Jun 15, 2023 - Sports

This season, MLB teams can't buy wins

Chart: Axios Visuals

Major League Baseball teams generally got what they paid for last season, with the five biggest spenders all making the playoffs and nine of the 12 playoff teams ranking in the top half of the league in payroll. So far, 2023 is shaping up to be quite different.

State of play: If the season ended today, only two of the five biggest spenders would make the playoffs (New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers) — both as wild card teams. Meanwhile, three of the four smallest spenders would be in the field (Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates).


  • Beasts of the East: The Rays have the fourth-lowest payroll ($76.9M) and the best record in baseball (49-22), while the Orioles have the second-lowest payroll ($66.9M) and are tied for the second-best record (42-25).
  • First place: The Pirates have the third-lowest payroll ($75.3M) and sit atop the NL Central. The NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks have a payroll of $114M, which is less than half what the second-place Dodgers ($228.1M) and fourth-place San Diego Padres ($246.5M) are spending.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets have MLB's biggest payroll by a mile ($344.9M) and currently sit in fourth in the NL East (32-36). The Philadelphia Phillies have the fourth-biggest payroll ($243.1M) and are barely ahead of them in third (34-34).

Wild stat: No division is currently led by the team with the biggest payroll in that division — and none of those teams are even in second place.

AL East

  • Rays: 4th-biggest payroll in division (27th-biggest overall)
  • Orioles: 5th (29th)
  • Yankees: 1st (2nd)
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 2nd (7th)
  • Boston Red Sox: 3rd (15th)

AL Central

  • Minnesota Twins: 2nd (17th)
  • Cleveland Guardians: 5th (26th)
  • Chicago White Sox: 1st (11th)
  • Detroit Tigers: 3rd (19th)
  • Kansas City Royals: 4th (23rd)

AL West

  • Texas Rangers: 2nd (9th)
  • Houston Astros: 3rd (10th)
  • Los Angeles Angels: 1st (6th)
  • Seattle Mariners: 4th (18th)
  • Oakland Athletics: 5th (30th)

NL East

  • Atlanta Braves: 3rd (8th)
  • Miami Marlins: 4th (22nd)
  • Phillies: 2nd (4th)
  • Mets: 1st (1st)
  • Washington Nationals: 5th (24th)

NL Central

  • Pirates: 5th (28th)
  • Milwaukee Brewers: 3rd (20th)
  • Cincinnati Reds: 4th (25th)
  • Chicago Cubs: 1st (13th)
  • St. Louis Cardinals: 2nd (16th)

NL West

  • Diamondbacks: 5th (21st)
  • Dodgers: 2nd (5th)
  • San Francisco Giants: 3rd (11th)
  • Padres: 1st (3rd)
  • Colorado Rockies: 4th (14th)

Payrolls via Spotrac

Go deeper