Baseball is all about getting the best bang for your buck.
Front offices spend countless hours determining a player’s worth and how much that player should earn each season. Sometimes they overpay for a star and sometimes a player who has yet to earn a big league contract exceeds expectations. In the latter case, the team gets great value since it's paying a little for a lot.
In the following slides, you’ll find the player on each team with the best and worst penny-for-penny contract values. What that means is the player who earns little but has played well and the player who earns a lot but hasn’t been producing.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be discussing just 2013 information. That means the salaries for 2013 (not the full contract values) and the statistics for 2013 (not statistics throughout each player’s full contract).
Obviously, we’re less than a month away from the end of the first half, meaning there’s still plenty of time for things to change. This isn’t to say that a player won’t live up to his deal or not. It’s about comparing a chunk of his salary for the year to how well or poorly he’s played to this point in the season.
Also, players who have been injured for most of the season weren’t taken into consideration. Yes, Alex Rodriguez is getting a lot of money in 2013, but he hasn’t played in one game for the Yankees.
Do not expect to see Rodriguez on this list. He is on the payroll and he does get paid, but it wouldn’t be fair to judge someone who hasn’t played. The same goes for those who have rarely taken the field this year. Position players who’ve experienced minor injuries (missing less than 25 games) were considered and pitchers who missed time (at my discretion) were considered as well.
So, which players have been playing better than their salary shows and which players are getting paid a ton and don’t have much to show from it in 2013? Ahead lies the answer for each team in Major League Baseball.
All contract information in this article was obtained via Cot’s Contracts. All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Chris Davis—$3.3 million
Chris Davis may end up winning the American League MVP while making less than $4 million in 2013. Talk about getting the best bang for your buck, Baltimore. Through 74 games, Davis is hitting .336/.412/.723 with 27 home runs and 69 RBI. He will compete for the AL Triple Crown, in addition to the award for the top player.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Jason Hammel—$6.75 million
Jason Hammel hasn’t had the best career and yet, he’s paid like a reliable middle-of-the-rotation guy. He won eight games a year ago and his career high is 10, which he’s accomplished twice. He’s having one of the worst seasons of his career, though, despite the fact that he’s well on his way to winning more than 10 games.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Clay Buchholz—$5.75 million
Clay Buchholz has been one of the American League’s top pitchers this season, but you wouldn’t know it based on how much he gets paid. The right-hander has yet to lose a start this season and has nine victories in 12 starts. He’s been extremely effective, as he currently has a 1.71 ERA in 84.1 innings of work.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Ryan Dempster—$13.25 million
Ryan Dempster is paid to be one of the Red Sox’s top pitchers this season. The problem is that he’s yet to be effective in Boston, really struggling to find a groove. In 15 starts, he’s 4-8 with a 4.23 ERA. He’s walking more than four batters per nine innings, which isn’t helping to improve his high ERA.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Brett Gardner—$2.85 million
Brett Gardner is one of the more underrated outfielders in baseball, and he’s been having a great year. While many of the Yankees have been injured or underachieving, Gardner has made the most of his playing time. Through 74 games, he’s hitting .280/.344/.436 with 41 runs and 11 steals while playing great defensively.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Vernon Wells—$24.64 million
The Yankees may not be paying Wells’ entire contract, but he’s still not living up to any of it. Wells signed the deal after putting together a couple of good years. Since 2011, he’s been a disaster offensively. This season, he’s hitting .224/.266/.374 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI. He’s been a big liability at the plate.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Evan Longoria—$6 million
Evan Longoria may be one of the highest-paid players on Tampa Bay, but he’s worth every penny that the Rays are giving him in 2013. Giving the third baseman $6 million is an absolute bargain for the numbers he’s been putting up. He’s hitting .307/.366/.569 with 17 homers and 47 RBI. That deserves at least $10 million.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Roberto Hernandez—$3.25 million
Roberto Hernandez hasn’t pitched like a star since 2007, when he won 17 games with the Indians. He hasn’t been good ever since. This year, the Rays are giving him quite a bit of money (at least for them) and he’s already lost eight games. His ERA is lower than its been the last two years, but it’s currently at 5.14.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Rajai Davis—$2.5 million
