The Detroit Tigers had the sixth highest payroll in Major League Baseball in 2015. Detroit also had the ninth-worst win- loss record, finishing in last place in the American League's Central Division. That's not a good combination. The essentially paid $2.188 million per victory in 2015, the fifth-highest total in baseball according to Peter Gammons.
The Tigers have had a top six payroll for the past few years, but won their division in four consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2014, averaging 91.5 wins per season. The Houston Astros were the major leagues' most financially efficient playoff team in 2015, with a cost of just over $944,000 per win. The Dodgers, with a payroll in excess of $310 million, spent a whopping $3.3 million per win to claim their National League West Division title. The Dodgers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants were the only major league teams less cost-efficient than Detroit. The new AL Central champions, the Kansas City Royals, were among the 10 most efficient spenders, at a cost of $1.3 million per win.
The Tigers easily out-spent the other four clubs in the AL Central. Detroit ranked sixth in the major leagues for the 2014 season, with a cost of $1.8 million per victory. The Tigers have ranked among the top seven teams in this category each of the past four seasons. Their payroll finished the season lower than projected on Opening Day, and would have ranked third in cost per win had they not cut some $12.2 million at the trade deadline. The 10 playoff teams in 2015 each saw payroll increase during the season, as they took on salary to bolster their playoff runs.
The Tigers have been caught up in a cycle of trading away prospects for established major league players for the past several seasons. The results have been impressive on the field until this season, but the impact on their payroll is significant. Detroit will spend $105 million on just five players who are under multi year contracts for the 2016 season. That is more than the entire payroll for seven major league teams. That includes the Astros, Pirates, and Mets -- all playoff teams in 2015.