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A Matter Of Baseball Economics

Aaron Judge & Anthony Rizzo in Yankees Spring Camp - Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports - 2/23/2023

NEW YORK– Baseball and economics go together and tell me what was more significant during this historic spending offseason of a spending spree? I can envision more of this historic spending in years to come.

And with the players and owners working without a salary cap, so different from the other major sports leagues, there is every reason to understand, realistically more, the first $400 or $500 million contract granted to a player.

Don’t want to rush the calendar, I certainly don’t. But with spring training games this weekend, the World Baseball Classic in a matter of days, Opening Day is closing in, and so does the economics of baseball dictate where teams will stand in late September.

I have always said baseball economics is a matter of the Haves And Have Nots, and that applies to Mets owner Steve Cohen, a record offseason of spending ($498.1 million) of free agents. The Mets have the largest payroll in baseball and the owner is committed to non stop spending.

The Haves of Steve Cohen and signing veteran Cy Young Award pitcher, Justin Verlander (2-years, $43.3 AAV). Edwin Díaz is the long term closer with a record breaking contract, Brandon Nimmo the homegrown centerfielder was re-signed, just to name a few components of the spending spree.

Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo, who signed a 8-year/$162 million contract with Mets this offseason – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

A Mets owner who defended a spending spree this week with his team closing in on Opening Day and doing nothing wrong. He will pay a Competitive Balance Tax that could exceed $100 million. The Mets spending spree is expected to meet with October baseball, though between now and then are the reasons they play a 162 game regular season.

Yet, the competitive structure of baseball is dictated with those Haves and Have Nots. Cohen can spend, the Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, and Padres also. So, too. can the Angels if they choose to go that route.

The Pirates, Reds, Rockies, and the always MoneyBall Athletics are in that so-called Have Nots territory, though they choose to remain in that low budget tier with awkward spending habits, a disparity but accepted with the new rules of baseball economics.

Consider this: Free Agents (41), Total ($785,900,000), Average ($19,168,293).

I certainly chose the wrong profession. Then again, this is baseball economics and far from those days of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his “Evil Empire” of buying a championship in the Bronx. Regardless, you look at the rosters and notice some of the premiere contracts belong to an elite group of position players and pitchers of Latino descent.

Carlos Rodón in Yankees Spring Camp (Recipient of 2021 NL Latino MVP Starting Pitcher Award) – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports – 2/22/2023

The complexion of teams has changed. Because I am intrigued, as a baseball writer, it was a matter of dollars and cents and what teams improved via the free agent market or soon to be extinct offseason trade:

American League: 

Texas Rangers: Jacob DeGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, Jake Odorizzi ($263 million combined

Toronto Blue Jays: Chris Bassitt, Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Belt 

New York Yankees: Carlos Rodón ($162 million/six-years), Aaron Judge ($360 million/nine-years)

Minnesota Twins: Carlos Correa (Re-signed $200 million/six years)

National League: 

San Diego Padres: Xander Bogaerts ($300 million/11 years), Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Matt Carpenter

Philadelphia Phillies: Trea Turner ($300 million/11 years), Gregory Soto, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Strahm

New York Mets: $498 million spent by owner Steve Cohen

“When I do something, I don’t do it halfway,” Cohen said. “When I’m in, I’m all in, I don’t accept mediocrity well. And I do have a certain high expectation. It requires me to invest in this club, I’m Going to do it.”

Or the Chicago Cubs with nine free agents to contracts with $300 million or more ($177 million of it to shortstop Dansby Swanson).

New shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, Dansby Swanson – Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

So there are more and too detailed to list here. Then again, I am not a researcher or baseball economist. I prefer to write about the teams and analyze as the season progresses. I am sure you can understand my strategy opposed to the owners and GM’s of 30 MLB teams all eyeing the same thing.

Oh not all because there are the Reds, Pirates, Rockies, Pirates, and a few more that rather build within their farm systems and not toy with the bonanza of free agency.

Pittsburgh Pirates superstar shortstop Oneil Cruz – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

In no particular order my best free agent signings of the offseason:
– Aaron Judge (Yankees)
– Trea Turner (Phillies)
– Carlos Correa (Twins)
– Carlos Rodón (Yankees)
– Xander Bogaerts (Padres)
– José Abreu (Astros)
– Dansby Swanson (Cubs)
– Jacob DeGrom (Rangers)

Ultimately though, the process is providing that building block and revolving around that spending spree but I will always admire the route of developing a farm system and keeping the payroll to something more reasonable as a priority.

Then again, I am the purist. Baseball and the economics of this game have changed.

Rich Mancuso is co editor and senior writer Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube

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