Each MLB Team's Least Valuable Player of the 2022 Regular Season
Closing in on the end of MLB's regular season means it's time to finalize all of those MVP and Cy Young debates.
But there's a flip side of that coin, and today we'll be declaring the least valuable player for each of the 30 teams.
Salary is also a key data point for the LVP discussion, as a player making $15 million for 0.5 WAR is surely less valuable than some league-minimum ($700,000) utility backup who registers as below replacement level. Time spent on the roster is also something to consider, as a player worth negative WAR in 120 games played is much worse than a player worth the same negative WAR in 12 games played.
But for the most part, these weren't difficult decisions, though a few teams (especially the Chicago White Sox) did have several strong candidates.
Teams are broken up into divisions and listed in alphabetical order within the division.
Statistics are current through the start of play on Wednesday, September 28.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Robinson Chirinos, C
In a way, Chirinos was quite valuable to the Orioles by playing as poorly as he did. He was hitting .139 as their primary catcher when the O's finally decided to call up Adley Rutschman, who has easily been their MVP since his May 21 promotion. It's just a shame they got next to nothing out of the catcher position for the first 25 percent of the campaign, as it looks like they're going to fall just shy of reaching the postseason.
Boston Red Sox: Chris Sale, LHP
Sale missed the first three months of the season with a stress fracture in his ribs. He pitched all of 5.2 innings before suffering a broken pinky finger on his pitching hand. And then he suffered a broken wrist while riding his bicycle, ending his season. All told, the Red Sox paid him $30 million for 102 pitches. Though if you want someone who actually played in more than two games and provided little to no value, Bobby Dalbec is the clear choice.
New York Yankees: Joey Gallo, LF
With an honorable mention to Aroldis Chapman—who imploded in mid-May, struggled for three weeks upon his return from over a month on the injured list with a calf injury and then missed a month because of an infection from a tattoo—Gallo's shortcomings in New York were a daily conversation topic until the Yankees finally traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did hit 12 home runs, but at what cost? His .159 batting average and 38.8 percent strikeout rate were abysmal.
Tampa Bay Rays: Brett Phillips, Utility
I hate going with Phillips here because he had some great moments early in the season and was one of the happiest baseball players of all time—and you can't put a value on an infectious smile. But the man went 0-for-34 against left-handed pitchers this season and was triple-slashing .147/.225/.250 when the Rays designated him for assignment. But we'll always have that time when he gave up a home run to a left-handed hitting Anthony Rendon during Reid Detmers' no-hitter.
Toronto Blue Jays: Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
FanGraphs and Baseball Reference don't always see eye-to-eye on wins above replacement. For instance, FanGraphs has Tampa Bay's Taylor Walls at minus-0.8, while Baseball Reference puts him at plus-2.4. But this is one instance in which the two sites agree on which player has been most detrimental to his team's cause. Kikuchi had a 5.25 ERA in his 20 starts (in which Toronto went 6-14) before the Blue Jays finally relegated him to the bullpen...where he has gotten even worse with a 6.92 ERA in nine appearances. And they still owe him another $10 million in each of the next two seasons.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Yasmani Grandal, C/DH
Could have also gone with any of Dallas Keuchel, Leury Garcia or Bennett Sousa here, but Grandal slugging .272 in 95 games played has been quite the precipitous fall from grace. The man had a .420 OBP and a .939 OPS just last season, and now he's sputtering through one of the worst slugging seasons in decades. I can appreciate that he's almost 34 and that catchers "age" faster than any other position, but this has been a "drank from the wrong cup in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" sort of rapid deterioration.
Cleveland Guardians: Ernie Clement, Utility
Shoutout to Franmil Reyes for doing one heck of a Joey Gallo impersonation, giving Cleveland a .254 on-base percentage and a 37.1 percent strikeout rate one year removed from hitting 30 home runs. But at least he hit nine home runs and occasionally did something positive before the Guardians designated him for assignment. Ernie Clement made 161 plate appearances with a .200 batting average, no home runs, no stolen bases and just six RBI. He also committed four errors, just for good measure.
Detroit Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B
Torkelson was supposed to be the next big thing. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft was one of the top candidates for AL Rookie of the Year in the preseason, but it just never happened. He was batting .197 through 83 games played when he got sent back down to Triple-A Toledo, where he didn't get much better. Still, the Tigers called him back up at the beginning of September, and he has continued to struggle. Maybe 2023 will be a different story for the 23-year-old.
Kansas City Royals: Carlos Hernandez, RHP
Hernandez was Kansas City's surprise success story in 2021, delivering a 3.23 ERA over his final 12 appearances of the season after the Royals lost Danny Duffy to an injury. But seven starts into this season, Hernandez had a 9.10 ERA and was sent back down to Triple-A Omaha. He returned to Kansas City as a reliever but hasn't been much better.
Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sanó, 1B
Sanó was batting .093 when he suffered a torn meniscus in late April. After recovering from the surgery to repair the damage, he had a 1.217 OPS in his 13-game rehab assignment. However, he lasted just six hitless at-bats back in the big leagues before going back on the IL for the rest of the season. He ended up with five hits and 25 strikeouts in 71 trips to the plate—a shocking fall from grace for a guy who hit 77 home runs from 2019 to '21.
American League West
Houston Astros: Yuli Gurriel, 1B
Did you know the Astros do not have a single pitcher with at least 10 innings of work and an ERA north of 4.00? Thus, the choice here has to be a hitter, and Gurriel simply has not provided much value in spite of starting the vast majority of Houston's games. He has at least recovered a bit from batting .196 through the first month of the season, but last year's AL batting champ (.319) is a far cry from hitting at the level he did in 2021. If trade-deadline acquisition Trey Mancini wasn't also struggling mightily, Gurriel would probably be out of a job.
Los Angeles Angels: Jo Adell, OF
Adell hasn't been that bad, batting .223 with seven home runs in 80 games played. But the brutal thing about his poor play is that Los Angeles decided just a couple of days before the start of the regular season that eating $28 million to cut Justin Upton was worth it to give Adell and Brandon Marsh more playing time in the outfield. However, Adell hasn't been good, and the Angels traded Marsh to the Philadelphia Phillies for a minor league catcher. Whoops.
Oakland A's: Cristian Pache, OF
Oakland has three pitchers (Adam Oller, Adrian Martinez and Zach Logue) who have made at least 10 starts with an ERA north of 6.00. Rather than somewhat randomly selecting one of those hitter-friendly arms, though, let's go with Pache, who was supposed to be a key building block after coming over from Atlanta in the Matt Olson trade. Instead, the center fielder is batting .160 and spent well over a month in the middle of the season in Triple-A trying to find some sort of spark that never came.
Seattle Mariners: Sergio Romo, RHP
The Mariners took a $2 million flier on this 39-year-old reliever, and the early return on the investment was solid. He did hit the IL less than a week into the season, but he had a 1.13 ERA through his first eight appearances. The next nine were decidedly worse, though, as Romo had a 17.05 ERA in June, allowing six home runs in those 6.1 innings of work before getting designated for assignment.
Texas Rangers: Spencer Howard, RHP
Howard was the main guy Texas was trading for when it shipped Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy and Hans Crouse to Philadelphia at last year's trade deadline. However, he has given the Rangers an 8.24 ERA in 18 total appearances since that trade, and he has made three separate trips to the IL in 2022.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: Eddie Rosario, OF
Say this much for Rosario: He has been better since undergoing a procedure to correct the swelling in his right eye. He tried to play through it early in the year, but he was batting .068 with nary an RBI and three errors in right field through 15 games when he had the surgery. Since returning, he's batting .249 with five home runs and just one error in the field in 60 games played. But, overall, he's still dead last on the team in WAR on both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
(As with Robinson Chirinos' struggles in Baltimore, though, Rosario's slow start was a blessing in disguise for Atlanta. Between Rosario, Adam Duvall, Marcell Ozuna and Guillermo Heredia all starting poorly, Michael Harris II made it to the big leagues much sooner than he would have if Atlanta's outfield hadn't been a hot mess for the first seven weeks of the season.)
Miami Marlins: Elieser Hernandez, RHP
If Miami could somehow get the 2020 version of Hernandez, the 2021 version of Trevor Rogers and the 2022 version of Sandy Alcantara to show up together next season, that's a pitching staff that could do some real damage. To put it lightly, though, 2020 Hernandez and that 3.16 ERA were nowhere to be found this year. This year's Hernandez gave up 18 home runs in 48 innings of work before getting demoted for the first of two times this season. He ended up with a 6.33 ERA, but his FIP (6.74) suggests he was lucky to even do that "well."
New York Mets: Dominic Smith, 1B
Smith has been New York's version of Cleveland's Ernie Clement. He has made 152 trips to the plate with no home runs, no stolen bases and a .194 batting average. At least in Clement's case, not much was expected. Smith, on the other hand, has been a colossal disappointment in the two seasons since hitting 10 home runs and earning NL MVP votes during the 2020 season. (At least he has shown signs of life down in Triple-A Syracuse with 10 home runs in 54 games played.)
Philadelphia Phillies: Didi Gregorius, SS, and Jeurys Familia, RHP
Tough to decide between the two here. Familia had a 6.09 ERA in 38 appearances. Gregorius had a .304 slugging percentage in 63 games played (though he did have a rare solid season in the field with just two errors committed). Unable to get anything in return for the $6 million pitcher or the $15.25 million shortstop before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, the Phillies released both players several days later.
