Each MLB Team's Most Overpaid and Underpaid Player

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2018

Each MLB Team's Most Overpaid and Underpaid Player

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Every MLB team, from free-spending clubs like the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees to penny-pinching organizations like the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, have two goals at the core of any contract signing.

    Create surplus value and avoid disastrous overpays.

    With those two basic ideas in mind, we set out to identify the most overpaid and most underpaid player on each team.

    Players who have yet to reach arbitration were not considered for this exercise since their contracts are a product of the system that is in place and not any decision made by the front office.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Robbie Ray
    Robbie RayOrlando Ramirez/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Yasmany Tomas, $13.5 million

    Tomas has a minus-2.2 WAR over three seasons since signing a six-year, $68.5 million contract following his defection from Cuba.

    The outfielder has been a defensive liability (-30 DRS) and has limited on-base skills (.308 OBP), albeit with 30-homer power as the 27-year-old enters his prime.

    In today's game where the earning potential of one-dimensional sluggers continues to plunge, he's vastly overpaid.


    Underpaid: Robbie Ray, $4.2 million projected

    The 26-year-old Ray turned in a breakout season in 2017, going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 218 strikeouts in 162 innings to finish seventh in NL Cy Young voting.

    He's due for a hefty raise in his first year of arbitration, but he'll still be an absolute steal as one of the league's emerging stars on the mound.

Atlanta Braves

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    Ender Inciarte
    Ender InciarteTodd Kirkland/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Scott Kazmir, $17.667 million

    Kazmir landed a three-year, $48 million contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers after a terrific 2015 season, and he was shipped to the Braves as part of the deal that helped them unload Matt Kemp's contract.

    The 33-year-old lefty went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts in 2016, then missed the entire 2017 season battling a hip injury.

    Swapping out Kemp's 2019 salary for the final year of Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy ($11.5 million) gives the team more flexibility next offseason. Anything they get out of either pitcher on the mound will be a bonus.


    Underpaid: Ender Inciarte, $4.7 million

    The Braves signed Inciarte to a team-friendly five-year, $30.25 million extension last offseason that includes a $9 million team option for 2022.

    The 27-year-old hit .304 with 43 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases in 2017, earning his first All-Star appearance and posting a 3.0 WAR along the way thanks in part to his Gold Glove defense in center field.

    He's a solid foundational piece as the team continues rebuilding. 

Baltimore Orioles

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    Jonathan Schoop
    Jonathan SchoopPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Chris Davis, $21.119 million

    Davis turned a 147 OPS+ and 47 home runs during the 2015 season into a shiny new seven-year, $161 million deal from the Baltimore Orioles.

    While he followed that up with a 110 OPS+ and 38 home runs in 2016, his production fell off dramatically last year when he posted a 95 OPS+ with just 26 home runs in 524 plate appearances for a minus-0.1 WAR.

    With five years and $115 million left on the books, it has quickly become one of the worst contracts in baseball.


    Underpaid: Jonathan Schoop, $9.1 million projected

    After showing flashes of bigger things to come in his first three seasons as the Orioles' starting second baseman, Schoop exploded offensively in 2017.

    The 26-year-old posted a 123 OPS+ with 35 doubles, 32 home runs and 105 RBI, and his 5.1 WAR ranked second among all second basemen.

    Even with his salary projected to nearly triple in his second year of arbitration, he's still the best bargain on the roster and an obvious extension candidate.

Boston Red Sox

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    Chris Sale
    Chris SalePatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Hanley Ramirez, $22.75 million

    A case can be made for both David Price ($30 million) and Rick Porcello ($21.125 million) being the choice here, but we'll go with Ramirez.

    A five-tool shortstop during his prime, he's now been relegated to DH duties, which takes a considerable bite out of his value.

    After a strong 2016 season, he hit .242/.320/.429 with 23 home runs and 62 RBI for a minus-0.3 WAR, and now he could find himself relegated to a bench role if the team signs J.D. Martinez as many expect they will.


