What’s a Player Worth?

Posted by on Nov 26, 2018 in Baseball

Spurred on by discussion in my fantasy baseball league (where many of my baseball musings are born) about whether or not the Braves got a good deal on Josh Donaldson with a $23 million 1-year contract, I thought to myself, there must be a quick-and-dirty quantitative way to spit out a number for how much a player is worth based on his recent performance and age.

So I opened up Google sheets and started playing with the numbers. I came up with a weighted WAR based on the player’s last 5 years, made modifications for age, plugged in the 2018 estimate that 1 WAR is worth about $11.1M on the free agent market, and spit out some numbers. I checked Donaldson, Atlanta’s signing of Brian McCann for $2M, and a bunch of other high-profile free agents this off-season. I also added a few random players just to see where they’d end up.

Here are the results, sorted by their value for next season:

Player Age Next Year WAR 1Y Ago WAR 2Y Ago WAR 3Y Ago WAR 4Y Ago WAR 5Y Ago Estimated WAR Reduced WAR Age Modifier Age-Modified WAR $M/WAR Next Year Value ($M) Next Year Deal ($M) Difference
Mike Trout 27 10.2 6.7 10.5 9.4 7.6 9.0 4.5 1.02 4.6 $11.1 $51.4 $34.1 -34%
Mookie Betts 26 10.9 6.4 9.7 5.9 2.3 8.2 4.1 1.06 4.4 $11.1 $48.5    
Nolan Arenado 28 5.6 7.2 6.6 5.8 4.1 6.2 3.1 0.99 3.0 $11.1 $33.7    
Max Scherzer 34 8.8 7.1 6.3 6.9 5.7 7.4 3.7 0.81 3.0 $11.1 $33.3 $42.1 26%
Manny Machado 26 5.7 3.4 6.9 7.1 2.3 5.3 2.6 1.06 2.8 $11.1 $31.2    
Christian Yelich 27 7.6 3.9 5.4 3.6 4.0 5.4 2.7 1.02 2.8 $11.1 $30.7 $9.8 -68%
Jacob deGrom 31 9.6 4.4 3.5 5.2 3.1 6.0 3.0 0.89 2.7 $11.1 $29.6    
Josh Donaldson 33 1.2 4.8 7.6 8.5 7.5 4.8 2.4 0.84 2.0 $11.1 $22.5 $23.0 2%
Bryce Harper 26 1.3 4.7 1.5 10.0 1.1 3.4 1.7 1.06 1.8 $11.1 $20.0    
Jason Heyward 29 1.6 2.3 1.3 6.6 5.8 2.7 1.3 0.95 1.3 $11.1 $14.1 $28.2 99%
Kurt Suzuki 35 2.1 2.8 0.3 0.5 2.5 1.7 0.9 0.79 0.7 $11.1 $7.6 $5.0 -34%
Brian McCann 35 1.0 1.2 0.9 2.6 1.8 1.3 0.7 0.79 0.5 $11.1 $5.7 $2.0 -65%
Lonnie Chisenhall 30 0.1 1.2 1.5 2.3 1.1 1.0 0.5 0.92 0.5 $11.1 $5.3 $2.8 -48%
Matt Wieters 33 0.6 -0.6 1.9 0.8 0.9 0.6 0.3 0.84 0.2 $11.1 $2.7    
Albert Pujols 39 0.5 -1.8 1.3 3.0 4.0 0.6 0.3 0.71 0.2 $11.1 $2.4 $28.0 1060%
                             
Barry Bonds 54 3.4 4.0 0.6 10.6 9.2 4.3 2.2 0.51 1.1 $11.1 $12.4    
Babe Ruth 123 0.2 5.1 6.3 8.3 10.3 4.5 2.2 0.22 0.5 $11.1 $5.6  

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JA4LJND4_hDZzZY43OBHVAt2EKUiHLq4JdzQbSkO0p0/edit?usp=sharing

Result: I think the Braves paid roughly fair value for Donaldson and got a steal on Brian McCann. Harper’s not worth what he’s probably going to get. Pujols is absurdly overpaid at this point. And if Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds were still alive and available to play, assuming their abilities had not diminished since they last played, they’d still be worth millions of dollars on today’s free agent market.

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