Balanced payroll vs. $9 mil for Mora
I've copied the intro paragraphs below from a 4/1 WSJ article by Russell Adams titled "Leveling the Playing Field." Go to your local library to read the whole article. It's worth it. Could this reasoning have anything to do with the O's refusing to shell out big bucks for Mora?
CLEVELAND INDIANS pitcher Bob Wickman comes in at 8%, while his teammates, fellow pitchers Jake Westbrook and Jason Johnson, hover close by, at around 7%.
That's not their strikeout rate -- it's the percentage of the Indians' overall payroll that their salaries account for. The team, after shedding several of its priciest players -- and then using that money for cheaper acquisitions and to re-sign other key players -- are heading into this season with one of most balanced payrolls in the game: The team's five highest-paid players now account for just 46% of the team's total salary expenses, down from an already-low 52% a year ago.
In an era of skyrocketing salaries for star players, some major- league clubs are bucking the trend. Instead of paying big-name free agents huge sums and then struggling to make the remaining money stretch across their rosters, they are spreading out their payroll more evenly.
Witness the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, both of which will devote about half of their budgets to their five highest-paid players this season -- down from more than 60% last year. After doing extensive analysis of payroll distribution around the league, the Rangers have come up with a couple of new rules of thumb. One example: No single player should get more than 20% of the total payroll.
"History tells us that as exciting as those players are to watch play, their teams typically do not play in the postseason," says Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine. (His team is still paying part of the hefty salary tab for Alex Rodriguez, who was sent, along with his $252 million contract, to the New York Yankees before the 2004 season.)
Okay, Mora wasn't asking for A-Rod bucks, so signing him at $27 million wouldn't have stilted the payroll that much. But it still would have moved us away from payroll balance. (For comparison, the 3 Indians pitchers at the top each make between $2.75 and $4 million.)
Does it make sense to move us away from an unbalanced payroll for a guy beginning the declining years of his career? I agree with those in the Mora diary who think Mora overperformed in 2003 and 2004. When you look at his base performance indicators, his high BA and OPS were due to quite a bit of good luck. His 2005 numbers probably will be the ceiling from here on out. One good site projects his 2006 numbers at .269 BA, .338 OBP, .442 SLG, and .780 OPS. Is that worth $9 million?
So what would the O's look like with a balanced payroll? What about trading Mora and Javy during the season for young players who have some years left before free agency? I still don't know how we're going to fill our hole in the infield, though.