How much should the Cardinals spend on salaries this year? The President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak has made comments stating he expects that number to be close to last year’s peak before the sell-off at the trade deadline. That is reported to be near the $200 million dollar range. Spotrac lists the total salary paid last year as $153 million. According to the fans, they think it should be a lot more.
Where should we start? According to Statista.com, The Cardinals are the tenth most valuable MLB franchise with a value of over 2.5 billion dollars. The tenth-highest payroll last year was the Atlanta Braves with 206 million.
Should it be based on ticket prices? The Cardinals have the seventh-highest ticket prices in the league. The Astros had the seventh-highest payroll at $237 million.
Should it be up to the luxury tax threshold? This year it is $237 million dollars.
Maybe we should just calculate a percentage of revenue. In 2022 they had $358 million dollars in revenue. There was only one year in their history in which they had a higher number. They ranked 13th in revenue in 2022. The thirteenth-highest payroll was the Red Sox at $182 million, or $29 million more than the Cardinals. In 2022 the Cardinals ranked number 14 in spending as a percentage of revenue.
I think the fairest way to lock in the amount to spend on the Cardinals’ payroll might just be to tie it to John Mozeliak’s salary. MoneyInc.com has Mozeliak listed as the fourth highest-paid GM in the league. In 2023 the fourth-highest payroll was the Texas Rangers at $251 million.
This is not to imply that the amount of spending automatically makes you a great team. The top three spenders last year were the Mets, Yankees, and Padres and it didn’t help them. However, the team with the fourth-highest payroll won the whole thing.
While the amount of spending may not be important, there is one category that just jumped off my spreadsheet. The last four teams standing last year were the Rangers, Orioles, Diamondbacks, and the Phillies. I hear you screaming that the Orioles and the Diamondbacks were near the bottom of the list when it came to payroll and you would be correct. However, if you take the time to just dig a bit deeper you will find something that the Cardinals should take a very close look at.
Again, using Spotrac numbers the three teams that increased their salaries in 2023 over 2022 more than all the other teams in the league were, in order, the Rangers, the Orioles, and the Diamondbacks. The Phillies were already the fourth-highest payroll in the league in 2022. Each of those teams saw they were close and went for it with a huge increase in spending.
What is frustrating for most fans is the Cardinals had one of the worst records in the league last year and it looks like they are to this point spending less. If this team is serious about winning and truly believes they are close to being winners again, maybe they should start the process by looking at the winners from last year.