With a new (partially) taxpayer-funded stadium set to open for the 50th year of Minnesota Twins baseball next year, all eyes will be on the franchise to see what players they lock up to long-term contracts (e.g. Joe Mauer), what players they acquire via trades or the free agency, and overall how much money the Pohlad family is going to invest in a franchise with a talented roster, but one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

The Twins franchise has been well-regarded by baseball analysts over the past decade for its low-payroll / high output business model that has been attributed to shrewd draft choices, a solid farm system, and crafty managing by Ron Gardenhire.

That model has produced one of the sleekest, most efficient franchises in baseball, which, according to a Smart Politics analysis, racked up the third most victories per dollar invested in player salary for the 2009 season.

The Twins scrapped their way into the playoffs with 87 victories this year, with the 7th lowest salary in baseball at $65.3 million.

At $750,566 per victory, that ranked third in baseball behind only the Florida Marlins (the Minnesota Twins of the National League) at just $423,379 per victory and the San Diego Padres at $583,123.

On the other side of the coin, the 2009 New York Mets franchise proved once again that simply spending lots of money on player personnel does not always translate into success. The Mets had the second highest salary in baseball, at $149.4 million, and also the highest dollars-per-victory ratio in the league, at $2.13 million per victory (or 2.8 times that of the Twins – who had 17 more victories).

Other ineffectual franchises with big payrolls this season include the Houston Astros at $1.39 million per victory (74 victories in 2009) and two division rivals of the Twins: the Cleveland Indians at $1.26 million per victory (65 victories) and the Chicago White Sox at $1.22 million per victory (and 79 victories).

However, the New York Yankees prove that if you spend enough money on a roster and lure in enough high profile free agents, success inevitably finds you (though this model did not pan out in 2008). In 2009, the Yankees spent a league high $201.4 million on its players. And while the team’s $1.96 million dollars spent per victory was the second highest ratio in MLB, the team led baseball with 103 victories and is one game away from winning yet another World Series.

Dollars Spent on Players’ Salary Per Victory Among Major League Baseball Franchises, 2009

Rank
Team
2009 payroll
Wins
Dollars per win
1
Florida Marlins
$36,834,000
87
$423,379
2
San Diego Padres
$43,734,200
75
$583,123
3
Minnesota Twins
$65,299,266
87
$750,566
4
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
$63,313,034
84
$753,727
5
Texas Rangers
$68,178,798
87
$783,664
6
Pittsburgh Pirates
$48,693,000
62
$785,371
7
Colorado Rockies
$75,201,000
92
$817,402
8
Oakland Athletics
$62,310,000
75
$830,800
9
St. Louis Cardinals
$77,605,109
91
$852,803
10
San Francisco Giants
$82,616,450
88
$938,823
11
Cincinnati Reds
$73,558,500
78
$943,058
12
Milwaukee Brewers
$80,182,502
80
$1,002,281
13
Washington Nationals
$60,328,000
59
$1,022,508
14
Baltimore Orioles
$67,101,666
64
$1,048,464
15
Arizona Diamondbacks
$73,516,666
70
$1,050,238
16
Los Angeles Dodgers
$100,414,592
95
$1,056,996
17
Toronto Blue Jags
$80,538,300
75
$1,073,844
18
Kansas City Royals
$70,519,333
65
$1,084,913
19
Atlanta Braves
$96,726,166
86
$1,124,723
20
Seattle Mariners
$98,904,166
85
$1,163,578
21
Los Angeles Angels
$113,709,000
97
$1,172,258
22
Philadelphia Phillies
$113,004,046
93
$1,215,097
23
Chicago White Sox
$96,068,500
79
$1,216,057
24
Cleveland Indians
$81,579,166
65
$1,255,064
25
Boston Red Sox
$121,745,999
95
$1,281,537
26
Detroit Tigers
$115,085,145
86
$1,338,199
27
Houston Astros
$102,996,414
74
$1,391,843
28
Chicago Cubs
$134,809,000
83
$1,624,205
29
New York Yankees
$201,449,189
103
$1,955,817
30
New York Mets
$149,373,987
70
$2,133,914

Note: The Minnesota Twins played (and won) an extra game (#163) at the end of the regular season. Without this victory the Twins would have been ranked #4 behind the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Source: USA Today Salaries Databases; data compiled by Smart Politics.

The Twins #3 ranking above is up from its #4 most “efficient” team ranking in baseball in 2008 – despite spending more than $100,000 less per victory in the ’08 season ($646,562). The Florida Marlins again set the pace by spending just $259,661 per victory en route to an 84 win season in 2008.

