Club-Friendly Contracts: The Best Players Who Aren’t Cashing In (MVP Series Part II: American League Central)

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(Sports Illustrated)

by Duncan Wallis

This is the second installment of a multi-article series about the true value of the best MLB players.

For a brief introduction or a quick refresher on the basis of this discussion, check out the intro from our first Club-Friendly Contracts article.

Today, we’re looking at the American League Central. Welcome to part two:

American League Central

Cleveland Indians

Indians Finalists

Josh Tomlin, $2.58M, 2.2 WAR= 1.173 M/WAR

Carlos Carrasco, $5.5M, 5.5 WAR= 1.000 M/WAR

Corey Kluber, $7.7M, 7.3 WAR= 1.055 M/WAR

Indians 2017 MVP: Carlos Carrasco- 1.000 M/WAR

The Indians, with plenty of players on club-friendly contracts that haven’t even made the finalists, have arguably the best rotation in all of baseball. That reflects here as all three of their finalists are starting pitchers. However, it isn’t Corey Kluber that we’re praising now, its Carlos Carrasco, the Indians slightly less well-known secondary ace. On a contract that only earns him an average $5.5M a year, he is matching that value with his 5.5 WAR. Now, that’s impressive.


Minnesota Twins

Twins Finalists:

Brian Dozier, $5M, 4.9 WAR= 1.020 M/WAR

Jason Castro, $8.16M, 1.6 WAR= 5.1 M/WAR

Ervin Santana, $13.75M, 2.9 WAR= 4.741 M/WAR

Twins 2017 MVP: Brian Dozier- 1.020M/WAR

Who could’ve guessed, oh wait… everyone. Brian Dozier, with a slash of .269/.357/.478 was, by far, the best hitter on the Twins this year and that reflects in his 4.9 WAR. Dozier helped lead the Twins to their first postseason berth since 2010. His $5M average annual salary is incredibly low for the caliber player he is. The Twins almost traded their MVP both last offseason and at the Trade Deadline, but you can bet they wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him.


Kansas City Royals

Royals Finalists:

Jason Hammel, $8M, 2.1 WAR= 3.810 M/WAR

Salvador Perez, $10.5M, 2.1 WAR= 5.000 M/WAR

Danny Duffy, $13M, 3.4 WAR= 3.824 M/WAR

Royals 2017 MVP: Jason Hammel- 3.810 M/WAR

Alright, first of all, this was extremely close. Although Danny Duffy is being paid $5M more dollars a year, he couldn’t quite make up for the WAR differential to Jason Hammel. Second, however, neither of these are particularly great M/WAR values suggesting neither of these are excellent club-friendly contracts. Thirdly, Jason Hammel?! Wow. These Royals are going to be in rough shape next year after all their free agents have left.


Chicago White Sox

White Sox Finalists:

Nate Jones, $2.66M, 0.2 WAR= 13.330 M/WAR

Tim Anderson, 4.16M, 0.2 WAR= 20.830 M/WAR

James Shields, 18.75M, -0.2 WAR= -93.750 M/WAR

White Sox 2017 MVP: Nate Jones- 13.330 M/WAR

No, these are not typos. This is just ugly. The White Sox, in the midst of a rebuild that has seen a full sale of their best players, only have these three guys on contracts. The entire rest of their roster is full of pre-arbitration or arbitration-eligible players making them ineligible for consideration in this article series. Congratulations to James Shields for making this list with a negative WAR. Even if it was a positive 0.2, he would still have the worst M/WAR in the finalists of any team so far. It’s been a while since those great days with the Rays and Royals, huh? Anyways, Nate Jones wins the MVP for the White Sox this year; hopefully, they’ll be better in the near future.


Detroit Tigers

Tigers Finalists:

Jordan Zimmerman, $22M, 1.1 WAR= 20.000 M/WAR

Ian Kinsler, $9.32M, 2.4 WAR= 3.883 M/WAR

Miguel Cabrera, $30M, -0.2 WAR= -150.000 M/WAR

Tigers 2017 MVP: Ian Kinsler- 3.883 M/WAR

Did anyone else think it couldn’t get any worse than the White Sox? Welcome to the world of your AL Central last-place Tigers. With the worst record in the MLB, they get the number one pick in the draft in 2018. However, they still have the massive contracts of Cabrera, Zimmerman, and Martinez on the books. Kinsler is the only Tiger that even qualifies as a club-friendly contract. The rest of these contracts are overpaying aging veterans that, frankly, aren’t even close to worth the money anymore. Kinsler was the bright spot of this Tigers squad as he slashed his way to a .236/.313/.412 season, although, still not that good in the grand scheme of things. We’ll see if the Tiger’s 2017 MVP stays with the team as rumors are swirling with his name on the Hot Stove.


Conclusions

Carlos Carrasco is the AL Central MVP. However, it was a close race with his own teammates, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin, as well as Twin’s second basemen, Brian Dozier. I would be remiss to not mention how Carrasco beat out Tomlin and Kluber, but also Andrew Miller- arguably the best reliever in the league.

Carrasco pitched like a flat-out ace this year. He hit the 200 IP milestone exactly for the first time in his career while racking up 226 strikeouts and giving up only 46 walks for a K/9 rate of 10.17 and a BB/9 rate of 2.07. He maintained a 3.29 ERA and an even better 3.10 FIP. His ERA+, adjusted for the ballparks he pitched in, was an incredible 139. He also had an HR/9 rate of under 1.0. All of this led to a 1.095 WHIP, considered elite in the MLB.

For his efforts, he finished 4th in the Cy Young voting this year only to Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, and Luis Severino. If not for Corey Kluber overshadowing him, Carrasco would be the absolute star of the Indians staff and is fully capable of being the #1 starter for any team in the MLB. Making just $5.5M a year, Carrasco is an incredible bargain and the Indians, yet again, have struck gold in him.

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