Which Yankees are fulfilling their contract values based on WAR?

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It is no secret that the New York Yankees are able to spend more than just about every other team in Major League Baseball. In doing so, the Yankees have signed some contracts which are not going to end up paying full dividends based on the player’s performance on the field this season and beyond. In the same respect, the Yankees are receiving excellent return on investment from some players due to fabulous seasons, younger talent and surprising production.

Let’s take a look at the Yankees from the financial side today. Using FanGraphs.com’s value estimates I’ve created two separate tables reviewing what the Yankees position players and pitchers have accomplished so far this season in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). FanGraphs is using a value of approximately $4.5 million per 1 WAR in 2012. For the purposes this discussion and for continuity sake, I’ll use a flat $4.5 million across the board.

The tables provide the player’s WAR at the end of the first half, the estimated value the player’s performance has generated, their current full-year salary, the difference of the two heading into the second half and finally what the player needs to accomplish in terms of WAR to minimally provide break-even value for their work on the field. This study is based solely on performance. There are no measurements for added value a player may give his team. It is an inexact science to determine such values and in the end they may or may not contribute much for many players other than the super-elite.

First, let’s take a look at the position players.

 

There is a lot of red on the chart, but not all of it is truly bad. We are only at the mid-season point so it would be expected that most players have not fully realized their contract values. But, the chart does give us the ability to see which players are well within reach of their full season value and which will need to have much better second-halves in order to come close to their contract price.

Alex Rodriguez hopes some of Robinson Cano's production rubs off on him for the second-half. Cano leads the team with 4.3 WAR, while A-Rod is failing to live up to the dollar value of his contract. (Image: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

There are a handful of players who have already surpassed the break-even point. Provided they do not fall into significant slumps for the remainder of the season, they will provide the Yankees with a positive return on their investment. Not surprisingly, Robinson Cano leads the Yankees with 4.3 WAR (he’s tied for 6th in MLB). This equates to just over $19MM in performance value to the Yankees and places him well above his $14MM salary for 2012. By virtue of this chart we can see that the late additions to the Yankees’ roster, Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones and Dewayne Wise have far surpassed what their contracts are worth. Raul Ibanez and Chris Stewart should easily surpass their figures by having similar production in the second half.

Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher seem to on track to outperform their contracts. This is of consequence to the Yankees as they begin to look to the future of their outfield alignment. Swisher is a free-agent at the end of this season and it hoping to earn anywhere from $10-12MM per season for about three to four years. Granderson has a club option for 2013 and then the Yankees will have to make a determination to his time with the club beyond that.

Despite a miserable first-half at the plate, Russell Martin only needs to inch ahead of his current production in order to reach the break-even point. Remember there is positional value attached to WAR as well as defensive metrics. By virtue of Martin’s position as catcher (the hardest of the positions to play as far as WAR is concerned) and his average fielding metrics (his fielding measure is 0.0 now) and some base running value, Martin has actually generated enough value to offset the negative value from his offensive output.

The three highest paid position players are all in trouble of failing to reach their break-even cost. Derek Jeter needs to practically double his overall production in order to get into the black side of the ledger. While Jeter has been effective at the plate, more so than many expected, his fielding measure (-10.8) is dragging down the positive metrics. Jeter would probably need a much better second half in the field (based on fielding metrics, not what your eyes tell you, though he’s falling back to Earth in the “eyes” department as well) in order to come close to meeting the salary the Yankees are paying him this season.

The next two players are truly dragging down the Yankees from the financial perspective especially where it relates to the performance value they are generating. No one should be shocked to see that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are not pulling their weight in reference to their contract size. But, the extent at which they are failing may raise some eyebrows. Rodriguez is almost 5 WAR behind the ball heading into the second half. He is being paid like a 6.7 WAR player who may end up between 3.5 and 4.0 WAR at the end of the season. Even if he was to put together a second half similar to Cano’s, he’d come up short. It is safe to say he will not come close based on what we’ve seen the last two seasons.

