Andrew Friedman and Co. are about to enter their fifth Hot Stove Season. Let’s take a look at the four previous seasons and see just how well the Rays fared with their free agent signings.

Using Fangraphs‘ WAR Value system, we looked at every player that has been signed (as free agents or claimed on waivers) by the Rays since Friedman took over the front office, and determined the on-field production of each player while they played for the Rays. We then compared this production (in dollars) to the salaries* paid to each player by the Rays.

First, let’s look at the Rays year-by-year breakdown…

A few notes on the above table…

  • Production and salary values for each season include every player with a major league contract on that year’s roster that was signed as a free agent (or claimed off waivers) since October, 2005.
  • Since Friedman and Co. took over, the Rays have paid approximately $70.3 million in salaries to free agents. Those players have been worth $105.3 million in WAR value on the field.
  • 2009 marked Friedman’s first season in which free agents were overpaid, receiving approximately $10.6 million in production less than what they paid. Of course, a good chunk of that can be blamed on the Pat Burrell signing.

Now let’s look at the best and worst signings by Friedman and Co. in terms of salary and production…

A few notes on the above table…

  • Production and salaries include each player’s entire tenure with the Rays since being signed as a free agent.
  • Salaries for Akinori Iwamura and Shinji Mori include the posting fees ($4.6M and $1.0M respectively) the Rays paid to each player’s Japanese club for the exclusive rights to negotiate with each player.
  • The two most valuable signings have been Carlos Pena and Aki Iwamura.
  • The two least valuable signings have been Pat Burrell and Troy Percival.
  • While we certainly cannot discount the value of Carlos Pena, it is worth noting that if you remove Pena’s $39.1 million value, the remaining free agent signings have a negative value. In other words, outside of Pena, the Rays have overpaid free agents by approximately $4.0 million.
  • Ty Wigginton was traded for Dan Wheeler in 2007. Since the trade, the Rays have paid Wheeler $6.7 million in salary. His production for the Rays has been worth $3.2 million, giving Wheeler a Value of -$3.5 million. If this is included in Wigginton’s value, his signing was actually worth $2.1 million for the Rays and brings the total value down to $31.6 million.

Like any team, there have been some good signings and some bad signings. Of course the sycophants love to talk about Carlos Pena and Aki Iwamura and Eric Hinske and Gabe Kapler as evidence of how smart the Rays front is. Meanwhile, the haters love to talk about Troy Percival and Pat Burrell and Shinji Mori, as evidence of the team’s free agency ineptitude. The truth is somewhere in between.

* In certain cases we had to estimate prorated salaries. Salaries also include contract extensions.

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11 Comments

  1. Brixology says:

    Curious to know what kind of value the other teams in the East have gotten over the same time period.

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    • Yeah, it would definitely be interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if both the Yankees and Red Sox overpaid for the on-field production. But to a certain extent that is by design. Those teams are willing to pay more than a player might be worth knowing they can afford it and it is more important to them to get the player they want at any cost.

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  2. Gus (not a math major) says:

    Gabe Kapler's 2009 was worth $5.0M? Really?

    Whose doing that methodology, Kapler's mom?

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    • I do have some reservations about WAR values, butthey are a decent approximation. In the case of Kapler, most of his value came defesively which WAR values do incorporate.

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      • Gus (not a math major) says:

        But shouldn't there be a defensive discount because he didn't play that much (mostly because he got off to a horrednous start and couldn't keep himself in the lineup)? 205 at bats translates to full time 50 games.

        I mean, even with the new math, Usain Bolt can't cover enough ground in RF in 50 games in my mind to justify $5M for a .239-8-32. I mean, he's the worst offensive RF in the league, how can't his value be negative? is the $5.0M cumulative over the last 4 years or something? Or are WAR dollars subject to hyper-inflation like the Argenenian currency or something?

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        • Beth says:

          Before you go calling Gabe Kapler the "worst offensive RF" in the league, don't forget our very own Gabe Gross. His stats for 2009: .227-6-36 -- and those extra 4 RBI came with about 80 additional ABs.

          (Sorry, I know it's off topic because we're talking about free agent signings, but I couldn't let the "worst" RF claim stand when he's got so much competition for the title in his own clubhouse). Upshot is, I want to see someone in RF next year who is not named Gabe.

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          • Gus (not an english major) says:

            $3.8M of his "value" comes from his defense playing a mere 50 games. Willie Fricking Mays out there apparently. I really think Mrs. Kapler is doing the WAR stats.

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      • Gus (not an english major) says:

        Sorry for the bad grammar in the prior post. Too much math for a Monday.

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  3. Cameron Rose says:

    Shows that relievers are a crapshoot. That list is 60% relievers.

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  4. Don says:

    Really shows that so called rating systems that try to put a number (War) on a players are really bullshit...esp. to us who watch certain players each day.... and really know what they are worth....
    They are "giving" Kapler a $1mil for being about the 6/7/8th best out fielder on the team...Please...Merry Xmas Gabe from Maddon and friends!

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