After a 100-loss season, you might be, like, wow, were the Chicago White Sox good at anything in 2018?
Why yes, yes they were. They were really good at not spending money.
Associated Press figures digested through Forbes on Tuesday revealed that the White Sox finished dead last in total payroll last season. Yep, that’s less payroll than the endlessly-maligned, pennypinching Tampa Bay Rays, as well as the Oakland A’s, Pittsburgh Pirates and ... oh lord, you must be kidding ... Miami Marlins.
Even more embarrassing: It wasn’t even close.
AP uses more than mere 25- or 40-man roster salaries to determine total payroll; also included is a general $14 million for each team’s benefits commitments, as well as many other incidentals, including insurance payments, meal money, and so on.
The White Sox tipped the scale with a total payroll of just $82,889,649, spending almost $13 million less than the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s just 86.7% of the Tampa Bay Rays payroll.
The White Sox were one of just three teams (also Tampa Bay and Oakland) to spend less than $100 million on their teams.
The club spent $17,987,891 less on payroll than it did in 2017, the seventh-biggest drop in all of baseball. As a function of payroll percentage rather than total dollars, only four teams — Miami (43.3%), the Kansas City Royals (40.2%), Detroit Tigers (53.1%) and Los Angeles Dodgers (29.9%) — slashed payroll by a bigger percentage than the White Sox (21.7%).
(How sickening is it that three of the five biggest payroll slashers in baseball all reside in the AL Central?)
Big picture, the White Sox’s wallet lock is reflective of a league as a whole, which in 2018 spent less on salaries than the previous season for the first time since 2010.
As a function of per-player (40-man) spending, the top-spending Boston Red Sox paid $5,987,044 per player, while the other Sox were nearly tripled, spending just $2,072,241 per. You might recall that the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series. The White Sox did not.
And yeah, yeah, I know: Quit your bitching, baby — the White Sox are rebuilding!
OK, gotcha. In their misguided wisdom, the Baltimore Orioles slashed 21% of payroll but still owned the 17th-biggest payroll in baseball — while being the very worst team in the sport. So one team, at least, unquestionably did a worse job than the White Sox in 2018.
But look at the other two clubs with sub-nine figure payrolls, Tampa Bay and Oakland. Despite spending significantly less money than those two, Chicago put up $1,336,930 per win in 2018. The Rays? $1,061,870. The A’s? $994,618.
Besides, the company we’re keeping in the eight-figure club are two small media markets, with lousy-ballparked, retool-on-the-fly teams. Is this the company that a team in the Chicago market should be keeping? A solid round of raspberries is due for such a tumble.
Sorry, I understand this is a bit of dogging on the White Sox at a time when we’re all feeling sunnier about the future, and excited about the apparent loosening of purse strings. The good news? The White Sox should be checking out of the Motel 6, and most definitely not be 30th in payroll, in 2019.
But with an eye toward Baltimore and K.C. last year, that additional money needs to be spent wisely. At the moment, the $20ish million additions of Iván Nova, James McCann and Yonder Alonso don’t seem to put the White Sox in line with a representative uptick in wins.
A year from now, when the AP and Forbes drag the dirty digits out again, we’ll know for sure.