Recent spending by the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals may make it hard to believe that a number of players in the National League East can still be considered "underpaid".
During the 2011 season, six of the 25 highest-paid players in baseball played in the National League East; and the combined average salary for the players in the division was just over $3.5 million.
However, with players having to wait six years before being eligible to become a free agent, guys like Miami's Mike Stanton have yet to sign lucrative long-term deals. A number of players may also have out-performed their current contracts, especially with free agency and new deals each year influencing player values.
While the National League East may feature some of baseball's highest-paid players, here are the five players whose performance on the field, combined with their current contract, make them some of the league’s most underpaid.
The aforementioned 22-year-old Stanton finished in the top-5 in the National League in home runs last season, while making just $416,000.
In 150 games, Stanton batted .262 with 34 home runs and 87 runs batted in for the Florida Marlins.
2011 was Stanton’s second season in the major leagues, and it was one that saw him reach career-highs in multiple statistical categories, including his 135 hits. He also finished with a .293 batting average against left-handed pitchers.
While Stanton is still several years away from being eligible for free agency, his early numbers are an indication that the Marlins may have one of the most underpaid players in the National League East.
Tim Hudson made $9 million last season while finishing in the top-10 in the National League in wins, going 16-10 with 158 strikeouts and sporting a 3.22 earned run average for the Atlanta Braves. It was the second-consecutive season in which he has accomplished that feat.
The career 181-game winner also held opponents to a .236 batting average, and had a 2.83 ERA following the All-Star break.
With multiple pitchers in the National League East set to make upwards of $15 million over the next few seasons, Hudson's numbers suggest that he may be one of the division’s most underpaid players.
Hunter Pence made $6.9 million in 2011, but his numbers suggest he may be worth more.
After being aquired from the Houston Astros before last season's trade deadline in July, Hunter Pence batted .314 with 22 home runs and 97 runs batted in for the Philadelphia Phillies.
His .314 batting average was good enough to place Pence in the top-five in the National League.
2011 was the second season in which Pence has batted over .300. He also has hit over 20 home runs, and has at least 160 hits, each of the past four seasons.
Pence and the Phillies avoided arbitration when they agreed to a $10.4 million deal earlier in the off-season, but with free agency in his future, he still may be one of the most underpaid players in the National League East.
Tommy Hanson won 11 games for the Atlanta Braves last season, while making $456,000.
In 22 starts in 2011, Hanson went 11-7 with 142 strikeouts with an earned run average of 3.60 while holding opponents to a .219 batting average. On his career, Hanson has an earned run average of 3.28 and has struck out 315 batters combined.
Although Hanson pitches in a division that features a number of highly paid pitchers, his numbers suggest that he may be one the National League East’s most underpaid.
Murphy played four positions for the New York Mets last season, posting a .320 batting average and adding six home runs and 49 RBI's. He also had over 120 hits for the second-consecutive season. Murphy batted .305 prior to the All-Star break, and had a .326 batting average against right-handed pitchers for the season.
He did all of this for the Mets while making $422,000.
Murphy may missed time at the end of last season due to a knee injury, but he may is one of the National League East’s most underpaid players.