(This post was written by long-time friend of the Nation Michael Howes.)

I got this idea from a post over at Beyond The Boxscore comparing the Texas Rangers players’ value to their contracts to the value of their production. What I have done is taken Fangraphs‘ dollar value — which is based on WAR — for each Reds player and subtracted that from each players actual pay. This can show us which Reds have been a good or bad value based on what the Reds are paying them and where the Reds have spent their money wisely.

The scale is in millions and values in (red) are negative value.

Cincinnati Reds Value Over Contract
Cincinnati Reds Value Over Contract

The good news is that 25 of the 38 players who have played significant time for the Reds are due to get paid less than $1 million dollars this year, including Votto, Dickerson, Cueto, Hanigan, Bruce, Gomes, Masset and Stubbs. It’s easy to be worth more than what you are getting paid if you make that little.

I won’t go into the bad news too much since we pretty much knew Gonzo and Taveras were not earning their money (roughly $7 million combined). The question that I’ve seen asked on the blog before goes something like this. “Cordero has been great this season but can the Reds afford to pay a closer $12 million?” Well Cordero has been very good this season until recent weeks but he’s only been worth slightly over $6 million. By this measure — well, by almost any measure — a team like the Reds cannot spend $12 million on a closer worth around $6 million.

I have not compared the team total value over contract with other teams but the Reds appear to have done fairly well. A number of the most valuable Reds come cheap: Votto, Phillips, Cueto, Hanigan, Bruce and Nix. Gomes would be on this list but he just hasn’t played enough. These players have outweighed the big wastes of money which have been Gonzo, Hernandez, Cordero and Lincoln.

The team has performed to a total value of $97 million. The team is going to pay these players $72 million.

A few notes (caveats) on what I did.

  • Value is based on production, including defense through September 10th. I adjusted that value with a straight percentage of 162 games. Playing time from here on out will change these values.
  • I’ve removed a few players who haven’t played much and weren’t really in Reds plans before the season started. Barker, Richar, Miller, Manuel, Ramirez and Viola.
  • I’ve lowered traded players’ pay to the day they were traded.
  • Players currently on the DL with the exception of Bruce did not have their value adjusted for playing time from now until the end of the year. If by chance Harang, Taveras, etc play more their value would change.
  • I removed pitchers’ hitting value with the exception of Owings. Owings hitting value is significant. Take that into account when looking at the graph.
  • I did not have salary numbers for Lehr, McDonald or Stubbs so assumed league minimum of $400,000.
  • Hairston Jr. and Gonzo were not so easy to adjust actual pay. I think we paid both teams an additional $1.1 million each to take them but it was hard to figure out.
  • I absolutely cheated on Balentien. His VOC (Value over Contract) is probably the main one that could be inaccurate. I don’t have his performance value for just the Reds. I have a combined Seattle/Reds value. I divided it up based on plate appearances for each team.
  • Rolen’s pay this year as far as I can tell is $0. That is what makes his value over contract so high. 🙂

If you’d like to see the raw data drop me an email.

38 Responses

  1. wanderinredsfan

    Good stuff, but I take exception to using data on players who haven’t had much experience in the bigs yet. For instance, we all know Tatum has an amazing arm and glove, and it takes a long-time for any defensive metrics to actually mean anything relative to the rest of the league. Also, we should all be wary of defensive metrics and placing value on them, especially for catchers. The data to obtain the defensive metrics are just not very good, especially for such limited data points from someone like Tatum. The same could be said for Maloney. They are both worth way more than their league minimum salary, and the stats would indicate that with more playing time.

  2. wanderinredsfan

    Basically my over-arching point is; Players need a chance to acclimate and perform before we start valueing their performances. And the same could be said for players who are likely out-performing their true value (e.g. Dickerson).

  3. mike

    understood, playing time for those making league minimum can have significant impact on how they come out. But I figured, even in the case of serious prospects, like Stubbs we all understand that he will eventually be worth a lot more but I figured it was easy enough for people to look at the graph and understand that. And in the case of Tatum we all know he wasn’t in the Reds plan in any way and has just started to get playing time in recent weeks. To be honest the graph isn’t about players like Tatum or even Balentien or even Stubbs it’s about where the Reds spent their big money wisely or not.

