Panda Express
Joe Posnanski

Payroll is a reasonably stable percentage of revenue. There is variance on a team level with the new Dodgers ownership group throwing a lot of money at payroll and the new Astros ownership pocketing as much of the revenue as possible but by and large revenue predicts payroll whether it’s the Yankees or the Reds.

When the Cubs steal millions from Kris Bryant by having him “work on his defense” it’s a benefit to Cubs fans as those savings either by leveraging the extra year of control to pay him less on a long term contract or simply paying him less on one year contracts is likely to go to someone else and improve the team. It takes 172 days to have a year of service time and by an “incredible coincidence” Kris Bryant got 171 days of service time in 2015.

There was some backlash, especially from non-Cubs fan who don’t benefit, since the Cubs are going to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Kris Bryant through 2020 even if he was on the opening day roster like Albert Pujols in 2001, it seemed egregious to decide to rob Bryant through 2021.

Without even stealing a year from Pujols the Cardinals got pretty good value from his services. The MLBPA which represents both Kris Bryant and the player(s) who will be paid by the Cubs instead, doesn’t care who gets paid and only complains when teams like the Mets and Marlins simply don’t pay anyone out of insolvency and/or greed.

When Jason Heyward steals millions from the Cubs the fans care because paying Heyward means that someone else won’t be paid. January 21, 2011: Arte Moreno bails out the Blue Jays with a Vernon Wells for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera trade. February 17, 2011: Jose Bautista signs what ends up being a 6 year extension because the Jays pick up the option year.

That’s basically how payroll works, if the Jays are paying Vernon Wells they quite possibly aren’t paying Jose Bautista who was really good for those 6 years and Vernon Wells was not. The Jays were also on the other end of that, clearing out the Marlins payroll 2 years before they signed Giancarlo to a $325mil contract. If the Marlins are still paying Jose Reyes $70mil for 2015–17 + buyout do they sign Stanton? What about $50mil each to Dee Gordon and Yelich? Well it ends up being less than $50mil for Gordon because of a suspension but in theory that was guaranteed money.

MLB, NBA and NFL all pay their players a similar percentage of revenue. You can argue that they collectively deserve a bigger piece of the pie but to focus on Mike Trout, LeBron James or Aaron Rodgers being paid far less than their value ignores that paying them what they are “worth” would decimate their team. LeBron is certainly worth $52mil per year (what the Cavs pay LeBron and Love) and possibly even worth $70mil per year (also Kyrie) but if they pay LeBron $70mil per year his teammates will be 2 old guys chasing rings or D-League players on the minimum instead of Love and Kyrie.

So fans are going to focus on Jason Heyward, Pablo Sandoval, David Price, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Josh Hamilton as collecting money that could be going towards paying better players rather than worrying that if Aaron Judge doesn’t sign a long term contract he will make at most about $2mil total through 2019 no matter how well he plays.

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