Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Best Free Agent Position Player Bargains

Last week, Adam Bernacchio of Ghost of Moonlight Graham fame penned a piece titled "The Five Best Free Agent Bargains From This Offseason" on MLB Daily Dish.

Casey Kotchman was a good
catch for the Tampa Bay Rays
It's a fun, quick read; take a look. What I found interesting was that the Top 5 were all pitchers, which makes sense because pitchers are usually the highest risk/reward players to acquire.

The first comment on the piece, by Beyond the Box Score's Satchel Price, made the point and also said it would be interesting to see this done exclusively for position players.

Challenge accepted. We will only look at unrestricted free agents signed before this season to find the best position player bargains. In other words, we are excluding people who had their team options picked up, signed to avoid arbitration, etc.

Say no more. Here we go...

As usual, we are using the average between Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference WAR calculations, as well as Cot's Contracts for the salary data. I've never tried inserting a spreadsheet, let's hope this works!

Patterson is having his
best season since 2006
As we got into this exercise, there were a few free agent signings we didn't list because they were obviously not huge bargains. Carl Crawford, for example has a negative WAR, so we couldn't really do the math. There are a few obvious non-bargains at the bottom as a frame of reference, more on them in a minute.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty surprised to see Aaron Miles near the top of any leader board. It's interesting because the guys people get off the scrapheap have the most potential to be great bargains, but it doesn't mean they were the best Free Agent signings. For example, Lance Berkman, Jhonny Peralta, and Ramón Hernández aren't at the top of this list, but they are bringing very good value to their clubs, while cashing decent sizes paychecks. Corey Patterson has also been doing good things for the Blue Jays, which is just one more nugget to pile on the list of things that make the Cubs look really lame.

Keep in mind, of course, these are simply first-half numbers. Much can change in the months ahead. We'd expect Jayson Werth, at the very least, to improve. The rest of his contract would be unconscionable if he cannot improve, as the team owes him another $114,000,000 after this season.

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