    Gonzo, Hernandez, Lincoln, Cordero, Arroyo, Weathers and Taveras are a very large chunk of $$$ and what have we gotten in return is not worth what we spent

  4. Dan

    Great stuff, Mike!

    It seems obvious but I don’t think we think about it at all — the top of the list (besides Phillips) is guys making almost nothing. That’s why it’s so important to get good players at the beginnings of their careers (when they’re making almost nothing)!

    This also illustrates why free agents are so rarely a good value.

  5. Dan

    I’ll give you one free agent (not counting guys who might get non-tendered) who I think is a good “buy low” candidate and might actually be worth a gamble — Chris Capuano. He’s coming off surgery, so he should be cheap. But he’s only 30 and had fairly good numbers before (including good K rates for a starting pitcher).

    But by and large, I think most free agent contracts lose you money (would wind up in the negatives on a graph like Mike’s).

  6. mike

    it is interesting to look at the big contracts and see where they fall when looking at value

    in millions (roughly rounded)
    $12 Cordero
    $11 Harang
    $10 Arroyo
    $9 Hernandez
    $6 Phillips
    $5 Gonzo
    $4 Weathers
    $2 Taveras

  7. brublejr

    Great stuff Mike, I used that number of Cordero trying to make a point of why his contract kills the team. If you look at all his years, only 1 year his value was at 10 million, everything else is less.

    Dan: Great stuff, Mike!It seems obvious but I don’t think we think about it at all — the top of the list (besides Phillips) is guys making almost nothing.That’s why it’s so important to get good players at the beginnings of their careers (when they’re making almost nothing)!This also illustrates why free agents are so rarely a good value.

    That is what the Marlins do to try to stay competitive. They win, sell off all the parts and start from the beginning, and it works for them. BUT…you have to have good people in positions to help bring young players along, the Reds do not have that currently.

  8. brublejr

    The only number that really surprises me is how bad Rosales has been…for a guy making the minimum, for him to have that much negative value is hard to do…but I believe it.

  9. Dan

    Where would Dusty fall on this graph?

    🙁

  10. Chris

    I’m confused on one thing: Are you “charging” a guy like Tatum or Sutton with a full $400k in salary, or only the $75k or whatever they’ve actually earned? Or do those guys have negative values in addition to earning money?

    (Because I’m having a hard time figuring out how Sutton, for example, could have caused that much damage in 49 ABs, yet Janish, whose OPS+ is identical, has a positive number in 4X the playing time).

  11. mike

    I don’t know if Dusty’s contract pays him different over the 3 years but if his salary is broken up evenly he’s making $3.5 million this year. Now it’s up to you to give out his value 🙂

    Janish’s value is ALL defense.
    The breakdown of Sutton vs Janish

    Batting Fielding WAR Dollars
    -11.4 8.3 .7 $3.2 Janish
    -4.1 1.1 -.1 -$.5 Sutton

    Chris I think you found an error in my chart. With a few of the callups in the last month or so I had their pay at the full $400,000. Tatum is a good example. The question is what does he make? A portion of that since he was called up?
    See I think he WAS under contract with the big league club even before being called up. Hard to tell.

    There are a handful of players that I think (but am not sure) are getting payed by the big club even if they aren’t on the big league roster
    Stanton, Ross, Castro, Alonso, Bray, Francisco, Lecure, Thompson, and Viola

    Rosales has been HORRIBLE and gotten a good number of PA while doing it.
    When it comes to just hitting value, he’s been the 3rd worst total player on the Reds this year after Taveras and Gonzo

    I think the surprise for me was Arroyo. I know he’s paid a lot but he’s been so good in the 2nd half I figured he might be worth his pay. Nope

  12. Dan

    One other nitpick is that I think the Orioles paid something like $2 million toward Hernandez’s salary. So I don’t know if you count Hernandez’s actual salary at $8M or at $6M.

  13. mike

    I missed that fine print with Hernandez. I used $8 million
    the Reds have a $1 million buy out club option for next year, which makes it difficult to just subtract the $2 million. If the Reds opt out then you’d subtract $1 million from this years pay if they don’t opt out oh, I guess then the $2 million could be looked at across the 2 years and you’d also subtract $1 million.

  14. Matt WI

    @Dan: I’d be more interested in seeing what we can talk Ben Sheets’ agent into if we’re talking Brewers coming off of arm injuries. Any team that signs him should make it heavily incentive laden regarding innings pitched, or games pitched.

