How the Teams Were Built

Some of it depends on the philosophies of the front office, some of it depends on the market size, and some of it is pure luck of the draw. Every 40-man roster in baseball is built through different means, and each organization has its own unique quirks when it comes to roster construction.

This is a reboot of an exercise I did last year, with a couple fun additions. Relying mostly on RosterResource and our depth charts, I’ve got a couple spreadsheets containing every player on every 40-man roster, how they were acquired by their team, and their projected WAR for 2016, based on Steamer. Last year’s post focused mainly on the raw number of players, and the means by which they were acquired.

I’ve got a new version of that table, still sortable, and this year I’ve added international signings:

Roster Construction by Method of Acquisition
Team Am. Draft Free Agent Trade Int’l Waivers Rule 5 Total
Arizona 10 5 21 4 0 1 41
Atlanta 4 10 18 4 2 2 40
Baltimore 11 7 13 3 3 3 40
Boston 17 7 13 3 0 0 40
Chicago AL 9 11 11 2 6 0 39
Chicago NL 8 9 17 4 1 1 40
Cincinnati 14 5 12 4 2 2 39
Cleveland 16 3 15 5 1 0 40
Colorado 13 9 12 4 2 0 40
Detroit 10 10 15 5 0 0 40
Houston 9 6 15 5 3 1 40
Kansas City 14 9 9 8 0 0 40
Los Angeles AL 10 9 15 1 3 2 40
Los Angeles NL 8 7 17 8 0 0 40
Miami 12 5 16 4 2 1 40
Milwaukee 14 4 15 2 3 2 40
Minnesota 15 6 7 8 2 2 40
New York AL 14 7 14 4 1 0 40
New York NL 16 8 8 7 0 1 40
Oakland 4 6 26 1 3 0 40
Philadelphia 12 5 10 6 4 3 40
Pittsburgh 10 8 12 8 2 0 40
San Diego 6 8 21 3 0 2 40
San Francisco 24 7 5 3 1 0 40
Seattle 8 8 18 4 1 1 40
St. Louis 23 5 8 3 1 1 41
Tampa Bay 18 2 19 0 1 0 40
Texas 13 6 11 8 1 1 40
Toronto 12 5 14 1 7 1 40
Washington 14 8 15 3 0 0 40
AVERAGE 12 7 14 4 2 1 40

There’s some interesting information to be gleaned from this table, but not every free agent signing or trade acquisition is made the same. What we really care about is how each team’s key players were acquired. So, this year, I’ve added up the projected WAR of every player, and broke those down by the method of acquisition:

Projected WAR by Method of Acquisition
Team Am. Draft Free Agent Trade Int’l Waivers Rule 5 Total
Arizona 12.6 4.3 12.7 0.7 0.0 0.0 30.3
Atlanta 4.3 5.6 8.6 2.7 0.0 0.1 21.3
Baltimore 15.8 3.5 9.3 2.0 1.2 0.4 32.2
Boston 16.4 12.8 10.3 5.0 0.0 0.0 44.5
Chicago AL 10.6 10.2 7.7 3.6 0.2 0.0 32.3
Chicago NL 10.4 18.0 22.3 1.5 0.0 1.1 53.3
Cincinnati 15.4 1.3 10.1 2.8 0.0 -0.1 29.5
Cleveland 12.6 1.1 19.8 5.4 0.2 0.0 39.1
Colorado 10.2 4.6 10.8 0.1 1.1 0.0 26.8
Detroit 4.9 11.8 16.4 0.3 0.0 0.0 33.4
Houston 17.4 3.9 16.4 0.3 3.2 0.5 41.7
Kansas City 12.9 6.4 7.0 7.1 0.0 0.0 33.4
Los Angeles AL 16.7 6.0 12.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 34.7
Los Angeles NL 16.6 8.2 14.9 8.9 0.0 0.0 48.6
Miami 18.0 2.6 10.4 3.0 0.0 0.3 34.3
Milwaukee 10.8 3.4 7.1 2.5 0.5 0.1 24.4
Minnesota 12.5 6.4 5.2 7.5 0.0 0.1 31.7
New York AL 4.1 11.9 16.7 7.9 0.0 0.0 40.6
New York NL 19.1 7.9 10.2 4.9 0.0 0.2 42.3
Oakland 4.5 4.7 20.3 0.0 1.3 0.0 30.8
Philadelphia 3.9 1.4 7.0 4.2 0.7 0.7 17.9
Pittsburgh 13.5 6.1 10.6 9.3 0.0 0.0 39.5
San Diego 3.7 4.9 19.3 1.5 0.0 0.1 29.5
San Francisco 27.0 10.1 3.9 1.3 0.8 0.0 43.1
Seattle 7.7 8.2 10.8 9.6 0.0 0.0 36.3
St. Louis 21.6 4.8 10.7 3.5 0.0 0.0 40.6
Tampa Bay 11.9 1.4 21.3 0.8 0.1 0.0 35.5
Texas 4.8 6.9 12.0 9.2 0.7 1.0 34.6
Toronto 10.0 8.3 20.1 0.9 1.3 0.0 40.6
Washington 18.4 12.0 12.4 0.1 0.0 0.0 42.9
AVERAGE 12.3 6.6 12.5 3.6 0.4 0.2 35.5

