Net Value Rankings: Giants vs MLB

I used WAR $ Value totals from Fangraphs for every MLB player who logged meaningful time this season. I then subtracted each player’s salary to get their “net value.” Here’s a look at the most and least valuable teams, position units, and players across baseball, with my thoughts on how the Giants fit into the picture.

The Formula:  WAR $ Value (Fangraphs) minus Player Salary = Net Value ($Millions)

*According to Fangraphs, 1 WAR is currently worth around $8M.   

Qualifiers: At least 100 PA for hitters; At least 30 IP for pitchers  

MLB Team Net Value

Top Five

#1: A’s = $290M | Chapman = $52M | Lowrie = $33M | Treinan = $27M

#2: Yankees = $286M | Severino = $45M | Judge = $40M | Hicks = $36M

#3: Astros = $278M | Bregman = $60M | Cole = $43M | Verlander = $34M

#4: Indians = $271M | Ramirez = $62M | Lindor = $60M | Bauer = $43M

#5: Braves = $259M | Albies = $30M | Acuna Jr = $29M | Foltynewicz = $29M

Bottom 5

#26: Tigers = $36M | Martinez = -$31M | Cabrera = -$24M | Zimmermann = -$17M

#27: Marlins = $28M | Prado = -$17M | Sierra = -$12M 

#28: Blue Jays = $17M | Tulowitzki = -$20M | Donaldson = -$16M | Martin = -$15M

#29: Orioles = negative $21M | Davis = -$46M | Jones = -$13M | Trumbo = -$9M

#30: Giants = negative $23M | Pence = -$25M | Samardzija = -$21M | Cueto = -$20M

Giants roster breakdown: 21.9 Team WAR | $176M WAR value | $199M Payroll

Thoughts: The Giants roster earned the least net value in baseball, with the A’s some $300M ahead of them. It’s easy to scoff at that, but there’s more going on here than just a team with a miniscule payroll. Yes, that certainly helps the situation, but Oakland’s roster posted a combined 45 fWAR. That’s twice as much as the Giants earned, despite being nearly identical in pitcher production (right around 13 WAR each). A’s hitters earned 31 WAR, to just 9 WAR for the Giants.

This isn’t really a payroll issue either. The Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, and Red Sox all land in the top 10 net value despite having payrolls north of $150M each. Teams can win with massive payroll commitments, so long as some of those players are providing positive value and there’s a mix of young players adding surplus value to the equation. That wasn’t the case for the Giants, who are one of only two teams in MLB with a negative team value. Obviously, Farhan Zaidi has some work to do in overhauling a broken roster.

Most Valuable Giants

  1.  Derek Holland = $15M
  2. Dereck Rodriguez = $14M
  3. Will Smith = $13M
  4. Tony Watson = $11M
  5. Reyes Moronta = $8M

Negative Value Giants

  1. Hunter Pence = negative $25M
  2. Jeff Samardzija = negative $21M
  3. Johnny Cueto = negative $20M
  4. Mark Melancon = negative $18M
  5. Austin Jackson = negative $12M

Thoughts: If you’d have told us before the season that the Giants 5 most valuable players were pitchers, and Bumgarner, Cueto, and Samardzija were not among them, we’d assume either something went very right, or very wrong. Well, we don’t have to wonder now. The pitching staff was the obvious strength, with Smith, Watson, and Moronta all ranking among the top 25 relievers in the NL. Problem is, the hitters combined for just 9 fWAR and a -$38M net value. Even Posey (-$6M) and Bumgarner (-$1M) couldn’t crack positive value, dipping into negative territory for the first time in their respective careers. Most of their highest paid players had down years, and they’ll either need those guys to improve on the field next year, or find a way to move some of them for younger, higher-upside players if they want to improve in the standings. Again, these numbers should indicate how much of a project this could be.

