Hardcore Diamond Talk:
Building strong rotations doesn't require major spending
By Andy Roth
Where Politically Correct Opinions Get Rejected
New York, NY (Sports Network) - If you're a general manager operating with limited financial resources, it doesn't mean you can't build a starting rotation that will make you a playoff contender. We've seen plenty examples of that this season, with many of the top teams spending very little on their starters in comparison to the big-payroll clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. If you have a GM who knows pitching talent, you have a chance to put together a quality rotation without the benefit of being able to spend huge sums of money.
Every division has a playoff contender that's dishing out a lot less bucks on its starting staff than its competitor. Here's a closer look.
NEW YORK YANKEES: The defending champs have the best record in baseball, but also are spending the most money on their rotation. CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez, and Phil Hughes are costing the Steinbrenners $64 million this season. The Yankees are certainly not getting a good return on their money with Burnett (9-11, 4.80 ERA) earning $16.5 million and Vazquez (9-9, 5.05 ERA) $11.5 million.
TAMPA BAY RAYS: The Yankees "lead" Tampa Bay by $55 million in the cost of their rotation, but only have a marginal lead (one game) where it counts the most - in the standings. It's hard to believe that with the exception of Phi Hughes, every other Yankees starter is making more this season than the combined salaries ($9 million) of the entire Rays rotation. But anything is possible when you have a GM like Tampa Bay's Andrew Friedman, who is actually talented at spotting talent.
MINNESOTA TWINS: Minnesota has a five-game lead over the White Sox despite four of the six starters used in the rotation making less than $2 million this season. Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker have each won 11 games, and are costing the Twins just over $5 million. Meanwhile, Brian Duensing, who was inserted into the rotation in late July, is 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA while earning a mere $417,500.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy will earn $29 million dollars this season, which is more than double what the Twins will pay to their entire rotation. Enough said.
TEXAS RANGERS: CJ Wilson, Tommy Hunter, and Colby Lewis make up three-fifths of the Texas rotation at a cost of just over $5 million. That made it possible for the Rangers to acquire Cliff Lee and take on the additional salary that came with him. The Rangers really haven't been tested in the division this season, but I can't help but tip my cap to Athletics GM Billy Beane, who has done a tremendous job putting together a team that is just one game under .500, on the strength of a young starting rotation (Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro) that is costing the A's an unheard of $2 million. I don't know if I've ever seen as good a staff put together for so little money.
ATLANTA BRAVES: Atlanta is spending $15 million on Derek Lowe and $9 million on staff ace Tim Hudson, but less than a half-million each on Tommy Hanson (age 23), Jair Jurrjens (24), Kris Medlen (24), and Mike Minor (22). Credit former Braves GM John Scheurholz for selecting Hanson in the 22nd round and Medlen in the 10th, while current general manager Frank Wren stole Jurrjens from the Tigers by acquiring him in a trade in 2007 for then 32-year old shortstop Edgar Renteria. Wren also selected Minor with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: The defending NL Champs were already committed this season to pay Roy Halladay $15.75 million, Jamie Moyer $8 million, and Cole Hamels $6.65 million, when they dealt for Roy Oswalt and his $15 million salary. Despite outspending the Braves considerably for their starters, the Phillies still find themselves trailing Atlanta by 2 1/2 games.
CINCINNATI REDS: Most of the money the Reds are spending on their rotation is for two pitchers: Aaron Harang ($12.5 million) and Bronson Arroyo ($11.6 million). The other five starters this season (Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Mike Leake, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey) are all making under $1 million. All told, the Reds are paying out about $27 million.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: While Cincinnati has two starters making big money (and only one having a good season in Bronson Arroyo), St. Louis is getting very little back in return for Jeff Suppan ($12 million, 1-4, 4.14 ERA), Kyle Lohse ($9.18 million, 1-5, 6.79 ERA), and Brad Penny ($7.5 million, 3-4, 3.23 ERA). Those mistakes have been costly in the pocketbook and in the standings, where the Cardinals trail the first-place Reds by 3 1/2 games.
SAN DIEGO PADRES: San Diego is one of baseball's biggest stories this season, and one of the reasons is that the Padres have done so well spending so little. The rotation is costing them just under $10 million. The two biggest bargains are Mat Latos (13-5, 2.33 ERA), who is earning $407,800 and Clayton Richards (11-5, 3.69 ERA), who comes in at $423,000. They've also gotten great value out of free agent Jon Garland (12-8, 3.25 ERA) for $4.7 million.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: San Francisco has done a good job overall of putting together a solid rotation at a low cost, but is still paying a huge price for signing Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract following the 2006 season. Not only has Zito been a complete bust (39-51 record), but the remaining salary on his deal will continue to hamper the Giants for at least three more seasons.
Andy Roth covered the Yankees, Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.