Has ever a team gotten so little from so much?
The Red Sox opened the year with 11 players making $9 million or more, the most players in that income bracket in the big leagues. The returns have been almost uniformly dismal.
The decision to designate Justin Masterson (signed to a one-year, $9.5 million deal this winter) for assignment, documented by Peter Abraham, underscored the poor yield on significant investments. Here is a look at the player-by-player performance of the Sox’ $9 million club, using 2015 salary (rather than average annual value of contracts) and the Wins Above Replacement calculations of Baseball-Reference.com:
Hanley Ramirez ($19m): -0.4 WAR
Pablo Sandoval ($17m): -0.5 WAR
David Ortiz ($16m): 1.5 WAR
Mike Napoli ($16m): 0.6 WAR
Shane Victorino ($13m): 0.6 WAR
Dustin Pedroia ($12.5m): 1.4 WAR
Rick Porcello ($12.5m): -0.6 WAR
Clay Buchholz ($12m): 2.4 WAR
Rusney Castillo ($10.5m): 0.1 WAR
Justin Masterson ($9.5m): -0.3 WAR
Koji Uehara ($9m): 1.1 WAR
That’s a combined $147 million in salary for the 2015 season that has netted a combined 5.9 wins beyond what the team might have expected from an average replacement-level group, with ambitions to contend giving way to an effort to restart. Masterson is now gone. So, too, are Napoli (traded on Friday) and Victorino (dealt in the days leading up to the trade deadline).
In 2012-13, the Red Sox thrived because they spread their bets on a number of players and had every one hit. Now, as Nick Cafardo notes, virtually every player from that landmark winter is gone, and the spread-the-wealth formula of acquisitions that began last August and ran into the offseason of 2014-15 produced the opposite effect.
On the one hand, the group offers a case study in the idea that success in the current baseball landscape is dictated by quite a bit more than the simple ability to flex financial muscle. On the other hand, the group also offers evidence of a number of investments that failed to deliver anything close to the expected returns, the result of which is a season that effectively ended in July, and that is forcing a period of organizational self-reflection and transition.