Baseball's Biggest Spenders Sent Packing in Postseason

The biggest spenders in Major League Baseball will be watching the rest of the postseason on television.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the highest payroll in baseball, spent well more than double what the New York Mets paid their players this season. Yet the Mets defeated the Dodgers in the National League Division Series on Thursday, leaving the playoffs with just one of the league’s top 10 teams in payroll.

Under the ownership of Guggenheim Baseball Management, which counts Magic Johnson among its partners, the Dodgers’ payroll swelled to over $273 million this season based on data compiled by the Associated Press. The Dodgers topped MLB’s luxury-tax threshold for a third straight year, leading to another $40 million or so in expenses. Any club over the threshold must pay a fine of 17.5% to 50% for every dollar spent past $189 million.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees spent the second-highest total, an estimated $219 million, and were knocked out in the AL Wild Card Game. The Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim each spent more than $150 million and failed to get to the postseason altogether.

This season’s pennant-chasing clubs are a rare bunch. With the Dodgers eliminated by the Mets, 2015 marks just the third time in the last 30 years that the eight highest-paid teams all failed to reach the American League or National League Championship Series, according to ESPN.

Out of four remaining teams, the Toronto Blue Jays have the highest payroll. The Blue Jays sported a payroll of $123 million at the start of the season, good for 10th place among all 30 franchises. Toronto’s ALCS counterpart, the Kansas City Royals, had an Opening Day payroll of $114 million.

Teams like the Blue Jays and Royals also added salary at the July 31 trade deadline. Toronto booked the fourth-largest net gain in payroll through mid-season deals, while the Mets were second behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At $101 million, the Mets spent less than the Cubs, Blue Jays or Royals. Chicago’s payroll was $119 million to start the year. The Mets won a decisive Game 5 in Los Angeles and advanced to the NLCS to face the Chicago Cubs—winners of a NLDS matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals—for a chance to play in the World Series.

The Cardinals began the season ranked 11th in payroll at $120 million. Pittsburgh was the second-most efficient baseball club, winning 98 games with a starting payroll of $88 million. The Pirates lost the winner-take-all NL Wild Card Game to the Cubs.

In the AL, the Houston Astros and its $71 million payroll survived the Wild Card Game against the Yankees, although they ultimately fell to Kansas City in the divisional round. The Texas Rangers spent more than $142 million, third-most among postseason teams, but lost to Toronto.

No matter which team emerges as World Series champion, it is guaranteed to end a long drought. The Cubs (1908), Royals (1985), Mets (1986) and Blue Jays (1993) have not won a title in years.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers as Guggenheim Partners. The name of the Dodgers' ownership group is Guggenheim Baseball Management.