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Can a top-heavy team take a title?

Peeking into the numbers behind a potential Machado signing

MLB: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers
Cold stove conundrum: “Hey Manny, I don’t know why you haven’t got paid yet, either!”
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, and it is no secret that they are trying to land big-time free agent Manny Machado. But if they were to land one of these guys, how would their payroll compare to past World Series winners?

If they signed Machado, the average annual value (AAV) of his contract could be in the ballpark of $30 million. This would put the White Sox in their own territory in terms of income inequality between their highest paid player compared to the rest of the team. Spotrac projects the White Sox’s 2019 payroll to be $80.2 million, which means a Machado salary would be $30 million of a $110.2 million total, or about 27%. In recent history, World Series champions never have committed close to that percentage of total payroll to one player. Since 2000, the largest commitment that a World Series champion has made to one player was 22%, by the 2003 Florida Marlins to Ivan Rodriguez.

Another factor to consider is how much of a “weak link” sport baseball is. In other words, it is not as driven by superstars as, say, basketball.

A counterargument is that just the White Sox have a very low payroll, and a roster that is clearly not ready to contend for playoffs at the moment. They most likely will not be competing for a playoff spot in 2019, even after adding a premium free agent. Their roster on Opening Day this season will be far from the finished project needed to make a run at a World Series.

Before the White Sox are expected to compete for a playoff spot, they would still have time to add veterans to fill gaps that the prospects cannot. As a result, if their commitment to one player dwarfs that of recent World Series winners, that should not be a cause for concern in the short run.

On the other hand, if the front office decides to rest after this signing and solely trusts internal sources to fill the void, that would be a cause for concern. Even successful teams led by homegrown players have also had to rely on veterans, and in all likelihood, adding one premium free agent to these White Sox would not be enough.