    Underpaid: Chris Sale, $12.5 million

    The Chicago White Sox were able to pry both Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech away from the Red Sox in exchange for Sale as much because of team-friendly contract as for his top-of-the-rotation ability.

    He's owed $12.5 million this season with a $13.5 million option for next year, and he'd easily be a $30 million-plus-per-year player on the open market.

    The 28-year-old went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 308 strikeouts in 214.1 innings to finish second to Corey Kluber in AL Cy Young voting in his Boston debut, and he'll be asked to shoulder a heavy load once again this coming season.

Chicago Cubs

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    Anthony Rizzo
    Anthony RizzoCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Jason Heyward, $28.167 million

    Heyward was a 2.3 WAR player last season on the strength of his stellar defense (18 DRS, 10.3 UZR/150) in right field.

    Working under the assumption that 1 WAR is worth about $8 million, his production was worth roughly $18.4 million, so he's not quite the bust that some paint him to be.

    However, as the highest-paid player on a talented Cubs roster and after posting an 85 OPS+ at a premium offensive position, he's still the easy choice as the most overpaid player on the team.


    Underpaid: Anthony Rizzo, $7.286 million

    The Cubs front office locked up Rizzo with a seven-year, $41 million deal at the start of the 2013 season, and he's since developed into a legitimate superstar and the clubhouse leader of a World Series-winning team.

    To put his $7.286 million salary into perspective, Kris Bryant is projected to earn $8.9 million in his first year of arbitration, despite having four fewer years of service time.

    Rizzo has a 143 OPS+ and he's averaged 35 doubles, 32 home runs, 99 RBI and a 5.3 WAR over the past four seasons.

Chicago White Sox

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    Yolmer Sanchez
    Yolmer SanchezTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    Overpaid: James Shields, $21 million ($11 million paid by San Diego)

    James Sheilds is massively overpaid—even with the White Sox only on the hook for $10 million of his salary.

    Once one of the game's most consistent and durable starters, Shields is a shell of his former self as he gets set to enter his age-36 season as the lone veteran in a young White Sox rotation.

    He has a 5.60 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and a minus-0.9 WAR over the past two seasons.


    Underpaid: Yolmer Sanchez, $2.1 million projected

    Was there a more overlooked 3-WAR player last year than Sanchez?

    An afterthought entering the season, he wound up hitting .267/.319/.413 with 19 doubles and 12 home runs in 534 plate appearances while providing plus defense at second base (8 DRS, 9.4 UZR/150) and third base (8 DRS, 16.7 UZR/150) on his way to 3.5 WAR.

    As of now, it looks like he'll break camp with the starting third base job and has a chance to provide some tremendous value in his first year of arbitration.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Eugenio Suarez
    Eugenio SuarezJohn Minchillo/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Homer Bailey, $21 million

    During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Bailey went 24-22 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.18 WHIP while averaging 208 innings to earn a six-year, $105 million extension.

    In the first four years of that deal, he's 17-18 with a 4.95 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, and he's pitched a grand total of 125.1 innings the past three years.

    The 31-year-old will finally be healthy entering spring training, and he quietly posted a 3.58 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over his final seven starts last year. Still, living up to his contract won't be easy.


    Underpaid: Eugenio Suarez, $4.4 million projected

    Years from now, we might look back on the Alfredo Simon-for-Eugenio Suarez trade in 2014 as one of the best deals in Cincinnati Reds history.

    The 26-year-old slugged 26 doubles and 26 home runs last season while posting a 115 OPS+ and 3.7 WAR as he continues to emerge as one of the most well-rounded third basemen in the National League.

    He'll get progressively more expensive in the years to come, but in his first arbitration year, he remains a tremendous bargain.

Cleveland Indians

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    Corey Kluber
    Corey KluberPhil Long/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Jason Kipnis, $13.667 million

    The Cleveland Indians don't really have a glaringly awful contract on the books.

    That said, Kipnis will need to rebound from a rough 2017 season to justify being the second-most expensive player on the team.

