THE LINEUP #11 – The 10 Biggest Bargains in Baseball

Posted: August 24, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB, The Lineup
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Jered Weaver re-committed to the Los Angeles Angels in the form of a five-year extension for $85,000,000. That will net him $17 million a season, and remove one of the biggest potential participants in what is shaping up to be a big free agent class in 2012. Everything is great right? That’s more than he’ll ever need, and that’s not a sentiment that is lost on him. However, the question many are asking is, “did he get enough?” The industry standard in sports speaks to value and ability by the numbers on the check, it is possible that Weaver somehow still undersell himself, from a certain point of view.

Regardless of what is to come or what could have been, he is worth (in talent terms) much more than the little over $7 million a season he’s gathering right now. That number places him as one of the biggest values in the game for the time being, but what other players are giving back a lot more than what they are getting back by industry standards? Currently, more than a few clubs are building up empires, even filling up World Series trophy cases, without breaking their bank accounts. Here are the top 10 biggest values in Major League baseball, both now and into the future…for a few.

After leading the AL in strikeouts a year ago and ERA this season, is it possible Weaver is still underpaid $85 million later?

10. Adam Wainwright: The big St. Louis Cardinals pitcher is earning $6.5 million this season to do nothing more than rehab himself to return after Tommy John surgery in March. However, when he returns, his two-year option is sure to be picked up since they are only for $9 and $12 million for the next two seasons. In neither year will he be the highest paid starter on his club, despite being the only one to finish in the top three in Cy Young voting the last two years.

9. Joey Votto: The Reds first baseman became one of the biggest surprise (and value) winners of the MVP in years last season, and got a deserving bump in pay due to it. However, he’s still a big time value at the position, making $5.5 million this year (a $5 million dollar boost from last year). By the time it ends in 2013 it will have escalated to $17 million for that year, but it’s still a nice price for a guy that has 193 RBI and hit .323 in the last two years, and is only 27 years old.

Votto gave the Reds an MVP winner last season in exchange for just over half a million dollars.

8. Justin Upton: After his breakout campaign in 2009, Arizona wasted no time and re-upped the then 22-year-old outfielder to a six-year, $50 million deal. It escalates late to $14 million per year in the final two seasons, but right now it’s landing them an MVP candidate for just over $4 million. More importantly, it locks up one of the best young building blocks in the game into his late-20’s.

7. Brian McCann: The Atlanta Braves catcher as made claims to becoming both the game’s best hitting catcher, and biggest steal at the position. Despite having five seasons over 20 home runs, receiving the last three Silver Sluggers at catcher in the NL and six straight All-Star Games, he’s bringing in only $6.5 million this season and won’t top $12.5 at any point of his current deal. This is roughly half of what Joe Mauer will be bringing in annually as the game’s other premier catcher.

6. David Price: This is the perfect example of the risk of rewarding on potential paying off. The Rays gave Price a six-year deal for $8.5 million total after taking him number in the 2007 Draft. He made his way to Tampa Bay in short order and now the Rays have gotten All-Star seasons the last two years from the young left for the grand total of $2.2 million.

5. Troy Tulowitzki/Carlos Gonzalez: The Colorado Rockies duo is in the same ballpark in more ways than one. Last season they combined for 61 home runs and 212 RBI, while hitting .326. After getting those numbers for a whopping total of $6 million dollars, they reward both with huge extensions that will keep CarGo with Colorado until 2017 and Tulo through 2021. However, currently both franchise centerpieces are pulling down a total of $10.5 million in 2011 and neither will make eight figures a year until 2013.

The Rockies young duo is turning in premium performances at a 2 for 1 price, for now.

4. Ryan Braun: Take this one with a grain of salt, because it’s not going to stay this way forever (his recent five-year, $105 million extension kicks in soon), but right now the Brewers are getting MVP numbers at coupon price. Credit the Milwaukee front office for foresight in extending him eight more years at $45 million after only a year & half. But considering they are getting a potential MVP for only $4 million dollars this year ($13 million dollars less than Matt Holliday and $15.5 million less than Carl Crawford; his left field contemporaries) he’s a steal of monumental proportions, for now.

3. Joakim Soria: There’s not a lot of money spread around the Royals roster, and their All-Star closer is pulling down the most manageable contract of any premier finisher in the game. He netted $426,000 for 42 saves in 2008, then $3 million for one more in 2010. Usually results like this mean he’d be on his way out-of-town from small market Royals, but he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, as he is signed to KC through 2014. All for no more one $8.5 million, all on team options to renew each season.

2. Evan Longoria: Another instance similar to Braun’s where potential was cashed in on early, only much, much quicker. Tampa Bay locked Longoria up long-term four days after his Major League debut to a six-year, $17 million deal. In return, he’s given them three All-Star Games in his first three seasons and won’t make over $10 million in a summer until 2015.

1. Albert Pujols: Judgment day is coming in this case, and it could be ushered in by the loudest cash register sound ever heard. The thing is that nobody can say he hasn’t earned it, and definitely is due for it. $16 million per season isn’t a value by the usual rules of engagement, but Pujols has made a career of resetting expectations. Back in 2004, the Cardinals handed him an 8 year, $100 million deal that now resembles a “cash for clunkers” deal. Why? Because since that deal he’s brought home three MVP’s for himself (and only dropped out the top three once), a 10th World Series and led an all out assault on the record books along the way.

The best player in the game is the sixth highest paid his position. Nuff said.

Here’s a list of first basemen that make more than him right now: Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Helton and Miguel Cabrera. This is a worthy list in many other scenarios, yet not when stood up next the game’s premier player, or biggest bargain. One thing is for sure, by Opening Day next year; this is one list that he won’t top any longer.

  1. clinton529 says:

    Great list… but if you ask me Ryan Braun should be higher than Soria.

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