June 6, 2016 0 By Dan Freedman

Last week we set out to determine which team was carrying the worst contracts for the 2016 season.  As we saw, there were many contenders.  We ended by making reference to the great value in Noah Syndergaard’s $535K deal.  The great news for baseball owners and GMs is that there are many more Thor-like contracts out there – deals for impact players WAY below 2016 market value.

From the start, understand that the average MLB salary this season is $4.4M.  Now, that is not a median, just the mean.  There are a ton of over-priced players making more than $4.4M (see last week’s article); and there are a ton of players making substantially less – while their numbers would indicate they deserve substantially more.

The Major League minimum salary for 2016 is $507.5K (as a point of reference: in 1967 this was $6,000).  As you may know, for the first few years of a player’s career – prior to becoming arbitration eligible – the team dictates the player’s salary.  So, for the sake of simplicity, we will count any player making in the $500Ks a minimum deal.  Here is just a sampling of who falls into this category:

  • Dellin Betances (Best set-up man in baseball?)
  • Mookie Betts (Five-tool future of the Red Sox)
  • Jackie Bradley, Jr. (AL Player-of-the-Month; 29-game hitting streak)
  • Gerrit Cole (Ace of Pirates)
  • Carlos Correa (Rookie of the Year)
  • Sonny Gray (Come July, will be the most sought-after pitcher in baseball)
  • Kevin Kiermaier (Gold Glove winner)
  • Francisco Lindor (Rookie of Year runner-up)
  • Kevin Pillar (Gold Glove runner-up)
  • Addison Russell (Cornerstone SS for World Series favorite)
  • Corey Seager (Ranked top prospect in baseball)
  • Trevor Story (2016 Rookie of the Year?)
  • Marcus Stroman (Ace of Blue Jays)
  • Noah Syndergaard (No further description necessary)

If you raise the bar to the $600Ks, you also get Xander Bogaerts, Kris Bryant, and Jacob deGrom.

But those guys are mere pups.  Let’s seek out some real value under the league average:

  • Jose Fernandez: $2.8M
  • Chris Archer: $2.9M
  • Kenta Maeda: $3.125M
  • Jose Altuve: $3.68M
  • Matt Harvey: $4.325M
  • Corey Kluber: $4.7M (slightly above average, but worth including here)

For between $5-$10M, you could trot the following All-Star lineup:

  • P – Dallas Keuchel: $7.25M
  • P – Chris Sale: $9.15M
  • P – Madison Bumgarner: $9.9M
  • P – Yu Darvish: $10M
  • C – Devin Mesoraco: $5M
  • 1B – Anthony Rizzo: $5.28M
  • 2B – Paul Goldschmidt: $5.83M (some creative license)
  • SS – Manny Machado: $5M (back to his natural position)
  • 3B – Nolan Arenado: $5M
  • LF – Bryce Harper: $5M
  • CF – Yasiel Puig: $7.2M (opinions on the value of this deal vacillate from week to week)
  • RF – Giancarlo Stanton: $9M (his $325M deal is heavily backloaded; if he doesn’t opt-out, he gets $25M+ from 2018-2028)

If you wanted to spend more than $10M, but didn’t want to get to the list of 38 players making $20M or more this season, you could make do with these guys:

  • P – Stephen Strasburg: $10.4M
  • P – Jake Arrieta: $10.7M
  • C – Josh Donaldson: $11.65M (have to move him back to his original position)
  • 1B – David Ortiz: $16M
  • 2B – Ben Zobrist/Neil Walker: $10.5M (each)
  • SS – J.J. Hardy/Jhonny Peralta: $12.2M/$12.5M
  • 3B – Evan Longoria: $12.6M
  • LF – Alex Gordon: $12M
  • CF – Mike Trout: $16M
  • RF – Andrew McCutchen: $13.2M

Said differently, there are 55 players making more this season than this particular All-Star team.  So, all is not lost for the owners; there is still hope (and value) to be found on each 25-man roster.  Well, for this season anyway . . .