Payroll implications and moving Uggla


Now that the Marlins have completed almost all of their arbitration cases (with Cody Ross the only player going to arbitration, and for a measly $250K difference), the Marlins’ payroll appears mostly set for 2010, provided the team passes on signing anyone else heading into Spring Training. Even if signings were to be made, one could hardly expect the Marlins to go after anyone outside of the veteran minimum, so any differences between now and the start of the 2010 season are going to be minimal anyway. So far, the projected payroll (with my WAR projections from earlier this week) looks like this:

Position Players

Name Pos Salary ($Mil) Proj. WAR
Dan Uggla 2B $7.8 3.4
Hanley Ramirez SS $7.0 7.4
Jorge Cantu 3B $6.0 1.7
Cody Ross RF $4.4 2.4
Ronny Paulino C $1.1 0.9
Wes Helms 1B/3B $0.9 0.3
Cameron Maybin CF $0.4 3.4
Chris Coghlan LF $0.4 3.1
John Baker C $0.4 2.1
Gaby Sanchez 1B $0.4 1.1
Rest of Bench - $1.2 0.7
Total - $30.0 26.4

Again, the projection for the position players to me seems a bit optimistic, but it is what it currently is. Based on this, the team expects to pay something along the lines of $30M for their position players alone. No contract here is an obvious albatross, though Dan Uggla’s salary seems a bit high for the team’s salary constraints. Basically, this is what a team with a ton of arbitration would expect to pay to keep decent talent. While Uggla’s $7.8M and Jorge Cantu’s $6M seem high, all in all this is not an awful payroll.

Pitchers

Position Players

Name Pos Salary ($Mil) Proj. WAR
Ricky Nolasco SP $3.8 3.8
josh Johnson SP $3.8 4.7
Anibal Sanchez SP $1.3 1.2
Chris Volstad SP $0.4 1.2
Andrew Miller SP $0.4 1.5
Other Starters SP/RP $0.4 0.5
Bullpen RP $4.6 0.0
Total - $14.7 13.0

The pitcher totals look very similar. The Marlins are expecting to pay almost $15M for 13 WAR of production, give or take a few wins depending on the bullpen’s actual performance. Most of that money is going into Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson (and rightfully so), but around $3M of that money is currently tied up in Leo Nunez (closer with a capital C) and Renyel Pinto, two players that should definitely not be costing the Marlins in the millions. Consider that if the team fills out the remaining four bullpen slots with readily available talent (either on the free agent market or from their Triple-A affiliate), the team would be paying a meager $1.6M for the remainder of the bullpen. Neither Pinto nor Nunez were the best relievers on the team last season anyway, so it’s hard to imagine why they are the only ones being paid that way. The perils of the save statistic, folks.

In any case, what’s our total look like right now? Having made no additions to the team (and a few subtractions in fact), the Marlins are looking at owing around $45M in salary for the 2010 season. That intriguing, given the fact that the team was looking initially to stay around $36-38M before MLB and the Players Association got involved. A move up to $45M would seem to be the right plan, except the team simply kept its own players to accomplish this move. The improvement of the club depends mostly upon regression and some good performances by the rookies (cross your fingers, folks).

What about the “moving Uggla” movement?

Well, it seems like the team could still do that. Today, friend of the Maniac and BtB alum Jack Moore outlined the possible replacements for Dan Uggla in a post on FanGraphs. Of course, this isn’t something I haven’t myself looked into, but Moore comes to a similar conclusion as my own, that the Marlins could do well to trade Uggla in the near future.

That being said, consider the alternative. If the team moves Uggla, two questions need to be answered:

1) What are the odds that the Marlins go to a plan that starts Emilio Bonifacio at second rather than the plan that moves Chris Coghlan into the infield and plays Brett Carroll plus potentially someone to help him in a platoon?

2) How much of the money saved from an Uggla deal would go back into the team in terms of payroll?

I don’t know if I can assuredly answer either of these points. I’ve already mentioned the loss in starting Bonifacio full-time. I had Bonifacio at a full 2.7 WAR worse than Uggla in a full season, with the Coghlan+Carroll plan (come on, it’ll be BC and CC, but actually on the field!) being worth 0.7 WAR worse than Uggla. This means that a plan involving Bonifacio would be worth 2 WAR worse than playing Coghlan and Carroll. If there’s a 50/50 chance of that happening, I would feel much better if the Marlins simply ate the money for Uggla and kept him on the team.

This of course would also depend on who the team picks up after dealing Uggla. Presuming no one comes aboard from an Uggla trade that can help the major league team this season, the team’s $8M come off the books and become free to spend once again. The question is then, once again, twofold.

1) Who’s available?

2) Where do the Marlins need help?

At that point, considering the team goes with the better replacement plan, the club’s breakeven point would be at 0.7 WAR (or so). If the team does that, it would be as if they made no moves at all. Let’s say the Marlins need to improve the team by 1.5 WAR to make it worth their while. Who’s available in one of the team’s problem areas that can be worth 1.5 WAR?

