(Baseball StL) -- Determining a player’s value is the art and science of assigning a monetary value to a player’s performance. It is an inexact science, of course, because some players bring more to a team than just run production or innings pitched.
The leadership qualities of a Chris Carpenter, the unifying personality of Yadier Molina, the calm veteran presence of Carlos Beltran and the excitement generated by Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez cannot be measured in wins and losses. That is called chemistry and good teams have good chemistry, a mutual respect, trust and kinship that extends beyond baseball.
But when it comes to contracts and payroll, general managers look for the concrete rather than the abstract in determining a players’ worth to the franchise. Sabermetrics and other analytical tools are used to gauge value and in the end, it is an imprecise but still valuable tool in deciding ultimately how a team’s money is spent.
Let’s see how the St. Louis Cardinals are doing.
Their payroll is $116 million, 11th is baseball and just about half of the bloated payroll of the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Dodgers are currently in last place with a run differential of -32, making them by salary one of the most inefficient teams in baseball.)
Of that $116 million, the Cardinals currently have $22 million in non-performing assets in Chris Carpenter ($10.5 million), Rafael Furcal ($7 million) and Jason Motte ($4.5 million).
That means nearly 20 percent of the Cardinals’ payroll will not contribute anything to the 2013 club, assuming of course that Carpenter’s throwing program does not develop into a late season return.
That argues against long-term contracts (the subject of a future article), a point not lost on the Cardinals who narrowly escaped disaster with Albert Pujols and a multi-year deal worth mega millions. Pujols is currently hitting about .240 and has eight more seasons on his $230+ million contract.
Despite the dead salary weight the Cardinals currently carry, they are not among the least efficient in terms of payroll versus wins. The highest spending teams have that distinction. The Boston Red Sox, who lead their division, have a payroll in excess of $200 million, and thus will never be considered efficient.
Efficiency is also a relative term. The most efficient team in baseball in terms of money spent versus wins produced is the Houston Astros. Even though they seldom win, their cumulative payroll is just $22 million, less than the top six highest paid players make individually. (They are also lead the majors in strikeouts and lag in attendance, arguing against striving to lead baseball in efficiency).
Players’ value is calculated by how much the team pays them against what they contribute in terms of quantifiable accomplishments.
So who are the 5 biggest bargains for the St. Louis Cardinals so far this year?
1). Matt Adams. Too early to say this will hold up all year, but for the $490,000 the Birds spent on him, Adams per appearance is by far the most productive per money spent on the club, based on hits, home runs and overall production.
2). Shelby Miller. Also a $490,000 salary, Miller has produced 5 wins and 51 Ks with an ERA of 1.79. Compare that (as I will in another article) to Johann Santana who is paid $25 million and will not pitch at all this year.
3). Matt Carpenter. At just a little over $500,000, Carpenter is hitting around .280 and has shown occasional power. But his true value to the team comes in his versatility. He can play almost anywhere, can bat lead off, and has decent speed.
4). John Jay. At about $525,000, Jay ranks fourth in efficiency or production versus money spent. His batting average has been climbing to complement the ground he covers in the outfield. He struggled early but has put about 70 points on his average in the past few weeks and contributed 17 RBIs already this year.
5). Pete Kozma. Perhaps one of the most underrated defensive shortstops in the National League, Kozma at $490,000 provides reliable defense at the crucial shortstop position and adds a respectable batting average.