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Comparing NL Central payrolls

Following up on my previous financial works, I compare the Brewers payroll, and the ways that money is allocated, with the other NL Central teams.

Tom Lynn

Earlier this week Wendy Thurm over at FanGraphs released her two part piece on payrolls across MLB. In the first part she lists each clubs projected opening day payrolls. Then, in the second part she breaks down each payroll by where the money is going. If you haven't read her work yet, I strongly encourage you to read that before you finish reading this article. What she does is actually pretty close to what I did in my Brewers specific payroll article. I was actually working on an article much like what Thurm has produced. In fact, her article is pretty much exactly what I was working on, so I'm just scrapping that article. Instead I’ll just compare the Brewers’ percentages compared to the rest of baseball and specifically the NL Central based on her figures.

Before that, I need to explain about a few discrepancies between her figures for the Brewers and mine. She has the Brewers total payroll at $100.5 million. I have them at $96.375 million. We both used Cot’s Contracts for our salary information, but she relied heavily on their payroll obligations spreadsheet for 2014-2019. From what I can tell, she added up the guaranteed salaries and then assumed the rest of the 25 man roster would be filled out by pre-arb players. That’s exactly what I would have done since it’s really hard to know how a club one is unfamiliar with is going fill out all the nooks and crannies of the bullpen and the bench.

However, in the case of the Brewers, this leaves Mark Reynolds out. Because I follow the Brewers very closely, I know that he’s almost a lock to make the roster. She also factors Aramis Ramirez’s full $16 million salary into her projection. However, $6 million is deferred. This is either an understandable oversight or simply a different viewpoint that deferred money should be factored in. Finally, I included incentives in my payroll projection. When all of these things are factored in, her total payroll projection and mine are actually pretty close to each other.

When comparing our salary figures for the different team roles you’ll notice a large difference for the starting position players and the bench. As I mentioned before, Thurm uses Ramirez’s full salary while I discount his deferred amount. She also includes Rickie Weeks with the starters. I have Scooter Gennett as my starting second baseman. More importantly, I used a simple formula to account for the platoons at first and second. The strong sided platoon members (Gennett and Juan Francisco) have 70% of their salary count for the starting position players and 30% towards the bench. The inverse is true for the weak sided platoon members (Rickie Weeks and Mark Reynolds). That’s why my bench numbers are so much higher than hers. In her projection the bench is made up entirely of players making league minimum.

I’ll be using my figures and percentages for the Brewers to compare them to the rest of baseball. I think my numbers specific to the Brewers are more accurate, but I want to make one thing clear. I’m not at all suggesting Thurm did anything poorly or inaccurately. It’s important to understand that she was dealing with 30 different clubs and well over 700 players. If I were to write an article on the same subject matter I would have done it exactly as she did. That’s why I’ll be using her numbers for the rest of baseball. My Brewers substitutions are reflected in the "Rank Among MLB" sections. It should be noted, the Cubs percentages add up to around 75%. This is because the Cubs are still paying $14 million to Alfonso Soriano. Anyway, here are the comparisons:

Bullpen Total Rank Among MLB Payroll Percentage Rank Among MLB
Brewers $9,100,00 26th 9.00% 26th
Cardinals $13,00,000 17th 12.00% 22nd
Cubs $14,375,000 15th 16.20% 10th
Pirates $9,975,000 23rd 13.80% 17th
Reds $17,050,000 12th 17.00%


Bench Total Rank Among MLB Payroll Percentage Rank Among MLB
Brewers $11,116,667 3rd 11.50% 2nd
Cardinals $6,040,000 13th 5.60% 16th
Cubs $4,900,000 19th 5.50% 18th
Pirates $4,950,000 18th 6.90% 11th
Reds $6,360,000 10th 6.00%


Rotation Total Rank Among MLB Payroll Percentage Rank Among MLB
Brewers $37,925,000 8th 39.50% 2nd
Cardinals $28,875,000 15th 26.60% 18th
Cubs $29,245,000 14th 32.85% 10th
Pirates $23,000,000 20th 32.40% 12th
Reds $33,625,000 10th 31.70%


Line-Up Total Rank Among MLB Payroll Percentage Rank Among MLB
Brewers $38,233,333 21st 40,00% 22nd
Cardinals $57,900,000 13th 53.40% 7th
Cubs $18,892,857 29th 21.30% 30th
Pirates $33,425,333 25th 46.70% 17th
Reds $43,541,667 20th 41.10%