  15. Glenn

    I think most teams have a guy or maybe two who are grossly overpaid. Cordero is overpaid but he has not under performed. I think the team could live with Cordero’s salary if they hadn’t also signed under performers Willy Taveras, Gonzo and Hernandez. I think its safe to say that the production the Reds got from these three VETERAN players could easily be replaced by 3 young players making at or near the minimum contracts.

    Their signings and lack of bang for the buck really exacerbates the problem with having to pay Cordero’s inflated salary.

    In other words if we didn’t have to pay these three bums, would we even be talking about how much Cordero makes?

  16. mike

    @Glenn:

    Glenn I think you are dead on. Cordero, even with his recent struggles has been one of the better relievers in the NL. He might not be worth the money but if you are as good as he’s been in shouldn’t matter. But since the Reds have wasted so much $$ on (well put by the way) VETERAN player it makes the money spent on Cordero painful.

    it’s even funny/sad to think about in blunt terms. “what does a horrible team need with a $10+ million dollar closer”.

    I was even trying to think of a closer who was more valuable than Cordero in the NL. Can you think of any? I was thinking Broxton but that’s all I could come up with.
    After looking at the #s
    Broxton
    Bell
    Street
    Franklin
    Marmol
    Troncoso
    Wilson

    actually that is more than I thought that have been better than Cordero

  17. mike

    by the way one of the takeaways I got from looking at the graph was keep Phillips

  18. wanderinredsfan

    @mike:
    Keep Phillips for next season, but it gets more difficult once his contract starts escalating into the $11-$12-million bracket. He’d still likely have positive value, but his offensive production could potentially be replaced from one of Frazier, Valaika, Cozart, Puckett, Buchholz, etc.. Well, maybe not replaced, but Phillips could have more value in trading him for prospects, while we settle for one of the afore-mentioned. Plus, we can’t forget the benefit of cutting payroll, especially if the Reds continue their losing ways. IMO, next spring/early-summer will be ‘do or die’ for veterans and their place on this team.

  19. Dan

    Marmol?? How are you defining “better than Cordero”?

  20. Dan

    Re: Phillips, I think you bring up an interesting point.

    First, as Wander brought up, Phillips’s salaries escalate a LOT, and soon.

    09:$4.75M, 10:$6.75M, 11:$11M

    So he’s not likely to be great value for long.

    Secondly, you can’t only trade guys who stink or who have terrible value, b/c you would not get anything for them! “Buy low, sell high.” Phillips’s value is still “high” right now, so he’d probably bring a lot back in return. If we wait another year to deal him, his value will be way down simply b/c of his upcoming salaries.

    I’m not saying I definitely want to deal him, but I think we need to look into it. In trading, you have to have the guts to “sell high” at times.

  21. Sultan of Swaff

    I agree with Mike, this graph reveals managements poor track record in allocating free agent dollars. Or rather, does our poor free agent record highlight the inequities of small market teams vs. a big market teams in competing for REAL talent?
    My takeaway is that the free agent market is a waste of time, that we need to invest those dollars heavily into scouting and player development. It’s something the Marlins and Twins have already figured out.

  22. Drew Nelson

    I’m sorry but while I agree with most of the list, I believe Bronson has earned his money and worth every penny we have paid him. Yes he has a few stinkers, but he goes out there and pitches when it’s his turn and more often then not keeps us in the game and since the All Star break has been the most depenable pitcher the Reds have had and probably one of the better pitchers in the NL. I have no problem with what Bronson is making.

  23. Mr. Redlegs

    Interesting stuff but I’m with Glenn on the issue of Cordero—and a great point about the three overpaid veterans.

    When it comes to free agents, teams like the Reds are not competing on a level playing field. They always have to pay more (years and/or monies) for a player. To me, that skews the VOC of the Reds compared to bigger-market clubs like, say, the Astros in the NL Central.

    So the way teams like the Reds use free agency is to fill a badly needed everyday void—like Cordero at closer and Gonzalez at shortstop. They had no MLB-ready options in their system at the time. And what Cordero received from the Reds was his market at the time.