Mark Teixeira rounds out the position players, and while his climb is not quite as severe as A-Rod’s, it is going to be very difficult. Again, we are talking about a player who is paid for a little more than 5.1 WAR this season. The last time Teixeira reached WAR above 5 was his initial season in pinstripes (5.2). He ended 2011 with 4.2 WAR. Just to get to that point in 2012, Teixeira would have to pull off a much better second half than first. It is probable that he can match last season’s WAR, but unlikely in my opinion that he’ll come close to matching the salary commitment the Yankees have made to him.

Please click “continue reading” below for the pitching analysis.

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Tags: A-Rod Alex Rodriguez Andruw Jones Andy Pettitte Break-even Analysis CC Sabathia Chris Stewart Clay Rapada Cody Eppley Cory Wade Curtis Granderson David Phelps David Robertson Derek Jeter Dewayne Wise Eric Chavez Featured Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Joba Chamberlain Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira New York Yankees Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Popular Rafael Soriano Raul Ibanez Robinson Cano Russell Martin War Yankees

  • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

    One thing to remember is that the trend of overpaying veterans and underpaying younger stars is not unique to the Yankees. In fact, that’s pretty much how contracts work throughout baseball. Guys get paid relatively poorly (relative to other players, of course, not to normal Americans) until, and even a bit after, arbitration ends, then they become way overpaid towards the ends of those huge contracts. So even if A-Rod, Jeter, and Teixeira seem way overpaid, that’s only because the market forces teams to overpay for veterans. The value from younger players like Cano and Nova should make up for the veterans.

    • Chris_Carelli

      Yes, of course the dynamic of paying restricted players less has gone on since the inception of professional baseball. Free agency allowed for the market to dictate pricing once players became eligible. If there is a point to be made by all of this it is that teams are now a bit more reliant on valuations of talent so that longer term deals don’t become such detriments toward their conclusions as A-Rod’s and Teixeira’s will. Jeter is a different story altogether because of everything else he brings to the brand, but it is very difficult to determine his contributions in a monetary sense.

      • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

        I don’t know if I agree that longer-term deals are no longer detriments towards their conclusions. Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth’s deals are already looking like busts, and I’m be willing to bet that Pujols and Fielder will be very overpaid at the end of their contracts. I think the Angels and Tigers knew that when they signed them, since you have to overpay those types of players to get them. I think it can often be very smart to sign guys to long-term deals even if they’ll be draining money at the end of their contracts. I think A-Rod’s extension was definitely too much, but Teixeira might have been worth it.

        • Chris_Carelli

          I said a bit more reliant on valuations, not that all teams are making great choices. By detriments at the end I should be more specific. In totality some of the contracts may actually pan out but taken on a year by year basis those contracts in which the salary rises as years progress past the player’s prime (see Pujols) it will be harder for the player to reach the break-even point. A-Rod’s case is “better” for the Yankees. It will actually get “easier” for him over time to reach the break-even point. His annual salary begins to decrease starting with next season ($29MM in ’13, $26MM in ’14, $22MM in ’15 and $21MM in ’16 & ’17).

          • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

            Yeah I don’t think we’re in disagreement. I guess my main point was that we shouldn’t necessarily say that that Rodriguez or Teixeira have been under-performing relative to their contracts just because their WAR values are lower than their salaries, since veteran players are generally overpaid league-wide. If guys like Cano WEREN’T outperforming their contracts, then we would have a problem.

          • Chris_Carelli

            I get what you’re saying, but we can’t just ignore the fact that they are under-performing because the trends have been to overpay aging veterans. A bad contract is a bad contract. Don’t you think that being saddled with A-Rod’s and Teixeira’s salary is going to impede on their desire to have a quality team AND stay under $189MM in 2014?

            Instead of looking at it from the player’s perspective of under-performing, can’t we look at it as poor business decision?
            Agreed about players like Cano. There has to be some balance if teams insist on granting lofty contracts to players who will be past their prime when it ends.