And the percentage of each team’s WAR makeup:

Percentage of Projected Team WAR by Method of Acquisition
Team Am. Draft Free Agent Trade Int’l Waivers Rule 5 Total
Arizona 42% 14% 42% 2% 0% 0% 100%
Atlanta 20% 26% 40% 13% 0% 0% 100%
Baltimore 49% 11% 29% 6% 4% 1% 100%
Boston 37% 29% 23% 11% 0% 0% 100%
Chicago AL 33% 32% 24% 11% 1% 0% 100%
Chicago NL 20% 34% 42% 3% 0% 2% 100%
Cincinnati 52% 4% 34% 9% 0% 0% 100%
Cleveland 32% 3% 51% 14% 1% 0% 100%
Colorado 38% 17% 40% 0% 4% 0% 100%
Detroit 15% 35% 49% 1% 0% 0% 100%
Houston 42% 9% 39% 1% 8% 1% 100%
Kansas City 39% 19% 21% 21% 0% 0% 100%
Los Angeles AL 48% 17% 35% 0% 0% 0% 100%
Los Angeles NL 34% 17% 31% 18% 0% 0% 100%
Miami 52% 8% 30% 9% 0% 1% 100%
Milwaukee 44% 14% 29% 10% 2% 0% 100%
Minnesota 39% 20% 16% 24% 0% 0% 100%
New York AL 10% 29% 41% 19% 0% 0% 100%
New York NL 45% 19% 24% 12% 0% 0% 100%
Oakland 15% 15% 66% 0% 4% 0% 100%
Philadelphia 22% 8% 39% 23% 4% 4% 100%
Pittsburgh 34% 15% 27% 24% 0% 0% 100%
San Diego 13% 17% 65% 5% 0% 0% 100%
San Francisco 63% 23% 9% 3% 2% 0% 100%
Seattle 21% 23% 30% 26% 0% 0% 100%
St. Louis 53% 12% 26% 9% 0% 0% 100%
Tampa Bay 34% 4% 60% 2% 0% 0% 100%
Texas 14% 20% 35% 27% 2% 3% 100%
Toronto 25% 20% 50% 2% 3% 0% 100%
Washington 43% 28% 29% 0% 0% 0% 100%
AVERAGE 34% 18% 36% 10% 1% 0% 100%

Now those are some interesting tables.

Let’s go over five of the most compelling team-building stories:

Chicago Cubs

When you hear about how the Cubs built the roster that’s currently the World Series favorite, you usually hear about the draft, and all the homegrown talent. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez were all great draft picks who were able to quickly ascend to the majors and create a contender, and Jorge Soler was a nice pick from the international market who also counts as a homegrown player.

But, in fact, less than a quarter of Chicago’s projected 2016 WAR comes from homegrown talent. Where they’ve truly shined is the trade market. Of course, the most obvious example is the midseason 2013 deal with Baltimore that netted them Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger, one of the more lopsided trades in recent history. Nearly as integral to the Cubs’ success was the 2012 trade of Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na, which netted them Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates. Lest we forget about the acquisition of Addison Russell, Dan Straily and Billy McKinney for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (now back on the Cubs), the move that brought Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva to Chicago for Ryan Dempster, and the swap of Zachary Godley and Jeferson Mejia for Miguel Montero.

