Beyond the Box Score asked for its readers to make graphs showing a team's salary commitments and projected wins in a way that you can understand with a glance. Unfortunately, that's a lot of information with one graph, and I cheated by making an entire sheet covering all the information in several graphs:
download as a PDF)
The top graph shows the projected Wins Above Replacement projected for the team. The projections were taken from Fangraphs and fiddled with a bit. I am not passing judgment on the actual projections (in other words, take them with a grain or six of salt), just putting down what was projected. Replacement level was set at 50 wins (which is why the Y-axis starts at 50).
The second graph shows projected salaries for each player, taken from Cot's Contracts. For players who have under 3 years of service time, I had them paid 110% of the league minimum, which was $400,000 in 2010, and I projected to increase by $10,000 a year. For players with more than 3 years, but less than 6 (the 3 arbitration years) I had them paid 40% of their previous year's value the first year, 60% of their value the second, and 80% value the third (estimates taken from tangotiger and/or fangraphs).
The bottom portion shows the legend for the mess of colors, and a table of the data for the players projected to be on the roster for 2011. Since there are only 21 players, 4 more will be added, but since I don't know who they are or how much they will be paid, I just left the spots blank.
There are also thick black lines on the first two graphs. For budget, I took the 2011 salaries, and calculated an 8% increase every year to create a projected budget (thick line in the second graph). Using that projected budget, and the projected cost of a win ($4.75 million in 2011, 8% inflation every year after that), I calculated how many wins the remaining budget minus salary costs could buy on the free agent market, and put it as a thick line on the top half of the graph.
Well, looking at the graph a bit, a few things popped out at me. The first is the importance of cost-controlled players. Despite the Red Sox having a lot of talent projecting to an unreasonable amount of wins (114 in 2011 -- again, grain of salt), if they don't get more cost controlled players that can make a contribution at low cost, they will drop down to an average team in 5 years.
The second thing I noticed was the Red Sox long-term commitments to homegrown players like Youkilis, Pedroia, and Lester. Their contributions are quite cheap for the amount of wins they are projected for. All three deals were signed before free agency, so the players accepted a discount for job security. That helps a lot.
The third thing I noticed was the amount of starting pitching they have signed. Lester, Beckett, and Lackey all have 4 years left under contract. Buccholz has 5 years left of service time (I think, but I've never been too bright). Even Matsuzaka is still under contract for 2 more years, and Tim Wakefield the knuckle-baller is also there for another year when/if someone gets injured.
Anyway, this is just an exercise, and I would love to do it for all 30 teams, but I'm afraid it would be a full-time job. Feel free to use the format if you want, and I will be happy to support you if you need it.