The answer to that is not many. Maybe for $8M the Marlins can squeeze out two small names that may project to around 2 WAR in total, but remember that the team needs to improve something like 1.5 WAR to make it feel like a general improvement. Outside of pursuing a starting pitcher like Joel Pineiro or Ben Sheets (something the team would probably be well against), there is no one on the market that represents a significant improvement over the team’s current players. So unless the team is going to better itself by a good margin in an Uggla trade, it may not be the right call, especially given the team’s potential competitiveness and the lack of options out there in free agency. Making a move based on moving Uggla seems like a moot point.

Tags: Brett Carroll Chris Coghlan Dan Uggla Emilio Bonifacio Miami Marlins

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  • Adam

    I know WAR is your stat of choice, but I feel that any stat that values Ben Zobrist as the most valuable player in the league last year has issues. Additionally Nyjer Morgan was ranked ahead of players like Ryan Howard and Ryan Braun. Is it that the stat relies too heavily on defense, or that baseball fans like me call foul when the most publicized players are ranked lower than role players?

    • Michael Jong

      Adam,

      Your concerns on the defensive side of the WAR stat are valid, given that I myself haven’t explained everything about it. You can expect a Saber-Terms post on WAR as soon as I finish up defense (which I’m doing today).

      Now, regarding defense and WAR. WAR measures defense in terms of runs above or below average. This is the same method they measure offense, so there should theoretically be no difference between the way WAR handles offense and defense.

      Having said that, the measurement for defense requires more samples and has some inherent measurement error that offensive measurement doesn’t really have. You’ll see more about it later today.

      In general, one season’s worth of defensive data needs to be really regressed to give a more accurate representation of how that player played, because of this problem of measurement error. But does this mean we ignore the data? No, we shouldn’t. For Zobrist, it’s likely he wasn’t the best player in baseball last year. But is it hard to believe he wasn’t one of the best? He was a beast on offense, and he happened to do really well everywhere he played on defense. It may not be +26 runs well, but you would put him in the running, right?

      Same thing with Morgan. He probably wasn’t +28 in the field last year, but it doesn’t discredit his performance. And the difference between Howard’s 48 runs above average and Morgan’s 49 runs are so small that I wouldn’t even say they rank in that order. Basically, no one should look at a WAR leaderboard and say “This guy with 4.9 WAR was definitely better than this guy with 4.8 WAR” because WAR just isn’t that accurate. If you’re within 5 runs of someone else, you’re on equal footing performance-wise.

      WAR has its flaws (all stats have flaws), but what it gives you is a comprehensive look at a player and an estimate of his value based on all aspects of the game. It isn’t really a matter of the stat “overvaluing” defense. It’s more like the stat is including all of these aspects, and it’s raising some eyes about players you wouldn’t consider (Morgan and Gutierrez are extreme examples). In general, you’ll find the order is correct based on assumptions most people already make (first basemen need to hit well to be valuable, shortstops are valuable in and of themselves, the people who are good on offense rate well), but there are some people who come up as good in the system that may surprise and allow you to view players in a different and more comprehensive fashion.

  • Michael Jong

    Adam,

    I know that ran a little long for a comment, but I wanted to add something else. Fans often times rate offense very highly because it’s so visible. It makes sense to do so. If a system doesn’t agree with a strict offensive ranking (maybe with some position adjustment, as I think fans know the difference between the 1B pool of players and the SS pool, for example), sometimes they decree that a system is “wrong.”

    Well, Bill James once said (and I’m paraphrasing) that a new stat should have some surprises, but be mostly what you’d expect. If it doesn’t surprise, you’re not adding anything. If it surprises too much, then you’re probably wrong. Adding defense to our evaluation of players is adding some surprises, as well it should. You would expect, when accounting for defense, that some players would go up in value, and some would go down. For example, Braun appears to be an awful defender everywhere he’s been. In comparison, Carl Crawford is an excellent defender, but not as good a hitter. Judging strictly by offense, you’d call Braun the better player, but Crawford is at least on equal footing because of his defensive accomplishments.

    It’s things like this that add new insight to players. It should surprise sometimes, but it shouldn’t (and isn’t) rating Jeff Francoeur as a 3-win player, for example.

  • Adam

    Thank you for the explanation

    • Michael Jong

      Adam,

      My pleasure. Anything to help the understanding of baseball’s a good thing, right?

  • Adam

    Yup. It’s nice being able to get explanation for these advanced statistics while most media outlets still use basic OBP, ERA, etc.

    • Michael Jong

      Adam,

      It’s nice to see that OBP/SLG is gaining far more traction in the mainstream media. Let’s face it, why look at BA when you have those. It’ll be an improvement if we see more reference to things like OPS, which in and of itself isn’t a very good stat, though it’s passable. I know ESPN’s coverage shows OPS, but not everyone refers to it as they probably should.

      And the day that RBI goes away, that day we can all rejoice a little. I’ll rejoice a lot, I know that.