Often times with looking at various teams around baseball and the vast differences in their payrolls it is hard to gauge who is truly risking it all to win. Often times we see a smaller market team make a huge free agent signing and that looks like they are risking everything to win now. Paying big salaries obviously increases the need for the team to win to pay them back to the owners but which teams really are risking it all. I took a look at the revenue numbers on Forbes again and compared them with salary numbers reported on CBS to find the answers.
What I found was actually a bit surprising. I looked at each teams salary and figured that as a percentage of total revenue. The mean for the league was 45.3% of revenue being spent on players salaries. Interestingly the Yankees with their huge payroll only come in slightly above average on there with a 46.8% rate. Being the team in the largest market with the largest fan base does pay dividends. Looking at some of the smaller market teams that are often considered to be paying beyond their markets I found that most fell pretty close to the 45.3% mark. Saint Louis for example came in at 47.9% showing that they really do have a dedicated fan base.
Teams that really surprised me the most came in well below the norm even though every year you hear about their troubles with not being able to afford to bring in any free agent help. San Diego for instance, just traded away Adrian Gonzalez because there was no way they could afford him but last year they only spent 24% on player salaries. Even resigning Gonzalez to the type of deal he will demand would have kept them below league average for risk. Pittsburgh, who have been in the cellar of the National League for nearly 2 decades risked only slightly more on their payroll with 24.1% of revenue being spent.
Now I do realize that there are other factors coming into play, stadium costs, front office salaries, etc., however I find it interesting to see how little these teams are truly risking. Obviously their payrolls could never come close to those of the Yankees, Mets, or Red Sox but perhaps they could spend a bit more to bring in some veteran help to guide their young clubs. Also, San Diego performed quite well last season while risking very little, which serves as evidence that risking money isn't the only way to win. But for the worn down fans of teams like Pittsburgh it might help breathe life into a once great baseball city.
In answer to the question who is risking the most, one team stands well beyond the rest, Detroit. Last season they spend an unbelievable 65.3% of total revenue on their players. To add insult to injury they finished 3rd in the AL Central with a record of 81-81. Risking that kind of money I sure would want a better return than a .500 club who didn't make the playoffs.