Washington Nationals: Patrick Corbin, LHP
Corbin did at least recover a bit from sitting on a 7.02 ERA in early August. So now instead of a historically futile season, he merely has a quite bad 6.08 ERA in 148 innings of work. That 3.35 ERA over his last seven appearances sure is better than nothing for Washington, as Corbin is owed nearly $60 million for the next two seasons.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward, OF
Even though he never came anywhere close to living up to his eight-year, $184 million contract, at least J-Hey provided some above-replacement-level value to the Cubs in each of the previous six seasons. This year, he was just an expensive negative, batting .204 with one home run in 151 plate appearances. People around the team always said Heyward was a great clubhouse guy, but $20-plus million per year sure is a lot to spend on an unproductive hype man.
Cincinnati Reds: Jose Barrero, SS
With an honorable mention to T.J. Zeuch for giving up 18 earned runs in just 10.2 innings of work, Cincinnati's highly touted middle-infield prospect has been even worse. Barrero smacked two home runs in his third game after getting called up in early August. In 39 games since then, he has gone 20-for-138 (.145) at the dish with 66 strikeouts, six walks and no homers. He has also committed six errors at shortstop, putting him roughly on a 162-game pace of 24.
Milwaukee Brewers: Lorenzo Cain, CF
Much like Yasmani Grandal with the White Sox, Milwaukee was left holding the $18 million bag for an aging veteran (36) who seemingly lost the ability to hit a baseball during the lockout. Cain lasted 43 games before getting the boot with a .231 on-base percentage and four times as many strikeouts (36) as RBI (nine).
Pittsburgh Pirates: Yoshi Tsutsugo, 1B
Tsutsugo bounced around the majors in 2021, starting with the Rays and spending a couple weeks with the Dodgers before batting .268 with eight home runs over 43 games with Pittsburgh. The Pirates were hoping for something similar when they re-signed him to a one-year, $4 million deal, making him one of the highest-paid players on that small-market roster. But after getting four hits in his first six ABs, he went 25-for-164 (.152) the rest of the way and got released shortly after the trade deadline.
St. Louis Cardinals: Steven Matz, LHP
Matz did at least deliver a couple of solid starts this season, but he also got shelled twice and made multiple trips to the IL, leaving the Cardinals scrambling to improve their rotation at the trade deadline. It worked out quite nicely for them, as both Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana have been valuable additions. But now Matz is a middle reliever on a four-year, $44 million contract. (They'll presumably move him back into the starting rotation in 2023, but this first year in St. Louis definitely has not gone according to design.)
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Ian Kennedy, RHP
Arizona's 2022 strategy of banking on aging relief pitchers did not go well. The now 41-year-old Oliver Pérez was gone by the end of April with a 15.75 ERA. 37-year-old closer Mark Melancon is enduring one of the worst seasons of his career. And 37-year-old Ian Kennedy has been all over the map with a 5.59 ERA, a 4-7 record, 10 saves and six blown saves. His ERA was actually respectable until a few weeks ago, but he has given up 15 earned runs in his last five innings pitched and now ranks last on the team in WAR.
Colorado Rockies: Jhoulys Chacín, RHP
In the early 2010s, Chacín was a solid starter for the Rockies. In fact, among the 19 pitchers who have logged at least 500 innings with Colorado, only Ubaldo Jiménez has a better ERA than Chacín's mark of 4.05. But this season as a reliever has been a disaster. In 22 of his 35 appearances, Chacín entered the game with Colorado already trailing by multiple runs. And he usually didn't make things any better with a year-to-date ERA of 7.61.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Craig Kimbrel, RHP
The Dodgers don't have an obvious LVP as far as WAR is concerned, but Kimbrel sure has been a disappointment, suffering seven of the team's 48 losses. They have now embraced a closer-by-committee approach, in which Andre Jackson, Justin Bruihl and Chris Martin have recorded the team's three most recent saves. Basically, Kimbrel's struggles have left Los Angeles with a substantial Achilles' heel heading into the postseason.
San Diego Padres: Josh Bell, 1B/DH
If you want us to pick a Padre who has been with the team for more than two months, Sean Manaea is the clear choice. It's hard to believe that he is still in the starting rotation (for a team desperately trying to win every game to stay in the postseason picture) despite a 7.61 ERA since the All-Star break. But at least he has made 15 quality starts for San Diego this season. Bell has done basically nothing for the Padres since coming over in the Juan Soto trade, batting .186 and slugging .273. That's quite the 180 from batting .301 with 41 extra-base hits while with the Nationals.
San Francisco Giants: Tommy La Stella, DH
La Stella missed the first five weeks of the regular season with a broken hand and initially returned with a bang. In his first six games, he hit 7-for-23 with three doubles and two home runs, good for a 1.029 OPS. In 54 games since then, though, La Stella has not homered and has just a .574 OPS. It's the worst batting season of his career, and worse, it came in a year in which he has pretty much only served as the DH. And when the designated hitter goes 54 games without a home run, well, San Francisco went 20-34 in those games.