It used to be a sign of a large market team when a club's payroll hit the $100 million mark. Not anymore.
According to baseball-reference.com projections, nearly half of the teams in the major leagues will hit that mark in 2011. The 13 members of the century club include the Minnesota Twins thanks to their contract extension with Joe Mauer and the Seattle Mariners who once traded Ken Griffey when he was in his prime because they could no longer afford him.
Here's the list with the 2011 projected payroll (in millions):
1) Yankees $187.7
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2) Phillies $163.0
3) Red Sox $148.3
4) Cubs $142.0
5) Mets $137.4
6) Angels $124.9
7) White Sox $120.3
8) Giants $119.1
9) Cardinals $111.7
10) Tigers $110.4
11) Twins $101.9
12) Dodgers $100.9
13) Mariners $100.7
The Cardinals are going to find it harder to argue that they can't afford to pay for players if their revenue stays in the top quarter of major league clubs but their payroll slips into the bottom half. So there is an argument to be made that they almost HAVE TO re-sign Albert Pujols just to keep up with the Joneses.
For the record, the Cardinals are only on the hook for $48.1 million in payroll in 2012. Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are under contract while the Birds would owe Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina $1.75 million if their options weren't picked up.
Carp's $15 million option looked pretty shaky in 2007 and 2008 when he was suffering injury problems. But he's been healthy the last two years and would seem like a bargain compared to the contract handed out to Cliff Lee. Molina's option is for $7 million with a $750,000 buy out.
It would be nice if the Cardinals took a page out of the Walt Jocketty handbook and renegotiated with Carp and Molina before they hit free agency. Maybe then they could work out team-friendly deferred or backloaded deals.