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Article: Twins Mailbag: Kohl Stewart, Mauer Extension, DH Options

joe mauer yu darvish eric hosmer carlos santana kohl stewart
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#41 Mike Sixel

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 01:52 PM

This valuation has been thrown around here quite a bit. Is one WAR worth $8M or is one WAR the average production of free agents? Those are two quite different things. If we attempted to build a team on this premise, the payroll required to build a 98 win team would be roughly $400M. Our team has to average about $1.5M/WAR. No team can actually afford a $400M payroll, therefore I don't think one WAR is actually worth $8M, especially to teams with 50 or 60% of the top teams.


The math is all over the Internet. It's why teams like young players, because old players cost money to buy or keep.

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#42 Deduno Abides

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 02:45 PM

Mauer will be 36 in 2019. It’s hard to see any other team giving a 36 year-old non-iron man 1B with a .100 ISO more than a one-year, $5M contract. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense for the Twins to give him much more than that.

#43 ashburyjohn

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 03:27 PM

This valuation has been thrown around here quite a bit.Is one WAR worth $8M or is one WAR the average production of free agents?Those are two quite different things.If we attempted to build a team on this premise, the payroll required to build a 98 win team would be roughly $400M.Our team has to average about $1.5M/WAR.No team can actually afford a $400M payroll, therefore I don't think one WAR is actually worth $8M, especially to teams with 50 or 60% of the top teams. 

I don't think anyone's claiming that $8M (or whatever value) is the cost for all talent. Obviously young players under team control provide value at a far, far lower cost.

 

The $8M figure amounts to the marginal rate on the spot-market. I like to think of FA contracts as the "Stupidity Tax" when you have to admit you didn't develop a suitable player of your own at a position of need. No one wants to build a team entirely this way.

 

People have done amusing articles on what it would cost to build an entire car from parts purchased at a parts shop. No one sane would do that. Yet we all go to NAPA or Pep Boys when the need arises.

 

One further analogy. I presume you are in the 39.6% tax bracket (soon to change). But you don't fork over 39,6% of your total income, because of deductions and a graduated tax rate. That 39.6 number is very meaningful, but also not very illuminating if you use only that one number for your thinking.

 

As a side note, I also kind of doubt that true 1-WAR players get X, and 2-WAR players get 2X, etc. The value of a player to a team contending for the World Series isn't linear. So any number like $8M is just for back of the envelope calculations of players at a certain fairly high level of ability and demand for their services.

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#44 Major Leauge Ready

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 07:43 AM

 

based on how much 1 WAR is worth.

A better measure of market value would be what free agents actually get paid comparted to their average WAR for the previous 2-3 years.Here are examples of contracts from 2016 & 2017.I mostly used players in their prime to get a reasonable measure and averaged their WAR over the previous three years to determine market value/WAR..I did use David Price at age 32 and I omitted the year Cueto had only 60 IP.I threw Jason Castro in just to add an example of that type of player.

 

Year | Average War | AAV|AAV per WAR

2017 Yoenis Cespedes … 4.4|27|6.136
2017 Jason Castro … 1.43 | 8.167 | 5.711
2017 Josh Reddick … 2.5 | 13 | 5.200
2016 Jason Heyward … 4.86 | 23 | 4.733
2016 David Price … 5.63 | 31 | 5.506
2016 Johnny Cueto … 4.43 | 21.67 | 4.891
2016 Justin Upton … 3.46 | 16 | 4.624

 

It is clear that the market does not value free agents anywhere near $8M per WAR.These players averaged 5.257.My guess is that RPs might bring this number up a bit.Cespedes missed some games which brought down his salary/WAR.If we use 2 previous years instead of three his value is 5.55/WAR which is very consistent with the others.

 

BTW … Mike Napoli got 7M on a 1 year deal in 2016. That’s about the best comp I can come up with for Mauer.Totally different player but a similar caliber 1B.

Edited by Major Leauge Ready, 09 December 2017 - 07:49 AM.


#45 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 12:09 PM

A better measure of market value would be what free agents actually get paid comparted to their average WAR for the previous 2-3 years. Here are examples of contracts from 2016 & 2017. I mostly used players in their prime to get a reasonable measure and averaged their WAR over the previous three years to determine market value/WAR.. I did use David Price at age 32 and I omitted the year Cueto had only 60 IP. I threw Jason Castro in just to add an example of that type of player.

Year | Average War | AAV | AAV per WAR
2017 Yoenis Cespedes … 4.4 | 27 | 6.136
2017 Jason Castro … 1.43 | 8.167 | 5.711
2017 Josh Reddick … 2.5 | 13 | 5.200
2016 Jason Heyward … 4.86 | 23 | 4.733
2016 David Price … 5.63 | 31 | 5.506
2016 Johnny Cueto … 4.43 | 21.67 | 4.891
2016 Justin Upton … 3.46 | 16 | 4.624

It is clear that the market does not value free agents anywhere near $8M per WAR. These players averaged 5.257. My guess is that RPs might bring this number up a bit. Cespedes missed some games which brought down his salary/WAR. If we use 2 previous years instead of three his value is 5.55/WAR which is very consistent with the others.

BTW … Mike Napoli got 7M on a 1 year deal in 2016. That’s about the best comp I can come up with for Mauer. Totally different player but a similar caliber 1B.


