This has been a pretty bare year for free agency. Aside from Greinke and Hamilton, there haven’t really been the impact talents available like in previous years. That’s only going to get worse.
However, there is something interesting to note. For under $150 million, a GM could have signed an entire 25-man roster out of free agents and won over 100 games. Here is that list.
That’s $143.81 (the midpoint, almost exactly, between #5 and #6 in payrolls last year[Tigers and Rangers]) million, and 54.8 bWAR (good for 103.8 projected wins).
Clearly, this is an onerous undertaking even considering. You’re on the hook for the Pujols’ contract as well as Papelbon, though it’s interesting to note that those are really your only 2 incredibly bad contracts (you can maybe lump in Ramirez’). You could lose their 6.2 WAR, go to 97.6 wins, and drop to ~ $106 million in payroll, just under the Cardinals!
Of course, there is no way any GM could have signed this collection of free agents. However, it’s also important to note that no team is without it’s intrinsic resources. The Astros have under $12 million dollars in payroll obligations, and I mean that literally. They also have some worthwhile pieces (Altuve, Castro) that they wouldn’t need to acquire, though the cupboard is bare in Houston probably more than any other team I’ve ever seen. It used to be possible to wisely spend into contention. I think that window is closing, but likely slower than we think.
The one thing I think we should all take away from this is as recently as last year, you could find a worthwhile option at basically every position (catcher and shortstop were the two areas that were harder to fill, and Reyes’ contract is too awful for even a fictional team). The better GMs can still have an advantage in this marketplace, and I believe we have one of the better GMs.