September Cardinals: The $63.5 Million Team

The St. Louis Cardinals squad currently playing is missing over one third of their almost-$100 million total team payroll due to injury.

In his story in the Post-Dispatch on Sunday entitled "What could the Cardinals buy with $26 million?", Cardinals beat reporter Joe Strauss makes some excellent points about the team's player budget situation.

One observation was about the current Cardinals payroll, estimated to be just short of $100 million - in the vicinity of $98 million. The difference from the 2006 season-starting count of around $90 million is due to incentives earned, the addition of new players such as Jeff Weaver, Jorge Sosa and Preston Wilson, and other costs.

Strauss' focal point is the $26 million available to general manager Walt Jocketty over the winter to re-tool his team for 2007. But, that got me thinking about the here and now. Roughly how much of this season's $98 million value is currently on the shelf?

Here's the answer.






2006 Salary

Jim Edmonds




Will try to return


Jason Isringhausen




Will try to return


Mark Mulder




Out for season


David Eckstein




Expected to return


Ricardo Rincon




Out for season


Larry Bigbie




Out for season


Rick Ankiel




Out for season








Over one third of that $98 million team, about $34.5 million worth, is currently unable to answer the bell daily. While the Cardinals did get some value for that money this season, these seven players have at least two things in common: 1) in terms of results in 2006, each has experienced a subpar season and 2) most of the players are over 30, especially those most highly-paid.

While shortstop David Eckstein is expected back from his oblique strain before the playoffs, he has also seemed slow to recover fully from a concussion incurred earlier in the season. So, while having the highest odds of returning from this list in 2006, it is far from a guarantee that Eckstein will be 100%.

An effective centerfielder Jim Edmonds and effective closer Jason Isringhausen in 2006 seem less likely with each passing day. Trying is one thing. Being able to compete at a high level of play is another.

So, let's look at where the Cardinals would stack up compared to other playoff teams if they had to send this $63.5 million roster onto the field in October. Other teams' salaries are from the start of the season, sourced from USA Today's Salary Database.

2006 MLB team salaries – playoff leaders as of September 10

2006 Playoff Teams as of 9/10 Total payroll
    New York Yankees $194,663,079
    New York Mets $101,084,963
    Los Angeles Dodgers $98,447,187
    Detroit Tigers $82,612,866
    San Diego Padres $69,896,141
    St. Louis Cardinals (reduced) $63,500,000
    Minnesota Twins $63,396,006
    Oakland Athletics $62,243,079

Now, I realize that other teams have also been faced with injuries, and as such, this analysis is inherently flawed without adjusting the other teams' payrolls, too. But, it is still interesting to note as a quick and dirty analysis.

After all, it may be too much to expect for a $63.5 million team to perform like a $98 million one down the stretch and deep into October.

And looking forward, here's hoping that as Jocketty puts together the 2007 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals he can assemble a younger squad, one that can remain healthier than the 2006 version.

When all is said and done, a $100 million payroll isn't all that impressive if the players earning a third of it can't actually play when it matters most.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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