    After posting a 109 OPS+ with 41 doubles, 23 home runs and 82 RBI in 2016, his production plummeted to an 81 OPS+ over 373 plate appearances while he battled a hamstring issue.


    Underpaid: Corey Kluber, $10.7 million

    There are 30 MLB teams who would love to pay $10.7 million for Kluber.

    Heck, there are 30 MLB teams who would love to pay $30.7 million for the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

    A late bloomer who signed a five-year, $38.5 million extension at the start of the 2015 seasonhis age-29 campaignKluber is one of the game's truly elite starters and he'll be one of the best bargains in baseball for the foreseeable future.

Colorado Rockies

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    Charlie Blackmon
    Charlie BlackmonTony Dejak/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Ian Desmond, $22 million

    Signing Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal looked like an odd move by the Rockies when they first signed him last offseason.

    A year later, not much has changed.

    The 32-year-old had a 73 OPS+ with 19 extra-base hits in 373 plate appearances for a minus-1.1 WAR last season, and the highest-paid player on the roster looks more like a spare part than an integral piece of the team. 


    Underpaid: Charlie Blackmon, $13.4 million projected

    Fellow arbitration-eligible players DJ LeMahieu ($8.8 million projected) and Chris Rusin ($1.4 million) are also terrific values relative to their market value, but the choice here has to be Blackmon.

    The 31-year-old turned in one of the greatest seasons ever by a leadoff hitter last year, batting .331/.399/.601 with 213 hits, 35 doubles, 14 triples, 37 home runs, 104 RBI and 137 runs scored for 6.0 WAR and a fifth-place finish in NL MVP voting.

    Even with his salary projected to nearly double, he's making a fraction of his open market value.

Detroit Tigers

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    Shane Greene
    Shane GreeneJim Mone/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Jordan Zimmermann, $24 million

    There were a number of candidates for this "honor," and both Miguel Cabrera ($30 million) and Victor Martinez ($18 million) are worthy of a mention.

    However, we'll go with Zimmermann, who has been an unmitigated bust since signing a five-year, $110 million deal prior to the 2016 season.

    The 31-year-old was 8-13 with a 6.08 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over 160 innings last season.


    Underpaid: Shane Greene, $1.7 million projected

    After shipping out Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, there's not much left on the Detroit Tigers roster as far as obvious trade chips.

    Greene is one player who should draw some interest if he's made available, though.

    The 29-year-old posted a 2.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings with nine saves and 14 holds over 71 appearances in his first full season as a reliever. And along with his reasonable 2018 projected salary, he's also under team control through the 2020 season.

Houston Astros

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveKathy Willens/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Brian McCann, $17 million ($5.5 million paid by NYY)

    McCann might not be the same dynamic offensive player he was in the prime of his career, but he's still an above-average offensive producer and a valuable team leader at the catcher position.

    The 33-year-old posted a 109 OPS+ with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in his first season with the Houston Astros, posting 1.2 WAR along the way.

    He's owed $17 million this season and has a $15 million team option for 2019.


    Underpaid: Jose Altuve, $6 million

    There were a number of worthy choices here, so let's start with a few honorable mentions:

    • Dallas Keuchel ($12.6 million projected)
    • George Springer ($8.9 million projected)
    • Charlie Morton ($7 million)
    • Marwin Gonzalez ($5.125 million)
    • Brad Peacock ($2.9 million projected)
    • Lance McCullers Jr. ($2.6 million projected)

    That said, this one is a no-brainer.

    The six-year, $24.25 million deal that Altuve signed midway through the 2013 season—factoring in a pair of option years—might go down as the best contract in MLB history.

Kansas City Royals

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    Salvador Perez
    Salvador PerezOrlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Alex Gordon, $20 million

    A small-market team like the Kansas City Royals simply can't afford to be hamstrung by a bad contract, and that's exactly what Gordon has become since reupping with the team on a four-year, $72 million deal two years ago.

    After averaging a 121 OPS+ and 5.4 WAR from 2011 to 2015, he's struggled to a 73 OPS+ and just 0.9 WAR total in the first two years of that contract.