While Toronto hasn’t been very successful this year—although it is starting to make a comeback—Rajai Davis has been one of the most consistent weapons on the team. He’s hitting .305/.333/.390 with 14 steals while playing stellar defense. If he can keep it up, he can help the Blue Jays make a run toward the playoffs.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Melky Cabrera—$8 million
The Blue Jays signed Melky Cabrera over the winter, hoping that he could make an impact toward the top of the lineup. Cabrera has yet to look like the same player who was leading the league in hitting for most of the 2012 season. This year, he’s hitting .276/.321/.366 with three homers and 26 RBI.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Chris Sale—$850,000
Chris Sale has pitched much better than his record shows this season for the White Sox. Sale is 5-6 on the year, but his ERA currently sits at 2.69, which is one of the best in the league. He’s shown great command, walking just 2.1 batters per nine innings. Sale’s strikeout rate is right where it was a year ago at 9.1 per nine innings.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Adam Dunn—$15 million
Since coming to the White Sox, Dunn has been inconsistent. In 2011, he hit .159 with 11 home runs. Last season, he hit .204 with 41 home runs. In 2013, the designated hitter is hitting .193/.293/.458 with 20 home runs. While he may hit 40-plus homers this season, $15 million is too much for someone hitting below .200.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Jason Kipnis—$509,000
Jason Kipnis is quickly turning into one of the better second basemen in the American League. He was good last season for the Indians and has been even better in 2013. Through 65 games, Kipnis is hitting .283/.359/.486 with nine home runs and 41 RBI. By the end of the season, he could have 20 homers and 90 RBI.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Chris Perez—$7.3 million
Chris Perez has been hurt for a couple of weeks but has still appeared in 17 games. If he returns soon, he’ll still appear in roughly 40-50 games this season. In those 17 games, the right-hander wasn’t good at all. He has a 4.32 ERA in just 16.2 innings of work.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Max Scherzer—$6.725 million
Max Scherzer has been worth every penny this year, as he’s arguably been the top pitcher in baseball. Through 15 starts, Scherzer is 11-0 with a 3.05 ERA. He’s striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings while walking 2.1. His FIP and xFIP show that he’s actually been better than his 3.05 ERA. That’s crazy to think.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Victor Martinez—$13 million
Victor Martinez missed all of last season, so it would’ve been understandable if he needed some time to get back into the swing of things. Seventy-three games, however, seems like a little much. The designated hitter is hitting .227/.285/.337 with six home runs and 38 RBI. Those type of numbers could be worth $2 million, not $13 million.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Lorenzo Cain—$503,175
Lorenzo Cain is having a solid year for the Royals while he gets thrown petty cash. Cain is hitting .262/.325/.380 with three homers, 30 RBI and nine steals. He plays well defensively and putting him next to Alex Gordon for the long haul is a great idea for Kansas City. He could end up being an All-Star who doesn’t make $1 million this year.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Jeff Francoeur—$6.75 million
Jeff Francoeur should give back a lot of his salary for 2013—or at least $3 million for how poorly he’s played in the first half of the season. Through 56 games, the outfielder is hitting .212/.254/.330 with three home runs and 13 RBI. For now, it would be better for the Royals to put a replacement player in right field.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Pedro Florimon—$495,000
Pedro Florimon is a younger version of Brendan Ryan. While he isn’t the biggest offensive threat, he’s a fantastic defender. He’s a great value for Minnesota this year because he’s holding his own at the plate. While hitting .230/.302/.331 isn’t great, he has good speed and drives in runs. The Twins just need to improve his offense.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Justin Morneau—$15 million
It’s not easy hitting well enough to match a $15 million salary, and Justin Morneau is currently failing at it. While he’s hitting .286/.336/.389, he’s only hit three home runs this season. Yes, he’s collected 42 RBI, but his power is definitely lacking. Paying $5 million per home run—if he doesn’t hit another—seems pretty steep.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Jason Castro—$496,600
One of the Astros is going to be lucky enough to make it to the All-Star game this season, and there’s a strong chance that it’s going to be Jason Castro. Castro has been good this season for Houston. In 66 games, he’s hitting .275/.332/.486 with 10 home runs and 25 RBI. A lot of teams would like a catcher like Castro down the stretch.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Carlos Pena—$2.9 million
