2015 National League Payroll Breakdown by Craig Edwards February 27, 2015 Yesterday, we broke down the payrolls in the American League. This post repeats that exercise for the National League. The average Major League Baseball payroll in 2015 is roughly $122 million. With top-heavy payrolls, the median comes in lower at around $112 million. In 2014, the average payroll in the AL East on Opening Day was $135.1 million, narrowly edging the NL West’s $135 million. With sizable increases for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the NL West is now the highest-salaried division in the majors. Figures from Cots with minimum salaries added to create a 25-man roster. The NL West has a healthy monetary advantage over the NL East and the NL Central due principally to the Dodgers and Giants. Eleven of 15 NL teams have payrolls below the MLB average. Only the Dodgers, Giants, Washington Nationals, and Philadelphia Phillies have payrolls above $120 million. National League West In addition to having the highest average payroll, the NL West is also the least competitive financially. The Los Angeles Dodgers Opening Day payroll triples that of NL West foe Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers and San Francisco Giants tower over the rest of the division as none of the three remaining teams have payrolls above $100 million. The Giants have the fourth highest payroll in all of baseball and they have to look way up to see the Dodgers. The San Diego Padres made major moves this offseason, but with the Dodgers paying $18 million of Matt Kemp’s salary this year, they kept the payroll well below average. Team Most Expensive Player (Amount) 2015 Payroll ($M) Money Committed to 2016 ($M) Money Committed to 2017 ($M) Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw 268.8 166.3 166.3 San Francisco Giants Matt Cain 171.0 116.3 73.6 San Diego Padres Justin Upton 96.7 56.2 46.3 Colorado Rockies Troy Tulowitzki 94.0 63.2 40.4 Arizona Diamondbacks Trevor Cahill 88.0 32.2 18.4 Future payroll numbers do not include arbitration estimates or minimum salaries necessary to reach a 25-man roster. Only guaranteed future salaries are included. The Dodgers guaranteed money for 2017 would rank sixth in Opening Day payroll for this season. The Giants have a lot of money coming off the books in the next few years leaving Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence. Outside of those four, it is not clear where the Giants future production will come from. The highest salaried player on the Padres is technically Matt Kemp, but the Padres are paying the most money to Justin Upton as a result of the Dodgers paying most of Kemp’s salary in 2015. Colorado remains tied to Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The team is rebuilding regardless of whether they hold on to those two, but the process could be hastened by trading away its two cornerstones. National League East The NL East has one major power, one team that will not be able to compete with a bloated payroll and three teams spending well below their means. The Mets averaged over $125 million annually in payroll from 2002-11, but have not topped $100 million since. The Washington Nationals flexed their financial muscle and are big favorites heading into 2015. Miami could compete with greater resources, but this could be Washington’s division to lose for the next few years. Team Most Expensive Player (Amount) 2015 Payroll ($M) Money Committed to 2016 ($M) Money Committed to 2017 ($M) Washington Nationals Jayson Werth 158.5 84.1 59.2 Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard/Cliff Lee 137.5 76.2 34.0 New York Mets David Wright 96.3 57.6 35.5 Atlanta Braves Melvin Upton, Jr. 97.1 72.6 87.6 Miami Marlins Mat Latos 65.5 37.0 14.5 The Nationals could lose Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, and Ian Desmond at the end of the year and still be favored to win the NL East in 2016. They will also have to deal with another raise for Stephen Strasburg, but they appear to have the money to take advantage of the frugality shown by the rest of the division. Martin Prado and Dan Haren will actually make more money than Mat Latos, but the Marlins are not paying full freight for Prado and Haren, making Latos’ $9.4 million the Marlins highest outlay this season. The Mets have very little money guaranteed in future years so if ownership wanted to shift its spending philosophy, they could move up the pecking order quickly. The Braves are in the rare position of having guaranteed money go up in future years as Freddie Freeman earns a hefty raise in 2016. The Phillies should have the opportunity to start over quickly with more money coming off the books after this season and half of the remaining guarantees owed to sought-after pitchers Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. National League Central The NL Central has the biggest cluster of similar payrolls with every team under the MLB average. The Cubs loom as a potential big spender, but they have not reached those heights yet, despite the signing of Jon Lester. The Pittsburgh Pirates pose the biggest threat to the St. Louis Cardinals’ defense of the division, but they lag behind their rivals monetarily. The resumption of spending by the Chicago Cubs along with fairly static payrolls from the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cincinnati Reds has pushed the division together. Team Most Expensive Player (Amount) 2015 Payroll ($M) Money Committed to 2016 ($M) Money Committed to 2017 ($M) St. Louis Cardinals Adam Wainwright 119.4 90.7 65.0 Chicago Cubs Jon Lester 116.5 82.0 61.8 Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto 111.0 82.0 66.5 Milwaukee Brewers Aramis Ramirez 103.1 49.5 32.8 Pittsburgh Pirates Francisco Liriano 87.4 45.4 37.2 The Cardinals still have quite a bit of money guaranteed to players in 2016 as they hold on to the core players that have made them so successful. Keeping Jason Heyward and the development of young pitchers could be the keys to keeping their run alive. The Cubs are in a similar position to the Cardinals monetarily in terms of guarantees, but with a ton of young, cost-controlled hitters and the ability to outspend the division, their rivals should be concerned. The Reds owe Joey Votto $203 million before his contract runs in 2023. They also have Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco for multiple years, but without a significant youth infusion the Reds will need a lot of things to go right for them to keep in contention the next few years, especially as Johnny Cueto departs after the season. The Brewers are in excellent shape financially as Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, and Jonathan Broxton become free agents. Unfortunately, they also need to replace the production of the former two and hope that Ryan Braun can continue to hit like he has in the past. The Pirates are in a great position financially and have a lot of young talent on the roster. They should be able to compete for the division despite a lower payroll behind Andrew McCutchen and company. The projected standings in the National League are not as tight as in the AL. The team with the highest payroll in each division is projected to win the division with the Nationals and Dodgers with a nine and eight game advantage over second place, respectively. The NL Central is very bunched up with the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs all within two games of each other. The National League appears to be a very top-heavy league with the contenders known before the season even begins.