    As the team begins what could be a lengthy rebuild, he's still on the books for $20 million each of the next two seasons.


    Underpaid: Salvador Perez, $8.7 million

    Even after signing a new five-year, $52.5 million extension that replaced three option years valued at $14.75 million total, Perez is still the best bargain on the Royals roster and one of the best in baseball at the catcher position.

    His 3.4 percent walk rate and .297 on-base percentage last year show the limitations of his offensive value, but he also set new career highs in home runs (27) and RBI (80) en route to a 105 OPS+.

    Meanwhile, he's also one of the game's elite defensive catchers and an absolute workhorse who has averaged 140 games per year over the past five seasons.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Andrelton Simmons
    Andrelton SimmonsJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Albert Pujols, $27 million

    There are repercussions to signing a 32-year-old to a 10-year, $240 million contracteven when he's an all-time great.

    The Angels paid Pujols big money hoping to win a title or two in the first half of the contract, which would then help justify the back end.

    Instead, they haven't won anything and now they get to pay a guy who hit .241/.286/.386 and had a minus-1.8 WAR a cool $27 million.


    Underpaid: Andrelton Simmons, $11 million

    While he's still not an offensive force by any means, Simmons took his game to another level last season thanks to an uptick in his production at the plate.

    The game's premier defensive player hit .278/.321/.421 with 38 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBI for a 103 OPS+ and 7.1 WAR that ranked eighth among all players.

    The 28-year-old still has three years and $39 million remaining on the team-friendly deal he signed during his time with the Braves.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Kenta Maeda
    Kenta MaedaMatt Slocum/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Matt Kemp, $21.5 million ($2.5M paid by San Diego)

    Kemp has now been traded three times since signing an eight-year, $160 million deal, and the latest one brought him full circle back to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    He's no longer a base-stealing threat and he's one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball (-17 DRS, -13.7 UZR/150), enough to make him a minus-1.3 WAR player last season.

    It looks like he'll essentially be replacing Andre Ethier in the seldom-used, overpaid reserve outfielder role.


    Underpaid: Kenta Maeda, $3.125 million

    When the 2016 physical he provided interested teams revealed "irregularities" in his right elbow, Maeda was forced to sign for much less than expected as he made his way stateside after a run of success in Japan.

    The 29-year-old has a $3.125 million base salary over the life of his eight-year deal with the Dodgers, but he can earn up to an additional $8 million each year in incentives based on innings pitched and games started.

    Even if he hits the full $11.125 million, in today's market, he's a steal. Factor in the level of protection the Dodgers are afforded with the way the contract is set up, and he's the obvious choice here.

Miami Marlins

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    Christian Yelich
    Christian YelichBrett Davis/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Wei-Yin Chen, $12.6 million

    Here's what Wei-Yin Chen has done since the Miami Marlins gave him a five-year, $80 million contract and surrendered a draft pick to sign him after he was extended a qualifying offer.

    • 2016: 22 GS, 5-5, 4.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 123.1 IP, -0.2 WAR
    • 2017: 9 G, 5 GS, 2-1, 3.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 33.0 IP, 0.5 WAR

    Not exactly the best return on the first $20.2 million worth of that contract.

    His status is in question for the 2018 season as he's dealing with a partially torn UCL in his left elbow, and as expected, he opted into the final three years of his contract this winter.


    Underpaid: Christian Yelich, $7 million

    This one was a toss-up between Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is projected to earn $4.2 million in arbitration.

    By Opening Day, both players could be suiting up elsewhere if the Marlins' new owners continue forward with their full-scale teardown of the roster.

    Yelich has a slightly higher salary than Realmuto, but he also has a longer track record of success.

    The 26-year-old has been a 16.3 WAR player over the past four seasons, and he posted a 117 OPS+ with 36 doubles, 18 home runs, 81 RBI and 16 stolen bases last season while also making the transition defensively to center field.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Chase Anderson
    Chase AndersonGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Ryan Braun, $20 million

    Braun is no longer a 30-steal threat and his defensive metrics have been trending downward to below-average marks (-5 DRS, 1.2 UZR/150), which have begun to push the outfielder's value further away from his salary.

