With no salary cap, baseball is often filled with outrageous salaries. Still, great value does exist. Which MLB players supply that value?
How many former Milwaukee Brewers are ranked among baseball’s best salaries?
Madison Bumgarner and Salvador Perez are both World Series MVP’s. How much value do they provide their teams? What about MVP candidates like Paul Goldschmidt and Jose Altuve?
Which eight MLB players are giving their teams the most bang for their buck?
Note: We’re only looking at players in their arbitration years or beyond. So, players in their rookie deals like Noah Syndergaard and Kris Bryant are excluded.
All contract info is courtesy of Spotrac.
Paul Goldschmidt, first baseman, Arizona Diamondbacks
Since he broke into the league in 2011, Goldschmidt has been one of baseball’s most productive players. He’s a four-time All-Star, two-time MVP runner up, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and two-time Gold Glove winner.
Yet, the $8.85 that Goldschmidt will make in 2017 is not even in the top-10 among MLB first basemen. As a point of comparison, Ryan Zimmerman is set to make $14 million. But Goldschmidt has compiled stats that only Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig have amassed. So, comparing Zimmerman to Goldschmidt is like putting the Tampa Bay Rays franchise history up against the New York Yankees.
Ryan Zimmerman vs. Paul Goldschmidt since 2011 isn't exactly a fair fight. pic.twitter.com/CUgQa0V3j0
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) March 9, 2017
Goldschmidt will make $11 million in 2018 and the Diamondbacks have a $14.5 million club option for 2019.
Goldschmidt won’t turn 30 until September of 2017. So, assuming that 2019 option is picked up, the Diamondbacks will have enjoyed a good portion of his prime years for a shade under $46 million.
As a frame of reference, the legendary Miguel Cabrera — who will turn 34 in the early weeks of the 2017 season — will make no less than $58 million over any two seasons between 2017-2023.
Arizona hasn’t exactly made a lot of great personnel moves over the last few seasons. But the D-Backs get two thumbs up when it comes to Goldschmidt’s contract.
Jonathan Lucroy, catcher, Texas Rangers
A total of 11 backstops will make more than Lucroy in 2017. Lucroy may not be the best catcher in the game. But the list of catchers better than him is nowhere near 11 deep.
In 2016, Lucroy had a career year. He hit 24 home runs, drove in 81, slashed at .292/.355/.500. But while it was a career year, it didn’t come out of the blue. From 2013-2015, Lucroy slashed at .284/.349/.443, averaging 13 home runs and 65 RBI a year. Even those numbers were driven down by an injury plagued 2015 season. So, Lucroy is clearly one of the game’s best catchers. He’s just not paid like it.
At the end of the 2017 season, Lucroy will have made just under $19.2 million for his career. Buster Posey made a hair under $20.1 million in 2016 and will make more than $22 million each year between 2017 and 2021. Sure, Posey is the best catcher in baseball. But is he that much better?
Lucroy will be a free agent after following the 2017 season and figures to cash in in a big way. But until then, he gives the Rangers more bang for their buck than most players give their teams.
Corey Kluber, starting pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Take your shoes and socks off so you can use all of your fingers and toes. You still won’t get to the number of starting pitchers who will make more than Kluber in 2017. In fact, you won’t get anywhere close.
Kluber will be MLB’s 55th-highest-paid starting pitcher during the 2017 season. But the number of pitchers who have done it better than Kluber in recent seasons isn’t anywhere near 54.
Few have done it better than Corey Kluber over the last three seasons. pic.twitter.com/FW7NNj5yWN
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) March 10, 2017
Over that time, the Indians have paid Kluber a total of $7.024 million. His salary will go up over the next few years. But when we remember that Kluber is one of baseball’s best pitchers, it’s still a reasonable number.
Kluber is set to make $7.7 million in 2017 and $31.6 over the next three. Then, if Cleveland is so inclined, it has a $13.5 million team option in 2020 and a $14 million option in 2021.
For a man who won the 2014 American League Cy Young, finished third in voting in 2016, is one-half of a brilliant 1-2 punch with Edwin Encarnacion, clearly fronts one of baseball’s best rotations and was the unquestioned ace of the 2016 American League Champions, that’s not bad.
Chris Carter, first baseman/designated hitter, New York Yankees
What do we know about Carter? His batting average will hover around the Mendoza line and he’ll strike out a ton.
Chris Carter has 875 strikeouts in 2,645 plate appearances (1 ever 3.0 PA). Chipper Jones had 1,409 K in 10,614 PA (1 ever 7.5 PA)
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) March 9, 2017
But he also has immense power. Carter has hit 131 home runs over the last four seasons and led the National League with 41 in 2016. So, when the Milwaukee Brewers decided to non-tender him, it was a slight surprise. When he signed with the Yankees for $3.5 million, it was an absolute steal.
If Carter doesn’t work out in the Bronx, New York isn’t out too much. The Yankees can certainly afford the $3.5 million. But what if it does work out? Then the Bronx Bombers will get one of baseball’s most powerful hitters for a bargain basement price.
