ESPN noted over the weekend that the Red Sox were the biggest spenders of the 2009-10 offseason. No surprise there, of course. They also noted, however, that only three times since 1990, and just once since 2000, has the biggest spender of a given offseason won the World Series the very next year.
Of course the most recent example is very recent indeed: the 2009 Yankees. And of the past 11 World Series winners, four have been among the 10 biggest-spending teams of the previous offseason, and all of them except the 2001 Diamondbacks were in the top half of baseball's offseason spenders — including the third-ranked 2007 Red Sox, who splurged on Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka the previous winter.
It should go without saying that there's all sorts of problems with this kind of analysis. Many times, one big free agent signing is enough to put a team on top of the pile, and it obviously takes more than one player to have a winning ballclub (just ask the Texas Rangers, who made the right move by signing Alex Rodriguez to a megadeal then counteracted it by pretty much wasting the rest of their money). And without seeing the raw data, we don't know how close the top-ranked teams were to the second- or third- or even 10th-ranked teams.
Finally, the piece doesn't consider how the top-ranked teams actually fared in the subsequent regular and postseason (were the 2001 Yankees, who lost the World Series by one run, the No. 1 spending team the previous offseason? It's possible, given their big signing of Mike Mussina, and if so, can that really count as a failure?)
We're certainly not making plans for the Duck Boat parade just yet, but all things considered, it'll take a lot to convince us the Red Sox — under this management team — are better off not being the top-spending team in a given offseason.