They’ve hit on their most important draft picks, and made the necessary moves in free agency to fill out their roster, but the true catalyst of the potential powerhouse Cubs are a series of shrewd deals made by Theo Epstein since taking over in 2011.

Houston Astros

Of course, the Astros have done well in the draft. Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Lance McCullers and Jason Castro alone comprise 40% of Houston’s projected team WAR in 2016, and that’s just five draft picks since 2009. Jose Altuve was a key acquisition in the international market, and the addition of Carlos Gomez via trade could prove to be vital.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about the Astros’ roster construction is finding success where teams don’t typically find success. They selected Josh Fields in the Rule 5 draft from Boston in 2012, picked Collin McHugh off the waiver wire from the Rockies in 2013, and did the same with Will Harris from Arizona in 2014. Those three players all have key roles on Houston’s pitching staff, and are projected for a combined 3.7 WAR. That’s a full two wins more than any other team in baseball has through the waiver wire or Rule 5 draft.

Oakland Athletics

My favorite roster construction in baseball. This tweet says it all:

Four players! Only four members of Oakland’s current 40-man roster were actually drafted by the club. One of them is Sonny Gray, one is a pitcher who was drafted as an infielder, and the other two are inconsequential depth pieces. In addition, they’ve only got one international signee, and that’s Renato Nunez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan third baseman who hasn’t played a game above Double-A. Only five players on Oakland’s 40-man roster could be considered “homegrown.” The next-least homegrown team, Atlanta, has eight.

Billy Beane has used his prospects as trade chips to build the club in recent years and as a result, Gray will likely be the only homegrown player on Oakland’s Opening Day roster. Every single other player on the team, and 81% of Oakland’s projected WAR is the result of either trades (66%) or free agent signings (15%).

Pittsburgh Pirates

Once Kenta Maeda’s player profile, and subsequent projected WAR, is entered in the database (likely later today), the Los Angeles Dodgers will likely rise to the top of the international WAR leaderboard. The team they would usurp is Seattle, who hit on Felix Hernandez more than a decade ago and Hisashi Iwakuma and Ketel Marte in more recent years.

But the Dodgers are the obvious team, and the Mariners’ status is propped up by a Hall of Fame selection made nearly 15 years ago. To me, the unsung heroes of the international market are the Pirates, who have hit on three impact international signings in recent years: Starling Marte in 2007, Gregory Polanco in 2009, and Jung-ho Kang last year. Hampered by a small market and a subsequent inability to spend, the Pirates were a bottom-feeder for decades. Andrew McCutchen’s debut in 2009 is what helped turn the franchise around and into a contender, but it could be three frugal international signings that help them stay.

San Francisco Giants

The polar opposite of their neighbors across the bay in Oakland, the Giants are the king of the homegrown player. In San Francisco, 24 players on the 40-man roster were taken in the draft and developed through the system. Not only that, but nearly all the team’s stars are true homegrown talents. They hit on Madison Bumgarner in the first round of the 2007 draft. And Buster Posey, in the first round the following year, with Brandon Crawford coming in the fourth. Brandon Belt in the fifth round in 2009. Joe Panik in the first round in 2011. Then to top it all off, Matt Duffy came in the 18th round in 2012.

Exactly two-thirds of their projected team WAR are the result of homegrown talent, whether through the draft or the international  market. San Francisco’s drafted players are projected for 27 wins in 2016; no other organization tops 22. Whether it be drafting, coaching, or both, nobody has acquired, developed and maintained homegrown talent quite like the Giants.

We hoped you liked reading How the Teams Were Built by August Fagerstrom!

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August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.

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Bryon
Member
Bryon

This is an incredibly interesting article. Good work! This puts some real numbers behind subjective opinions about GM’s. Like the fact that Billy Bean manages like he is running a booth at a flea market with 66% of his teams WAR coming from trades with San Diego and Tampa right behind him.Other teams, if you include international signing and development, like the Royals, Giants, Cardinals, and Marlins prefer to field home grown talent with over 60% of WAR coming from amateur draft and international player development.