In major leagues, you need both dollars and sense to win

Each year in October, it is interesting to see if the clubs that advanced to the playoffs are the teams spending the most money on players. As is often the case and again this year, the answer is no.

There is no question that having a big payroll is an advantage. How can having the ability to outspend your competitors not be? But having a big payroll is just not a requirement to having a winning ballclub.

According to Spotrac and using team cash payroll spending, the World Series will be won either by the club that spends the most in the majors or the team that ranks No. 17. The Dodgers have spent $229 million on players this year, while the Astros come in well down the list at $137 million.

Per Spotrac, five of the 10 playoff teams rank in the top 15 of major league spenders and five rank in the bottom 15. Just four playoff teams ranked among the top 10 spending teams. Six of the top nine spending teams did not make the playoffs.

toronto-baseballs.jpgThe six among the top 10 that didn’t make the postseason ranked No. 3 (Giants), No. 4 (Tigers), No. 6 (Blue Jays), No. 7 (Mariners), No. 8 (Rangers) and No. 9 (Angels).

Here is where the 10 teams that made the playoffs ranked: No. 1 (Dodgers), No. 2 (Yankees), No. 5 (Red Sox), No. 10 (Nationals), No. 12 (Cubs), No. 16 (Rockies), No. 17 (Astros), No. 18 (Indians), No. 19 (Twins) and No. 25 (Diamondbacks).

Sportrac lists the Orioles at No. 11 with a payroll of $160.5 million.

Even though the Dodgers top all teams in spending, it would be unfair and inaccurate to say they bought a winning team. Their key players do not include any that were signed via a big-dollar free agent contract. They drafted \ players like Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager in the first round and selected Cody Bellinger in the fourth round. Three of their four scheduled starting pitchers in the World Series - Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood - were acquired via trades.

Of course, the Dodgers signed Kershaw to a seven-year deal worth $215 million that runs through 2020. It took some spending power to do that.

As for Houston, some of the Astros’ keys players - like Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. - were draft picks. Jose Altuve was signed out of Venezuela as an international amateur. We certainly can’t say the Astros are good because of spending ability. Both of the World Series teams made a lot of solid moves along the way to get here.

My conclusion when it comes to spending is that you don’t have to have a huge payroll to win. It doesn’t hurt and big spenders can get away with more mistakes when handing out large contracts. Such mistakes can cripple mid-to-small market teams. But plenty of teams win a lot of games and make the postseason without huge payrolls.

Since 2012, the Orioles seem to have done mostly just fine competing with the big-dollar boys in New York and Boston. We will see how that plays out the next few years, as both clubs were back in the playoffs together this year. As they look to the future, they both have solid farm systems and dollars to spend. It is a strong one-two punch.

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