    And he’s done his job. Shaky, aggravating at times. But he’s done the job they needed. He’s been the major reason the bullpen has been more reliable the past two years. So to say Cordero, with 34 of 37 save opps, has underperformed by almost $6 million . . . tell us, since the Reds have not produced an MLB-ready closer in their system from 2006-’09, what established closer could a team and market like the Reds have for $6 mil?

    As for those who say any kid or retread could do the job—who? The Reds tried this in 2006 and ’07 and the bullpen killed them. And teams that are competing or hope to compete don’t go into a season with rookies and retreads anchoring their bullpen. The teams that do that know they have no prayer that season.

  24. GregD

    That’s a good point Drew. What accounts for the difference between Arroyo and Harang?

  25. RiverCity Redleg

    Personally, I think the most overpriced component is Castilini. If he pulls any profit from this team, it’s too much. I would like him to put more money in scouting / PD AND the FA market. Why not both?

  26. mike

    to add to the free agent part of this discussion
    don’t forget 3 very valuable players are recent scrap heap (I mean free agent) signings.

    Rhodes, Gomes and Nix
    are those 3 even costing the Reds $4 million this year?
    that said, when Gomes and Nix were signed I not only thought they had no chance of making the club but I didn’t think either would produce

    OK I think Gomes had a chance to be average but not Nix. Both have done way more than I thought.

  27. mike

    I’ve been waiting for someone to bring up Arroyo/Harang and where they fall on the chart. I didn’t look anything up but when I first started to see the results it was the thing that stood out the most. I didn’t look into it, I figured someone else might 🙂

    Here is a little comparison and I’ll include Cueto realizing he’s a different situation all together. Essentially he’s a free player where Harang/Arroyo are a major part of the Reds budget.

    I should start off by reminding everyone that for the entire first half of the season Arroyo was wretched. As bad as he’s been good in the 2nd half. He was among the 10 worst pitchers in the bigs. Lets not forget that. He’s been lights out in the 2nd half but we aren’t paying for a half a season

    1st, lets try and quantify their performance this year
    SNLVAR
    4.4 Arroyo
    3.1 Harang
    2.9 Cueto

    E(W)
    12.2 Arroyo
    9.2 Cueto
    8.6 Harang

    seems to me Arroyo has been the Reds most valuable starter this season
    I think Arroyo’s numbers include one more great start that isn’t included in the original chart of the article.
    I’ll also add that the the original chart is based on WAR and fangraphs Dollars value based on WAR. I think SNLVAR and E(W) are a better at looking at starter value than WAR is.

    WAR
    2.4 Harang
    1.4 Cueto
    1.0 Arroyo

    I can’t reconcile the difference between SNLVAR and WAR and I think this is where half the problem is.

    This translated into Dollars(millions)
    $10.7 Harang
    $6.4 Cueto
    $4.5 Arroyo

    with Arroyo due to make $9.5 million this year that is how he comes out in the negative.

    I don’t have time to try and understand why WAR does not value Arroyo as highly as Harang

  28. chris

    Mike one easy fix might be to work off marginal dollars (i. e. >$400k). That avoids the Tatum problem and is probably closer to what’s you’re getting at – choices.

  29. Drew Nelson

    I like Harrang, but he has not been able to stay healthy the past two seasons. You can to a degree blame Dusty for last season, but Harrang is just as dependable as Bronson is. To me the only numbers I look at for pitchers is GS, number of innings, W/L and such. A pitchers job is to pitch. Starting pitchers are to show up and go every 4th or 5th day and keep his team in the game. Given the state of pitching in ML baseball, to me Bronson has done that and earned his paycheck.

  30. mike

    I got very curious about WAR’s value-ing of Arroyo so I posted to a fangraphs forum and asked. To be honest the answer makes me very skeptical of using WAR as a way to compare pitcher value.

    the response I got was

    WAR on this site is based solely on FIP. The 3 guys’ HR rates are about equal, and Harang has a little better walk rate, so it’s all about K’s. Arroyo is at 5 K/9, Cueto 7, and Harang 8. I’m assuming the other 2 stats use all plate appearances in their computations. Arroyo seems better since his BABIP is .277, compared to Cueto’s .295 and Harang’s .339. I really don’t see any difference in their true value.