MLB Infield Net Value

Top 5

#1: Dodgers = $139M | Muncy = $41M | Bellinger = $29M | Taylor = $24M

#2: A’s = $137M | Chapman = $52M | Lowrie = $33M | Semien = $27M

#3: Indians = $121M | Ramirez = $62M | Lindor = $60M

#4: Braves = $111M | Albies = $30M | Camargo = $26M |Freeman = $21M

#5: Rays = $108M | Wendle = $29M | Duffy = $19M | Robertson = $19M

Bottom 6

#25: Giants = negative $11M

#26: Red Sox = negative $15M | Ramirez = -$24M | Pedroia = -$17M

#27: Padres = negative $17M | Hosmer = -$22M | Headley = -$17M

#28: Orioles = negative $29M | Davis = -$46M | Beckham = -$7M

#29: Tigers = negative $34M | Martinez = -$31M | Cabrera = -$24M 

#30: Blue Jays = negative $47M | Tulowitzki = -$20M | Donaldson = -$16M 

Giants Infield Breakdown: 8 WAR | $63.8M Value – $74.5M Payroll = -$11M Net Value

Posey = -$6M | Belt = $0M | Panik = -$3M | Crawford = $0M | Longoria = -$10M | Hundley = $4M | Hansen = $4M | Sandoval = $0M

Thought: I don’t particularly enjoy writing this, and I’m not trying to sound like Bill James, who just got himself in hot water for suggesting players are “fungible” across the league. Believe me, that is NOT what I’m trying to portray here. It’s just that, when you look at these lists, it’s pretty obvious that the successful groups are the ones with young, controllable players. The Dodgers produced the most offensive value, with 5 players earning over $20M net value. Four of those 5 players are under 30 years old, and LA paid the whole unit a combined $37M in salary. That’s exactly half of what the Giants paid their infield this season. One group earned 22 WAR, the other 8.

A few other things to note. Teammates Jose Ramirez & Francisco Lindor combined for 15.7 fWAR and $122M net value this year. That’s incredible. Freddie Freeman proved to be one of the rare $20M salary players who achieved significant value, while most other high-paid players on the list didn’t turn out so well. Chris Davis, ouch. Toronto had five different infielders achieve -$10M or worse. The champion Red Sox wound up with negative overall value, but Xander Bogaerts ($32M) and an all-world outfield did more than enough to balance out those negatives. Oh, and I hope you didn’t compare Longoria’s value to Duffy’s. Make sure not to do that, ok?

MLB Outfield Net Value

Top 5

#1: Red Sox = $146M | Betts = $73M | Benintendi = $34M | Martinez = $23M

#2: Brewers = $89M | Yelich = $54M | Cain = $31M

#3: A’s = $78M | Piscotty = $23M | Laureano = $17M | Canha = $15M

#4: Yankees = $77M | Judge = $40M | Hicks = $36M | Stanton = $9M

#5: Pirates = $70M | Marte = $22M | Dickerson = $16M | Polanco = $16M

Bottom 5

#26: Rockies = $7M | Parra = -$10M | Noel Cuevas = -$7M

#27: Marlins = negative $3M | Sierra = -$12M | Brinson = -$8M | Shuck = -$6M

#28: White Sox = negative $19M | Trayce Thompson = -$10M | Avi Garcia = -$7M

#29: Orioles = negative $21M | Jones = -$13M | Trumbo = -$9M

#30: Giants = negative $27M

Giants Outfield Breakdown: 1 WAR | $9M Value – $36M Payroll = -$27M Net Value

Duggar = $5M | McCutchen = $3M | Williamson = $2M | Gorkys = $1M | Slater = $0 | Jackson = -$12M | Pence = -$25M

Thoughts: Doing this exercise took me the better part of a month, but it’s been so eye-opening (and exciting) to dig into each team’s roster, WAR scores, payroll, etc. Talk about a great way to get to know the league and find areas of strength and weakness for each franchise. You know this is exactly the kind of thing front offices do, and there should be nothing more clear to Zaidi than the potential for improvement in his outfield. The Giants went into the season thinking they could lean on the veteran group of McCutchen, Pence, and Jackson. And they could not have been more wrong. Again, there’s a pattern here. Relying too much on players over-30, and having to dip into the free agent market too much seem to be a recipe for disaster.

Betts is the most valuable player in the majors, while Yelich comes in as the most valuable NL hitter. Between Cain & Yelich, the Brewers added $85M net value to their outfield last winter. That’s impressive. Miami’s outfield finished near the bottom of the pack while Yelich, Stanton, and Marcel Ozuna combined for $76 net value. That’s not impressive.

