The minimum salary in the majors right now is $500,000. Some guys on Wall Street make that in a day! And while some baseball fans might find salaries that double, triple, or quadruple that sum difficult to swallow (on the low end); it’s worth remembering that these guys are getting paid the big bucks to play at an elite level. If you were the best of the best at what you did — and could draw a crowd doing it — you’d probably be getting minted as well. Add in spring training, a 162-game (or more) season, press, and charity events; and you’ve got a pretty difficult gig.
Like any functioning business, there are some guys that make a ton of money and some that make the bare minimum. The latter half are usually younger players that are less experienced and still need to prove their worth, while the former are being paid their supposed market value (see: Most Overpaid Players list). Some, though, are just great bargains.
So ScoreBig’s utilized a variation of FanGraphs’ formula for the 25 Most Overpaid Players, but flipped the logic on its head. We looked at $5.4 million as the payout-per-game-won for a MLB player (an approximation), multiplied by that player’s 2014 WAR (so far), and subtracting that total from their current salary. That leaves us with his current market value and a ranking of the 25 most underpaid MLB players in 2014.
As the MLB trade deadline approaches, we’ll be sharing our list of the most underpaid players all week long on the ScoreBlog. Check back tomorrow to see players 19-15.
25. Mark Melancon – Pittsburgh Pirates – Closer
Salary: $2.6 million
Current Market Value: $4.4 million
The Pirates had a great closer in the beginning of the season, and his name wasn’t Mark Melancon. Journeyman Jason Grilli had the position to himself, but when he faltered, the one-time closer for the Houston Astros turned reliable setup man, Melancon, got a shot at door-closing and never looked back. When you see how much money a supposed “premier” closer like Jonathan Papelbon is making — i.e. $13 million — for closing out games on a non-contender (the Phillies), it reminds you how cheap Melancon has come for the Pirates. If he keeps closing as well as he has been this season, he could be looking at quite a bit more money down the line.
24. Casey McGehee – Miami Marlins – First Baseman
Salary: $1.1 million
Current Market Value: $7.6 million
All sorts of rumors are swirling around Casey McGehee — are the Marlins smart enough to wrap him up with a multi-year deal, or will they use him as trade-bait? Either way, it’s to McGehee’s credit. Nobody thought a guy who played in Japan for all of last year would have anything to prove come 2014 in the majors. But his stat line speaks volumes (.318 BA, 121 hits, 57 RBIs), and he’s likely been a good veteran presence for many of the young stars on the Marlins’ bench. Whether he stays or goes, one thing is for sure: He’s worth a lot more than what he’s currently being paid.
23. Lance Lynn – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher
Current Market Value: $7.7 million
There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that Lance Lynn will get a sizable contract extension after the 2014 campaign from the St. Louis Cardinals. How can you not offer a guy a big raise, after he’s cracked 10+ wins over his last three seasons and had an ERA consistently in the 3’s? A big part of the Cards’ winning ways can be attributed to their pitching staff — even with young hurler Michael Wacha’s absence. Compare Lynn’s paycheck to some of the bloated salaries of the starters on our Most Overpaid list, and it just makes you want to cry baseball-sized tears.
22. Francisco Rodriguez – Milwaukee Brewers – Closer
Salary: $3.2 million
Current Market Value: N/A
The Milwaukee Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez, a.k.a. K-Rod, was an elite closer earlier in his career, saving 62 games in 2008. He’s seen a downturn in that productivity in recent years, but 2014’s been a major exception. After Jim Henderson, the anointed Brewers closer at the beginning of the season, blew one too many games, in stepped K-Rod, and he hasn’t looked back since. With 29 saves already, Rodriguez might be one of the best closers (and deals) in the National League.
21. Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox – First Baseman
Salary: $7 million
Current Market Value: N/A
Jose Abreu is pretty much a lock for the AL Rookie of the Year at this point with Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka down with an injury. The rook has shown Pujols-ian poise at the plate and veteran-like power: He leads all of baseball with 29 HRs and in slugging percentage (.619). Although the White Sox seem to be fading from contention at this point, Abreu provides a nice base for a future team that could easily bring back the glory of the not-so-distant 2005 season. And at just $7 million for the year, that’s one of the biggest bargains you’ll find on any team in any league.
20. Charlie Blackmon – Colorado Rockies – Right Fielder
Current Market Value: $9.8 million
Probably one of the biggest — if not the biggest — surprise of the year so far, Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon can’t seem to do anything wrong (one of the reasons why he made our future MVP list). Through just under 100 games, the slugger has a .302 BA, 14 home runs, 52 RBIs, and has swiped 18 bases. His team’s been hit by some key injuries (including list-mate Troy Tulowitzki and the recently activated Carlos Gonzalez) — and has struggled mightily this year. But at just over the league minimum, Blackmon’s production is thick, delicious gravy for a team that will be in recharge mode in 2015. He’s earned his keep. And that’ll likely be means for an extension.
We’ll be counting down the most underpaid players in the MLB all week on the ScoreBlog. Check back tomorrow to see players 19-15.
By Will Levith for the ScoreBlog
Sources: Salary data: Yahoo Sports; WAR data: Baseball Reference; Formula: FanGraphs.com