The 2009 All-Bargain Team
There are always debates around the mid-summer classic. Whether it's which players belong on the all star rosters, whether the fans should still be allowed to vote for the starters, or whether or not the the game should determine home field advantage for the World Series, there is always something to argue about.
It's just a great time to talk baseball.
There will be many articles and sport shows out there that will debate the player selections and analyzing the rosters from now until the game is played in St. Louis on July 14th.
While going over the rosters with the intent on writing a an article grading the fan's pick for the starters, I notice that there were many players that were young or first time all-stars.
Then I got to thinking, with so many small market teams who need to spend every penny wisely, and the state of our nation's economy (which greatly effected the contracts of many free agents this past off-season), which players offered the most "bang for the buck" at each position.
So rather than just analyze the two all star teams, I decided to create a new team, a team of top rate talent at bargain basement prices. The only rule in the selection process, each player can not make more than $ 5 million this season.
So here is the 2009 All-Bargain Team.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
2009 salary: $1.8 million
2009 stats: .286 AVG, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 25 R
Molina is rapidly becoming the premier catcher in the National League.
He's already been a champion, he's a great fielder (won his firsy Gold Glove in 2008), has a rocket arm (throwing out 47% of would-be base stealers in his career), and his hitting has improved every season (batted over .300 in 2008).
Now he adds all star game starting catcher to the list in 2009. Molina is still only 27, and at less than $ 2 million this season, he's a steal.
First Base: Russel Branyan, Mariners
2009 salary: $1.4 million
2009 stats: .290 AVG, 21 HR, 46 RBI, 48 R
The Mariners took a bit of a risk signing Branyan prior to the season. He has never been a full time player, and has had his share of struggles against lefty pitching.
The risk has turned into a great reward, with Branyan on pace for close to 40 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI this season. That's Mark Teixiera-type offensive production, at about $ 17 million less.
Second Base: Aaron Hill, Blue Jays
2009 salary: $410,000
2009 stats: .296 AVG, 21 HR, 59 RBI, 51 R
Hill had a very good season in 2007, hitting 17 home runs while driving in 78 runs, before injuries sidelined him for much of last season.
In 2009, however, Hill has come back strongsetting a new career best for home runs in a season with 20 before the All-Star break. He's batted close to .300 all season, and is on pace to score and drive in 100 runs. Not bad for 400,000 bucks.
Hill has been a huge part of Toronto staying competitive in the tough AL East.
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants
2009 salary: $401,750
2009 stats: .328 AVG, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 39 R
This was very close with Sandoval and Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds, but while Reynolds has excellent power numbers, he's not quite the all around player Sandoval is.
Sandoval is currently 7th in the league in batting at .328, while belting 13 home runs. He's also on pace to drive in 100 runs.
Sandoval has played well defensively too, and he's versatile, playing games at first base and catcher in 2009.
He's a steal at just over $400,000, and a big reason the Giants are leading the wild card race.
Shortstop: Jason Bartlett, Rays
2009 salary: $1,98 million
2009 stats: .354 AVG, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 45 R
Long thought to be all glove and little bat, Bartlett is challenging that perception of him with a career year in 2009. After missing some time due to injury, Bartlett came back on fire, and is currently third in the league in batting at .354.
Add his now stellar hitting with his already stellar glove, and there's no surprise why Bartlett will make his first all star appearence in 2009.
Even with a $1.5 million raise from 2008, Bartlett is still a steal.
Left Field: Gary Sheffield, Mets
2009 salary (from Mets): $400,000
2009 stats: .282 AVG, 10 HR, 32 RBI, 37 R
With all the things that have gone wrong for the Mets in 2009, Gary Sheffield has been one of the few bright spots.
A castoff from the Tigers just prior to the season, Sheffield was signed to bring right handed power of the bench, and veteran leadership to the clubhouse. With the numerous number of injuries, however, Sheff was called upon to play more, and is now the everyday clean-up hitter in Flushing.
His numbers aren't like they would have been 10 years ago, but his .282 average is solid, and his 10 home runs currently lead the team.
