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Building the best National League team under the luxury tax threshold

In a world where dreams do come true and anything goes, a picture-perfect roster comprised of major league baseball players from the National League could be brought together to make for an absolutely unstoppable franchise. Formidable to all other MLB teams, this team is exactly what an All-Star game roster would look like, without favoritism being played.

In creating this team, there were a few guidelines that needed to be followed. All players needed to be currently on NL teams, uninjured and the 25 players needed to fit underneath the current MLB luxury tax threshold that was established for all teams during the 2019 baseball season.

While this team has absolutely no chance of ever happening, even in an All-Star contest, it is fun to dream. Here is what one version of a very capable NL roster would look like with the league’s best players.

Starters ($78,343,462)

2B Joe Panik, SF ($3,850,000)
LF Christian Yelich, MIL ($9,750,000)
CF Bryce Harper, PHI ($11,538,462)
3B Nolan Arenado, COL ($26,000,000)
1B Paul Goldschmidt, STL ($15,500,000)
C J.T. Realmuto, PHI ($5,900,000)
RF Cody Bellinger, LAD ($605,000)
SS Javier Baez, CHI ($5,200,000)

These players are lineup in their batting order as well.

Being able to have this type of a starting lineup is unfair, as there really are not many holes in it. Joe Panik becomes the leadoff man for this team, as his skills are best suited in the leadoff role, helping set the table for his fellow superstars.

Spots two through five are ungodly awesome, as Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt round out the heart of the lineup.

Yelich currently hits in the two hole for the Milwaukee Brewers, and is a great bridge into his fellow power guys, even though he fits into that category as well. Putting Harper ahead of Arenado is simply to keep the left-handed batters together, and then going into a string of three right-handed batters next.

Goldschmidt could easily be the squad’s cleanup hitter but is a great player to put fifth in this lineup, helping lead into the bottom half of the batting order. He is situated in a solid RBI role and would be a major catalyst in this lineup, potentially putting up career-high numbers in runs driven in.

Rounding out the remainder of the lineup in the sixth through eighth spots are J.T. Realmuto, Cody Bellinger, and Javier Baez. Strikeouts become a constant issue with these three to round out the order, as both Baez and Bellinger are some of the most free-swinging players in the league, and Realmuto has had some strikeout concerns too in his young career.

Starting Rotation ($15,200,566)

SP1- Patrick Corbin ($12,916,666)
SP2- Brandon Woodruff ($561,400)
SP3- Julio Urias ($565,000)
SP4- Jameson Taillon ($587,500)
SP5- Walker Buehler ($570,000)

This unit was comprised more off of youthful talent than veteran status, as Patrick Corbin is the eldest of the players on this list. Having Corbin be the steadfast, proven arm in this rotation is great and helps take some of the pressure off of the others.

Brandon Woodruff, in his first season strictly as a starter for the Milwaukee Brewers, has flourished in pitching every fifth day, not only on the mound. His hitting at the plate has created a bit of a pushback on the universal designated hitter rule that was provided and up for discussion; however, his on-the-mound performance has been crucial to the early run that the Brewers have had to begin the 2019 season.

Julio Urias is the wildcard on this list, as the young left-hander can be a bit up and down, depending the day in which he pitches. Urias had some struggles in the playoffs last season, but is uber young (does not turn 23 until August of this year) and brings a bit of needed swagger to the rotation.

Jameson Taillon and Walker Buehler round out the starting pitching ranks, and both are solid arms that can stabilize the back-end of the rotation. Taillon has enjoyed career years with the Pittsburgh Pirates as of late, and Walker Buehler has become the ace for the Los Angeles Dodgers while they wait for Clayton Kershaw to make a full recovery from injury.

Bullpen ($13,907,525)

RP/CL- Jordan Hicks ($555,000)
RP- Dylan Floro ($565,000)
RP- Amir Garrett ($567,500)
RP/CL-Edwin Diaz ($607,425)
RP/CL- Josh Hader ($687,600)
RP- Keone Kela ($3,175,000)
RP- Pat Neshek ($7,750,000)

A ton of flames being thrown in this bullpen, and there are a lot of guys with the potential to close games too. Jordan Hicks (St. Louis), Edwin Diaz (New York Mets), and Josh Hader (Brewers) all have the potential to go out and shut the door in the ninth inning, giving this team a great path to end the game.

While there currently are only seven arms in the pen, going with the guys that I did shows that they can each pitch on short rest, cover the needed frames and get outs when called upon.

The most exciting non-closer arm in the pen is Keone Kela from the Pirates, who earned 24 saves last year but is not the closer anymore, giving that role to Felipe Vazquez. Kela is a power but finesse arm, capable of covering multiple innings and has gas, a great compliment to the other great arms in the pen.

The other arms, Dylan Floro (LAD), Amir Garrett (CIN), and Pat Neshek (PHI), are all solid pieces to the shutdown puzzle for this team, and Neshek throws off hitters with his arm action and how he hides the ball, which makes it difficult even for the most trained MLB eye at the plate.

Bench ($10,199,000)

SS Fernando Tatis Jr ($555,000)
LF David Dahl ($560,000)
UT Enrique Hernandez ($3,725,000)
C Willson Contreras ($684,000)
1B/2B/3B Travis Shaw ($4,675,000)

By having five bats on the bench, there needs to be the ability to play multiple positions, which is something everyone can play in a cinch, except for Willson Contreras.

Rookie phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. was hard to pass up, as his infield skills combined with his bat and his swagger are great facets in a young player. While listed as a shortstop, Tatis Jr. could be flexed over to second or even third in an emergency.

Colorado Rockies outfielder David Dahl is a solid plug-and-play bench piece for this team, and he could roam the outfield out of all three spots if needed. While left field is his home currently for the Rockies, he could easily move to either right or center in late innings for a defensive switch.

Kike Hernandez of the Dodgers is the ultimate utility man, who can play anywhere in the outfield and infield. Hernandez brings an above-average bat to the team as well and can serve as one of the solid options off the bench late in a contest.

Contreras is an absolute steal as a bench piece, but his cheap deal ($684,000 in 2019) made it an easy choice. Being able to be a more than serviceable catcher who is a good defensive guy and has pop in his bat, Contreras is a solid guy off the bench that could start when needed.

The last guy off the pine is the Brewers’ Travis Shaw, who has played first base, second base and third base in his career, mainly a third baseman now. When the team acquired Mike Moustakas before the 2018 trade deadline, Shaw was moved to second and performed admirably at a position he had never taken a ground ball at in his MLB career.

Salary

Field players (including bench): $88,542,462
Pitchers (including bullpen): $29,108,091

TOTAL: $117,650,553
Space left under tax: $88,349,447