around with the big club starting next season. Some of the midseason trades sent out fan favourites Travis Snider and Beowolf-reading Eric Thames, but brought in some good relievers in Brad Lincoln and Steve Delabar, both providing much needed help to a weak bullpen. Anything to trade away Francisco Cordero. The Jays also got to see off Omar Vizquel in his final year of what may be a Hall of Fame worthy career. Finally, of course, the biggest surprise was the big bat of Edwin Encarnacion, who swatted an additional 25 HR, 23 runs, doubled the RBI and added 3 WAR from last year. All from a front office that spent roughly $83,700,000 in contracts at the beginning of the year, good for 23rd in the league. With a full season of relatively fewer injuries, the Jays could compete next year, but still need a little bit of help.

One of the biggest problems the Blue Jays have of late is spending their money wisely in order to build a strong team. Our previous GM (he who shall not be named) spent the big bucks on a few specific players that brought short term results, in A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan. Just like every player that uses initials in Toronto, they quickly soured, and the Jays never really made it higher than 2nd place in the division under that GM‘s reign. The team never really developed properly and was bandaged together in the offseason. Spending freely is not always the best choice, even if you do have money to spend.

Some teams have done very well with less money than the Jays. You don’t even have to look in the past, as this year the Oakland Athletics won the AL West division starting the year with near $52,900,000 in contracts. For most teams in which money is an obstacle, the goal is to make the postseason getting as many wins as possible while spending as little money as possible to do it. To illustrate how exactly the Jays stack up in those terms, I’ve made a table that illustrates team success based on contract money spent, with the most successful team spending the least amount of money to get to the playoffs. The Top 6 division leaders are ranked 1-6 in contract efficiency, the Wild Card winners are ranked 7-10 and the rest of MLB is ranked purely based on how much they spent per win to not make the playoffs. Contract numbers are rounded to nearest 100,000, with $/win rounded to nearest 1,000.

Team Name$/Win$ ContractsWinsPlayoffsEff. RankingOakland Athletics563,00052,900,00094D1Cincinnati Reds905,00087,800,00097D2Washington Nationals944,00092,500,00098D3San Fransisco Giants1,398,000131,400,00094D4Detroit Tigers1,517,000133,500,00088D5New York Yankees2,208,000209,800,00095D6Baltimore Orioles904,00084,100,00093WC7Atlanta Braves995,00093,500,00094WC8St. Louis Cardinals1,272,000111,900,00088WC9Texas Rangers1,300,000120,900,00093WC10Pittsburgh Pirates657,00051,900,00079N/A11Tampa Bay Rays707,00063,600,00090N/A12San Diego Padres732,00055,600,00076N/A13Kansas City Royals889,00064,000,00072N/A14Arizona Diamondbacks931,00075,400,00081N/A15Cleveland Indians962,00065,400,00068N/A16Houston Astros1,105,00060,800,00055N/A17Seattle Mariners1,132,00084,900,00075N/A18Toronto Blue Jays1,147,00083,700,00073N/A19Chicago White Sox1,149,00097,700,00085N/A20Milwaukee Brewers1,183,00098,200,00083N/A21LA Dodgers1,226,000105,400,00086N/A22Colorado Rockies1,267,00081,100,00064N/A23New York Mets1,277,00094,500,00074N/A24Miami Marlins1,472,000101,600,00069N/A25Minnesota Twins1,521,000100,400,00066N/A26LA Angels1,701,000151,400,00089N/A27Chicago Cubs1,792,000109,300,00061N/A28Philadelphia Phillies2,125,000172,100,00081N/A29Boston Red Sox2,539,000175,200,00069N/A30

As you can see, the Jays were ranked 19th in contract efficiency to wins generated based on the payrolls of every team as indicated by Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They are based on numbers generated at the beginning of the year (therefore not taking into effect call ups and trades), however it’s the closest thing to accuracy that’s available to the general public. What is does show is that they outperformed their 23rd place in contracts spent by earning more wins with their money. This is mostly due to cheaper players being brought up through the Jays farm system and earning entry level contracts. What this can do is allow the team to spend more on free agents this coming winter to improve their win count, and they should receive some added bonuses to help them out.

Yesterday, MLB announced a new national TV deal with Turner Sports and Fox. Combined with the deal with ESPN earlier in August, each team should receive roughly $52,000,000 in annual earnings from the deal, starting in 2014. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthoupoulos has always hinted at going after big name players in free agency after building a team through the draft (never revealing more than the obvious), and with extra income generated by MLB executives, there is more of a freedom to make moves for all the GM’s in the league.

2013 will mark 20 years since the Blue Jays last won the World Series Championship. The ’92 and ’93 teams did it by doing what the current team is trying to do now; build a strong team through the draft and bring in the final pieces in the offseason. Money is the most important thing in the business of baseball, and with economic help just along the way in the near future, the time is now to get back to the winning ways of yesteryear. The Blue Jays are arguably the best chance Toronto has for postseason success, and the only way to get there is play a little bit of Moneyball.