Looking at the best and worst contracts relative to production in the MLB headed into 2015.
As we prepare for the 2015 MLB season (it begins Sunday night in Chicago between the Cardinals and Cubs), we ready for the grind and marathon which is the 162-game major league season. Few players today, of course, play the entire 162-game slate.
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The platoon system is in full force, as it appears several teams not even noted for being “sabemetrics teams”—i.e. Oakland, Tampa Bay, Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox namely (now Dodgers with Andrew Friedman moving to Los Angeles)—will be employing such systems in 2015.
In many ways, baseball has been overcome by the sabermetrics revolution. The overwhelming majority of organizations are looking for bargain bin deals to fill out their bench and even certain parts of a starting lineup, depending on the other strengths of the roster.
It should be noted then that the classic offensive statistical categories used to judge players: batting average, home runs and runs batted in have largely been replaced with on-base percentage and slugging percentage among the most notable.
Likewise, in regards to pitching, wins are no longer considered relevant for grading starting pitchers. And even the classic earned run average (ERA) is distrusted by many front office people. Now it is WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched), strikeouts per nine innings and FIP (fielding independent pitching ratio).
Which all leads to the question, is sabermetrics leading us to a point where soon players will be awarded contracts based on how they fit in these new categories? Will we leave Billy Beane’s “market inefficiencies” language to a point where there is no longer such a thing?
Will a guy who gets on base at .400 clip but hits let’s say only five home runs one day be paid the way Giancarlo Stanton just got paid (13 years/$325 million), largely for being a traditional power hitter?
We’ve likely not reached that point in the game yet, and perhaps we’ll never actually get there. But the trend is moving in that direction.
Still, even by traditional standards, there are bargains, while there are a myriad of contracts which only a few years after they were signed look like highway robbery on the part of that player’s agent.
The Cubs, for instance, Monday made it official that they would send down the No. 1 prospect in the game Kris Bryant—represented by super agent Scott Boras, who made a media tour over the past few weeks pleading his player’s case as to why the Cubs should start the season with Bryant on the major league roster.
It is likely that Theo Epstein will call up the third baseman from Triple-A Iowa by the end of April. But in having him wait until at least midway through the season’s first month, Epstein guarantees himself an extra year of Bryant’s services at the major league level where Bryant cannot become a free agent until 2021.
When Bryant—and his rookie salary are called up—he will likely tear up the National League. In 14 MLB Spring Training games, Bryant hit nine home runs, drove in 15 runs and had a silly 1.652 OPS. Spring Training statistics are of course not regular season statistics.
But Bryant will be one of the most undervalued players, based on his projected production and criminally low salary. But we are limiting this list to players who have already spent significant time in the majors.
Let’s start off with the five overvalued players.
Note: All salary information is taken from Spotrac.com. All statistics from Baseball-Reference.com.
Next: NYY and Bos factor into the next few slides a lot