    The 34-year-old also saw his OPS dip from .903 to .823, and he played in just 104 games while missing time with a calf injury.

    Considering the second-most expensive player on the team right now is free-agent signing Jhoulys Chacin with an $8.75 million salary, this was an easy choice.


    Underpaid: Chase Anderson, $4.75 million

    Anderson and Jimmy Nelson—whose $4.7 million projected salary will also be a bargain provided he returns strong from shoulder surgery—emerged as the unlikely leaders of a vastly improved Milwaukee starting rotation last year.

    The front office wasted little time committing to Anderson after his breakout performance, locking him up with a two-year, $11.75 million extension that includes a pair of option years worth a combined $18 million.

    The 30-year-old went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 133 strikeouts in 141.1 innings last season for a 4.1 WAR.

Minnesota Twins

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    Brian Dozier
    Brian DozierOrlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Phil Hughes, $13.2 million

    Hughes signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Twins in 2014 and went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a record-setting 186-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the first year of that contract.

    That was enough for the Twins to buy out the final two years of that deal with a new five-year, $58 million extension, and that quickly proved to be a mistake.

    In the three years since, he's gone 16-19 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.40 WHIP while averaging just 89 innings per season. He underwent thoracic outlet syndrome revision surgery in August, leaving his status for 2018 in doubt.


    Underpaid: Brian Dozier, $9 million

    Dozier was underpaid in 2016 when he made $3 million.

    He was still underpaid last season when that jumped to $6 million.

    And he'll be underpaid once again in 2018, when he earns $9 million in the final year of his four-year, $20 million extension.

    Will the Twins let him hit the open market, or will they try to negotiate a new extension before he reaches free agency next winter?

New York Mets

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    Noah Syndergaard
    Noah SyndergaardAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    Overpaid: David Wright, $20 million

    Spinal stenosis limited David Wright to 38 games in 2015 and 37 games in 2016 and kept him off the field entirely this past season.

    At this point, the New York Mets have to assume they'll be without the face of the franchise for the final three years of his contract. Luckily, they are getting a good chunk of his salary back via insurance.

    "Unless something has occurred that the Mets have not publicly disclosed, they should be recouping 75 percent of Wright's salary from insurance," wrote Adam Rubin of SNY.

    Still, he's the clear choice here.


    Underpaid: Noah Syndergaard, $1.9 million projected

    Syndergaard endured with an injury-shortened 2017 season in which he made just seven starts before a torn right lat muscle put him on the shelf for the duration.

    Unfortunately, that will take a big bite out of his earning power as a first-time arbitration-eligible player.

    He's projected to earn just $1.9 million and if he returns to the form that saw him go 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings in 2016, he'll be one of the best bargains in baseball.

New York Yankees

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    Tommy Kahnle
    Tommy KahnleKathy Willens/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Jacoby Ellsbury, $21.143 million

    Ellsbury might not be the highest-paid fourth outfielder in baseball (thanks, Matt Kemp), but he's still a financial drain for a New York Yankees team that is moving in a different direction.

    Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge will presumably be the starting outfield to begin the season, with Clint Frazier still in the mix if he's not traded for pitching and, of course, Giancarlo Stanton also more than capable of manning a corner spot.

    If the 34-year-old Ellsbury embraces his role, he can be a useful reserve player thanks to his speed and left-handed bat on a righty-heavy team. He won't come anywhere close to living up to his salary, though.


    Underpaid: Tommy Kahnle, $1.3 million projected

    Kahnle might be a $12 million per year reliever in a market where Tommy Hunter gets a two-year, $18 million deal.

    The 28-year-old was a revelation for the White Sox last season before joining the Yankees in the seven-player blockbuster that also brought David Robertson and Todd Frazier to the Bronx.

    In 69 combined appearances, he posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.12 WHIP while striking out a staggering 96 batters in 62.2 innings. More importantly, he lowered his walk rate from 6.6 per nine innings to 2.4, becoming a high-leverage option in the process.

