Do you ever go to Cot's Baseball Contracts? It's a website that lists every player's contract in Major League Baseball. Whenever the A's make the playoffs, it's fun to go to Cot's and compare the A's salaries to their opponent's.
This year, the A's play the Tigers in the first round. Cot's tells us the Tigers spent $148,693,600 million on its roster this season – fifth-most in the Majors. The A's spent just $61,964,500 – fourth-lowest in the Majors and less than half of what the Tigers spent. It's the difference between a corporation and a mom-and-pop grocery store, General Motors and a skateboard shop.
Let's compare the A's and Tigers' salaries position-by-position where it really gets interesting. Start with the starting pitchers.
The Tigers' ace is Justin Verlander. He signed a seven-year, $180 million contract this past offseason and he earns $20 million this season. Cot's says he is the highest-paid pitcher ever.
The A's ace is Bartolo Colon. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract this past offseason. He is the highest-paid starter on the A's, hardly Verlandian.
Not one pitcher in the Tigers' starting rotation earns less than Colon this season. Max Scherzer earns $6.275 million, Doug Fister $4 million, Anibal Sanchez $8 million and Rick Porcello $5.1 million. The Tigers pay more than $43 million for five starting pitchers this season, almost $9 million per starter.
Cot's says the A's pay less than that, a lot less.
The A's spend about $5 million on six starting pitchers and that's including Colon and his $3 million. Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone each earn $495,000 – not even a million between the two of them. A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily earn even less – $492,500 each.
Cot's doesn't say what the A's pay rookie Sonny Gray this season. God knows what Gray makes. Maybe he's paying them.
Judging just by money you'd think the Tigers would have an edge over the A's in starting pitching, and they do, but not by much. The Tigers' five starters' combined ERA this season is 3.37 while the A's six starters' combined ERA is 3.62. The A's starting pitchers gave up nine more earned runs than the Tigers starters. That's the difference. The Tigers paid $38 million for that difference.
How do the position players compare? The A's and Tigers have two of the best offenses in baseball. After the All-Star break, the Tigers' led the Majors in hits and the A's led the Majors in home runs. Both teams flat-out can hit. How much is each the teams paying for its hitters?
Let's go around the diamond and compare starting lineups. For the A's, I'm using a representative starting lineup because they change their lineup almost daily. It's a moving target.
<b>Catcher:</b> Derek Norris vs. Alex Avila. The A's pay Norris $492,500. The Tigers pay Avila almost six times more than that, $2.95 million. But Norris is better than Avila. Avila hit just .227 this season, 19 points lower than Norris.
<b>First base: </b>Brandon Moss ($1.6 million) vs. Prince Fielder ($23 million). Fielder signed a nine-year, $214 million contract before the 2012 season. Cot's says it's the fifth-most lucrative contract in baseball history. But Moss had a better season than Fielder. Moss hit 30 home runs and had a .522 slugging percentage while Fielder hit 25 home runs and had a .457 slugging percentage.