The Marlins WAR rate

I always do player value in terms of WAR and the current going free agent rate per WAR, which stands at $4.5M/WAR as of last offseason. However, as we all know, the Marlins don’t play the same game other teams play in terms of spending for their wins above replacement, so I figured I’d look into the Marlins’ free agent signings of the past and try and find out what rate the team is willing to pay for free agent WAR.

Before we go on, keep in mind that this is free agent rates for WAR only. The Marlins have mostly depended on farm talent to fill out their roster, and farm talent goes for a much cheaper rate than free agent talent. Including a Josh Johnson or a Dan Uggla in this calculation would be absurd. What I am going to consider are any extensions the team chooses to sign for players. This look will include major league deals only, as far as I can spot them. I will assume a projected WAR of 0 (replacement level) for any player who was signed to the league minimum, as that is our floor for salaries.

As for the process, it’s fairly simple. I’m going to run a projection for the following season for each of the players the team signed as a free agent and match these projections with the salary figures the players earned. For the majority of players, further projection will not be necessary, as the Marlins don’t usually sign players for more than one season. The only case in which a multi-year projection will be necessary is in the case of Hanley Ramirez and his extension. Also, Ramirez’s case will be the only one in which consideration of arbitration years will be necessary. For arbitration seasons, the total value paid will be adjusted given a typical 40%/60%/80% scale. For ease, I will only be doing a quicky WAR calculation, using only data from FanGraphs. Projected values will be calculated at the signed season’s plate appearances/innings pitched.

Starting from 2006 offseason (that is, the offseason following the 2005 season), the Marlins have signed seven free agents, each to a one-year deal. In addition, they’ve signed two players, Ramirez and Wes Helms, to seasons longer than one year. If I added all of the calculations, Hanley’s massive six-year extension dwarfs the dollars and years involved in the other eight deals signed, so it’s nice to see the team’s WAR value with and without the Hanley extension. After crunching the projections and tallying up the dollar totals, the total value including Hanley’s extension came out to $2.07M/WAR. When we take away Hanley’s extension, the number actually stays around the same value, $2.03M, though I fudged Wes Helm’s second season of his recent extension (the upcoming 2010 season), dropping him about half a win because of age. Let’s call it $2M for ease of use.

If you looked at the actual results from only the seasons that were actually played, not including Hanley, the team picked up about 4.5 WAR for around $9M, giving them a cheap $1.83M per WAR. Adding Hanley makes the total a little larger, $1.93M per WAR, but more or less around the same as the projected total, with a few players peaking and a few others hitting a low WAR. In comparison, the Marlins as a team spent around $1.14M per WAR this season, which obviously includes values like players in arbitration or rookie scale contracts. Our adjusted WAR value is actually less than that of the average league value spent on a WAR, which I think is fairly impressive.

This is too small a sample to make any judgments about the spending habits of the franchise; only nine contracts were awarded over the four year span, while there many more awards via arbitration during that time span. In addition, while the values turned out to be fairly even on either side, much of the rate was tied to Hanley’s extension, with very few other years/dollars to go with. Still, it’s interesting to see what the Marlins have tried to do with their limited free agent signings, and it’s a nice round value for us to keep in mind if and when the team makes open market moves this offseason. From time to time, when we discuss free agent or arbitration moves, I’ll bring this $2M value up in addition to the $4.5M value as a comparison point.

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Tags: Hanley Ramirez Miami Marlins Wes Helms

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  • DavidC

    I’ve always been amazed (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) with the Marlins ability to compete on their tight budget. After seeing the pieces that you’re working on on Beyond the Box Score with Washington, I was wondering when you finish with that if you could do something similar with the Marlins, i.e. what they could possibly be doing differently than other teams with low budgets that allow them to be a winning team?

  • michaeljong


    That would be a great idea, David. When the season is over, I’ll have a lot of down time (in terms of covering actual baseball) to take a look into that.

    I just checked the Marlins drafts since 1999 (the year Josh Beckett was selected) and the team has done surprisingly poorly since that year. The team picked 2nd and 1st in ’99 and 2000 respectively and haven’t gotten much out of it outside of Josh Beckett and a few months of Ugeth Urbina (we traded 2000 No. 1 pick Adrian Gonzalez for him). Since then, the drafts have been extremely nondescript, with only 2002 (Hermida, JJ, Olsen) being of interest. It seems extremely important for the future of this team to get the cogs of the 2005, 2007, and 2008 drafts to pan out.

    To me, it must have been the trades. In this future series, I’ll definitely explore the facets of the major trades that have changed the Marlins. Things like the Juan Pierre trade (netting Nolasco, Pinto, and Mitre) have been amazing for the team, while others like the Lee trade (Hee Seop Choi) were not so much. Thanks for the idea David.