    My feeling is that SNLVAR is still the best for starting pitcher comparison which would put Arroyo’s value higher than Harang and Cueto

  31. Mr. Redlegs

    Well, Mike, this is all very nice, detailed and interesting work. You did an excellent job. But the problems with this sort of stuff are the real-world factors, such as arbitration, which has been inflating salaries and player market for almost 40 years. If Arroyo was first-time eligible for arbitration this year, he’s get a helluva lot more than $4.5 million. And, how in the world would you, in real-life baseball, replace his innings, reliability, experience and numbers for less than $4.5 mil if you went shopping for a pitcher?

    Everybody wants pitchers, which organically drives up their price, rightfully or wrongly. The going market is what it is.

    So what all the number-crunching and acronyms come down to pretty simple:

    If you know baseball, if you watch baseball, if you understand what you are watching and there’s not a stat sheet within 10 miles, WHO do you want pitching that one game you absolutely must win?

    Harang?

    Arroyo?

    Or Cueto?

  32. GregD

    Mr. Redlegs: WHO do you want pitching that one game you absolutely must win?

    It’s been 10 years since the Reds have been faced with that question.

  33. Dan

    GregD:
    It’s been 10 years since the Reds have been faced with that question.

    It’s a good question though. Who would you pick? It’s a tough call for me…

    I’d probably go with a healthy Volquez first. Given today’s healthy options, my gut says Arroyo!

    Still, I think Mike’s work is interesting and important, and I hope someone in the Reds front office is doing some sort of analysis like this. It does highlight the danger of the big contract.

  34. Dan

    And by the way, even if the “going market is what it is,” that doesn’t mean that we need to wade in and pay those prices. We don’t HAVE to.

    The going market for a 2009 Jaguar XJ-8 might be $65,700, but that doesn’t mean that if I pay that it’s smart. I could get a new Honda Civic for $15,300. Or, heck, a used car for even less. Or I could just keep my current car for $0! (Well… plus ongoing repair costs… but that’s beside the point…)

    So saying “the going market for closers was $12 million per year” may be true, but that doesn’t automatically mean the Reds made a good decision by deciding to pay it for Cordero (for example).

    It wouldn’t be smart for me to go about and buy a Jaguar, and even if I did and even if that Jaguar performed beautifully for many years, that STILL doesn’t make it a smart decision. On my budget, it’s still dumb.

  35. Mr. Redlegs

    Dan: And by the way, even if the “going market is what it is,” that doesn’t mean that we need to wade in and pay those prices.We don’t HAVE to.The going market for a 2009 Jaguar XJ-8 might be $65,700, but that doesn’t mean that if I pay that it’s smart.I could get a new Honda Civic for $15,300.Or, heck, a used car for even less.Or I could just keep my current car for $0!(Well… plus ongoing repair costs… but that’s beside the point…)So saying “the going market for closers was $12 million per year” may be true, but that doesn’t automatically mean the Reds made a good decision by deciding to pay it for Cordero (for example).It wouldn’t be smart for me to go about and buy a Jaguar, and even if I did and even if that Jaguar performed beautifully for many years, that STILL doesn’t make it a smart decision.On my budget, it’s still dumb.

    Yeah, there’s a slight difference: The car dealer doesn’t get to pick the customer, but in baseball, the player and agent can dictate the terms and place the player will go. And if you have a position of desperate need—like the Reds had for a closer after 2006-’07—you’re either going to pay the rate or live with the David Weatherses closing games. You pick ’em.

  36. GregD

    David Weathers was as effective a closer in 2007 as Cordero was in 2008. The bullpen as a whole was worse in 2007 because there wasn’t a David Weathers to pitch the 7th/8th innings.

  37. shane

    Good for you GregD, it’s about time some body other than me realized that.

  38. mike

    @Mr. Redlegs:

    understood and I wasn’t trying to single out Arroyo (or any other player for that matter) I was just trying to understand the value of the big contracts.
    and as I tried to research and honestly I’m bothered by the starting pitchers values that I showed. When I look at the graph now I ignore the starting pitchers since I don’t think those values are good ones.

    on the other hand I think Gonzo/Taveras/Hernandez/Lincoln is all money wasted and poorly spent. I’m on the fence with Cordero. He’s been great but can the Reds, who have been awful for a while now afford to pay a closer that much? I hope there are people in the organization doing this sort of analysis. To be honest it was these sorts of questions I was hoping the chart would cause us to ask.