Baltimore Orioles: Winning the MLB Payroll Battle for the Bottom
It’s a good chance the Baltimore Orioles won’t win many games in the 2020 season, if it ever gets started.
But, there is one battle the Baltimore Orioles are winning: the payroll battle. The Baltimore Orioles officially have the lowest payroll in the MLB.
And, that’s not necessarily a stat to be too proud of, especially when looking at who is eating up the majority of it.
By the Numbers
Looking at the numbers on Sportrac’s Payroll Tracker, the Orioles are officially at the bottom with a 2020 payroll of $46.3 million. Fortunately, for the Orioles, it does not include any outstanding money owed to players on other teams.
This is not the case for teams with lower active roster payrolls, like the Marlins and Pirates. Looking at their rosters, the Marlins owe $37.4 million and the Bucs owe $41.6, but the Marlins are still paying $10 million to Wei-Yin Chen and the Bucs are still paying Starling Marte and a few other players.
Percentages and Salaries
It’s tough for a team at the bottom of the payroll list to be a contender. The Rays and A’s have been successful at minimal salaries, but not the Orioles.
The Rays and A’s have been successful because they’ve been able to spread their money evenly. For example, the Rays are sitting in the 27th spot on Sportrac’s list. Their highest paid players are Charlie Morton, Kevin Kiermaier, and Blake Snell, who eat up about $33 million of the $58 million payroll. Those three players make up 55% of the payroll.
The A’s are in the 24th spot on the list with a payroll of $86.8 million. Their highest paid players include Khris Davis, Marcus Semien, and Joakim Soria. Combined, these players make $38.2 million, and eat up 44% of the salary.
Spreading It Thin
Then, there’s the Orioles, where a little is spread thinly. At the top of the list are Chris Davis and Alex Cobb, who combine to eat up over $30 million of the $46.3 million. This is 66% of the payroll list. Only five other players cross into seven figures, and most of the others only make around league minimum. This leaves $16 million for the other 26 men on the list. Ouch.
Only one other team is a similar position. The Detroit Tigers were once at the top of the payroll heap, but have cut significantly to end up at $94.1 million to start the season. Their highest paid players Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann will make $55 million combined, and take up 58% of the role.
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The top of the pile should come as no surprise. The top five teams include the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Cubs, and Red Sox. The highest paid player, Mike Trout, only makes up 22% of the Angels payroll, but they also have Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, and Justin Upton in their ranks. The Yankees will pay over $246 million to their players this year; their payroll is more than five times that of the Orioles.
Making Room for the Future
While sitting at the bottom is not something to brag about, it does offer some hope to Orioles fans. This means the Birds have some money to spend. After 2020, the Orioles only have two more years to overpay Davis, and Cobb drops off the payroll after 2021. Hopefully, some of the prospects will pan out, and maybe, just maybe, the Orioles will get their hands on some top free agents.
Until that day comes, that microscopic MLB payroll gives the Orioles something to be proud of – at least until the season starts and the effects start to show. Teams with low payroll can only exceed expectations. I wonder if the Yankees will win five-times more games than the Birds? Only time will tell.