Carlos Pena is one of the highest-paid players on Houston’s payroll, yet he’s barely hitting over the Mendoza Line. Pena has never been much of a consistent hitter, but for a guy making nearly $3 million, you’d think he’d hit at least .250. Pena isn’t even close and no one is expecting him to hit that high by the end of the year.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Mike Trout—$510,000
Yep. The Angels have spent a lot of money over the last few offseasons and they’re lucky that Mike Trout is still under his rookie contract. That means while slumping stars are making millions and millions, Trout is an MVP candidate making just over half a million dollars. He’s having another great year and will get paid very soon.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Josh Hamilton—$17.4 million
Josh Hamilton was the big name on the market this offseason and whichever team he signed with was going to give him a monster contract. All of the teams who didn’t sign him are happy. The Angels aren’t. In 72 games, the outfielder is hitting .207/.262/.378 with 10 home runs and 25 RBI. He’s been one of the worst players on the roster.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Josh Donaldson—$492,500
Josh Donaldson is emerging into one of the great third basemen in baseball. He’s had a huge season to this point and if he didn’t play another game, he’d be worth his salary for the year. Donaldson is hitting .305/.373/.488 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI. He’s been great on defense, too. He will absolutely be an All-Star this season.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Chris Young—$8.7 million
Oakland dealt for Chris Young over the offseason in order to provide some depth to its outfield. The problem is that Young has been as bad as can be in 2013. He’s getting paid a ton and is only hitting .192/.276/.373 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in 50 games. He’s probably the highest-paid fourth outfielder in the league.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Kyle Seager—$510,400
Kyle Seager entered 2013 with just over 200 games of big league experience under his belt. This season, he’s looked like a veteran. Through 75 games, he’s hitting .282/.345/.456 with nine home runs and 33 RBI. He’s a very good defensive shortstop with a solid bat. He’s someone Seattle can build around for the future.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Brendan Ryan—$3.25 million
Brendan Ryan is one of the few players in the league who gets paid to strictly play defense. He’s horrible on offense. This year, he’s hitting .199/.258/.256 with two home runs and 15 RBI. Now, that would be fine if he were playing well at shortstop for the Mariners. The problem is that he isn't and now doesn’t provide much else for the team.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Derek Holland—$3.2 million
You might not know it from Derek Holland’s record, but he’s actually been one of the top pitchers in baseball in terms of WAR. His WAR is just as high as Yu Darvish’s, and the lefty makes considerably less. Holland is 5-4 through 15 starts this season with a 3.43 ERA in 97 innings. He doesn’t walk many batters and averages 8.35 strikeouts per nine innings.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Lance Berkman—$10 million
Lance Berkman was signed to try to fill the void left by Josh Hamilton this past winter. Berkman, however, hasn’t contributed much to the Rangers since signing on the dotted line. He’s hitting just .260.363/.395 with six home runs and 33 RBI. For a guy making $10 million in 2013, he needs to have at least 15 homers by the break.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Evan Gattis—$490,000
The Braves have gotten a lot of production from several unexpected players this season, but no one has been more impressive than Evan Gattis. In his first 53 games as a big leaguer, Gattis is hitting .252/.317/.577 with 14 home runs and 37 while catching and playing the outfield. Atlanta couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: B.J. Upton—$13.05 million
Atlanta’s big offseason signing was B.J. Upton, the brother of Justin, whom the team also landed over the winter. Through nearly the entire first half of the season, B.J. has been one of the biggest busts in the game. In 67 games, he’s hitting .178/.271/.320 with eight home runs and 17 RBI. He needs to get it together.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Justin Ruggiano—$494,5000
Justin Ruggiano is finally starting to put all of the pieces together. He’s made a big impact on the young Marlins this year, even though Miami is far from playoff contention. Ruggiano hasn’t hit for contact—sporting a .225 average—but has nine home runs, eight steals and 25 RBI in 62 games. He’s also been great on defense.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Adeiny Hechavarria—$2.75 million
Adeiny Hechavarria is one of the players the Marlins got back in return after trading away nearly all of their talent over the winter. So far, he’s been a big disappointment. He’s one of the highest-paid players on the team but is hitting just .210/.254/.304 while playing poorly at shortstop.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Matt Harvey—$498,750
