Before I begin this article, let me say that value in the baseball world is much different from value in the real world. A player who earns two million dollars and hits like an All-Star is a steal in baseball; a two dollar fresh cup of coffee is a steal in Starbucks. However, this article will examine how well Yankee players are performing compared to how much they are getting paid. All salaries are from baseball-reference.com. Without further ado, let’s begin.
C.C. Sabathia (23 million)- There are no doubts that C.C. has a great track record, and has been pitching well this year. However, twenty-three million dollars is a hefty sum of money; ace-pitcher money. The strong southpaw owns a 6-4 record thus far, with 80 strikeouts. Those numbers are good, but they don’t warrant the “elite” status that C.C. has been in previous years. Of course, wins are not always an accurate barometer, especially with teams with anemic offenses that don’t score. Clayton Kershaw, a top 5 pitcher playing for a top 2 salary team, has only five wins also. But, Kershaw has an ERA of 1.85 while C.C. has an earned run average of 3.74. Additionally, Kershaw is only scheduled to earn less than half of C.C.’s salary: 11 million. Sabathia deserves his money based off his past success, but his salary seems high given his output.
Vernon Wells (11.5 million)- Wells is actually supposed to make 21 million this year, but the Angels paid nearly half his salary to export him to New York. He started out hot, leading the Yankees in home runs and RBI’s at one point. But then Vernon Wells realized why he was traded. He hit .221 in May, with only 4 walks compared to 16 strikeouts. However, the Yankees pursued Wells hoping to inject some life into a lineup without much power (with injuries). He has provided that, with 10 longballs this year. The team knew Wells was not going to produce like Curtis Granderson or Mark Teixeira, but instead be a serviceable platoon player until Granderson returned from his forearm fracture. Of course, the Grandy Man broke his pinky finger, pushing Wells back into regular service. 11.5 million dollars is not a horrible price tag considering Wells is providing exactly what he was expected to.
Robinson Cano (15 million)- Cano provides instant offense. With a sweet swing and an effortless playing style at second base, he is one of the few great second baseman in the MLB. Pitchers always know where he is, and are cautious when he is at bat. With 14 homers and 36 RBI, he provides much punch in the Yankees’ lineup. Compared to other second sackers in terms of power, Cano is second to none. There are not many holes in his game. His one weakness is left-handed pitching; he sports a .212 batting average and a .264 on-base percentage. But, he crushes righties with a .333 batting average. 15 million is a very reasonable price for a player who is considered one of the brightest stars in the league right now.
Travis Hafner (2 million) and Lyle Overbay (1.25 million)- These two players are together because they are both lefty first baseman (or DH’s) who have been on the decline since 2008. They were both signed for small contracts (in baseball at least) to provide veteran leadership and to hit. They have done that. While both have batting averages below .250, they have a combined 57 RBI and 18 blasts that have gone yard. Without Hafner and Overbay, scoring three runs a game would seem to be a stretch for the Yankees. It seems the Bronx Bombers need these pair of bombers, and for roughly the price of 5 Lamborghinis, the veterans have proven to be valuable additions to the team.
Kevin Youkilis (12 million)- Kevin Youkilis was a great player… during the first week. He has been unable to stay healthy, playing in only 22 games this season. Unfortunately, his tenure thus far has been bland, with the job he was assigned (cover for Alex Rodriguez at third base) now being covered by rookie David Adams, whom we will talk about later. Adams has been no worse than Youkilis, as they are fairly similar players at this point in time. Youkilis has proven to hit for some pop, which is part of the reason the Yankees recruited him, but with only two home runs this season, he needs to turn his 2013 around in a big way to justify his lucrative contract.
Other players who have underperformed according to salary are Ichiro Suzuki (6.5 million) and Phil Hughes (7.15 million). Both are playing like replacement players, and are liable to be replaced if they don’t improve.
Players who have performed better than their paychecks are: Brett Gardner (2.85 million), David Adams, and Preston Claiborne. The latter two don’t have formal major league salaries recorded, but their salaries would not be much more than the player minimum of $494,000. Adams has supplied decent third base play, and Claiborne has been ridiculous out of the bullpen. He has a miniscule 0.55 ERA, and has great poise on the mound. Gardner is the only true speedster on the Yankees; he leads the club with 4 triples and 9 stolen bases. Gardner is only a smidge under Michael Bourn, the Cleveland Indians centerfielder with great quickness and a $7 million salary this year. Gardner deserves at least half of that.
Finally, the disabled list. It would be unfair to judge an injured player’s value based on performance because… well… there is no performance to show. Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira have played very little to not at all this year. Their salaries are exorbitant; A-Rod alone makes $28 million! When these batters have more playing time, then they can properly be assessed and valued.