Recently Drays Bay took a look at how much several of the Rays were worth in 2008 as compared to what those players were actually paid. Using the new “Value in Dollars” feature at Fangraphs, they showed that the Rays received $81.5 million of production from 10 players, for approximately $14.4 million in salary. That equates to a 450% return on investment.
That is pretty good, but it left us wondering exactly how profitable the entire team was, and exactly how profitable the Rays need to be in order to be successful. To do this we need a little more information.
- Drays Bay only looked at players acquired by Andrew Friedman and Co. Certainly this is the benchmark for how a front office is measured. But we are now in the fourth off-season for World B. Friedman and this is now their team. While they deserve credit for the players acquired in the last three years, they also deserve credit (or blame) for players they have chosen to keep from the previous administration.
- Drays Bay does not include pitchers. At this time, Fangraphs does not have dollar values for pitchers.
- We also need some reference in order to know how much “profit” is needed to be successful.
For the last point, we need to keep in mind that it would be very difficult for a team to perform worse than the $43.8 million payroll the Rays began 2008 with. In fact, the Rays have to show a “profit” with such a small payroll. Certainly the nearly 6:1 ratio shown above is great, but that may not have been much more than the Rays need to do to remain competitive, especially in the AL East.
We already know that the Rays were second only to the Marlins in cost per win at $451K. But how did the Rays performance compare to their $43.8 million payroll and how did that compare to the rest of baseball?
Luckily for us, Fangraphs does have the Value Wins and Dollar values for each team. If we compare each of these values to the opening day payrolls of every team, we have the following “profit” rankings (values in millions).
- The Rays led MLB in profit and were second only to the Marlins in Return on Investment.
- When the performance of the entire team is considered, the Rays actually outperformed their payroll by a little more than 3:1.
- Only one team (Mariners, $36.7MM) performed worse than the Rays’ opening day payroll of $43.8 million.
- The Reds performance ($43.5MM) was nearly identical to the Rays’ payroll, with Cincinnati winning only 74 games.
- Not surprising, MLB as a whole overpaid their players by $42.6 million, although the actual number is likely higher as these values only consider players on the opening day payroll.
- $72.2 million in performance was the minimum needed to be a playoff team.
- Three teams made the playoffs (Angels, Dodgers, White Sox) that actually performed below their payroll. The Angels number shows just how weak the AL West was and how inflated their 100 win total was.
- The Yankees show why they will always eventually have to pay back the Devil for buying championships. In an effort to always “get their man” they inevitably give extra years and dollars to players that will be in serious decline towards the end of the deals.
- We hadn’t realized just how bad the Mariners were in 2008. Wow.
Simply turning a “profit” is not enough for the Rays. In fact, in 2007, the Rays played like a $57.9 million team despite only a $24.1 million opening day payroll. That team produced a $33.8 million “profit” in performance and a 140.2% return on investment, and yet they only won 66 games.
Now let’s take a look at what it took to make the playoffs the last three years (we did not want to go too far back in time as we are not taking into account inflation; values in millions).
Here, the math is very simple. Even if the Rays enter the 2009 season with a payroll in the $60 million range, they will still need to nearly double that value in terms of performance if they want to compete for a playoff spot in the always tough AL East.