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BALLPARK FIGURES

The World Series will feature the most expensive matchup of rosters ever

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
It’s money that matters.
  • Oliver Staley
By Oliver Staley

Business & culture editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It wasn’t long ago that the low-payroll Kansas City Royals played in two World Series in a row, proving that smart talent acquisition and strategy could counter big-market teams with high-priced players.

That two-year window in 2014-2015 is increasingly looking like an anomaly. Big budget teams are back in fashion, and this year’s World Series will feature the highest aggregate payroll since at least 1985. The Boston Red Sox (2018 payroll: $222.2 million according to Baseball-Reference) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($164.7 million) are paying their players a combined $386.9 million. Boston has three players who earned more than $20 million for the 2018 season—David Price , J.D. Martinez, and Rick Porcello—while Los Angeles has two: Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who is scheduled to make a healthy $35.6 million, the most in Major League Baseball.

(Note that there are no data for 1994, because a player’s strike caused the cancellation of that year’s World Series. Sorry, Expos fans)

While 2018’s combined World Series payroll is the highest since 1985 (the starting point for Baseball-Reference’s data) in absolute terms, it’s not the highest ever relative to other teams. The combined payroll of the 2018 Dodgers and Red Sox represents 9.7% of the payrolls of all 30 Major League Baseball teams, which makes it just the seventh-richest pairing. The spendiest? The 2009 series, which featured a New York Yankees team (payroll: $210 million) that had just splurged on free agents Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, and the Philadelphia Phillies ($115 million), a team with its own roster of well-paid veterans.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 10 of the 11 richest pairings compared to other teams include either the Yankees or the Red Sox, rivals in big markets locked in a fierce arms race. Depending on what teams land free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado—both poised to join the $30 million club next season—next year’s pairing may be closer to the top of the table.

2009
New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies
11.7%
1999
New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves
10.7%
2000
New York Yankees vs. New York Mets
10.2%
2004
Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals
10.2%
1996
New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves
10.1%
2001
New York Yankees vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
10.0%
2018
Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
9.7%
2003
New York Yankees vs. Florida Marlins
9.5%
2013
Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals
9.1%
2017
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
9.0%
1998
New York Yankees vs. San Diego Padres
8.8%
1997
Cleveland Indians vs. Florida Marlins
8.7%
1993
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Atlanta Braves
8.6%
1987
Boston Red Sox vs. New York Mets
8.4%
1995
Cleveland Indians vs. Atlanta Braves
8.4%
2012
Detroit Tigers vs. San Francisco Giants
8.4%
2007
Boston Red Sox vs. Colorado Rockies
7.9%
1994
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Philadelphia Phillies
7.8%
1989
Oakland Athletics vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
7.5%
2014
Kansas City Royals vs. San Francisco Giants
7.5%
1986
Kansas City Royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
7.3%
2006
Detroit Tigers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
7.3%
1990
Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants
7.2%
2016
Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago Cubs
7.2%
2002
Anaheim Angels vs. San Francisco Giants
6.9%
2005
Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros
6.9%
2011
Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
6.9%
1991
Oakland Athletics vs. Cincinnati Reds
6.5%
1988
Minnesota Twins vs. St. Louis Cardinals
6.4%
2015
Kansas City Royals vs. New York Mets
6.0%
1992
Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves
5.9%
2010
Texas Rangers vs. San Francisco Giants
5.6%
2008
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies
5.3%

 

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