The San Diego Padres led the National League West for the majority of the season but stumbled down the stretch to finish two games behind the division champion San Francisco Giants. San Diego finished the season with a 90-72 record, not bad considering their team payroll was only $38 million and second lowest in the majors. We look at MLBís teams that had the most impact for the smallest amount of money.
The Padres were the biggest bang for the buck this season. Ranking 29th in payroll they finished 18 games above .500 and narrowly missed the playoffs. The Padres got excellent return on investment from relief pitchers Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb. All three pitchers earned slightly over $400,000. Closer Heath Bell earned $4 million and had a great year with 47 saves and a 1.93 ERA. We all know the big spenders usually will get to the playoffs but with a $38 million dollar payroll we can say San Diego certainly got its moneyís worth out of their players.
Ranking second on our list is the Texas Rangers. With a $55.3 million dollar payroll all they have done is line up match up against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Veteran DH Vladimir Guerrero turned in a solid year making $5 million and MVP candidate Josh Hamilton isnít making free agent money yet. By picking up Cliff Lee near the trade deadline they are in line to perhaps make a trip to the World Series.
Tampa Bay Rays have the 19th highest payroll with $71.9 million. Two thirds of the payroll goes to Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford. Crawford is expected to test free agency in the offseason and wants near the $100 million dollar mark, $19 million over the entire Rays payroll. This tells us one thing; he wonít be with the Rays next year. Prior to 2008 the Rays were very bad allowing them to stock up on draft picks such as David Price and Evan Longoria. These picks have paid off making the Rays one of the top teams in MLB.
The Oakland Aís had a payroll of $51.7 million good for 28th in the league. Oakland finished 81-81 which landed them 2nd in the AL West, 9 games behind Texas. A .500 season isnít bad for this payroll but they are the only team in our Top 5 to not make the playoffs.
Rounding out our Top 5 teams for best bang for the buck is the Cincinnati Reds. GM Walt Jocketty added veterans Scott Rolen and Johnny Gomes for a combined $8.4 million to supplement a young, cheap core that includes Joey Votto, Drew Stubbs, and Jay Bruce. The Reds won the NL Central and eventually got swept by the Phillies in 3 games in the NLDS. The Reds have some promising young pitchers and players that should keep them in contention next year.
One thing about low-payroll teams is that their window for contention is usually small. Good young players are tough to retain as they accumulate the experience needed to command bigger pay. Next seasonís list will change with the addition and subtraction of free agent players. If your team is on this list you should be proud they are getting the best bang for their buck. When the Rangers and Yankees meet for the ALCS it will be the largest payroll disparity at $152 million dollars! Tell me who isnít rooting for the Rangers now?