Baseball's labor talks are plowing ahead, and in the front offices of small-market teams everywhere, executives are hoping for more scraps of hope this time around. It used to be that clubs could find ways to exploit the amateur draft -- within the rules rather than outside them -- but the slotting system, which puts a cap on teams' signing bonuses, limits the bounds of ingenuity. The same is true with the international spending caps, and, of course, small-budget teams don't have access to the best free agents, like Zack Greinke or David Price. Executives for teams with the lowest payrolls now typically wait for the market prices to drop so bargains become exposed, and while baseball's parity is generally better than it's perceived to be, the playing field for the 30 teams is nowhere close to being level.
The Cleveland Indians are, without question, the little engine that could in this postseason.
With the 23rd-lowest payroll in Major League Baseball this year, at about $115 million, the Indians are the only team among the bottom half of payrolls to make the postseason.
That means nine of the top 14 teams in payroll rankings made the postseason in 2016.
The Indians got big production and leadership from their $7 million investment in Mike Napoli, developed a strong and cheap rotation and got unusual contributions from their youngest players in Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Tyler Naquin, etc. It's a formula that's very difficult to replicate, and for that reason, executives with low-budget teams throughout baseball are eagerly awaiting the details of the next collective bargaining agreement.