If money matters in baseball, the Detroit Tigers clearly have the edge in the American League Central.
That comes as no surprise to most baseball observers, but diving into salary figures highlights the reality.
Highlights it like those signs on Times Square.
The five highest paid Tigers are Prince Fielder ($23 million in 2013), Miguel Cabrera ($21 million), Justin Verlander ($20 million), Victor Martinez ($13 million) and Torii Hunter ($12 million).
That’s a total of $89 million.
Which is more than the entire payroll of three teams in the American League Central: Cleveland ($82.3 million), Kansas City ($80.5 million) and Minnesota ($75.5 million).
That’s one of many factoids derived from the release of baseball’s salary figures by the Associated Press. The AP’s figures include prorated signing bonuses, and it discounted deferred payments to reflect present value.
AP highlighted the fact that Alex Rodriguez, at $29 million, will make more than the entire Houston Astros team at $24.3 million. (And Rodriguez might miss the entire season with a hip injury.)
But the Yankees actually have two players who will make more than the Astros: Rodriguez and recently acquired Vernon Wells, with CC Sabathia a couple hundred thousand behind.
The entire Yankees payroll is almost 10 times that of Houston’s.
The entire Dodgers payroll is nine times that of Houston’s.
The Yankees and Dodgers team payrolls are each more than double those of Cleveland and Cincinnati ($110.5 million).
Some other factoids:
• The highest paid player in Ohio is Joey Votto of the Reds, at $18.9 million.
• Votto has the third highest total contract in baseball at $251.5 million for 12 years.
• The highest paid Indian is Nick Swisher, $11 million.
• The Tigers keep on spending. Verlander just agreed to a $180 million extension, the biggest ever and $5 million more than Seattle gave Felix Hernandez.
• Cliff Lee will make $25 million this season. Sabathia will earn $24.3 million. Those two Cy Young winners who once were Indians now equal 60 percent of the Indians entire payroll this season.
• The Dodgers payroll went from $95 million in 2012 to $216 million. The Marlins — after tons of public money was spent for a lavish new stadium — went from $100 million to $39.6 million.
• The lowest spending teams in baseball are Houston, Miami, Tampa Bay ($66M), Pittsburgh ($68.6M) and Oakland ($71.6M). The highest spending teams are the Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies Red Sox and Tigers.
• The average salary in baseball will be $3.67 million.
• Of the Mets $90 million payroll, $17.5 million is for a settlement with outfielder Jason Bay. Meaning the Indians actual payroll is higher.
• The Indians starting second baseman and third baseman barely make a million combined. Jason Kipnis is at $509,000 and Lonnie Chisenhall at $492,000.
What do lower-payroll teams say about being a lower payroll team?
The typical stuff.
Winning doesn’t equal money, and money doesn’t guarantee winning.
“When we get on the baseball field with whomever the opponent is, they are not sitting there saying: `Well, their players make more money than us so therefore you’re deemed a winner and we’re deemed a loser,’” Astros manger Bo Porter told the AP.
New Indians manager Terry Francona swears he never talked payroll when he interviewed. He’s not unaware of the situation, but it wasn’t his focus. About the farthest he’ll go when equating money to winning is to say it lets teams cover up mistakes a little easier.
His attitude: If you can’t afford to make as many mistakes, don’t make them.
Tampa Bay is constantly used as an example of a team that doesn’t have a high payroll but does win. The Rays have averaged 92 wins the past five seasons, with at least 90 wins in four of them. In that time, they’ve had an average payroll of $57 million.
Cincinnati’s average payroll in that same time has been $78.5 million, with an average 84 wins per season.
Cleveland’s average payroll the past five seasons has been $67.4 million, with an average of 73 wins per year.
Francona doesn’t want to talk about money. He said his job is to win.