Each MLB Team's Worst Bang-for-Your-Buck Star in 2019

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2019

Each MLB Team's Worst Bang-for-Your-Buck Star in 2019

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    As we head into the dog days of summer and toward the MLB stretch run, it's as good a time as any to examine every team's worst bang-for-your-buck star.

    This isn't an exact science. But we'll consider each player's 2019 salary (per Spotrac) versus the WAR he provides (by FanGraphs' calculation) and add a dollop of subjectivity.

    In some cases, we'll stretch the definition of "star." In other cases, we'll call out admittedly valuable players who nonetheless are vastly overpaid.

    One other note: We're only looking at guys teams currently utilize, so released or demoted players or players on the 60-day disabled list don't count.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Adam Jones

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $3 million

    2019 WAR: 0.0

    After a strong start with the Arizona Diamondbacks, outfielder Adam Jones has an anemic .671 OPS since the All-Star break with no home runs and only six extra-base hits. 

    The five-time All-Star is losing playing time and says he understands why. He isn't being paid an egregious salary, but he's providing exactly zero value above a replacement-level player who'd be earning the league minimum or close to it.

Atlanta Braves: Dallas Keuchel

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $13 million

    2019 WAR: 0.3   

    The Atlanta Braves signed Dallas Keuchel in June to bolster their starting rotation. The veteran left-hander has posted a 4.39 ERA overall and a 5.94 ERA in August.

    The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner could still help the burgeoning Braves as they charge toward the playoffs.

    But so far, the money Atlanta invested in him for a bit more than half a season of work isn't paying the expected dividends.

Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $21.1 million

    2019 WAR: -1.3

    It's almost no fun to pick on Chris Davis anymore. He was one of the most prolific sluggers in the game not so long ago. Now, he's the definition of an albatross.

    Davis is slashing .178/.263/.313 while he earns north of $20 million for the hapless, rebuilding Baltimore Orioles. He recently got into a dugout altercation with manager Brandon Hyde.

    Worst of all, the O's will keep paying him in excess of $20 million through 2022.

Boston Red Sox: David Price

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $31 million

    2019 WAR: 2.3   

    David Price is working his way back from a wrist injury. That's good news for the Boston Red Sox as they cling to the edge of the playoff picture.

    The bad news? Price is earning more than $30 million and has posted a 4.36 ERA in 105.1 innings. He's an important part of the Red Sox rotation, but he's worth far less than $30 million per season.

Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $20 million

    2019 WAR: 1.1   

    Yu Darvish hasn't been a train wreck this season for the Chicago Cubs. But he hasn't been very good.

    In 24 starts, the right-hander owns a 4.43 ERA and has surrendered an NL-leading 26 home runs. His 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings jump off the stat sheet, but the overall results don't befit a pitcher earning $20 million.

    The 32-year-old can make $81 million over the next four seasons if he exercises his player options. The Cubs will surely want more out of him to justify his salary. 

Chicago White Sox: Kelvin Herrera

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $8.5 million

    2019 WAR: 0.1   

    The Chicago White Sox are moving toward the final stages of their rebuild. They're also paying a considerable sum of money to reliever Kelvin Herrera.

    Yes, he's a two-time All-Star. But he also sports a 7.08 ERA. That's...hang on...not good.

    Unfortunately for the ChiSox, Herrera is owed another $8.5 million in 2020 with a $1 million buyout for 2021, meaning he'll cost them a lot more to possibly be a subpar reliever or simply get released.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $25 million

    2019 WAR: 0.7

    Sorry, Cincinnati Reds boosters. We know this one smarts. But stats are stats and dollars are dollars.

    Six-time All-Star Joey Votto has posted less than one win above replacement while earning $25 million this season. He's hitting a pedestrian .262 with a ho-hum .410 slugging percentage.

    He's reeled off a six-game hitting streak with three doubles and a home run mixed in, but all signs point to a decline for the 35-year-old.

Cleveland Indians: Corey Kluber

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $17.2 million

    2019 WAR: 0.6

    After trading right-hander Trevor Bauer to the Reds at the July 31 deadline, the Cleveland Indians are relying on the return of ace Corey Kluber from a fractured right forearm.

    The two-time Cy Young Award winner is set to make his third rehab start on Sunday. He can't rejoin the Indians soon enough, obviously. 

    Fair or not, the fact that he's earning more than $17 million for a budget-constrained team and has posted less than 1 WAR means he is the most logical pick. 

Colorado Rockies: Ian Desmond

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $15 million

    2019 WAR: -0.6

    A player with a .259 average and 13 home runs in mid-August wouldn't normally be on this list. But when he plays half of his games at Coors Field, those figures aren't especially impressive.

    Add minus-20 defensive runs saved for his efforts in the outfield, and Ian Desmond is a regrettable investment (to put it kindly) for the mid-market Colorado Rockies as they lurch between a retool and an all-out rebuild.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $30 million

    2019 WAR: -0.2

    Miguel Cabrera is almost certainly going to be a Hall of Famer. He's also a payroll drag for the rebuilding Detroit Tigers.

