Rating baseball’s biggest value players — and its worst
There are several players who gave their respective bosses a good bang for their buck and many who didn’t in 2018. Here’s a partial list of the good value players and the ones who might want to offer some of their money back:
Good value position players
1. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros — Bregman is hitting .289 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs with a .937 OPS. He’s become one of the most dangerous hitters in the game and at $599,000 the Astros are getting major bang for their buck. Enjoy it while it lasts because at this rate Bregman is going to make a fortune when free agency comes.
2. Trevor Story, SS, Rockies — For $555,000 the Rockies have received .288, 33 homers, 102 RBIs, and .894 OPS of value. He’s an exciting player and yes, quite a story.
3. Javier Baez, 2B, Cubs — For $657,000 the Cubs have an MVP candidate and Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. Baez has hit .294 with 33 homers, 107 RBIs, and an .897 OPS. Jon Lester called him “the best infielder I’ve ever played with and I played with Dustin Pedroia and Mike Lowell.”
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians — For $622,000 the Indians have one of the best players in the game with 36 homers, 87 RBIs, a .282 average, and an .883 OPS. Lindor is also a very good defensive shortstop and a team leader.
5. Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners — For $538,000 Haniger has provided 26 homers, 90 RBIs, and a .284 average, as well as very good right field play. The Mariners feel Haniger’s numbers will continue to grow given his athleticism and skill set.
6. Andrew Benintendi, LF, Red Sox — Benintendi made $621,000 this season and has so far produced a .285 average with 16 homers and 81 RBIs. His outfield play has improved in his conversion to left field from center field, where he played for most of his amateur and early professional career.
7. Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers — The 28-year-old first baseman has slugged 33 homers, driven in 103 runs, and hit .275. He made $557,000 for this somewhat unexpected production.
8. Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees — Judge has had an injury-filled season, breaking his wrist and recently returning after a two-month layoff. Yet he’s hit 26 homers with 61 RBIs and has a .925 OPS. He’s also a very good right fielder with an excellent arm. He made $622,000 this season.
9. Max Muncy, INF, Dodgers — He’s had a surprising season with 33 homers and a .961 OPS. Muncy is a $550,000 player. Released by the Oakland A’s after a couple of poor seasons, where he hit .206 and .186, he’s found his paradise in Los Angeles.
10. Whit Merrifield, 2B, Royals — He has a .303 average, a league-leading 37 steals, and a .803 OPS for $570,000. The Royals will take it. Merrifield was one of the most sought-after second basemen at the trade deadline, but the Royals weren’t impressed with the returns and kept him.
Good value pitchers
1. Blake Snell, LHP, Rays — He’s a 20-game winner and the likely Cy Young Award winner in the American League. Snell is downright nasty, probably the toughest pitcher the Red Sox faced this season. The Rays got all of that for $558,000.
2. Edwin Diaz, RHP, Mariners — It’s been a phenomenal season for the 22-year-old, who has saved 56 games. Diaz will surely get Cy Young votes. It’s always hard for closers to win the award, but Diaz should contend. He made about $571,000 this season. He’s not far off Francisco Rodriguez’s save record of 62, set in 2008.
3. Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies — For $573,000, he has established himself as one of the best young starters in the game. Nola, a National League Cy Young candidate, is 16-5 with a 2.44 ERA with 210 strikeouts in 199⅓ innings.
4. Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees — Well, he was on his way to a Cy Young until he suffered a little bump in the road, but he will get plenty of votes for the AL award. Severino is 18-8 with a 3.38 ERA. The Yankees paid him $605,000 to be their No. 1 pitcher.
5. Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies — The 25-year-old didn’t come out of the blue, he was starting to get it together in 2017, when he went 11-11. But in 2018, Freeland has taken the next step with 15 wins and a 2.95 ERA. And he’s done it for $550,000.
6. Mike Clevinger, RHP, Indians — He is 12-8 with a 3.06 ERA, and he has really come around as a dependable starter for the Tribe with 30 starts and 188⅓ innings. Clevinger earned $559,000.
