Just What Is a Player Worth?

Jimmy Beasley SrContributor IJanuary 29, 2009

Being a 13-year fan of the greatest game ever played, one question I've always wondered about is how much a baseball player is worth.

I've been a sports writer and broadcaster and also have been part of many fantasy baseball leagues. My friend Mark "The Joker" Kohlbecker, like me, is a bit of an expert on baseball, so fantasy leagues give us something to talk about when there are no games on. But is there ever really a time that you can't talk about baseball?

Anyway, the Joker and discussed this morning the merits for determining what a player is worth. I don't mean from a fantasy standpoint, since we play in a head-to-head 10-team 40 man keeper league, which we'll discuss a little later on. We were talking about what makes a baseball player worth his paycheck each year?

The Joker and I have always batted this back and forth over the years, and we've both come to the conclusion that, no matter how good a player is, it's unreal that he can make millions of dollars. How can anyone justify paying, say, $20 million per year for five years?

My dad passed away in 2002. He was a retired factory worker and a member of one of the nation's strongest unions at the time. He never made more than $5 an hour unless he was working overtime at time and a half. Now, the good paying jobs run anywhere from $10 to $20 an hour for average Joes like me.

But with each passing year, we have to endure players asking for millions each year and agents like Scott Boras asking for the same for their clients. The only reason we can think of is trade value.

Let's break down how our fantasy league works. Say another owner comes to you with a trade. He wants two of your top prospects and an aging third baseman who usually hits for 30+ home runs and 100+ plus RBI. It's then that the fun begins, almost like MLB's arbitration.

The owner will tell you why the player worth the asking price and, even though you want the player and need him for the championship run, you have to cut the owner down to get his player as cheaply as you can.

Look at this year's free agent class. It's less than two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting and Manny Ramirez still hasn't been signed. Manny, Cliff Lee, and Josh Hamilton led me to my second straight World Series title last year in fantasy value, by the way, so I'm still amazed Manny hasn't signed.

Why has he not signed? What is he worth? How do they come up with the asking price?

Here's how. We both believe (well, hope) that Ramirez hasn't signed because, deep down, he wants to be a Chicago Cub, and is awaiting Cubs GM Hendry to awaken from his slumber and sign ManRam.

With him, our Cubbies can win their first World Series title in a hundred years. What should we pay for Ramirez? We'd give him the sun, the moon, and any other planet he wants if he chooses to play in the Cubs outfield.

Boras is asking more than $10 million per year for his client. This seems outrageous to normal people like us, but it makes sense from a baseball standpoint. Ramirez was the key for the Dodgers last year. Ask any true Dodgers fan and they'll say Ramirez is worth the money. The man sells tickets, he delivers numbers and he brings his team tons and tons of free publicity, both good and bad.

Teams like the Cubs would gladly take that. It's more about paying for personality and getting a trade value than anything, it seems, when a player commands these millions and gets them.

It's possible Ramirez will sign this weekend just to upstage the Super Bowl, and it's a sure bet he will get his millions. 

But is he worth it? Baseball started to get out of hand when A-Rod signed with Texas for $250 million. That's a lot of money for someone who's never won a World Series title. It just seemed too extravagant. Compared to that, Ramirez isn't asking for too much, but it's still a very large amount.

As long as he doesn't sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, we'll be OK.

The point is that measuring a player's worth financially is not easy. Fans and the public will remain divided as to whether a player is worth $14 million for two years, or $50 million for six years, or whatever. The more important question for owners, agents and players is this:

When is enough enough?