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Beating the Market

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Dramatization. May not have happened.
Dramatization. May not have happened.

Let's return to happy thoughts, shall we?

Remember back before the offseason began when we were lamenting how difficult it was going to be to turn this team into a contender. That was because the team had some decent talent and lots of interesting depth, but didn't have a lot of high-upside or well above average players.

And while the team did have loads of money to spend, they were entering the winter as a ~75 win team on paper. Market value for a win acquired via free agency is about $4.25 million so spending all of our roughly $30M (p.s. Love ya, Kenji!) that way would have allowed the team to add about seven wins. In other words, we could have spent our way to about .500 baseball. Not good enough.

We know what happened instead, I won't bother re-hashing the actual moves. The thought did cross my mind today about just how much money Jack has saved the team in terms of acquiring wins though. Please note that this is not a full balance work up. Unlike Dave's post-Lee trade evaluation, I'm not going to talk about the value of the prospects we gave up, or the draft picks we've received back. For here, I am only concerned with the value into and out of the Major League roster.

Now then, the three main additions are Chone Figgins, Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley. Figgins is a 3-3.5 WAR projection offering a bit of an upgrade over what we would have figured to receive were Adrian Beltre to remain in the fold. Beltre entered free agency though, so that is not who Figgins was replacing. Rather he was usurping Jack Hannahan or Matt Tuiasosopo or some such at third base. Either one was worth about a single win, so Figgins is a 2-2.5 win upgrade.

Cliff Lee is a monster beast. He's been worth well over six wins the last two seasons and if he weren't a pitcher, I would feel comfortable putting him at six or above for 2010 as well. We don't even have to worry about the whole NL guy coming to the AL issue since the majority of his career has been in the American League. However, since he is a pitcher, I knock him down to the 5-5.5 WAR range. Thanks to the chained nature of pitching staffs, Lee knocks our worst starting pitcher, some Vargas/Fister/Olson hybrid, off. Once again, the incumbent had about one win worth of value, which makes Lee a 4-4.5 win upgrade.

Milton Bradley is the latest and not quite greatest* newcomer to the party posse. Bradley's injury and attitude issues make him a tougher bet to project forward. While he can certainly provide three to four wins, his best bet is around the 2 WAR range as our semi-permanent DH. That's not awful though since our other options at DH were excruciating, pushing the ceiling at maybe a half-win, making Bradley a solid 1-2 win upgrade.

*In terms of improvement. In terms of Not Silva, wooooooo!

Add them up and here's the facts. Lee, Figgins and Bradley are in the vicinity of 11 wins over generic replacement players and about 8-9 wins over the in-house options that they replaced. For that, their increased cost on the 2010 payroll totals $21 million*. Over the Mariner replacements, that means BlackJack Z spent about $2.5 million per win, roughly 60% of the market rate. If you want to stick to the traditional measure and compute it over league replacement, then the marginal cost drops to $1.9 million per win.

*If you want to consider Milton Bradley a $15 million increase then you also have to consider the saved roster spot from Carlos Silva going away since he departs from the Major League roster.

Jack Zduriencik arrived at the offseason, took a stroll around and cased the joint. And then he went home, booted up Photoshop, printed off some fake Half Off! stickers and robbed the place blind.