The New Bang For Your Buck Players

For the past two seasons, no player has provided a better surplus value than Evan Longoria. In that span he produced 14.2 WAR, which was second to only Albert Pujols among all MLB players. Considering he made just $1.5 million in those two years, he clearly becomes the team-friendliest player in the league. That probably won’t be the case this year. While Longoria will earn only $2 million in 2011, there are a number of younger players who could make a quarter, or less, of what Longoria will earn and could turn in similar numbers.

To start, here’s a list of every player in the majors who produced 7.5 or more WAR over the last two seasons, along with their WAR Dollars, actual salaries, and the difference. Though Joey Votto earned less, Longoria still provided $9 million in additional surplus value for the Rays.

For the new surplus producers, I have two zero-to-two names in mind. These two far outpaced their salaries in 2010, and figure to do so again in 2011. The best part about these two is that they won’t even be arbitration eligible after this season. I’m willing to bet that when we look back on 2010 through 2012, these two players will have the highest surplus values in the league.

Andrew McCutchen

McCutchen featured prominently in yesterday’s season preview for the Pirates. In it I said that McCutchen could prove him as the best center fielder in the bigs this season. Considering he’ll make $500K or less, that means plenty of surplus value for the Pirates.

There is little question about McCutchen’s bat. At .365, has the best wOBA among center fielders in the past two seasons. There’s not much more to say than that. The only question is of his glove. Scouting reports glow, but his UZR is in the tank, -15.7 for his career. If he can reverse that negative UZR trend in 2010, he could rank among the league’s WAR leaders.

Jason Heyward

Twenty-year-old who produce 5-WAR season will by definition provide immense surplus value. He’s at a bit of a handicap, since he plays right field. That means a negative positional adjustment, but Heyward more than makes up for it with his bat and his glove. Another 5-WAR season would give him nearly $40 million in surplus value for his first two seasons. The scariest part is that it’s completely conceivable that he produces more than 5 WAR in 2011.

In terms of surplus value, there might have been none better than Evan Longoria. During his first three years he produced nearly 20 WAR — third most in the majors — while making under $2 million. He’ll now hand the reins to the newest crop of youngsters, headed by McCutchen and Heyward. There will be others, too, who put up big numbers during their pre-arb years. But good as they might be, I’m not sure they’re going to top Longoria at less than $100K per win.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

27 Responses to “The New Bang For Your Buck Players”

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  1. bill says:

    Is it possible McCutchen’s UZR is messed up due to that weird Pirates shift they have going ? SSS and all, but his Away UZR was -2.8 (close to average), but his Home UZR was -25.3, or close to horrible.

    Maybe after adjusting for the shift, his UZR goes back to average?

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I’ve talked to MGL about outfielder positioning in the past. Basically, a weird shift ‘should’ still cancel itself out as the player catches balls that he otherwise should not have and misses balls that should have been gimme’s. It’s still possible for a shift to cause those massively negative numbers, but that would mean that it’s a terrible strategy.

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  2. dan woytek says:

    Just because of position maybe Santana and Posey too?

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  3. Rick says:

    Pujols made $16M per and still is near the top of this list. That’s nuts.

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  4. tserich says:

    I’ve watched some Pirate games last summer and I’ve seen McCutchen make errors on pretty routine flyballs. It was pretty embarrassing. I feel he definitely has room to improve.

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  5. Evan says:

    Andres Torres is over the 7.5 WAR threshold but not on the list (most likely because he does not have enough PA’s to qualify)

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    • brendan says:

      as a giants fan, I’m really interested to see what torres can do this year. He was really awesome, and perhaps even more than Huff he was the star that got them to the post-season; but I’m expecting some regression. teams might pitch to him differently, or he might miss some time or not run as well.

      he definitely belongs on this list. I’m pretty sure he made the minimum last 2 yrs.

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  6. perfectstrat says:

    You might want to mention that this list only contains position players.

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  7. mlstarr says:

    Any chance of a list containing the highest surplus value for entire lengths of contracts? Having stars before they’re arbitration eligible is great and pretty interesting, but I’d be curious to see which organizations were able to lock up players the most effectively for longer commitments. To me that’s really where surplus value is impressive.

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  8. CubsFan says:

    Players like McCutchen are the guys who make me skeptical about the accuracy of UZR, or just about any other advanced fielding metric. I acknowledge that the “eyeball test” is susceptible to several different forms of bias but I’ve watched a ton of baseball over the years and my eyes tell me that McCutchen is a very good centerfielder.

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    • AA says:

      DRS also has him as poor, though it rates his arm much better than UZR.

      Total Zone has him slightly below average.

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  9. adam says:

    I understand why war is set to a price but has anyone ever created a standard payroll (say $100M) and players who sign with teams who spend above that standard have their contracts adjusted for “inflation”. Since the majority of stars are “underpayed” except 3 yankees I imagine that the going rate conversion rate of war to salary is overstated.

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  10. philosofool says:

    Zack Grienke and Justin Verlander just called to say that they were both better players than Evan Longoria in 2009-2010. Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez would like you to re-write the list to remind everyone that they’ve been ridiculous values for the last few seasons.

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    • Giantsnative says:

      Just position players on this list.

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      • philosofool says:

        The question is “why?”

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      • philosofool says:

        “To start, here’s a list of every player in the majors who produced 7.5 or more WAR over the last two seasons, along with their WAR Dollars, actual salaries, and the difference.” It’s not as though it’s presented as position players only.

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  11. I think Gio Gonzalez has a real chance to be on this list. He is a good lefty and this looks like it will be a breakout year for him. He was untouchable in his first spring start (I know, I know – meaningless) but scouts too have reported he just looks great this year.

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  12. Matty Brown says:

    I was expecting a Mr. Kershaw, but apparently you are anti-hurlers.

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  13. Mike K says:

    Did Brett Gardner miss for a rounding error? If I go to his player page he has 2.1 WAR in 2009 and 5.4 last year. And he provided north of $30M in surplus value.

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  14. CampBrice says:

    Jon Lester

    11.9 WAR: 50.9 million in Value – 4.75 million salary = 46.15 million surplus

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  15. Tim says:

    Just so you know, Longoria has made about 500,000 per year…10% of the real going rate. Most trade value in the history of the game?

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  16. Mike says:

    I could be wrong, but if these are suppose to be the 2010 salaries for these players, didn’t Joe Mauer make like $12M last year? I thought his extension did start until this year.

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