7. Trevor Williams, RHP, Pirates — Another breakthrough season among the affordables. Williams has gone 13-9 with a 3.16 ERA in 29 starts. He made $570,000.
8. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates — He’s almost mirrored teammate Williams’s season with a 13-9 record and a 3.24 ERA in 30 starts. He made $550,000.
9. Wade LeBlanc, LHP, Mariners — A journeyman much of his career, LeBlanc has steadied the Mariners’ rotation, making 25 starts and going 8-4 with a 3.49 ERA. LeBlanc earned $700,000.
10. Sean Manaea, LHP, A’s — Before he got hurt, Manaea, who no-hit the Red Sox on April 21 at the Coliseum, went 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 27 starts and earned $550,000. The 26-year-old is scheduled for Tommy John surgery, which will likely sideline him for the 2019 season.
Bad value position players
1. Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles – Davis has been horrendous and nobody feels worse than he does. His .171 average, 16 homers, 49 RBIs, and .548 OPS make him the worst value player in baseball in 2018. Perhaps there is an undisclosed reason for it. The Orioles paid Davis $23 million this season.
2. Albert Pujols, 1B. Angels — Hate to pick on the future Hall of Famer, but Pujols has hit .245 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs, and he has a .700 OPS. Pujols was paid $27 million in 2018, and he has three years remaining on that enormous 10-year, $240 million deal.
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Padres —
Generally a disappointing season for the high-priced free agent, who has hit .251 with 17 homers, 65 RBIs, and a .715 OPS. Hosmer earned $21 million.
4. Russell Martin, C, Blue Jays — Martin is hitting .194, and his defense has slipped. The Jays are on the hook for $20 million and owe Martin that same amount in 2019.
5. Miguel Cabrera, DH/1B, Tigers — His struggles (three homers, 22 RBIs) are partly due to injury. Cabrera’s season ended on June 12, so there’s not much of a sample size here. He made $30 million and could be under contract for another six seasons at $30 million or north of it.
6. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Yankees —
The Yankees paid the 35-year-old over $21 million, and he didn’t play a game.
7. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Mets — Cespedes was paid a whopping $29 million and hit .262 with nine homers and 29 RBIs before his foot injuries.
8. David Wright, 3B, Mets — Can’t blame him for his chronic injuries but Wright took in $20 million and never played an inning.
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Blue Jays – Ditto for Tulo. He had surgery on both heels, which shelved him for the season. He took home $20 million from the Jays and has two years and an option remaining on the deal. Look for Tulowitzki to have a position change next season with Bo Bichette on the horizon at shortstop.
Bad value pitchers
1. Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners — All great things must come to an end. King Felix has an 8-13 record and a 5.46 ERA. The Mariners paid him $26.8 million this season. They’ll have to pay him $27.9 million next season before there’s a $1 million buyout in 2020 on that seven-year, $175 million deal.
2. Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds — His 1-14 record and 6.09 ERA probably made him the worst starting pitcher in baseball in 2018. He was paid $21 million.
3. Alex Cobb, RHP, Orioles — He rebounded a tad in August, but Cobb was disappointing in his first season with the Orioles. He’s gone 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA while being paid $14 million.
4. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Tigers — Battling injuries, he’s only been able to make 23 starts and has gone 7-8 with a 4.41 ERA. But he did make $24 million.
5. James Shields, RHP, White Sox — He’s still a workhorse who will take the ball every time and go as long as he can. Good guy and team leader, but for $21 million Shields has gone 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA.
6. Jason Hammel, RHP, Royals — He made $9 million with a 3-13 record and a 5.98 ERA as a starter/reliever for Kansas City. Much more was expected of him.
7. Yu Darvish, RHP, Cubs — He was paid $25 million for eight starts before he was sidelined for the season. Darvish didn’t pitch after May 20 because of an elbow issue.
Apropos of nothing
1. Add John Hart to the list of candidates linked to the Mets’ and Orioles’ general manager jobs. Hart appears to have it in him to run one more team. He’s done a top-shelf job wherever he’s been, and before his exit from Atlanta last November he built the Braves team that won the NL East on Saturday.
