Is, apparently, a World Series berth - or even getting into a league Championship game. This past week marked the departure of the two teams with the largest payrolls in baseball (#1 New York Yankees, at $202.7 MM and #2 Philadelphia Phillies, $173.0 MM), leaving the four remaining contenders not only mostly in the Central Time Zone but also clustered in the middle of the pack salaries-wise. The Detroit Tigers (#10, $105.7 MM), St. Louis Cardinals (#11, $105.4 MM), Texas Rangers (#13, $92.0 MM), and Milwaukee Brewers (#17, $85.5 MM) will now vie to get into the Fall Classic, each paying out roughly half of what the Yankees paid this year.
Some of this seeming Mid-American "value" is admittedly a function of the quirks of contract timing. Cards star Albert Pujols and the Brewers' Prince Fielder are both free agents after this season, and will likely meaningfully increase their salaries and their teams' payrolls - though possibly in new cities. Clearly the season's overachievers were two teams in the payroll basement - among the thirty Major League teams, the AL Wild Card entrant Tampa Bay Rays ranked 29th ($41.1 MM) and NL West Division winner Arizona Diamondbacks were 25th ($53.6 MM). Conversely, the awards for least bang-for-the buck were numerous, but the list is headed ignominiously by the Boston Red Sox - eliminated from playoff contention in game 162 despite the #3-ranked payroll of $161.8 MM.