More on Payroll, Free Agency


Yesterday, I attempted to explain a bit about why the Reds do not delve too much into the world of free agency. Today, we’ll look at how the Reds compare payroll-wise to the other 29 teams in MLB.

Upon viewing the list on the website The Biz of Baseball, one aspect that can grab your immediate attention is that compared to the highest payroll in baseball, held by the New York Yankees with $206,333,389 on opening day in 2010, the Reds money owed players on the same date was $71,731,542. Almost one-third of the Yankees payroll. Yet, the Reds made the postseason as well as the Yankees.

Compared to the World Series Champs San Francisco Giants, who held an opening day payroll of $98,641,333 and rank 9th in payroll, the Reds still appear to pale in the payroll world. They do…sort of.

Remember this from yesterday?

1. Chicago (3rd overall)
2. Houston (10th overall)
3. St. Louis (21st overall)
4. Pittsburgh (23rd overall)
5. Cincinnati (33rd overall)
6. Milwaukee (35th overall)

We’re going to do a bit of an overhaul on it. That listing was only for the TV markets for the NL Central clubs. We’ll expand on that to include the market ranks of MLB cities and payroll ranking for 2010 opening day.

1. Chicago (3rd overall market, 3rd ranked MLB market*, 3rd in payroll – $146,609,000)
2. Houston (10th overall market, 10th ranked MLB market*, 13th in payroll – $92,355,500)
3. St. Louis (21st overall market, 19th ranked MLB market*, 12th in payroll – $93,540,751)
4. Pittsburgh (23rd overall market, 20th ranked MLB market*, 30th in payroll – $34,943,000)
5. Cincinnati (33rd overall market, 24th ranked MLB market*, 20th in payroll – $71,761,542)
6. Milwaukee (35th overall market, 25th ranked MLB market*, 18th in payroll – $81,108,278)
* – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Fran/Oakland have 2 teams within their defined Nielsen markets. Toronto is not listed. (no offense, Jays fans)

Compare market size rank to payroll rank. The Reds are positioned a slight bit ahead of a self-created “comparison curve” here (24th market/20th payroll).

If you recall my bit about how the size of the market can dictate the pricing of the broadcasting rights, etc., you can understand how the Chicago Cubs can hold such a vast payroll “advantage” over their divisional rivals. A large market will be more attractive to a “big name” player (more fans, more chances for local endorsements meaning more dollars). And don’t think for one moment that agents do not use the “larger market” strategy as leverage between their clients and/or teams. A larger market team will appear to hold even greater advantages besides the money that can be offered.

And attendance matters, too. ESPN provides us a listing of home attendance for MLB. For the majority of the end of last season, Reds fans were getting jostled (locally and nationally) about not showing up at Great American Ball Park to watch the team. The main source of income for a team is gate receipts. Low attendance means less money. The Reds drew an estimated 2,060,551 which ranked 12th among NL teams and 20th overall. Again, slightly ahead of market ranking, but right on par with payroll ranking (24th market/20th payroll/20th attendance).

Sure we Reds fans all want the Reds to be able to at least make a play for top-notch free agents. But there’s proof here as to why the Reds are not persistent on the matter. It’s simple actually. If the Reds were to sign a major player or two, the rest of the roster would suffer due to the limitations that payroll would hold.

It begs to question: Would you rather have one superstar or many stars?