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Three Diamondbacks among most underpaid MLB players for 2015

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Over on Reddit /u/thedeejus came up with a list of the most underpaid and overpaid players for last season. Unsurprisingly, several Arizona names appeared in the former list.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In the original post, they explained their methodology: "$3.8B total payroll, 1,000 WAR in majors = 1 WAR = $3.8M. I calculated how much each player deserved, and compared that to how much they earned." You can perhaps argue the cost per WAR a bit, but increasing that would only adjust the amount of over- or underpay, and not affect the order. The list was led by the Nationals' Bryce Harper, whose performance was "worth" over $37.6 million in 2015, yet only received $2.5 million. Jake Arrietta of the Cubs and the Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt were second and third, both being underpaid by a little over $30 million last year.

Two other Diamondbacks made it into the top 20 for underpayment: A.J. Pollock was sixth, being worth $27.6 million, while being paid close to league minimum, and the now-departed shape of Ender Inciarte also represented excellent value for money, being worth a shade over $20 million, while also getting league minimum of $500K or thereabouts. The list of most overpaid players was refreshingly free of Arizona names, being led instead by the Phillies' Ryan Howard, who was worth 1.4 wins below replacement value, while costing Philadelphia $25 million, for a negative value of worse than thirty million.

Not that there was a lack of negative value to be found - as you'll see, we have five players who combined in overpay for a total of more than $56 million. It just wasn't as monumentally bad as the likes of Howard, Jayson Werth ($27 million) and Matt Cain ($24.8 million).

Below, find the full table for the Diamondbacks this year. I've included the full season stats and salaries for players who played only part of the year with Arizona, and have also included "special" lines for Cody Ross and Bronson Arroyo, players who were receiving large checks from the Diamondbacks this year, but did not appear for us. Both groups are in italics. Also note that there's no allocation of pay for service time - a lot of the minimum-salary guys will actually have learned considerably less than $500K, due to having been in the majors for only a fraction of the season, so their "true" value is likely a bit higher than shown here.

Name Pos WAR Salary Deserve Overpaid
Paul Goldschmidt 1B 8.8 $3,100,000 $33,440,000 -$30,340,000
A.J. Pollock CF 7.4 $519,500 $28,120,000 -$27,600,500
Ender Inciarte RF 5.3 $513,000 $20,140,000 -$19,627,000
David Peralta LF 3.7 $1,024,000 $14,060,000 -$13,036,000
Nick Ahmed SS 2.5 $508,500 $9,500,000 -$8,991,500
Jake Lamb 3B 1.7 $508,500 $6,460,000 -$5,951,500
Andrew Chafin P 1.6 $507,500 $6,080,000 -$5,572,500
Robbie Ray P 1.5 $507,000 $5,700,000 -$5,193,000
Vidal Nuno P 1.4 $507,000 $5,320,000 -$4,813,000
Patrick Corbin P 1.3 $524,000 $4,940,000 -$4,416,000
Brad Ziegler P 2.1 $5,000,000 $7,980,000 -$2,980,000
Randall Delgado P 0.9 $526,000 $3,420,000 -$2,894,000
Josh Collmenter P 1.1 $1,400,000 $4,180,000 -$2,780,000
Philip Gosselin 2B 0.8 $507,500 $3,040,000 -$2,532,500
Welington Castillo C 1.1 $2,100,000 $4,180,000 -$2,080,000
Socrates Brito RF 0.6 $507,000 $2,280,000 -$1,773,000
Zack Godley P 0.6 $507,000 $2,280,000 -$1,773,000
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C 0.5 $507,000 $1,900,000 -$1,393,000
Chase Anderson P 0.5 $512,500 $1,900,000 -$1,387,500
Tuffy Gosewisch C 0.5 $514,500 $1,900,000 -$1,385,500
Jhoulys Chacin P 0.4 $507,000 $1,520,000 -$1,013,000
Silvino Bracho P 0.4 $507,000 $1,520,000 -$1,013,000
Peter O'Brien LF 0.2 $507,000 $760,000 -$253,000
Jamie Romak LF 0.0 $507,000 $0 $507,000
Matt Reynolds P 0.0 $600,000 $0 $600,000
Mark Trumbo RF 1.6 $6,900,000 $6,080,000 $820,000
Brandon Drury 3B -0.2 $507,000 -$760,000 $1,267,000
Enrique Burgos P -0.2 $507,000 -$760,000 $1,267,000
J.C. Ramirez P -0.2 $507,000 -$760,000 $1,267,000
Gerald Laird C -0.1 $1,000,000 -$380,000 $1,380,000
Daniel Hudson P -0.2 $800,000 -$760,000 $1,560,000
Danny Dorn RF -0.3 $507,000 -$1,140,000 $1,647,000
Oscar Hernandez C -0.3 $507,000 -$1,140,000 $1,647,000
Evan Marshall P -0.3 $512,000 -$1,140,000 $1,652,000
Jordan Pacheco C -0.2 $900,000 -$760,000 $1,660,000
A.J. Schugel P -0.4 $507,000 -$1,520,000 $2,027,000
Keith Hessler P -0.4 $507,000 -$1,520,000 $2,027,000
Rubby De La Rosa P -0.4 $516,000 -$1,520,000 $2,036,000
Archie Bradley P -0.5 $507,000 -$1,900,000 $2,407,000
Matt Stites P -0.5 $510,500 -$1,900,000 $2,410,500
Cliff Pennington SS 0.2 $3,275,000 $760,000 $2,515,000
Addison Reed P 0.6 $4,875,000 $2,280,000 $2,595,000
David Hernandez P -0.2 $2,000,000 -$760,000 $2,760,000
Jeremy Hellickson P 0.3 $4,275,000 $1,140,000 $3,135,000
Chris Owings 2B -0.8 $512,500 -$3,040,000 $3,552,500
Oliver Perez P -0.3 $2,500,000 -$1,140,000 $3,640,000
Allen Webster P -0.9 $507,000 -$3,420,000 $3,927,000
Bronson Arroyo P 0.0 $9,500,000 $0 $9,500,000
Yasmany Tomas RF -1.3 $5,500,000 -$4,940,000 $10,440,000
Cody Ross RF -0.3 $9,500,000 -$1,140,000 $10,640,000
Aaron Hill 2B -0.3 $12,000,000 -$1,140,000 $13,140,000
Trevor Cahill P -0.3 $12,000,000 -$1,140,000 $13,140,000

