The recent signings of Manny Machado by the San Diego Padres and Bryce Harper by the Philadelphia Phillies are a prime example of the importance for Major League Baseball clubs to maintain quality farm systems. Machado is bringing in 300 million dollars over the course of his contract, and Harper 330 million. For comparison, that is 2.31 and 2.54 times the total 2018 season payroll for the Kansas City Royals according to SteveTheUmp.com that each player will be receiving over the course of their contracts. A quality farm system allows teams to save money, and it provides depth for when injuries occur.
Recent mega contracts seem to be a big splash for big name teams such as the New York Yankees, the Phillies, the Padres, or even the Colorado Rockies. But so much money is lost in the degradation of these players’ playing abilities as they begin to get older. The $25 million a season doesn’t seem so bad right now while they are a young 26 years old, but at age 35 their career may be on the decline in the final years of the contract. For example, the Royals won the World Series in 2015 on a total payroll of $114 million. Players like Machado and Harper would make up roughly 1/5 of that payroll every year for the next 10 to 13 years. That leaves teams little room to improve other aspects of the team with players in different positions if need be. With a farm system, a team can manage to throw together a winning roster with numerous top-caliber players while keeping the entire team’s yearly payroll around $100 million. Having a quality farm system is key to winning, as it takes more than one good baseball player to win championships.
Another key aspect of having a quality farm system is that when those big money stars get injured, they will need a replacement to cover for them while on the injured list. If a team doesn’t have talent in the lower levels, they may have to trade for a player to cover them if they are in a postseason race. Replacements can come at a high price if other teams know that a team is particularly desperate. The farm system saves money, and provides alternatives to positions. The lower levels are also a great way to find new talent in positions that a team may lack good players. This happens most often with pitchers, but every big-league star started in the minors. If players are going through a rough stretch, a quality farm system can provide their replacement on their absence for assignment, and can get their mechanics improved and on the right track once again. Shelling money out on one player pales in comparison to investing into 100 to 200 players that will continue to the team’s current and future success.
In Major League Baseball, fans want to see teams win this year, and every year. What they don’t see is their team’s investment into their farm system during a rebuild, as they cultivate players that may one day win them a World Series. Farm systems are the backbone of a team’s success, and save tons of money in the long run.