Oakland Athletics

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    Kendall Graveman
    Kendall GravemanJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Santiago Casilla, $6 million

    Casilla signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Oakland Athletics in free agency last offseason with the hope that he could provide a low-cost closing option to compete with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle for the role.

    While he did wind up spending time pitching in the ninth inning, he converted just 16 of 23 save chances with a 4.27 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

    With Blake Treinen now penciled in as the closer and guys like Liam Hendriks, Chris Hatcher and Yusmeiro Petit seemingly ahead of him in the setup man pecking order, he's a high-priced middle reliever.

    In fact, he's tied for the second-highest salary on the team, trailing only Khris Daviswho is projected for $11.1 million in arbitration.


    Underpaid: Kendall Graveman, $2.6 million projected

    Graveman has been quietly effective since joining the Oakland rotation three years ago.

    During that time, he's gone 22-24 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.36 WHIP while averaging 24 starts and 136 innings per season.

    The 27-year-old missed time last season with a right shoulder strain and he could be a breakout candidate for 2018 if he stays healthy. 

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Tommy Hunter, $9 million

    The Philadelphia Phillies only have eight players who are either under contract or arbitration-eligible:

    • Carlos Santana: $18.333 million
    • Tommy Hunter: $9 million
    • Pat Neshek: $7.75 million
    • Cesar Hernandez: $4.7 million projected
    • Maikel Franco: $3.6 million projected
    • Odubel Herrera: $3.35 million
    • Cameron Rupp: $2.1 million projected
    • Luis Garcia: $1.4 million projected

    It's hard to say Hunter is not worth his salary in today's market, and the Phillies have a ton of money to spend.

    Still, that's a lot for a non-closer reliever on a team that's not quite ready to contend, and someone had to be the choice here.


    Underpaid: Odubel Herrera, $3.35 million

    Herrera went from Rule 5 success story to long-term building block when the Phillies gave him a five-year, $30.5 million extension that includes a pair of option years.

    After earning $1.6 million last season, his salary jumps up to $3.35 million this year, but he's still a great bargain and vastly underpaid relative to his market value as a two-way center fielder.

    The 26-year-old posted a 104 OPS+ with 42 doubles and 14 home runs, and defensive metrics (4 DRS, 9.3 UZR/150) painted a positive picture on the other side of the ball.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gerrit Cole
    Gerrit ColeNick Wass/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Sean Rodriguez, $5.75 million

    Rodriguez left the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Braves, only to rejoin the Pirates in an August trade.

    The 32-year-old hit just .167 with a 51 OPS+ in 153 plate appearances last season, and the Pirates have guys like Adam Frazier and Max Moroff who could fill a similar role at a fraction of the price.

    For a small-market team, spending $5.75 million on a redundant reserve player coming off a bad year is tough to swallow.


    Underpaid: Gerrit Cole, $7.5 million projected

    The Pirates have a few worthy candidates here.

    The outfield duo of Starling Marte ($7.833 million) and Gregory Polanco ($4.1 million) are both reasonably priced, while bullpen standout Felipe Rivero ($3.1 million projected) will also make a fraction of his market value.

    However, in today's market, an ace-caliber starting pitcher who is making under eight figures is an easy choice for top underpaid honors.

    After going 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA (4.01 FIP) and 1.25 WHIP in 203 innings, Cole is projected for a modest increase from the $3.75 million he earned last year. The 27-year-old is more than capable of Cy Young-caliber numbers, though, as we've seen in the past.

San Diego Padres

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    Brad Hand
    Brad HandOrlando Ramirez/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Chase Headley, $13 million

    The Padres took on the $13 million salary of Chase Headley as a means of also acquiring right-hander Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees—a player the San Diego front office has liked for some time.

    For now, he's penciled into the starting third base job, and after Yangervis Solarte was traded to Toronto, he might wind up sticking around.