In case you're wondering, if you sum up every one of the above, the total comes to an overall underpay for the Diamondbacks in 2015 of about $43.6 million, which would seem to pass the eye test as well. It would be interesting to do something similar for other teams, and see where that ranks overall. I'll just leave the Google Sheet of raw data here.

This is definitely one of the benefits of having lots of young players - at that league minimum, it's hard for them to be other than underpaid. I also note the five highest-paid players on the team last year occupy the five bottom spots on the table, with not one of them having come close to justifying their salary. [somewhat ironic that the least overpaid of the five didn't even play in the majors at all] Feels like there's a lesson to be learned there, though it's likely a standard part of the baseball business and aging curve. Young players are paid less than they are worth, then make up for it in their later years, when they get more than they deserve.

You will not be surprised to learn that the players who earn most of that $3.8 billion did not provide most of the WAR. The 50/50 point is basically the $10 million mark: 123 players earned that or more in 2015, taking in a cumulative $1.92 of the $3.81 billion [though as above, the total is inexact due to this over-estimating the salary of part-time major-leaguers] However, they were worth only 238.7 of the total 1003.3 WAR - in other words, those 123 received most of the income, but provided less than one-quarter (23.8%) of the total value. Conversely, those earning less than $540K got not much over 10% ($403m) of total income, but were worth 315.9 WAR - more than the uber-rich!

It brings home just how valuable Goldschmidt is, and what an amazing bargain that contract he signed is. I was going to go with "Worth his weight in gold-schmidt" comment, but even that is singularly underselling him. Per MLB.com, Goldschmidt is 225 lbs, or 102 kilos. The current spot price of gold is $35,346.50 per kilo, meaning Paul's weight in gold would be worth $3.61 million. Based on the above chart, he was actually worth 9.26 times his weight in gold in 2015. However, if we wanted to cast a life-size statue of Paul in gold, it would cost more, because of the precious metal's far greater density. You'd need just over two metric tons of gold, costing about $71 million.

I may have drifted somewhat off-topic there...

It'll be fun to do something similar at the end of next season, and see who is sitting at the top and bottom of the list. for the Diamondbacks. It wouldn't surprise me if the top two are the same; Goldschmidt's cost hardly becomes exorbitant in 2016, at $5.88 million, and Pollock will earn somewhere between the $3.65 million offered by the team, and the $3.9 million A.J. wants. But Tomas will be more expensive than either, Hill is due another $12 million, and of course, the well-paid elephant in the room is Zack Greinke, who will have to perform almost as superbly as in 2015 to avoid falling into the "overpaid" category.