I have definitively answered the less-than-eternal question – What is the value of 1 win above replacement level in free agency? – by slavishly scouring the salary and WAR data of 76 players (excluding relief pitchers) who signed free agent contracts in 2014.
Alright, maybe it isn’t the “definitive” answer. But it’s mine, so, at least, I like it.
(I used a 3-year weighted WAR from 2011-2013 and the average annual salary for which each player signed.)
The $/WAR figure that was garnered by several players were absurdly high, while other players seemed to be cheating themselves with the WAR-dollar bargains that they gave their teams. In fact, those players skewed the mean average by so much that I decided that the median was the better number. Instead of adding up all of the players $/WAR and dividing by 76, I looked for the number that had just as many players making more than that number as less than that number.
The upper-end outliers included 5 players who actually had negative “weighted WAR” totals from the 2011 season through the 2013 season. That means they were – according to WAR – worth less than the league minimum salary and really should not have been given a major league contract. Brian Roberts had a 3-year weighted WAR of -0.3, but the Orioles decided that he was worth $2 million. An even bigger blunder was the contract given to Skip Schumaker by the Cardinals. His 3-year weighted WAR was -1.3, but the Cardinals valued that below waiver-wire performance at $2.5 million.
The most team-friendly deal was signed by former Pirate catcher John Buck. His 3-year weighted WAR was 1.4 and he signed for $1 million. That’s just $0.71 million per WAR.
The highest $/WAR contract (among players who had a positive weighted WAR) went to catcher Brayan Pena. His weighted WAR was .03 and he signed a deal for $1.1 million, taking the Reds for $36.67 million per WAR. (You see what I mean by “skewing the mean.” That’s not three-point-six million. That’s Thirty-Six million.)
Another outrageously high contract was signed by a player who ended up having a very good year: Justin Morneau. He had a weighted WAR of 0.2 and signed for $6.3 million per year. That’s $31.5 million per WAR. Yes, yes, he won the National League batting title, so he ended up being worth the $6.3 million. But the point is that the overall 2013-2014 free agent market says that the Rockies should have had him for under $1 million per year.
Because the median $/WAR for those 76 free agents was $4.62 million.
The Pirates did well with the free agent extension of Clint Barmes. He had a weighted WAR of 1.3 and signed for $2million – $1.54M/WAR. However, as believed at the time of the signing, they did not do so well with Edinson Volquez. His 0.34 weighted WAR netted him a $5 million deal from the Pirates. That’s an exorbitant $14.7M/WAR. And, though he had a good year, his 0.7 WAR only provided $3.23 million of value in exchange for the $5 million he was paid.
I’ll be posting soon on what the median $/WAR number means for current Pirate free agents Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Clint Barmes; as well as free agents from other teams who might be targeted by the Bucs.
If there are any current players for whom you would like my 3-year, weighted-WAR free agent value, just ask. Of course, I could always create a page that lists the values for all of this off-seasons free agents.