Now that the 2015 season is upon us and a majority of free agents have signed with their respective teams, I thought I would see by how much each team valued a win in dollars this off-season. Fangraphs usually calculates this figure each year, but I want to take it a step further and use that estimate as a benchmark for how each team valued wins in the free agency market.

Since Fangraphs did not calculate the average $/WAR this year I went ahead and used their model to determine the number myself. I won’t focus on how to calculate the average market value in this post, but you can read up on it here. Instead, we will spend a majority of the time on how each team valued wins compared to that average.

Similar to last year, a win is estimated to cost approximately $6 million. For our purposes we need an exact measure, which I determined to be $6,179,223. To calculate this, I chose to use the most basic model which just takes total contract WAR divided by the total dollars paid. For these comparisons, I did not find it necessary to account for the time value of money.

Below is a highlight table to help you visualize teams that priced out at market, and those who may have over- or under-paid for wins. I should preface by saying that I am sure a good number of teams were not using predictive WAR measures to value their free agent targets. Also, some teams only had one or two free agent hires this past off-season, which might not give us a true sense of how much those teams value wins. For instance, a team may have overpaid for their one free agent sign, but if they were to have made four or five other acquisitions, it might have brought the value back closer to market average.


*Marlins are not listed due to projected negative WAR value for their free agent signings.


The left column shows the dollar value each team placed on wins in this year’s free agent market, and the right column shows you how that compares to the market average $/WAR. I will admit I do not put much stock into this chart, mainly for the reasons I listed above. However, I do think there are couple of matters that can be addressed.

Let’s take a look at how some of the flashy off-seasons played out on our chart. The White Sox were one of the first teams to start making big splashes with signings like Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. It turns out they were right around market price for their entire free agent haul. The Cubs made a big acquisition with Jon Lester who they slightly overpaid for — according to the market average — but came away with a steal in Jason Hammel. All in all they came in just a hair under market.

We all know the Padres and Dodgers were very active this off-season, but many of their moves came via trade. Still, they both seemed to acquire a few bargains in free agency and came in under league average. The Red Sox probably had the overall most glitzy free agent pick-ups and it appears they were also steals. Both Hanley and Panda cost below market and you can also include Justin Masterson in there if you want (I tend not to),

For each good buy this off-season there was a head scratcher. I’m looking at you Seattle. If you look at the chart you will notice that the Mariners come in near the bottom with respect to their cost estimation of a win. In large part this is due to the signing of Nelson Cruz. Based on Cruz’s forecasted WAR, his $/WAR is nearly double market value at around $11,100,000.

The Royals signed a relatively large number of free agents and like Seattle they too had some… *ahem*… interesting purchases. I don’t totally hate the Royals offseason, and I sort of get taking a chance on potential rebound seasons. However, if the team was going to shell out that kind of cash, I would have liked to see them get a little more.

I’ll end with the Phillies and not much needs said here. For the Phillies to prove this list is bogus, Aaron Harang is going to have to win the Cy Young Award, which is unlikely. However, his one-year deal doesn’t put them in any worse situation then they are already in. Philadelphia has bigger mistakes to fix.

Now take everything you just read and throw it out the window. It is a new season which means anything can happen. Some players are going to over perform and some will under perform. There will be surprise teams and and there will be busts. I suggest taking one last look at the team previews, gander at the staff predictions, grab your favorite beverage and then sit back and watch the season unfold. Baseball is back people!

Stephen writes about Major League Baseball at BP Bronx and Banished To The Pen. He also informs readers about college baseball at the blog Underground Baseball. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @steve21shaw

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7 Responses to “How Each Team Priced a Win in Free Agency”

  1. Tyler Baber

    i’m not sure your model is accurate. Just looking at the phillies, they signed 4 free agents to major league contracts for a combined 11,000,000 (based on MLB Trade Rumor’s free agent tracker). Comparing those free agents to their projected fWAR (using fangraphs depth chart projections) i get this:
    Billingsly- $1500000/ 0.6 WAR
    Harang- $5000000/ 0.8 WAR
    Sizemore- $2000000/ 0.1 WAR
    Williams- $2500000/ 0.4 WAR
    that’s a combined 11mm in contracts for a total of 1.9 WAR. By your model, 1.9 WAR is worth $11,740,523.

    Maybe i’m overlooking some free agents (I admit I did not want to look at what they might be paying jeff francoeur) or I’ve done something wrong in the math here.

    • Tyler Baber

      ok, so now i compared based on the link you shared (which is an awesome tool btw, i hadn’t checked that out yet for some dumb reason).

      If I’m looking at this correctly, I’m seeing 6 free agents with a total of 7,300,00 in contract salary (counting the actual salary, not the crowdsourced salary estimate). These 6 combine for a projected 1.2 WAR total, which again under your estimate would be $7,415,067.60. I may still be missing something but I can’t figure out how to get 30,000,000. I’m just not seeing it. I honestly don’t even think the harang deal is that bad, 5mm for 1 year for a pitcher projected to be worth .6 WAR is only an overpay of like 2.5mm which is still less than half a win.

      I think this is an interesting exercise, which is why I’m digging into it. I think ideally the model would probably just discount anyone who is being paid under the league minimum salary (around 500,000 this year, I think) since that is what a replacement level player would be paid anyway. I’d also love to see what the extensions teams handed out this offseason and the contracts they picked up via trade tell us about how each team values a win.

  2. Stephen Shaw

    I think I figured it out Tyler. Fangraphs has recently updated their 2015 projections. When I used this list I had the following projections for those 6 Phillies:
    Harang 0.3
    Billingsley 1.5
    Gomez -0.3
    Slowey 0
    Hill -0.8
    Nelson -0.5

    That made their collective projected WAR 0.2. Since those projections change as the season goes on the list will shift around. I was just doing a pre-season look. If free agents outperform their projections in will only make their team look better.

  3. Stephen Shaw

    Also, I wanted to include the league minimum players because they still have projected stats. A team still chooses to sign a free agent no matter what they pay them, meaning they could have chose to sign a player whose projected stats where better than the one they signed. That being said, I doubt many teams choose to sign a player simply based on their projections. If they did they would probably use their own forecast.

    • Stephen Shaw

      I was having a hard time calculating the Marlins with their negative projected WAR values, but I estimate somewhere above $300 million. Needless to say not good. Didn’t even deserve to be on the chart. haha.


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