    The 33-year-old had a 100 OPS+ with 30 doubles, 12 home runs and 61 RBI last season. Those are decent numbers, but not good enough to justify being the highest-paid player on any team, even a rebuilding one.


    Underpaid: Brad Hand, $3.8 million projected

    For the Padres, deciding when to flip Hand on the trade market will be an important decision by the front office.

    An All-Star in 2017, the left-hander has pitched to a 2.56 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 154 appearances over the past two seasons.

    If Jake McGee is worth $27 million over three years, it's fair to say Hand is vastly underpaid.

San Francisco Giants

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Hunter Pence, $18.5 million

    Johnny Cueto ($21 million) and Mark Melancon ($13 million) both have bloated salaries relative to their 2017 production, but they also have the talent to bounce back.

    On the other hand, Pence has not been an impact player since 2014.

    Over the past three years, he's averaged just 97 games while battling a number of injuries, and this past season he posted an 86 OPS+ and 0.3 WAR in 134 games. 

    Luckily for the Giants, the 34-year-old is in the final year of his contract.


    Underpaid: Madison Bumgarner, $12 million

    With a $12 million salary for 2018 and a $12 million option for 2019, the Giants control one of the game's elite pitchers for roughly a third of his market value.

    Dirt bike accident aside, he was his usual dominant self last year and there's no reason to think he won't be squarely in the NL Cy Young conversation as long as he plays a full season.

    It will be interesting to see what direction the Giants move in the next two years, as it will have a direct impact on whether Bumgarner hits the open market or signs a massive extension.

Seattle Mariners

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    James Paxton
    James PaxtonTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Felix Hernandez, $26.857 million

    It's hard to believe King Felix is still just 31 years old.

    With 13 seasons and 2,502.1 innings under his belt, his right arm probably has a tough time believing it too.

    He's pitched to a 3.79 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over the past three seasons after leading the AL in ERA in 2014, and he missed time each of the past two seasons after being a picture of health up to that point.

    Hernandez is still capable of being a vital part of a contender; he's just no longer a marquee ace or worth his $26.857 million salary.


    Underpaid: James Paxton, $5.6 million projected

    If Paxton can just find a way to stay healthy, he's ready to ascend to the role of staff ace in Seattle.

    The 29-year-old went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 156 strikeouts in 136 innings last season.

    The fact that those 136 innings represented a career high says all you need to know about the left-hander's ability to stay healthy to this point in his career.

    Speaking strictly from a salary standpoint, though, even a half season's worth of the level of production we saw from him last year is worth three times what he's projected to earn.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Marcell Ozuna
    Marcell OzunaDerik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Adam Wainwright, $19.5 million

    Wainwright has already been supplanted by Carlos Martinez as the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals staff.

    The 36-year-old has not been the same pitcher since missing the bulk of the 2015 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

    He was 12-5 with a 5.11 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 23 starts and 123.1 innings last season, and at this point, the Cardinals can't really expect him to be anything more than a No. 5 starter and a positive influence in the clubhouse.


    Underpaid: Marcell Ozuna, $10.9 million projected

    There's a reason Marcell Ozuna brought back a better prospect return than Giancarlo Stanton.

    The 27-year-old is projected to earn $10.9 million in arbitration, compared to the $25 million and climbing that Stanton is owed over the next decade.

    Ozuna hit .312/.376/.548 with 30 doubles, 37 home runs and 124 RBI for a 5.8 WAR, and he has another year of team control in 2019 that figures to also be a relative bargain if he produces at a similar level.

    The aforementioned Martinez and his $11.5 million salary was also a strong contender here.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Chris Archer
    Chris ArcherPaul Beaty/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Denard Span, $11 million

    The Tampa Bay Rays took on the $11 million contract of Denard Span in order to facilitate the deal that sent Evan Longoria to the Giants earlier this offseason.

    Span, 33, hit .272 with a 100 OPS+ last season, tallying 31 doubles and 12 home runs.

    However, he was atrocious defensively (-27 DRS, -8.7 UZR/150), and on a team that puts values defense highly, he'll likely be relegated to DH and bench duties in the final year of his contract.


