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Has Any Team Actually Bought A Championship?


K26dp
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This post got me thinking:

YAY! Another year of the big cities getting all the big names. Its so much fun.....

At least its fun next october when none of them are in the WS lol.

I was trying to come up with a time when a team that spent big in free agency to buy players from other organizations actually succeeded in to building a championship in major league baseball (as opposed to say, basketball, where we recently have seen the Miami Heat successfully buy a championship).
Here's the first team I came up with.
Yankees, 1988
In 1987, the Yankees finished 89-73, 4th in the AL East, despite getting good seasons from Don Mattingly, Rickey Henderson, Willy Randolph, and pitchers Charles Hudson and Rick Rhoden. Dave Winfield had an off year and other previous free agent signees Bill Shirley, Gary Ward, Claudell Washington, and Joe Niekro hadn't really panned out.
After the season, the Yankees went all-out, signing Jack Clark from St. Louis, Jose Cruz from Houston, and John Candelaria from the Mets, as well as re-signing closer Dave Righetti and 45YO Tommy John.
The result was a drop of four games, to 85-76. Lou Pinella, who was both manager and GM, was fired from both roles mid-season, and Billy Martin was brought back. Clark and Candelaria had decent seasons, but Cruz was a bust.
The morale of the story: you can't prop up a declining, aging team by signing more declining aging players. The Yankees wouldn't have a winning season until 1993, a first place finish until 1994 (no playoffs due to the strike), and an actual playoff team until 1995. Only Don Mattingly remained in 1995, his last season, from the mid-80's teams.
That said, the 1995 Yankees featured several free agent signings, so they may the team that proves it can be done. I'll look at them closer when I have more time.
Edited by K26dp
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The 1996 Yankees. They were loaded and most of team was brought in as free agents or traded for.

11/3/1992 - Paul O'Neill - Traded from the Reds to the Yankees and became the Yankees starter in RF and a key member of their starting lineup.

12/10/1992 - Jimmy Key - Got a 4 year mega deal from the Yankees and was a key member of the Yankees rotation in 1996.

12/15/1992 - Wade Boggs - Signed Boggs from the rival Red Sox and we all know how great Boggs was. Yankees starter at 3B in 1996.

4/5/1995 - John Wetteland - Traded for John Wetteland from the Expos. Was the WS MVP in 1996. MLB best 43 saves in 1996.

7/28/1995 - David Cone - Acquired from the Blue Jays as a major blockbuster deal. Ended up as key member of the Yankees rotation in 1996. At the time Cone was one of the highest paid players in baseball.

11/20/1995 - Joe Girardi - Traded from the Rockies and gave the Yankees pitching staff the leader they needed behind the plate. Starter at C in 1996.

12/7/1995 - Tino Martinez - Traded from the Mariners to the Yankees and became the Yankees starter at 1B in 1996 replacing the legendary Don Mattingly and he didn't disappoint.

12/7/1995 - Jeff Nelson - Traded along with Martinez from the Mariners to the Yankees and was a key piece of the Yankees bullpen in 1996.

12/11/1995 - Mariano Duncan - Signed as a free agent and was the Yankees starter at 2B in 1996.

12/28/1995 - Tim Raines - Traded from the White Sox. Key bench player for the Yankees in 1996.

Ok. I'm tired of looking up this stuff.

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I was looking more for teams that went on an immediate free agency splurge and had an immediate surge to the playoffs. It's no secret that having a higher payroll better than having a lower payroll.

That said, the difference between the mid-80s Yankees and the mid-90s Yankees wasn't payroll, it was using their resources better by identifying talent beyond just the back of their baseball card. Look at what you posted above, only Mariano Duncan was signed as a free agent before the championship season. The rest were trades; having more money allowed them to take on salary, but they also had to actually have assets on hand to make those deals.

Edited by K26dp
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I was looking more for teams that went on an immediate free agency splurge and had an immediate surge to the playoffs. It's no secret that having a higher payroll better than having a lower payroll.

That said, the difference between the mid-80s Yankees and the mid-90s Yankees wasn't payroll, it was using their resources better by identifying talent beyond just the back of their baseball card. Look at what you posted above, only Mariano Duncan was signed as a free agent before the championship season. The rest were trades; having more money allowed them to take on salary, but they also had to actually have assets on hand to make those deals.

Not to mention the homegrown players of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. But fast forward a couple years and look at the 1999 or 2000 Yankees team. 2009 Yankees too.

Another team that might qualify is the 1997 Marlins.

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Here's an interesting case.

Detroit Tigers, 1990

In 1989, the Tigers finished 7th in the AL East with an 59-103 record, one season after coming in second. The team was showing its age. Alan Trammell was the best player on the team and had turned 31, and his longtime double-play partner, Lou Whitaker, was 32. Other key contributors -- Frank Tanana, Mike Heath, Gary Pettis, Doyle Alexander, Jack Morris -- were all at or over 30.

Youngsters that had contributed to the '88 campaign, like starter Jeff Robinson and closer Mike Henneman, crashed to the ground.

Instead of rebuilding, the Tigers decided to double-down and try to send manager Sparky Anderson out on one more blaze of glory. That off-season, they brought in Tony Phillips from Oakland, Lloyd Moseby from Toronto, and pitcher Dan Petry from the Angels. They also re-signed venerable workhorse Frank Tanana, age 35, to a three-year deal. The biggest deal though was signing Cecil Fielder, who hade gone to Japan to create a market for himself after failing to unseat Fred McGriff for the starting 1B job in Toronto, to a 2/$3M deal that was widely seen as a huge gamble.

The gamble on Fielder turned out well of course as he would lead the league in homers and RBI and finish 2nd in MVP voting in both '90 and '91. Trammell, Phillips, and Whitaker would also continue to produce and the Tigers brought up young SS/3B Travis Fryman. Unfortunately, Moseby and Petry were busts and while Morris had a mild resurgence, Tanana fell apart and no other pitchers stepped up. The Tigers finished 79-83, good enough for 3rd place. This would be a recurring theme for the Tigers for most of the 90s -- aging roster, high-priced free agents, good offense, bad defense, bad pitching. In 1991 the Tigers would finish 2nd with the addition of free agent C/DH Mickey Tettleton, but the team would not finish as high again until 2006.

Edited by K26dp
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The Marlins win with home grown talent. They traded everyone off before they got expensive. The Marlins payroll ranked 27th in MLB in 1997. Then in 2003 the Marlins payroll was $54M.

They did sign several key free agents before the '97 season -- Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Moises Alou, John Cangelosi, Dennis Cook. They also traded for Cliff Floyd. I'll dig into these guys some more (I'm working chronologically), but they may be a candidate.

C - Charles Johnson (trade, 1994)

1B - Jeff Conine (expansion draft)

2B - Luis Castillo (home grown)

SS - Edgar Renteria (home grown)

3B - Bobby Bonilla (free agent, 1997)

LF - Moises Alou (free agent, 1997)

CF - Devon White (free agent, 1996)

RF - Gary Sheffield (trade, 1994)

SP - Kevin Brown (free agent, 1996)

SP - Al Leiter (free agent, 1996)

SP - Pat Rapp (home grown)

SP - John Burkett (free agent, 1995)

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