When a team signs a player to a contract, a simple question has to be asked. Is the player worth the financial risk? That’s a question that has to be asked about guys like Mike Trout and certainly must be asked in regards to a flawed player like Carter.
But despite all of his flaws, Carter has shown as recently as 2016 that he can hit 40 home runs in a season. If we doubled his $3.5 million salary, he’d still be worth the risk to any team, especially the Yankees.
Salvador Perez, catcher, Kansas City Royals
Perez will make $4.2 million in 2017, which is an absolute bargain. He’s under contract through 2021, and while his salary will continue escalate, it’s never going to reach an unreasonable number. Perez will make $8.7 million in 2018, $11.2 million in 2019 and $14.2 million in both 2020 and 2021. That will take Perez thorough his age-31 season.
Perez has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons. He also won a Gold Glove in each of the last three years, so he clearly knows how to handle a pitching staff.
In that four-year stretch, Perez has hit .264/.294/.424, which is certainly not bad for a catcher. Of course, looking forward, we have to look to see if there are any signs of regression.
His .247 batting average in 2016 might indicate yes. But Perez also hit a career high 22 home runs last season. If you’re a Royals fan, do you want a big, hulking player like Perez anchoring the bases, or swinging for the fences?
As the 2015 World Series MVP, Perez will always have a special place in the hearts of Kansas City’s fans. But with a team friendly contract and consistent two-way production at a grueling defensive position, he’ll continue to help the Royals in a big way for the next several years.
Khris Davis, outfielder, Oakland Athletics
For those of you tracking at home, this is our third former Brewer. Davis is an emerging star.
In February, the A’s lost an arbitration case against Davis. That’s the bad news. The good news? Even with the loss, they only owe him $5 million for 2017.
Davis showed a lot of power for the Milwaukee Brewers over the 2013-2015 seasons. He hit 60 home runs over 1,029 at-bats, or 20 home runs in 343 at-bats per season. It begged a question. Can he do it over a full season? In 2016, we found out.
Davis knocked out 42 home runs in his first year in Oakland, slashing at .247/.307/.524. Sure, a .307 OBP leaves something to be desired. But it’s not a bad trade-off for a guy hitting 40-plus home runs and slugging at better than .500.
The bad news for the A’s is that if Davis has another fantastic season, his 2018 arbitration won’t be so cheap. The good news is that Davis won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2020. So, if Davis’ arbitration rate gets too high, he becomes a trade candidate for the 2017-18 offseason.
Also, let’s assume that Davis will regress and hits 21 home runs in 2017, only half of his 2016 total. In that case, Oakland would have a good bargaining position for 2018’s arbitration. Additionally, $5 million for 21 home runs is still not a bad rate, even for a small market team like the Athletics.
In Davis, Oakland has something that it desperately needs. A fantastic, affordable asset.
Jose Altuve, second baseman, Houston Astros
Entering his age-27 season, Altuve has already emerged as one of baseball’s best, most complete players.
Altuve has led the American League in hits each of the last three seasons, was the junior circuit’s stolen-base king in 2014 and 2015, and the batting champ in 2014 and 2016. He’s also has made four All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards and a Gold Glove.
And to say that Altuve’s contract is team friendly would be the understatement of the century.
Altuve will make $4.5 million in 2017. Then, in what may be the two easiest decisions in the history of baseball, Houston has a $6 million option in 2018 and a $6.5 million option in 2019. That’s $17 million over three years for an MVP candidate at a premium position. Robinson Cano, another very good second baseman, will make $24 million per year through 2023.
If the Houston front office isn’t patting itself on the back for that contract, it really should be.
Madison Bumgarner, starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants
Bumgarner’s playoff success deservedly gets most of the attention. But he’s no slouch in the regular season.
Even without the gaudy postseason stats, Bumgarner has quite a track record for a guy who won’t even turn 28 until August.
The San Francisco ace has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons, finishing ninth or better in Cy Young voting each year. In that time, he’s never made fewer than 31 starts, thrown fewer than 201.1 innings, had an ERA worse than 2.98 or a WHIP higher than 1.090.
Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, has never had an ERA under 3.00 in a season in which he started more than 12 games. Only once has he had a WHIP under 1.10 in a full year. He has only started 30 games in a season twice and hit 200 innings once. At this point that we need to remind you of something. While Strasburg has been treated like an emerging phenom for most of his career, he’s actually a year older than Bumgarner.
But Bumgarner will make $11.7 million in 2017 and the Giants have $12 million options on him in 2018 and 2019. Assuming those options are picked up, San Francisco will pay Bumgarner $35.7 million over the next three years. The Washington Nationals will pay Strasburg nearly $1 million more over the next two.
And it’s really not even fair to just pick on Strasburg and the Nationals. Zack Greinke will make make $34 million in 2017 alone. In 2017, Bumgarner will be the seventh-highest-paid player and third highest-paid-pitcher on his own team.
Bumgarner has been an integral part of three Giants World Series champions. He won the 2014 World Series nearly on his own. He even has not one, but two home runs against notorious Giants killer, Clayton Kershaw.
All things considered, San Francisco is getting an amazing bang for its buck.