    The 36-year-old two-time AL MVP is earning $30 million while putting up a .739 OPS with eight home runs. His days as a dominant offensive force are over, and he's posted minus-1 defensive runs saved at first base.

    No one can dispute Miggy's legacy. But the Tigers are feeling the sting of his price tag.

Houston Astros: Josh Reddick

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $13 million

    2019 WAR: 0.4

    Since the All-Star break, Houston Astros right fielder Josh Reddick is hitting .195 with a .483 OPS. Those numbers would be unacceptable for a utility infielder. For a corner outfielder on a team with World Series aspirations, they are downright woeful. 

    The 32-year-old Reddick is owed another $13 million in 2020. But with touted outfield prospect Kyle Tucker knocking on the door, the fading veteran needs to prove himself or accept a diminished role.

Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $20 million

    2019 WAR: 0.7

    Alex Gordon is a three-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner. He's also making $20 million and has a .743 OPS for the rebuilding Kansas City Royals.

    The 35-year-old is a relic from the glory days, when the Royals won the pennant in 2014 and the World Series in 2015. 

    Now, he's an overpriced player on a club that's looking to move on who will surely receive a $4 million buyout in 2020.

Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $28 million

    2019 WAR: -0.3

    Like the Tigers' Cabrera, Albert Pujols will one day own a bust in Cooperstown. Also like Cabrera, he's on a steep decline.

    A .242 average and .299 on-base percentage tell the tale of Pujols' subpar season. He's still setting milestones, which is commendable. But he's well past the summit, if not entirely over the hill.

    The Los Angeles Angels, meanwhile, are paying the 39-year-old $28 million to watch the fading star fizzle across the firmament.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Kenley Jansen

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $19.3 million

    2019 WAR: 0.9   

    Kenley Jansen is a three-time All-Star who finished fifth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2017. At the same time, he has a 3.74 ERA and has frequently wobbled in the late innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    The Dodgers are running away with the NL West and will need Jansen come playoff time as they try to win their first World Series since 1988.

    But his struggles have put their relief contingent in a bind executive Andrew Friedman didn't aggressively address at the trade deadline.

Miami Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $20 million

    2019 WAR: -0.4   

    Wei-Yin Chen is biting off more than 26 percent of the Miami Marlins' 2019 payroll. In exchange for that, he's posted a 7.06 ERA.

    The 34-year-old is likely finished as an effective or even passable MLB pitcher. He definitely doesn't fit on a Marlins club that's looking to go lean and rebuild its farm system.

    Yet, here he is, chewing payroll and coughing up runs.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $19 million

    2019 WAR: 1.2

    Ryan Braun is still a useful member of the Milwaukee Brewers. He's hitting .278 with 16 home runs. Does he deserve to be the team's highest-paid player? No.

    Braun's 1.2 WAR is good for sixth among Brewers hitters. He's 35 years old and is a minor liability with the leather.

    Again, that's not to say the Brew Crew can't use him. But he's not the player he once was and is commanding a large chunk (nearly 15 percent) of the club's payroll.

Minnesota Twins: Marwin Gonzalez

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $12 million

    2019 WAR: 1.3

    Marwin Gonzalez has been an important part of the Minnesota Twins' offensive attack since he signed a two-year, $21 million deal this offseason. 

    Yet while accounting for nearly 10 percent of the Twins' payroll, he's provided less than two WAR with a .253 average and .316 on-base percentage.

    Minnesota should be glad to have him as it tries to charge into October, but his production hasn't matched his paycheck for a franchise with perennially tight purse strings.

New York Mets: Robinson Cano

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $19 million

    2019 WAR: 0.3

    The New York Mets went for it this winter with multiple acquisitions, including second baseman Robinson Cano, who they grabbed in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

    Thus far, Cano has posted a .295 on-base percentage with 10 homers in 86 games while battling injuries. That isn't a death knell for the 36-year-old eight-time All-Star, but it also isn't a harbinger of renewed greatness. A torn hamstring might also sideline him for the season.

    The Mets are an unexpectedly enticing story as they try to get into the NL postseason scuffle. Despite the arrival of former San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik, they may still need Cano to be part of the push.

New York Yankees: J.A. Happ

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $17 million

    2019 WAR: 0.8   

    The New York Yankees are running away with the American League East. They're getting contributions from unexpected places and are on track to challenge for title No. 28.

    But they didn't upgrade a starting rotation that's been without recovering ace Luis Severino (shoulder) all season, which could come back to bite them.

    One guy they can't count on is veteran lefty J.A. Happ, whose 5.40 ERA is not in line with his $17 million salary by any stretch of the imagination.

Oakland Athletics: Khris Davis

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $16.5 million

    2019 WAR: -0.5   

    Khris Davis hit 48 home runs and finished eighth in AL MVP voting last season. This year, he's earning more than $16 million on a perpetually cash-strapped Oakland Athletics team.

    Yes, Davis has cracked 17 homers. He also owns career worsts in batting average (.230) and slugging percentage (.393).

