On this week’s edition of ‘Armchair GM’, we try to see what a World Series contending roster would look like with the smallest payroll in Major League Baseball. Currently, the Philadelphia Phillies 25-man roster payroll sits at $41.3 million. The largest 25-man payroll in the Majors? The Boston Red Sox at $198.5 million. So, the question is, how do we create a competing roster if limited to the Phillies’ current checkbook? The goal here is to spend the money we do have on elite talent under contract, and then try to find players in pre-arbitration whose contracts are not added into the 25-man payroll.
Statistics to reference
FanGraphs has an excellent database of different metrics and what they mean. On top of being a statistical database, FanGraphs also provides statistical projections for the 2018 season. Here are a few stats that I will be referencing regularly.
WAR: Wins Above Replacement. A general overview of how important/contributive a player is to their team in terms of wins.
wOBA: Weighted On-Base Average. wOBA measures a player’s offensive value by assigning a value to each possible outcome of a plate appearance.
wRC+: Weighted Runs Created Plus. This metric measures a player’s offensive production in terms of runs. wRC+ is also adjusted for park effects.
.AVG/.OBP/.SLG: The standard batting slash line for a player. Batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching. Metric that estimates a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the performance of their defense.
WHIP: Walks & Hits per Innings Pitched.
ERA: Earned Run Average. Average of the amount of earned runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings.
BsR: Base running.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez is projected to have a 3.3 WAR in 2018 with 118 wRC+. Sanchez is in pre-arbitration for 2018.
First Base: Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger is also in pre-arbitration and was one of the best first basemen/outfielders in 2017. Fangraphs projects Bellinger for a 4.1 WAR and 134 wRC+.
Second Base: Jose Altuve.
Here, we spend some money well worth spending. Altuve has just a $6 million contract and was the 2017 AL MVP. Altuve is projected to have a 5.6 WAR and a .318 batting average.
Third Base: Alex Bregman.
Another Houston Astro, Bregman is under pre-arbitration in 2018. Bregman is projected for a 3.7 WAR and 12.0 offensive rating.
Shortstop: Carlos Correa
Another Houston Astro in Carlos Correa (pre-arbitration). Fangraphs has Correa at a 5.7 WAR was 142 wRC+ for 2018.
Left Field: Andrew Benintendi.
Benintendi, also a pre-arbitration player, had a solid year in 2017 for the Red Sox. Look for him to potentially make an All-Star appearance in 2018.
Center Field: Christian Yelich.
Recently traded from Miami to Milwaukee, Yelich is on tap for $7 million in 2018. Yelich would make a great anchor in the outfield and worth his contract.
Right Field: Aaron Judge.
Last season, I was not sold on Judge due to his sheer amount of strikeouts. Still, Fangraphs projects a 4.8 WAR and 139 wRC+ for this season.
Corey Kluber: Kluber is sitting on $10.5 million for 2018 and is coming off of a stellar 2017. Fangraphs projects Kluber to have a 2.93 FIP in 2018.
Luis Severino: The young Yankees starter, still in pre-arbitration, is projected for a 3.13 ERA and 3.10 FIP in 2018.
Noah Syndergaard: Syndergaard will be paid $2.975 million this season. Despite his injuries, Syndergaard is still an All-Star caliber pitcher on a cheap contract that any and every team would want in a heartbeat.
Aaron Nola: The Phillies’ top man is in pre-arbitration is projected to have a 3.23 FIP and 1.17 WHIP in 2018.
Jimmy Nelson: Starting for the Brewers this year, Nelson is under contract for $3.7 million.
Keone Kela: Kela is projected to have a 2.74 FIP this season while under contract for $1.2 million.
Chad Green: The Yankees pitcher is in pre-arbitration and is looking at a 2.96 ERA for 2018.
AJ Minter: Minter will be in pre-arbitration for this season and is projected to have a 3.05 FIP.
Drew Steckinrider: Another pitcher in pre-arbitration, Steckinrider has a projected 3.08 ERA.
CJ Edwards: Edwards is another solid relief pitcher in pre-arbitration that would bolster a bullpen for a contending team.
Edwin Diaz: The Mariners’ reliever is in pre-arbitration and is projected to have a 3.23 FIP this season.
Trevor Hildenberger: Hildenberger is another pre-arbitration pitcher projected to have a sub-3.50 FIP in 2018.
Andrew Miller: My closer of choice, Andrew Miller is to be paid $9 million in 2018. Miller had just a 1.44 ERA last season and is projected to settle in at an astounding 2.08 in 2018.
Catcher: Austin Barnes.
Barnes is in pre-arbitration this season and is coming of a 2.5 WAR season in 2017.
Infield: Corey Seager.
Potentially the best shortstop in the National League last season, Seager is in pre-arbitration and would contend with Correa for the starting spot.
Infield: Miguel Sano.
The top infielder for the Twins is projected to have a 2.7 WAR in 2018 and is in pre-arbitration.
Outfield: Byron Buxton.
Another Twin, Buxton is in pre-arbitration and projected to have a 3.3 WAR this season.
After all 25 players, this roster adds up to roughly $40.437 million; leaving $931,333 left in our “salary cap”. Now, this is clearly something done for fun and not to be taken as “If it is this easy, why cannot my small market team compete?” It was simply interesting to see how a roster primarily filled with non-contract players would come to fruition. There is no doubt in my mind that this team could compete for a division and a World Series title.