The winners seven straight years of the NL West, the Dodgers today took on a ton of payroll, pushing them near the luxury tax of $208 million. They also got one of the best outfielders in the game, 27 year old Mookie Betts. The best team in the NL just got far better. By contrast, the Pirates signed a 16 year old prospect in Australia perhaps with international signing money from giving up their best outfielder in Starling Marte.
There is no chance of the Pirates at about one-fifth of the Dodgers payroll winning the National League. So, really, what’s the point?
In case you needed proof, here is a correlation between spending and winning. This helpful chart from Clayton Lukes makes it clear:
It’s not just the Pirates. Here is are all the teams that have won the World Series in the last ten years, with my markers of their championship-winning seasons. If the Pirates were willing to maintain even a $100m payroll this could even be used to justify not keeping pace with the (despite their spending wait-until-next-year) Dodgers. But you can’t be under 40%.
Lukes’ chart is very flexible (enough to get me to download Tableau!)…and damning. I’m not sure the point at which a team’s payroll for the year is calculated because I recall teams in the hunt often adding significant free agents at the deadline – the Cubs and Astros in ’16 and ’17 certainly, which might pull their dots north on these scatterplots.