MLB Rotation Net Value

Top 5

#1: Indians = $160M | Bauer = $43M | Carrasco = $35M | Kluber & Clevinger = $34M

#2: Astros = $127M | Cole = $43M | Verlander = $34M

#3: Mets = $122M | deGrom = $63M | Syndergaard = $31M | Wheeler = $31M

#4: Rockies = $115M | Marquez = $35M | Freeland = $33M | Gray = $21M

#5: Phillies = $89M | Nola = $45M | Pivetta = $22M | Velazquez = $20M

Bottom 5

#26: Orioles = $9M | Cashner = -$6M

#27: Royals = negative $1M | Kennedy = -$8M | Duffy = -$6M

#28: Giants = negative $3M

#29: Rangers = negative $12M | Hamels = -$14M | Perez = -$8M

#30: Cubs = negative $20M | Darvish = -$24M | Chatwood = -$16M | Lester = -$14M

Giants Rotation Breakdown: 6.7 WAR | $54M Value – $57M Payroll = -$3M Net Value

Holland = $15M | Rodriguez = $14M | Suarez = $7M | Stratton = $4M | Bumgarner = -$1M | Cueto = -$20M | Samardzija = -$21M

Thoughts: When your three highest-paid starters combine for 1.2 fWAR and -$42M net value, you shouldn’t be surprised to see your rotation ranked near the bottom of the league. The quartet of Holland, D-Rod, Suarez, and Stratton gave back almost as much in positive value, but even their combined mark of $39M is just above what German Marquez provided Colorado by himself. It’s another area where Farhan might have to get creative with some buy-low trade or FA options this winter. For those dreaming of the splashy free agent signing (Corbin, Keuchel, Eovaldi), take a look at the last-place Cubs. No, the Giants weren’t the only team brought down by their well-paid free agent starters this year.

Meanwhile, the Indians had four starters earn $30M+ this year. Heck, Cleveland got 45 combined fWAR from its rotation & infield this year. What happened to that team? Just wait until we get to bullpen value. And would you look at the Rockies, coming in with a top-5 valuable rotation? Kudos to them for finally developing a competitive (and homegrown) staff.

MLB Bullpen Net Value

Top 5

#1: Padres = $62M | Craig Stammen = $15M

#2: Rays = $55M | Jose Alvarado = $15M

#3: Brewers = $41M | Josh Hader = $21M

#4: Mariners = $36M | Edwin Diaz = $28M

#5: Pirates = $33M | Felipe Vazquez = $13M

#16: Giants = $17M

Bottom 5

#26: Mets = -$3M | AJ Ramos = -$11M

#27: Rockies = -$11M | Bryan Shaw = -$10M

#28: Cardinals = -$14M | Greg Holland = -$14M

#29: Indians = -$27M | Josh Tomlin = -$14M

#30: Marlins = -$35M | Jarlin Garcia = -$11M

Giants Bullpen Breakdown: 6.2 WAR | $49.5M Value – $32.5M Payroll = $17M Net Value

Smith = $13M | Watson = $11M | Moronta = $8M | Blach = $6M | Dyson = $0 | Strickland = -$3M | Melancon = -$18M

Thoughts: There’s no mistaking that the bullpen was the Giants biggest strength in 2018. Smith had the 4th highest net value for all NL relievers, while Watson checked in at 8th and Moronta at 21st, respectively. Melancon, who was the highest paid reliever in MLB this year (something I learned through this exercise), was also its least valuable. In all honesty, the Giants were probably just grateful to get him some healthy innings to build off of. Still, Zaidi has a nice group to work with here, especially when considering the high octane arms of Black and Adon might be ready for a greater role in 2019.

What else can we learn here? Well, I suppose I finally understand why people say spending on a bullpen is a bad idea. Look where it got the Rockies and Indians this year. According to my data, building both a strong rotation and bullpen simultaneously is hard work! Interesting to see the Padres at the top of the list, led by a heap of guys they traded, as well as the “bullpenning” Rays and their stable of relief arms.

