The Cost Of One Win

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?

Topics: Albert Pujols, Hisashi Iwakuma, Prince Fielder

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  • AlexCarson

    Yeah, paying $5m for every win on a roster would be absurd, but no team does that. Some players (usually pre-arb guys) are huge bargains while some are huge burdens (Carlos Silva).

    But the going rate is the going rate. If you want a particular ballplayer, you have to pay up. And, of course, making that choice is going to be different for every team. You need to have the money, market and supporting cast to justify it otherwise you’re just pulling a Rangers/A-Rod.

  • AlexCarson

    Yeah, paying $5m for every win on a roster would be absurd, but no team does that. Some players (usually pre-arb guys) are huge bargains while some are huge burdens (Carlos Silva).

    But the going rate is the going rate. If you want a particular ballplayer, you have to pay up. And, of course, making that choice is going to be different for every team. You need to have the money, market and supporting cast to justify it otherwise you’re just pulling a Rangers/A-Rod.

  • TPC

    I just can’t see paying 20-25 million now Fielder for three reasons. One, it’s a position that may be a 2 war increase of Smoak. Two, the risk of injury for Fielder and his 5-11” 275 lbs may not even make it to 2014 when they will be competitive. Three, in listening to Wedge (KJR) he said this is the year we find out what the kids can really do which will tell the team what they really need in terms going into the free agent market.

    Patience is what they need now. In 2013 & 2014 there will be a few really good players out there and some of our young kids will have time to create more value for trades.

    This is not the year to get a big name free agent. Let the big guy go to D.C. I don’t want a Fielder contract to get JZ fired.

  • TPC

    I just can’t see paying 20-25 million now Fielder for three reasons. One, it’s a position that may be a 2 war increase of Smoak. Two, the risk of injury for Fielder and his 5-11” 275 lbs may not even make it to 2014 when they will be competitive. Three, in listening to Wedge (KJR) he said this is the year we find out what the kids can really do which will tell the team what they really need in terms going into the free agent market.

    Patience is what they need now. In 2013 & 2014 there will be a few really good players out there and some of our young kids will have time to create more value for trades.

    This is not the year to get a big name free agent. Let the big guy go to D.C. I don’t want a Fielder contract to get JZ fired.

  • maqman

    Hamilton will be a free agent after next season and Votto the season after that. Any player is at risk for an injury but to me they represent the type and timing for the M’s to consider betting the franchise on. Z’s plan to build from the ground up has always been the right one for the M’s to be able to become and sustain a contender.

  • maqman

    Hamilton will be a free agent after next season and Votto the season after that. Any player is at risk for an injury but to me they represent the type and timing for the M’s to consider betting the franchise on. Z’s plan to build from the ground up has always been the right one for the M’s to be able to become and sustain a contender.

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