The Teams With the Most Committed Money, By Year

All of the numbers that I’m about to dive into are subject to change — they will change mightily, and rapidly, as the proverbial baseball stove reaches nearer to its sizzling apex. Still, I was curious to know: which of baseball’s teams have committed the most money from this point forward?

Some baseball teams have access to vast resources — vast even when compared to other Major League teams — but none has access to infinite sums. The teams who have committed the most money from this point forward are the most likely to make advances towards premier free agents, or the most likely to lucratively extend their own young talents: these are the teams with money to spend. And yet, paradoxically, these same teams are in some ways the least likely to make the same advances: the outsized financial commitments they giddily made in the past could be the very thing that forces a team into conservative stewardship from here on out. The further we advance into the future, the more the severity of certain long-term contracts becomes apparent. That ink might as well be cast in concrete.

Tabulations courtesy of spotrac. Arbitration figures are not included because they are ultimately unknowable, and rookie contracts are not included because they are too small to be bothered with amidst this mighty storm of money.

2015: Los Angeles Dodgers — $200.5M

Player Cap Figure
Clayton Kershaw $32.5M
Zack Greinke $25.0M
Adrian Gonzalez $21.8M
Carl Crawford $21.3M
Matt Kemp $21.2M
Andre Ethier $18.0M
Dan Haren $10.0M
Brian Wilson $9.0M
Brandon League $8.5M
Juan Uribe $7.5M
Alexander Guerrero $6.5M
Yasiel Puig $6.2M
J.P. Howell $5.5M
Hyun-Jin Ryu $4.8M
Joel Peralta $2.5M

Also-Rans: New York Yankees, $171.7M / Los Angeles Angels, $143.2M / Boston Red Sox, $130.3M
Most Prudent: Houston Astros, $18.8M

Suddenly it becomes clear why the Dodgers have hired renowned small-market minds Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi: in all of their forthcoming transactions, the Dodgers must actually act like a small-market team. The Washington Nationals, who possess the tenth-largest stack of committed money, at $96.9M, don’t owe even half of the Dodgers’ awe-inspiring payroll. Even the second-place Yankees are trailing by the length of an ultramax free agent. Unless the Dodgers are primed to ramp up baseball’s talent markets to exponentially higher price, they no longer have the luxury to “outspend” their mistakes.

2016: New York Yankees – $170.7M

Player Cap Figure
C.C. Sabathia $25.0M
Mark Teixeira $23.1M
Masahiro Tanaka $22.0M
Jacoby Ellsbury $21.1M
Alex Rodriguez $21.0M
Brian McCann $17.0M
Carlos Beltran $15.0M
Brett Gardner $13.5M
Martin Prado $11.0M
Brendan Ryan $2.0M

Also-Rans: Los Angeles Dodgers, $165.5M / Los Angeles Angels, $128.1M / Detroit Tigers, $119.8M
Most Prudent: Miami Marlins, $9.0M

Behold the decaying colossus. All of the albatrosses who weighed down the Yankees in their ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of the 2014 playoffs will still be around in 2016. The Yankees missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the first time that’s happened since 1992 and 1993. While it’s felt like an aberration to not see the Yankees there, the above table shows that it will take some imaginative work to prevent it from becoming a trend.

2017: Los Angeles Dodgers – $168.0M

Player Cap Figure
Clayton Kershaw $35.5M
Zack Greinke $25.0M
Adrian Gonzalez $22.3M
Carl Crawford $21.8M
Matt Kemp $21.7M
Andre Ethier $18.0M
Yasiel Puig $8.2M
Hyun-Jun Ryu $7.8M
Alexander Gurrero $7.5M
Joel Peralta $2.5M (club option)

Also-Rans: Detroit Tigers, $106.8M / Texas Rangers, $99.1M / New York Yankees, $93.6M
Most Prudent: Houston Astros, $6.6M

While the Yankees slide into comparative salary relief, the Dodgers soar up to about 160% of the second-most-committed team’s salary. Even if the Dodgers just trotted out these nine men, this would have been the seventh-highest-paid team of 2014. Recent playoff contestants the Pittsburgh Pirates ($29.2M) and the Oakland A’s ($14.2M) enter amongst the ranks of the five most prudent teams.