    Underpaid: Chris Archer, $6.417 million

    Debate all you want whether Chris Archer is a legitimate ace.

    With a $6.417 million salary in 2018 and owed just over $34 million over the next four years, he's one of the best bargains in baseball.

    Period. End of sentence.

    The 29-year-old went 10-12 with a 4.07 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 249 strikeouts in 201 innings last season and he's now fanned batters at an impressive 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings over the past three years.

Texas Rangers

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    Robinson Chirinos
    Robinson ChirinosTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Shin-Soo Choo, $20 million

    The fact that Choo is no longer a viable defensive outfielder (-6 DRS, -15.4 UZR/150) takes a considerable bite out of his value.

    That said, the 35-year-old is still a steady on-base threat, posting a 103 OPS+ with 20 doubles, 22 home runs and 12 stolen bases while staying healthy enough to play in 149 games last season.

    The final three years and $62 million of his contract could be ugly, but he's managed to maintain at least modest productivity to this point.


    Underpaid: Robinson Chirinos, $2.25 million

    Chirinos topped 300 plate appearances for just the second time in his career last year, and the result was a 122 OPS+ with 13 doubles, 17 home runs and 38 RBI for a career-best 2.7 WAR.

    The 33-year-old signed a one-year, $2.25 million extension with a $2.375 million option for 2019 last March and that's been a nice under-the-radar move by the front office.

    With Jonathan Lucroy struggling and eventually moving on to Colorado and then free agency, he's now the clear-cut starting catcher for the Rangers and for a salary cheaper than a lot of backups.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Marcus Stroman
    Marcus StromanBill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Troy Tulowitzki, $20 million

    Flip a coin here between Tulowitzki and Russell Martin, who will pull in the same $20 million salary thanks to his back-loaded five-year contract.

    The oft-injured Tulowitzki played just 66 games last season, hitting .249/.300/.378 with 10 doubles and seven home runs in 260 plate appearances.

    He's lost a couple steps at shortstop (0 DRS, -2.4 UZR/150), and it speaks to the team's confidence in his ability to stay healthy that Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte have been the two biggest offseason additions.


    Underpaid: Marcus Stroman, $7.2 million projected

    Tip of the cap to Justin Smoak, who will earn $4.125 million on the heels of a 128 OPS+, 38-homer, 90-RBI season.

    The choice here has to be Stroman, though.

    The 26-year-old took a big step forward last season, going 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 164 strikeouts in 201 innings—the second straight season in which the 5'8" right-hander has eclipsed 200 innings.

    He's now the clear-cut ace of the Toronto staff and figures to take over as the face of the franchise if Josh Donaldson moves on in free agency next winter.

Washington Nationals

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    Anthony Rendon
    Anthony RendonMark Tenally/Associated Press

    Overpaid: Matt Wieters, $10.5 million

    The Washington Nationals have some big contracts on the books.

    However, Max Scherzer ($22.143 million), Bryce Harper ($21.625 million), Stephen Strasburg ($18.333 million) and Daniel Murphy ($17.5 million) all easily justify their salaries, and Ryan Zimmerman ($14 million) turned things around in a big way.

    That leaves us with the disappointing Wieters as the most overpaid player on the team.

    The 31-year-old signed a two-year, $21 million deal last February and posted a brutal 63 OPS+ and minus-0.6 WAR in his first year with the team.


    Underpaid: Anthony Rendon, $11.5 million projected

    The right choice here might be Adam Eaton ($6 million) if he returns strong from a torn ACL that limited him to 23 games last season. After all, he was a 6.2 WAR player in 2016.

    However, until he proves healthy, we'll highlight another vastly underpaid standout in Rendon.

    The 2016 NL Comeback Player of the Year continued his upward trajectory last year as he hit .301/.403/.533 with 41 doubles, 25 home runs and 100 RBI for a 5.9 WAR.

    His $11.5 million salary is a big number for a player with another year of arbitration left, but it's still highway robbery relative to his value.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, while contract info comes via Spotrac.


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