World Series matchup is between the No. 3 and No. 28 payrolls in MLB
The Tampa Bay Rays aren’t built like most World Series teams. They don’t have the high-priced free agents or the MVP candidates. But here they are, preparing to take on a Los Angeles Dodgers team loaded with them.
The World Series will pit the Dodgers, with the third-highest payroll in the league, against the 28th-ranked Rays. It’s a matchup between the haves and the have-nots, one of baseball’s glamor teams against a club full of unheralded players barely known outside of their own clubhouse.
The Dodgers prorated payroll this season is $77 million. Fifteen players on the Dodgers are making more than $1 million. The entire Rays payroll, meanwhile, is $23 million, less than the combined salaries for Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts. The Dodgers are nearly paying more in signing bonuses this year than the Rays spent on their entire roster.
But this is just how the small-market Rays have to do business. Without the revenue of teams in Los Angeles and New York, they have to find bargains, players that other teams have given up on but where they see something other clubs don’t. Pete Fairbanks had a 9.35 career ERA when the Rays acquired him from Texas last July; he’s given up just two runs in six appearances this postseason and was on the mound to close out Game 7 against the Astros.
Randy Arozarena, the ALCS MVP, was picked up from the St. Louis Cardinals for two minor leaguers in January. He already has seven home runs this postseason, one off the all-time record. The Rays are paying him just $90,000 this year. Betts, who’s making more than 100 times Arozarena’s salary, hasn’t hit any home runs this postseason. More than 1,200 players were selected in the 2016 draft. Mike Brosseau, the hero of the ALDS whose home run off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the eighth inning led the Rays past the Yankees, wasn’t one of them. The Rays signed him as an undrafted free agent.
Going up against a club with more resources is nothing new to the Rays. They’ve already beaten the league’s top-two payrolls, the Yankees and Astros, this postseason, and will now have to get past the third-highest payroll if they want to win the franchise’s first World Series championship.
They may be a collection of castoffs and no-names, but the Rays are introducing themselves to a wider baseball audience this October. Just ask their longest-tenured playoff, Kevin Kiermaier. “You sit here and look at this group of guys…we don’t have a whole lot of household names but at the same time people are making a name for themselves right now,” he said at the ALCS trophy presentation on Saturday night.
“And if they don’t know the names by now, they better learn them because we’ve got some boys who can play here.”
America might not have known who Arozarena, Brosseau, and most of the Rays were before this postseason. But the Rays are just fine with flying under the radar.