The Cost Of One Win

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This morning on Twitter, I had a brief conversation about Mariner’s apparently imminent signing of Hisashi Iwakuma with former SoDo Mojo writer Alex Carson. We were discussing the expected value of Iwakuma’s contract, and it led me to want to discuss on here how much salary 1 win is worth.

The general rule of thumb is that right now, each 1 WAR is worth about $5 mil on the open market. There’s some fluctuation there, depending on the position, and whether that WAR is generated via defense or HR or whatever, but that number is actually pretty accurate.

I find that absurd to be honest. remember that a 0 WAR players isn’t an average player. It’s supposed to be a typical player that gets called up from AAA to fill in as an injury replacement. An average major leaguer is around 2 to 2.2 WAR, depending on the year.

That means that it’ll cost $10 mil/year on the open market just to get an average player. That’s awful.

A 0 WAR team is expected to win about 42 games. So to get to 90 wins (the minimum to begin expecting playoffs) a teams needs to accumulate around 48 WAR. If a team was to try and do that entirely via free agency at market value, it would cost $240 mil to become a borderline playoff team.

This whole idea makes me want to avoid the free agent market all together. Clearly no teams except the top 4 or 5 spenders can compete this way. In fact, if teams like the M’s tie up enough cash in mediocre FAs, it almost guarantees that they can’t complete. Paying $10 mil for a league average player will serve only to fill up their budget, and not do enough to get them into the playoffs.

Looking at it this way, the M’s need to find ways to pay significantly under market value at almost every position if they wish contend with a payroll of under $100 mil.

Developing young talent is clearly that way to do that. Getting 3 WAR out of Dustin Ackley at around $650k certainly saves almost $15 mil and certainly makes this process easier. Smoak, Carp, Pineda, etc… do that enough times and a team can compete. Just look at the Tampa Bay Rays.

The other extreme also ends up making a ton of sense if you think about it this way. Albert Pujols averages about 8 WAR per season, which is worth $40 mil on market value, but will be making only $25 mil. Technically the Angle’s saved $15 mil in that deal if you ignore that fact that he’s already in decline and it’s a 10 year deal at that rate. (It was an absolutely horrible deal overall, but for the next year or 2 its actauly not as bad as you might think)

Harrison wont want to hear this, but Prince Fielder makes sense if you think about it this way. Fielder has average just over 5 WAR per season over the past 3 years. That puts his value at about $25 mil/year. If the M’s can sign him for $17 to $ 18, they actually end up ahead of the market in the deal.

I bet you didn’t think that Fielder at $18 mil per year was bargain, now did you?

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Tags: Albert Pujols Hisashi Iwakuma Prince Fielder

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