Matt Harvey has been sensational for the Mets this season and since he’s still very young, New York isn’t paying him very much. He’s already won six games for New York and will likely be an All-Star this season. Not many of the other All-Stars this year will be making less than $500,000 in 2013.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Ike Davis—$3.125 million
Ike Davis is more than just one of the highest-paid players on the Mets—he’s actually one of the worst players on the team, too. Davis was hitting .161/.242/.258 through 55 games, which was so bad that the Mets shipped him to the minor leagues. Yes, the Mets are paying Davis more than $3 million to play in Triple-A.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Domonic Brown—$500,000
Domonic Brown is finally emerging into the star outfielder the Phillies have waited so long for him to turn into. Brown’s power has been remarkable this year, as he’s already hit 19 home runs. If he doesn’t hit another long ball all season, the Phillies will have paid just over $26,000 per home run. That’s very good.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Cole Hamels—$20.5 million
Cole Hamels has clearly not been himself this season. While he’s usually one of the top lefties in the game, he only has two victories in 16 starts in 2013. His walk rate is higher than its been in the past and his ERA is currently more than a full run higher than his career average. Right now, Philadelphia is paying $10.25 million per win.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Bryce Harper—$2 million
The great thing for the Nationals is that Bryce Harper hasn’t asked for a contract extension yet. That’s going to cost Washington a pretty penny. For now, he’s making $2 million while being one of the best young players in baseball. Despite battling injuries, he’s hitting .287/.386/.587 with 12 home runs and 23 RBI this season.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Dan Haren—$13 million
The Nationals needed to fill the hole left by Edwin Jackson last season, so the team signed veteran right-hander Dan Haren to a deal he didn’t deserve. Through his first 15 starts with Washington, he’s 4-9 with a 6.15 ERA. That ERA is nearly double his career ERA of 3.76. If he keeps this up, he’ll be out of the starting rotation.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Luis Valbuena—$930,000
Luis Valbuena has surprisingly been one of the Cubs’ best offensive players this season. While he’s only hitting .243/.359/.405, he’s been a very complete player. He has solid power, a great eye at the plate and plays very well defensively. The team’s leader in WAR should be making at least $1 million this year, but he isn’t.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Carlos Marmol—$9.8 million
Carlos Marmol gets paid a lot of money to be one of the more ineffective pitchers in baseball. I bet Theo Epstein can’t wait until he’s off Chicago’s payroll. In 31 appearances this year, Marmol has a 5.86 ERA across 27.2 innings of work. His command as been erratic, per usual. He’s averaging 6.8 walks per nine innings.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Todd Frazier—$527,500
Todd Frazier was the third-best rookie in the NL last season and this year, he’s proving that there’s no such thing as a sophomore slump. The third baseman is hitting .241/.338/.410 with nine home runs and 37 RBI in 72 games. He’s also arguably the top defensive third baseman in the game. And the Reds pay him nothing.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Jonathan Broxton—$4 million
Jonathan Broxton gets paid $4 million this season to pitch in the eighth inning and preserve the lead for Aroldis Chapman. In 29 appearances, he’s held 11 leads and blown three saves. In 27 innings of work, the right-hander has a 4.33 ERA and is averaging 3.67 walks per nine innings. His command, needless to say, is very off.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Jean Segura—$492,000
Everyone should know who Jean Segura is at this point in the season. He’s the guy that Milwaukee got for Zack Greinke, and he was terrible last year. This year, he’s one of the MVP candidates. Through 73 games, the shortstop is hitting .336/.369/.529 with 11 home runs, 31 RBI, 42 runs and 23 steals. He’s already a five-tool player.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Rickie Weeks—$11 million
Rickie Weeks went from a good second baseman to a disaster in the blink of an eye. Seriously, what happened to him? He nearly hit 30 home runs a few years ago. This year, he has six. He’s also hitting just .221/.320/.357 through 65 games. He better start hitting with more consistency if he wants to keep his job at second base.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Pedro Alvarez—$700,000
Pedro Alvarez is picking up where he left off last season, when he hit 30 home runs and drove in an additional 85. Through 68 games, the third baseman has already hit 19 balls out of the park and collected 51 RBI. He’s still striking out a ton—32.6 percent of the time—but the Pirates pay him to hit home runs, not hit .300.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Wandy Rodriguez—$13.5 million