Giants Net Value Rankings

Total Value: -$23M (#30) | Infield: -$11M (#25) | Outfield: -$27M (#30) | Rotation: -$3M (#28) | Bullpen: $17M (#16)

Most Valuable MLB Position Groups

#1: Indians Rotation = $160M

#2: Red Sox OF = $146M

#3: Dodgers INF = $139M

#4: A’s INF = $137M

#5: Astros Rotation = $127M

#6: Mets Rotation = $122M

#7: Indians INF = $121M

#8: Rockies Rotation = $115M

#9: Braves INF = $111M

#10: Rays INF = $108M

Thoughts: Cleveland’s super rotation edges out the outfield combination of Betts/Bradley/Benintendi/Martinez in Boston for the most valuable position unit in the bigs. Of these 10 groups, the Mets & Rays are the only teams that didn’t make the postseason.

Least Valuable Position Groups

#1: Blue Jays INF = negative $47M

#2: Marlins Bullpen = negative $35M

#3: Tigers INF = negative $34M

#4: Orioles INF = negative $29M

#5: Giants OF = negative $27M

#6: Indians Bullpen = negative $27M

#7: Orioles OF = negative $21M

#8: Cubs SP = negative $20M

#9: White Sox OF = negative $19M

#10: Padres INF = negative $17M

Thoughts: The Giants new leadership team will no doubt have many longterm goals to lay the groundwork for this offseason, but if there’s a short-term goal to focus on, it might be getting some positive value out of their outfield. A full season of Steven Duggar should help with that, as will shedding Pence’s contract. I’ll be watching closely this winter to see how they fill those corner openings.

MLB Most Valuable Players

#1: Mookie Betts, BOS = $73M

#2: Jacob deGrom, NYM = $63M

#3: Jose Ramirez, CLE = $62M

#4: Francisco Lindor, CLE = $60M

#5: Alex Bregman, HOU = $60M

#6: Christian Yelich, MIL = $54M

#7: Matt Chapman, OAK = $52M

#8: Mike Trout, LAA = $45M

#9: Luis Severino, NYY = $45M

#10: Aaron Nola, PHI = $45M

MLB Least Valuable Players

#1: Chris Davis, BAL = negative $46M

#2: Albert Pujols, LAA = negative $31M

#3: Victor Martinez, DET = negative $31M

#4: Ian Desmond, COL = negative $28M

#5: Dexter Fowler, STL = negative $26M

#6: Hunter Pence, SFG = negative $25M

#7: Felix Hernandez, SEA = negative $25M

#8: Yu Darvish, CHC = negative $24M

#9: Hanley Ramirez, BOS = negative $24M

#10: Miguel Cabrera, DET = negative $24M

NL All-Value Team

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 11.21.02 AM

AL All-Value Team

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 11.22.33 AM

Final Thoughts: It’s pretty obvious when looking at these, the most “valuable” players of 2018, that MLB is being dominated by young players right now. These are the stars of the league, and most of them aren’t even out of their mid-20’s. Landing players like this is practically impossible in free agency, and while there’s a chance you might swing a trade for one of them, they really have to be drafted (or signed) and developed internally. That’s the most likely route for the Giants to get back to greatness, and it’s most certainly not going to happen overnight. In the meantime, their are plenty of under-the-radar moves Zaidi can make to shore up this team’s roster in its least valuable places. That’s a start, right?

I hope you found this informative and not too overwhelming. As always, thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “Net Value Rankings: Giants vs MLB”

  1. These are very interesting numbers to look at to tell the 2018 story. However, I’m not sure how much predictive value there is based on one season. There might be more benefit to looking at the last 3 years and apply some age based weighting to come up with predictions for next year.

    For example, assuming Posey’s hips are healthy (and others have come back and done well from that surgery), I’m pretty sure he’ll end up near the top of the catcher category for 2019. Even projection systems have him as over a 4 win player for next year I believe.

    They have some bad money on the position player side for 2020 and beyond…but it’s mainly the pitching side that’s the concern.

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I thought this over for a while, and you know, I really didn’t intend for this to be a predictive exercise. I just kind of wanted to see how the Giants stacked up against the rest of the league, to see where things went right, went wrong, etc. But I am really intrigued by the idea of using projections to forecast future value. I might have to give that a whirl.

I'd love your feedback!

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