    On a club with money to burn, his one-dimensional power and horrible peripherals might be forgivable. The A's, however, have zero money to burn.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jake Arrieta

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $25 million

    2019 WAR: 1.0   

    Jake Arrieta was having a disappointing season even before news broke that he was likely to undergo a season-ending elbow procedure.

    The 33-year-old righty had a 4.90 FIP for the Phils as they sunk in the NL East standings. Now, the injury concerns prevent any chance of a rebound.

    Point your finger at Bryce Harper and his megadeal all you want; Arrieta is Philadelphia's most galling expenditure.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Chris Archer

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $7.7 million

    2019 WAR: 0.6

    Chris Archer recorded 10 strikeouts against the Los Angeles Angels in his most recent start. He can look the part of an ace.

    On the other hand, he's posted a 5.23 ERA in 118.2 frames for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season and has been a mercurial hurler throughout his career.

    The Bucs can keep hoping he'll go from emerging to ascendant, but Archer's track record indicates he might never permanently make the leap.

San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $21 million

    2019 WAR: 0.6

    The San Diego Padres' highest-paid player shouldn't have a .788 OPS. Nor should he have a minus-six defensive zone rating at first base.

    And yet, Eric Hosmer is easily the most richly compensated player on the Padres. Perhaps he'll make it worth their while before the final check is cut. 

    For now, he's an overpaid vet on a team stuffed with underpaid superstars in the making.

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Crawford

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $15 million

    2019 WAR: -0.2   

    A 2018 All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Brandon Crawford is slashing .223/.295/.350 for the San Francisco Giants at shortstop.

    His .273 batting average on balls in play compared to a career average of .296 and his 38.8 percent hard-contact-rate compared to a career average of 31.4 percent indicates he might be suffering from a little misfortune. 

    Mostly, though, what you see is what you get. And what you've got is a 32-year-old on the downslope of his career.

Seattle Mariners: Dee Gordon

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    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $13 million

    2019 WAR: 0.1

    This has mostly been a lost season for the Seattle Mariners, who weren't able to deal away all potential assets at the trade deadline.

    It's no surprise they couldn't get a satisfying offer for 31-year-old Dee Gordon, who owns a .303 on-base percentage and has battled quad, wrist and toe injuries.

    Not so long ago, Gordon was one of MLB's preeminent speedsters. Now, he's an overcompensated ancillary chip with a string of recent health concerns.

St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $20 million

    2019 WAR: -0.3

    Yadier Molina is a nine-time All-Star. He's won nine Gold Gloves for his work behind the plate.

    He's also slashing .257/.282/.361 in 73 games and turned 37 on July 13. The good old days are probably over.

    It's tough to root against Molina, one of the greatest and most consistent catchers of his generation. But the money the Cards are paying him doesn't line up with his ability unless you believe in paying players for what they did as opposed to what they will do.

Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Zunino

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    2019 Salary: $4.4 million

    2019 WAR: 0.7

    For big-market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, spending $4.4 million on a catcher who hits a scant .173 with a .242 on-base percentage wouldn't be such a big deal.

    It is for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are always trying to stretch every dollar and have allocated more than 7 percent of their budget to veteran backstop Mike Zunino and gotten minimal offensive production to say the least.

    Zunino does rate as the AL's eighth-best pitch-framer, per StatCorner, but on a club with serious monetary constraints, he hasn't done enough with the bat to justify his salary.

Texas Rangers: Shin-Soo Choo

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $21 million

    2019 WAR: 1.4

    Shin-Soo Choo has an .841 OPS with 19 homers in 114 games for the Texas Rangers, which isn't too bad for a 37-year-old.

    That said, he's earning more than $20 million for a team that ought to be headed for a rebuild. Plus, he has limited utility beyond duties as a designated hitter and owns a .649 OPS over the past 30 days.

    A contender could use his bat. But with the trade deadline in the past, the Rangers will be stuck paying Choo's sizable tab for one more year before he seeks what will likely be the final deal of his career. 

Toronto Blue Jays: Justin Smoak

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $8 million

    2019 WAR: 0.6

    The Toronto Blue Jays are correctly in all-in-rebuild mode after trading right-hander Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets at the July 31 deadline.

    Unfortunately for the franchise, it's stuck with Justin Smoak, who's earning $8 million this year and couldn't be offloaded to a contender.

    That's not shocking, considering he's an impending free agent hitting a paltry .212. He's also tied for the title of highest-paid player on the Blue Jays and is not doing nearly enough to earn that honor.

Washington Nationals

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    2019 Salary: $18 million

    2019 WAR: -0.1   

    Injuries and inconsistency have limited Ryan Zimmerman in 2019. He's hitting .246 with a .700 OPS in only 33 games.

    He was once an All-Star and snagged down-ballot MVP votes as recently as 2017, but the money the Washington Nationals are paying him could be better spent in any number of areas, including a moribund bullpen.

    Zimmerman was an important part of the Nats' past. But it looks highly unlikely he's a piece of their future.


    All statistics and standings current as of Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Spotrac unless otherwise noted.