MLB trade-fest strengthens front-runners and disparity
MLB trade-fest strengthens front-runners and disparityPublished August 7, 2000
If baseball owners were worried about competitive balance before last week's trade deadline, they might not want to look at the transactions column in their local sports pages.
In a monthlong frenzy that saw almost seven dozen players change uniforms, a handful of teams with the biggest payrolls added even more muscle — and millions in salary — in an attempt to distance themselves from the field. In many cases, lower-revenue teams looking to unload salary were their willing partners.
The takers were led by the New York Yankees, who added four players and more than $15.5 million in average annual salary to a payroll that started the year at a major league-high $92.9 million (see chart).
The Yankees remain the only club above $100 million in payroll ($108.4 million), but the Los Angeles Dodgers ($95.9 million) and Atlanta Braves ($92 million) both eclipsed $90 million with acquisitions before the July 31 deadline. The Yankees' payroll is now almost seven times larger than the Minnesota Twins' league-low $16.5 million.
The rich are getting richer just two weeks after major league owners received a report from a panel of economic experts that showed that every World Series winner since 1995 had a top-five payroll.
The report also found that only one team not in the top five made the World Series (the San Diego Padres in 1998) and that none of the 158 playoff games played since 1995 was won by a club on the lower half of the payroll scale.
Television pundit and author George Will, one of four members of the committee that issued the report, said the disparities and their consequences on the field "were so bad that all four of us were surprised."
"Things have gotten steadily worse," Will said, adding that he did not believe owners were aware of how bad things were. "I think we've convinced them they have a terrible problem."
The panel recommended a 50 percent tax on payrolls above $84 million that would be distributed by Major League Baseball to help lower-revenue teams, and dramatic sharing of local income.
But selling the players association on the proposals — most are collective-bargaining issues — might be difficult, particularly after some of the teams adding payroll last week were among those reported to have lost money since 1995.
The Dodgers, who added $5.2 million in payroll, told the panel they have lost $77.3 million in the last five years, according to the report. The St. Louis Cardinals added $11.4 million in payroll and have lost $47.4 million.
They were joined by the Arizona Diamondbacks (added $1.65 million, lost $30.6 million), the Braves ($9.4 million, $6.88 million), New York Mets ($3.7 million, $40.6 million) and Boston Red Sox ($4 million, $5.4 million) as teams that added payroll but claim to be unprofitable.
The players association is not taking an official position on the report, but one union source said players would probably view the payroll tax as a salary cap, which is unacceptable.
THE RICH GET RICHER
Major League Baseball teams added players - and payroll costs- in July trades.
|New York Yankees|
|Salaries added||$16.75 million|
|Salaries traded||$1.24 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$108.448 million|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Salaries added||$10.154 million|
|Salaries traded||$4.95 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$95.929 million|
|Andy Ashby||$5.9 million|
|B.J. Surhoff||$4.33 million|
|Salaries added||$10.23 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$91.981 million|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Salaries added||$7.375 million|
|Salaries traded||$3.375 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$85.2 million|
|New York Mets|
|Salaries added||$3.943 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$83.493 million|
|Salaries added||$5.65 million|
|Salaries traded||$4.0 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$79.53 million|
|Salaries added||$10.275 million|
|Salaries traded||$7.72 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$79.063 million|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Salaries added||$13.0 million**|
|Salaries traded||$1.6 million|
|Adjusted 2000 player payroll||$75.393 million|
payroll is the average annual value of contracts owned by that team after
the July 31 trading deadline.
* The Cleveland Indians subsequently traded Ricky Ledee.
** The St. Louis Cardinals received an undisclosed sum of cash from the Baltimore Orioles in the deals for Mike Timlin and Will Clark.
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