When it comes to 40-man roster makeup, the numbers can sometimes be deceiving. The Boston Red Sox are four wins from winning the World Series. Yet according to rosterresource.com, the Orioles have more homegrown players on their 40-man roster than Boston, 18 to 15.
Of course, right now the Orioles have a roster of 44 per that website, counting players currently on the 60-man disabled list. That roster will be changing, presumably when the new regime is in place.
But this article from MLB.com looked at the roster makeup of the final four playoff teams in Boston, Houston, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They based the breakdown on production computing Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
The four teams combined got 38 percent of their WAR from trades, 29 percent from the draft, 16 percent from free agents, 10 percent from amateur free agents (which would include international amateurs), and 8 percent from other, which could have included acquisitions via waivers, the Rule 5 draft and other methods. If we can overlook for a moment that that adds up to 101 percent, it is interesting.
These numbers do not specifically reflect the homegrown players that were traded to acquire players for the major league team. This is another use of the farm system for any club. Minor leaguers, in effect, are always possible trade currency.
Boston dealt eight of its own players - acquired in the draft or on the international market - in separate deals for Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. Their pitching staff is not homegrown heavy - quite the opposite - although homegrown players may have been traded. Their staff added via trades Sale, Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, Nate Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly to name a few. They signed David Price as a free agent and Ryan Brasier from Japan. No Boston top draft picks in the bunch, although they sent Michael Kopech, a top draft pick, in the package of players to the Chicago White Sox to get Sale.
This is kind of the opposite of the Andy MacPhail philosophy of grow the arms and buy the bats. Boston did buy a great bat in J.D. Martinez. But all teams would love a homegrown outfield that included Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Also, rosterresource.com lists Boston with 31 players from the United States and nine from the international market, while the Orioles have a breakdown of 35 and nine.
What can we conclude from this? No absolutes and there is no one formula that leads to a winning team. But the draft and trades will often, maybe almost always, produce the bulk of a winning roster. And since the draft gives each team a shot at 40 players every June, it will always be critical to both produce homegrown players while also leading to important trades to fill out the roster.