- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Werth Much More Money

For those unaware, Fangraphs unveiled a new section on the player pages today. The section takes all of the dollar valuation components we have manually calculated, harnesses the stats, and outputs wins above replacement level as well as the player’s fair market value salary based on his production.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in 2008, their first since 1980. Much of the attention garnered by the team went in the direction of superstars Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, former MVP winners Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, and the 41-41 closer Brad Lidge. While all five of these players deserved some form of recognition for the success of the team, a few other players contributed a good amount. These players made their contributions under the radar, though, and prior to the post-season were not even household names. Guys like Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino fit this bill.

Werth was a former first-round draft pick of the Orioles in 1997, but did not truly find a home until 2007. After health problems while playing for the Blue Jays and Dodgers limited his availability and production, the LA bunch cut ties with Werth following the 2006 campaign, one that he completely missed due to injuries. Pat Gillick, who drafted Werth while helming the Orioles, quickly brought him to the Phillies.

Still under control, Werth signed a 1-yr deal worth $850,000. With the going rate of $4.1 mil/win in 2007, Gillick’s deal valued Werth as a +2 run, +0.2 win player. In 304 plate appearances that year, Werth put together an impressive .298/.404/.459 line, good for a .385 wOBA. His production benefited from a regression-bound .391 BABIP, but Werth’s offense resulted in +11.7 runs above average.

Defensively, he proved stellar as well, with a UZR rating of +11.5 runs. Though he failed to qualify for the overall leaderboards, this defensive rating ranked fifth in the senior circuit amongst anyone with 550+ innings played in the entire outfield. All told, after adjustments are taken into account, Werth’s worth was +2.8 wins. If he had signed a contract that valued his production appropriately, the terms would be 1-yr/$11.6 mil.

In 2008, the BABIP plummeted to .327, resulting in a still productive but different slash line of .273/.363/.498. Werth lost some ability to reach base, but made up for it with an increase in power. Because of the increased output elsewhere, his wOBA remained virtually the same, at .382. The biggest difference, however, came in the form of playing time. Werth partook in 134 games last season, amassing 482 PA in the process.

His offensive production almost doubled to +21.6 runs above average. Werth also produced another fantastic season with the glove, putting together a UZR rating of +15.8 runs in the outfield. Among outfielders with at least 950 innings played, this ranks fifth in the entire sport, and second in the senior circuit to just Randy Winn.

In 2008, Jayson Werth became a +4.9 win player. 4.9 wins! Mark Teixeira‘s projection for next season calls for something like +5.1 wins. Werth had re-signed for a 1-yr/$1.7 mil contract that doubled his previous season’s salary, but ended up being worth much more money than that. If he signed for his fair market value, the deal would have been closer to $22 mil.

Moving forward, his 2009 projections call for a .375 wOBA, +20 offensive runs, +12 defensive runs, and after adjustments, +43 value runs. This converts to approximately +4.15 wins, and $20.8 mil.

Werth is one of many arbitration-eligible members of the Phillies, and will likely see his salary bumped to around $4 mil for the 2009 season. Assuming this comes to fruition, he will have earned $6.55 mil from the Phillies from 2007-09, while producing +11.85 wins above replacement level. If his deserved salaries are added, we get a figure of $54.4 mil.

It is easy to lampoon GMs for dishing out ridiculous deals to players like Adam Eaton, but they deserve equal praise for acquiring players as productive as Werth. Players who, despite being under control, are able to be had for about nine times less than their fair market value.