Not bad for a guy who was thought to be washed up.
Center Field: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2009 salary: $476,000
2009 stats: .319 AVG, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 46 R, 19 SB
Of all the talented young players the Dodgers have on their roster, Kemp may be the best. LA's center fielder is the definition of a five tool player. Kemp does it all, hits for average and power (.319 average and on pace for 20 homers), drives in and scores runs ( on pace for 90 each), and has excellent speed (19 steals in 2009, 35 in 2008).
He's also an excellent defensive player.
Maybe the only think better than his cheap price tag, may be the fact that he hasn't even turned 25 yet.
Right Field: Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
2009 salary: $412,000
2009 stats: .292 AVG, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 53 R, 12 SB
Another close one between Upton and Ben Zobrist of the Rays. Upton gets the nod, however, because there is nothing he can't do on a baseball field. He's a slick fielder who will probably win a few Gold Gloves in the future, he has great speed and power, and could develope into a 30/30 guy (on pace for 30 HR and 24 SB so far in 2009).
And this season, Upton has raised his average from .250 in 2008, to almost .300 this season. Upton still has tremendous upside (he doesn't turn 22 until August), and at a price tag of slightly more than 400 grand, he should help Arizona for years to come.
DH: Adam Lind, Blue Jays
2009 salary: $411,800
2009 stats: .309 AVG, 19 HR, 59 RBI, 50 R
The Jays third round selection in the 2004 draft, Lind is starting to develope into one of the better all-around hitters in the game. After proving that he can hit lefties, Lind has shown great power, with 19 home runs before the all star break, and is even hitting over .300.
Lind has also shown a great eye for a young player, posting a .380 OBP in the first half of 2009, to go along with only 61 strikeouts (a relatively low number for a young power hitter.
Lind is also ranked in the top 10 in nine offensive categories (SLG %, OPS, IBB, HR, RBI, H, TB, 2B, and extra base hits).
Starting Pitcher (RH): Zack Greinke, Royals
2009 salary: $ 3.75 million
2009 stats: 10-5 W-L, 2.12 ERA, 15.1 IP, 93 SO
After finally putting it all together in 2008 (13-10, 3.47 ERA), Greinke has stepped it up in 2009, arguably being the best pitcher in the first half. He's on pace for 20 wins (he would become the first Royals pitcher to win 20 since Bret Saberhagen twenty years ago).
Greinke's league leading 2.12 ERA, has just begun to creep over 2.00, and He's even pitched a 38-ining scoreless streak this year.
At $3.75 million, Greinke is the highest paid player on this list, but amongst all the pitchers with 10 or wins this season, only Kevin Slowey of the Twins ($400,000), and Matt Cain of the Giants ($2.9 million) earn less.
A fair price for a potential Cy Young winer.
Starting Pitche (LH): Jon Lester, Red Sox
2009 salary: $1 million
2009 stats: 8-6 W-L, 3.87 ERA, 114 IP, 131 SO
Lester, still only 25 years-old, has stepped in nicely as a reliable number two starter for the Sox. He already has one 16 win season under his belt (and is on pace for another), and a no-hitter last May.
While Lester has had a few rough spots this season, his strikeout numbers are up, and he is on pace to pitch more than 200 inings for the second consecutive year, in a time when most young pitchers are handled with "kid gloves".
He's a steal at $1 million.
Closer: Heath Bell, Padres
2009 salary: $1.25 million
2009 stats: 3-1 W-L, 1.49 ERA, 23 SV, 24 SVO
It's not easy replacing a legend, but Bell is doing one hell of a job at it. In his first season as a closer, after Trevor Hoffman left for Milwaukee, Bell has been phenomal.
Bell has blown only one save in the first half, and his 23 saves currently lead the league. His ERA is only 1.49, and he has more than twice as many strikeouts than walks (40 SO to 15 BB).
Bell was also named to his first All Star game in 2009.
In a season which saw closers get big contracts, Bell may have been the best investment.