This signals one warning sign for the Twins, however, as they debate how much more money to spend on its players in the new era of the franchise at Target Field.

The Twins spent 16.0 percent more per victory in 2009 compared to the previous season, which was the 10th highest increase in baseball. The Twins ended up with one less victory in 2009, despite an increase in salary of $8.4 million.

With taxpayers expecting a higher payroll bankrolled by the Pohlads in 2010 and a higher victory tally for the team, the lingering question for the franchise is at what point does the law of diminishing returns begin to kick in, even for a team renowned for its smart investment in talent?

Other low-salary highly efficient teams such as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (+66.8) and the Florida Marlins (+63.1) experienced the greatest proportional increases in cost per victory from 2008 to 2009.

Percentage Change in Cost Per Victory Among Major League Baseball Franchises, 2008-2009

Rank
Team
2008
2009
% Change
1
San Diego Padres
$1,169,486
$583,123
-50.1
2
Seattle Mariners
$1,928,959
$1,163,578
-39.7
3
Detroit Tigers
$1,860,611
$1,338,199
-28.1
4
St. Louis Cardinals
$1,158,424
$852,803
-26.4
5
Los Angeles Dodgers
$1,411,768
$1,056,996
-25.1
6
Atlanta Braves
$1,421,746
$1,124,723
-20.9
7
New York Yankees
$2,349,231
$1,955,817
-16.7
8
Colorado Rockies
$927,777
$817,402
-11.9
9
San Francisco Giants
$1,063,813
$938,823
-11.7
10
Chicago White Sox
$1,361,678
$1,216,057
-10.7
11
Boston Red Sox
$1,404,106
$1,281,537
-8.7
12
Texas Rangers
$857,118
$783,664
-8.6
13
Cincinnati Reds
$1,001,590
$943,058
-5.8
14
Toronto Blue Jags
$1,137,138
$1,073,844
-5.6
15
Los Angeles Angels
$1,192,163
$1,172,258
-1.7
16
Baltimore Orioles
$988,180
$1,048,464
+6.1
17
Pittsburgh Pirates
$726,713
$785,371
+8.1
18
Washington Nationals
$931,542
$1,022,508
+9.8
19
Milwaukee Brewers
$899,306
$1,002,281
+11.5
20
Philadelphia Phillies
$1,068,151
$1,215,097
+13.8
21
Minnesota Twins
$646,963
$750,566
+16.0
22
Cleveland Indians
$974,939
$1,255,064
+28.7
23
Oakland Athletics
$639,562
$830,800
+29.9
24
Arizona Diamondbacks
$807,350
$1,050,238
+30.1
25
Chicago Cubs
$1,220,060
$1,624,205
+33.1
26
Houston Astros
$1,034,075
$1,391,843
+34.6
27
New York Mets
$1,548,240
$2,133,914
+37.8
28
Kansas City Royals
$776,607
$1,084,913
+39.7
29
Florida Marlins
$259,661
$423,379
+63.1
30
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
$451,759
$753,727
+66.8

Source: USA Today Salaries Databases; data compiled by Smart Politics.

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3 Comments

  1. Miss Mitten on November 3, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Until the MLB imposes a (reasonable) salary cap on all teams, there will never be an even playing field (so to speak) for smaller market teams like the Twins. That being said, we’ve done a pretty remarkable job with what little we’ve got, and that’s because the Twins are a team who’s heart is far greater than the contents of their wallets. Sincere love of the game and support of your fellow teammates goes a long way, and it certainly keeps fans like me rooting them on season after season.

    And while I, like all other Twins fans, am thrilled to soon experience Twins games in the new stadium, I have to admit to being a little worried about the loss of our “Metrodome Magic,” with or without any additional dollars spent on our roster. Only time will tell, eh?



  2. John P. on November 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    How about efficiency as measured by dollars spent per World Series win? I think you have to provide a viable contender or attendance plummets, and you have the Twins of the early 80’s. Then, revenue dollars per dollar spent drops and the owners start talking about moving the team again.
    There are lots of ways to measure efficiency. How “efficient” the Twins are, all depends what the denominator is.



  3. Clare on November 5, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    So we are third in “efficiency” and according to the other owners they weren’t making enough money in the old stadium and we MUST have a new one! Jerks!!!! All we were hearing was how bad the dome was and how we NEED outdoor playing. Go sit in a snowbank and cool it.