2. Don Welke was a gem and one of the most knowledgeable baseball guys you’d ever want to meet in the business. Recently of the Padres, Welke died this past week. He will be missed.
3. Jim Beattie, the former major league pitcher, GM, and scout, recently retired from the Blue Jays. Take a look at his career, pretty impressive.
4. Places where new managers could/will be hired are Texas, Los Angeles (Angels), Baltimore, and Toronto. It appears Mickey Callaway in New York and Dave Martinez in Washington are safe despite poor first seasons. It also appears Don Mattingly will return in Miami. Who are potential candidates? John Farrell is seen as a possible fit in Baltimore. Buck Showalter could be a consideration in Texas, where he once managed, though interim manager Don Wakamatsu could retain the job. Eric Wedge and current Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale could be up for the Toronto gig. Brad Ausmus and Mike Matheny could also be in play in Texas.
5. One of the most interesting items in the unauthorized biography of Bill Belichick, by Ian O’Connor, was the revelation that Carroll Hardy was the player personnel director of the Denver Broncos for almost 20 years. Hardy was a pinch hitter for the Red Sox and famous for three things involving Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. In September of the 1960 season, Williams fouled a ball off his foot and Hardy had to complete the at-bat and lined into a double play. And then after Williams’s final at-bat on Sept. 28 at Fenway, when he homered against Orioles reliever Jack Fisher, Hardy replaced him in left field so he could run off the field and be cheered for the final time. Hardy also pinch-hit for Yastrzemski the following May in Yaz’s rookie year.
6. An interesting debate these days from scouts centers around Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil. Real deal or flash in the pan? McNeil is described as “a ballplayer.” He’s got that Dustin Pedroia heart and soul, will go through a wall if he has to. He’s also shown excellent bat control and seems to be able to place the ball where he wants. Scouts were amazed by his ability to beat the shift in a recent Mets-Marlins series. But then there are those skeptical of his long-term potential. The consensus is the Mets should invest in this kid, who has brought a great deal of energy to the team.
7. If the Yankees can cut a reasonable deal, they’d like to have Andrew McCutchen, who will be a free agent, back next season. The Yankees like him on the field and in the clubhouse. The Yankees could part ways with left fielder Brett Gardner, who has been reduced to a bench role and whose $12.5 million club option will likely be bought out for $2 million. And yes, Jacoby Ellsbury could return in 2019.
8. Baseball writers have lost sight of the essence of the Most Valuable Player Award. It has essentially become the Player of the Year Award. If that’s the way it is, then we should have two awards. Baseball Digest is giving out the Player of the Year Award and that should become part of the list of awards given out by the BBWAA. WAR, which is the tool most baseball writers use now to determine their votes, doesn’t measure the intangibles of players. It is often those intangibles which make a player “most valuable.” Mookie Betts is the best player this season, but J.D. Martinez’s numbers are also top shelf, and the effect he’s had on the major hitters in Boston’s lineup is undeniable.
9. Pedro Martinez visited the Red Sox clubhouse in Cleveland on Friday. I asked how he would pitch to Martinez. “Low and away,” Pedro said. J.D. walked by as Pedro was talking and chimed in, “I know how to pitch me — right down the middle. I never see that.”
10. Interesting to see whether the Giants pick up Madison Bumgarner’s $12 million option for 2019 and then deal him in the offseason. The Yankees were one of the teams that inquired at the trade deadline. Bumgarner allowed 12 runs over 11 innings in his first two September starts, and has not pitched well on the road — 2-4, 5.02 ERA in 10 starts. Bumgarner and his agents have been hoping for a contract extension with the Giants, but no talks have taken place, which gives rise to the belief the Giants may move on.
From the Bill Chuck files — “The 1988 Texas Rangers finished the season 70-91 with 41 complete games. As of Thursday morning, there were 41 complete games pitched in the majors this season.” . . . Also, “Here’s a stat worth tracking this AL postseason: Through Wednesday, the Astros’ bullpen had only walked 124 batters this season. Compare that to Cleveland’s 137, the Yankees’ 199, Oakland’s 215, and the Red Sox’ 220.” . . . Happy birthday, Tony Fossas (61) and Dennis Lamp (66).