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Winning Cheap

The All-Star break is usually the deadest sporting time of the year. So, it's a great time of year to devote time to random subjects. I am in the midst of reading Moneyball for the third time and as a result I felt compelled to see how good of a team I could create for cheap. I gave myself $35 million to spend (just a tad less than the lowest payroll in baseball) on a 25-man roster. Here is my team, with 2006 salaries in parantheses (salaries are according to Cot's Baseball Contracts):


STARTING LINEUP
1. Carl Crawford, LF ($2.5 Million)
2. Joe Mauer, C ($1.43 Million)
3. Miguel Cabrera, RF ($472,000)
4. Travis Hafner, DH ($2.5 Million)
5. Vernon Wells, CF ($4.3 Million)
6. Chase Utley, 2B ($500,000)
7. David Wright, 3B ($374,000)
8. Ryan Howard, 1B ($355,000)
9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS ($350,000)


This starting lineup is not just good for the price, it is flat-out good. Crawford provides terrific speed at the top and he, along with Mauer, set the table beautifully for some very formidable hitters in the third through seventh spots. Ryan Howard provides ridiculous power in the eight hole, and Betancourt is an ideal number nine hitter thanks to his great speed. The lineup also staggers left-handers and right-handers almost perfectly, and the defense is quite solid too.


BENCH
Grady Sizemore, OF ($500,000)
Jorge Cantu, IF ($355,800)
Chris Burke, IF/OF ($362,500)
Nick Swisher, OF/1B ($335,000)
Brian McCann, C ($333,500)


The bench is strong to say the least. Sizemore is the primary left-handed bat and pinch-runner, and Cantu is the primary right-handed bat. All the guys are very good hitters and Burke and Cantu provide great defensive flexibility.


STARTING ROTATION
Chris Carpenter ($5 Million)
Francisco Liriano ($327,000)
Scott Kazmir ($371,700)
Dan Haren ($500,000)
Chris Capuano ($450,000)


Outside of Carpenter, there is little postseason experience but these guys are too talented. They all post good strikeout rates and, with the exception of Kazmir at times, also exhibit good control.


BULLPEN
Adam Wainwright ($327,000)
Jonathan Papelbon ($335,400)
George Sherrill ($333,000)
Mike Gonzalez ($347,000)
Joel Zumaya ($327,000)
Bobby Jenks ($340,000)


As amazing as Papelbon has been finishing ballgames this year, he came up as a starter and figures to be a starter for the Red Sox down the road. Wainwright, though not closing for St. Louis, is very similar to Papelbon in this respect. So, they are my long relievers on this ballcub because they have the stamina to easily go multiple innings in relief, provide spot starts (though I don't know why I'd ever need one with the starting staff), or pitch one inning in tight situations. George Sherrill has quietly established himself as a dominant specialty lefty in Seattle, and Mike Gonzalez is also a great southpaw who has taken over the closing duties in Pittsburgh after being a setup man. He returns to his setup role on this team. However, the primary eighth inning guy is young Joel Zumaya with his triple-digit heat. Then, to finish things off is another triple-digit flame-thrower, Bobby Jenks.


This team could easily compete with anyone. Amazingly, the total payroll is just $23,325,900, over $11 million less than even the Devil Rays' payroll, the lowest in baseball. It may be harder to win with a smaller budget, but it is far from impossible.