While Wandy Rodriguez has always been a consistent pitcher, he’s never been an outstanding one. The lefty has never won more than 14 games in a season and his stuff isn’t that great, either. Somehow, he gets paid like an ace. This season, Rodriguez is 6-4 with a 3.83 ERA. His ERA hasn’t been above 3.80 since 2007.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Shelby Miller—$490,000
The Cardinals have a real gem on their hands with Shelby Miller. Miller has been one of the league’s top rookies and even one of the top pitchers in 2013. He’s 8-5 on the year through 15 starts with a 2.35 ERA in 92 innings of work. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning while walking just two per nine innings.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Ty Wigginton—$2.5 million
St. Louis is one of the few organizations that is extremely smart when spending its money. That being said, it’s tough to find someone not living up to their 2013 salary. But then there’s Ty Wigginton, who isn’t paid much, but he has been bad this season. In 43 games, he’s hitting .176/.263/.216 without a home run.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Patrick Corbin—$494,000
This was a tough call, deciding between Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt. Both have been fantastic, but Corbin has been a little more valuable than the slugger. The left-hander is 9-0 on the year in 15 starts with a 2.19 ERA. He will definitely be on the NL’s All-Star game roster. At this point, he may not lose a game all year long.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Heath Bell—$10 million
Heath Bell continues to get paid like he’s still the closer for the Padres who saved 40-plus games in three straight seasons. He’s not anymore. He’s much worse now, but he's still getting paid $10 million this year. The right-hander has 13 saves in 16 opportunities and is sporting a 5.02 ERA. That’s extremely high for a closer.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Jhoulys Chacin—$1.65 million
Colorado has played much better than many expected it to this year, and that’s because several pitchers have stepped out. Jhoulys Chacin is well on his way to completing a career year. He’s 6-3 with a 3.92 ERA through 14 starts and 87.1 innings. His WAR would be higher, but his strikeout rate continues to tumble.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Todd Helton—$5 million
Everyone knows that Todd Helton isn’t the star that he used to be and he no longer gets paid like one of the top first basemen in the game. But Colorado is still paying him a decent amount of money and he’s not returning the favor. Helton is hitting .252/.310/.394 with six home runs and 26 RBI through 51 games in 2013.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Yasiel Puig—$3.71 million
Yasiel Puig may not have much big league experience, but he’s been turning heads since the moment he took the field for the Dodgers. The Cuban sensation is hitting .435/.473/.739 with six home runs and 12 RBI in 18 games. If Puig continues to hit like he has been, that $3.71 million will be chump change to Los Angeles.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Matt Kemp—$20.25 million
Matt Kemp is one of the players I was trying to reference in the introduction. Kemp has been injured for a chunk of the year, but he’s still played in more than 50 games. That being said, he’s been a walking disaster this season. The former MVP candidate is only hitting .251/.305/.335 this year with a pair of long balls. That’s unacceptable.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Everth Cabrera—$1.275 million
Everth Cabrera is having a fantastic year for the Padres, playing great overall like he never has in the past. In 69 games this season, the shortstop is hitting .305/.382/.418 with 37 runs, 31 steals and 24 RBI. He’s one of the top defensive shortstops, too. If he keeps it up, expect to see him at the All-Star Game in Queens.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Huston Street—$7 million
Huston Street gets paid to be the guy at the end of the game who preserves the victory for San Diego. This season, he’s been a big liability out on the mound. While he has 15 saves in 27 appearances, his ERA is at 4.78 and he’s already allowed 10 home runs. Ten home runs! Most starting pitchers haven’t served up that many yet.
Best Penny-for-Penny Value: Buster Posey—$3.77 million
Buster Posey is one of the biggest bargains in all of baseball. He’s yet to get a major payday, although he’s bound to at some point during this season. Posey has already won several awards and a pair of World Series rings. He’s once again been one of the top players in the NL this year, hitting .311/.385/.494 with eight homers and 42 RBI.
Worst Penny-for-Penny Value: Matt Cain—$20.83 million
Matt Cain is usually one of the better pitchers in the game, but this year, he’s yet to get hot. He’s picked up a victory in just a third of his starts and he currently has a 4.55 ERA. If Cain doesn’t win another game all season long, the Giants will have paid him more than $4 million per victory. For those who don’t know, that’s a lot.