2018: Los Angeles Dodgers – $140.2M

Player Cap Figure
Clayton Kershaw $35.5M
Zack Greinke $26.0M
Adrian Gonzalez $22.3M
Matt Kemp $21.7M
Andre Ethier $17.5M (club option)
Yasiel Puig $9.2M
Hyun-Jin Ryu $7.8M

Also-Rans: Detroit Tigers, $107.0M / Texas Rangers, $90.0M / Boston Red Sox, $82.2M
Most Prudent: Oakland A’s, $4.3M

This is the last time we see either of these two too-decadent teams, promise. Also keep in mind that the Dodgers will likely enter the arbitration process with Puig, as is discussed by Dave Cameron in his 2014 Trade Value Rankings — so the money that would be saved by declining Ethier’s option can assumed to be headed Puig’s way instead. What is striking me now is that the Texas Rangers are really in a precarious position. While the Dodgers and Yankees are spending perhaps a skosh more than they have to in order to field their above-average-but-not-elite teams, the Rangers have committed to the core of a last-place team deep, deep into the future.

2019 and 2020: Texas Rangers – $67.7M, $69.2M

Player 2019 Cap Figure 2020 Cap Figure
Prince Fielder $24.0M $24.0M
Shin-Soo Choo $21.0M $21.0M
Elvis Andrus $15.2M $15.2M
Martin Perez $7.5M $9.0M

2019 Also-Rans: Boston Red Sox, $67.4M / Los Angeles Angels, $62.0M / New York Yankees, $58.1M
2020 Also-Rans: Los Angeles Angels, $63.0M / Cincinnati Reds, $55.7M / Detroit Tigers, $52.0M

By signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval this week, the Red Sox are so close to the Rangers in 2019 committed salary that the distinction is surely washed away at income tax time. But mostly it would appear that the Rangers’ offseason from 2013-14 is singular in its catastrophe. The Dodgers and the Yankees have been well outpaced, and the Angels only rank so high because they will finally be compensating Mike Trout at a “fair” rate for his legendary production. By 2020, seven teams — including the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays — are on the books for $0.00.

2021: TIE – Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels – $30.0M

Player Cap Figure
Miguel Cabrera $30.0M
Albert Pujols $30.0M

Also-Rans: Miami Marlins, $29.0M / Cincinnati Reds, $25.0M / Seattle Mariners, $24.0M

These contracts should strike fear into your bones. The sheer length of the Pujols contract begins to become something other than an academic exercise. This is massive. Even Trout will be a free agent at this point, no doubt signing for billions of GalactaBucks in this brave baseball future. There are only 16 players under contract for this season, and none of them to the same team. Most interesting: with $13M owed first baseman Jon Singleton, the Astros have more money committed in 2021 than they do in 2017.

2022: Detroit Tigers – $32.0M

Player Cap Figure
Miguel Cabrera $32.0M

We are down to only six players under contract, now: Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Buster Posey, and Elvis Andrus. Snarky analysts send hologram recordings of themselves dancing while saying “Neener-neener! Told you so!” to dismayed Detroit executives.

2023: TIE – Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins – $32.0M

Player Cap Figure
Miguel Cabrera $32.0M
Giancarlo Stanton $32.0M

And now the ultimate moral of our story begins to reveal itself: the contract agreed to by Stanton and the Marlins is truly a behemoth. Of course this pronouncement must be tempered with the opt-out clause that exists in the contract at a date well before this one — but let’s use our imaginations for a second and believe that the Marlins will give Stanton reason to opt in. Posey enters the free-agent market before this season at age 35, seven World Series rings in his vault, and we are down to five players under contract.

2024-2028: Miami Marlins – $25.0M-$32.0M

Player 2024 Cap Figure 2025 Cap Figure 2026 Cap Figure 2027 Cap Figure 2028 Cap Figure
Giancarlo Stanton $32.0M $32.0M $29.0M $25.0M $25.0M

Andrus (age 35) and Cano (age 41) enter the free agent market before the 2024 season, leaving Votto ($20M), Cabrera ($30M), and Stanton. Before 2025, Votto (age 41) enters the free agent market after a season of .350 OBP in which he swings his bat on fifty total occasions. And finally, at the conclusion of the 2025 season, Cabrera (age 42) enters the free agent market after eight consecutive seasons (starting in 2018) in which he earns at least $30M. For comparison: the most-compensated baseball player of all-times, Alex Rodriguez, has only earned over $30M for three of his twenty Major League seasons. (Assuming neither signs another contract, A-Rod would still walk away with the most career salary, $527.9M to $433.1M.)

And for the 2026, 2027, and 2028 seasons, the Marlins don’t just owe the most salary of any team — they owe the only salary of any team. Considering their current status as the very most prudent team of 2016, this is a worst-to-first tale that is not yet heartwarming.

Miles Wray contributes sports commentary to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Ploughshares, The Classical and Hardwood Paroxysm. Follow him on Twitter @mileswray or email him here.

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7 years ago

“Considering their current status as the very most prudent team of 2016, this is a worst-to-first tale that is not yet heartwarming.”