Your SS 7 player sample doesn't make anything clear.
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#46 ashburyjohn

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 01:59 PM

A better measure of market value would be what free agents actually get paid comparted to their average WAR for the previous 2-3 years. 

I always applaud an analytic approach to decision making. :)

 

You seem to be aiming toward a forecast of WAR, at the time the contract is signed. I think the studies computing $6M or $8M (or whatever) per WAR are doing it in terms of value delivered, looking back after the contract is signed (so the jury is still out on recent guys). That is, they are asking the question, what do teams typically get for their FA money?

 

I think it stands to reason that front offices' forecasts are getting better and better, so as time goes along the actual value delivered (at least insofar as WAR represents "actual" value) becomes a better and better proxy for the forecasts.

 

But even in trying to come at the question from the forecast WAR for these players, a simple average of previous years seems awfully far from what teams probably use. I don't think you would use that kind of average for a product life-cycle study, for instance, unless at a very particular stage (probably mid-life) - you would draw dangerous conclusions if in the early years, or if at the end in maintenance mode when you're trying to wean customers off. Ballplayers, as a "product", surely aren't static enough in their "life cycles" to try that with.

 

With the horizon you specified, I would weight the most recent year more heavily than the prior year, and much moreso than two years back - almost ancient history in some cases. But I would also factor in growth or (more usually, for these free agents) decline relative to age. Injury risk also comes into play. It may be that teams are (in the privacy of their own processes) putting a very large downward factor on their forecasts over the life of the contract they intend to offer. That would move things in the opposite direction from your conclusion, since it makes the denominator smaller.

 

Another thing that makes the methodology difficult is that players' "accurate" forecast of value, by whatever procedure you think best, is probably in the middle range of what teams will compute for themselves; and it's highly likely that whoever computes the highest value will make the largest offer, and in turn the player is highly likely to accept an offer very near the top of the range. This of course would move things in the direction you suggest, as it makes the denominator larger.

 

All things considered, it's hard to approximate teams' forecasts with a simple average. Beyond hard, I think - misleading, or even not useful. We'd be dividing $$/WAR using something basically unknowable.

 

Cespedes, the first guy on your list, seems like a good example. He was a highly sought Cuban free agent in 2012, and when he became available again in the 2016-17 offseason his resume was a bit spotty. He was coming off a 2.9-WAR season (I'm using b-r.com) after a 6.2, decidedly his best, and he had missed a few games in August after putting in two full seasons the prior years, after starting off with two injury-impacted seasons. I could imagine some widely differing forecasts by competent professionals in the field. When the Mets prepared their eventual winning offer, it's not preposterous to think that another 6-WAR season could be expected. But, he was already turning 31, and for the four-year contract the team was contemplating, a decline could be expected. An injury during any of those four seasons could further harm the value delivered in that season just due to his absence, while also perhaps accelerating his declining ability for future seasons. All in all, just spitballing here, a four-year WAR of (6,5,4,3), times an 80% chance each season for not having a really serious injury, comes out to only about 14 WAR over the life of the contract, or about 3.6 a season, rather than the 4.4 you came up with. That comes out to around $7.5M per. If I did the math right. Again, I'm only spitballing.

 

Now, given that the Mets won this sweepstakes, it's fair to assume that most other teams* came up with a lower WAR estimate and made commensurately lower offers to the player. Unless you believe the Mets are super geniuses and have a unique ability to forecast future value, it's very likely that the actual value he returns will be more in line with the crowd and thus lower than they thought they were paying for. Ergo, the cost per WAR will likely be higher than their forecast (and perhaps this guesstimate). That's the so-called Winner's Curse in any free market, right? (Not that MLB markets are all that free. :) )

 

I'm not going to invest the time with my rinky-dink eyeballing methodology, on the other players you listed, but you probably see my point, that trying to infer MLB forecasts of WAR is harder than just averaging some recent seasons.

 

* Even if you rule out the small market teams, there are enough other deep pocketed teams to make this line of thought work.

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#47 jorgenswest

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 02:16 PM

There was a very interesting series of articles by Matt Swartz in fangraphs this summer. He looked at several aspects including varying methods for calculating the dollar amount and the aspect of linearity.

It makes me wonder about Lynn and Cobb. Lynn is projected by steamer to have 1.3 WAR next year. Over 4 years with decline and chance of injury he might project for 3-4 WAR. A generous projection might give him 6 WAR perhaps declining from something starting above 2 next year. Teams might be in at around 50 million for 4 years to buy that hope of 6 WAR. By steamer Cobb projects better next year at 1.7, but a 6 WAR over the next 4 is reasonable though a little generous.

Interesting steamer projected Chatwood at 1.9 fWAR. He is younger and decline isn’t a factor but injury is a factor. If the Cubs projected him at 4.5 WAR over three years his contract is close to market.

A team’s ability to project is incredibly important here. The in house work is critical. Teams are getting better but ERA, wins and holds are still overvalued and overpaid. One of his articles shows a premium for FIP vs. ERA that is still present in the market.
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#48 Major Leauge Ready

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 02:18 PM

 

Your SS 7 player sample doesn't make anything clear.

OK Let’s look at ALL of the players who received contracts of 3 years or greater last year.That would be the definition of assessing market value, right.I used these players because they obviously were the best positioned of all of the free agents. I also picked the best players because I don’t think most TD participants are much more interested in the Johnny Cueto types as opposed to Jason Castro.  

 

Yoenis Cespedes … 4.4|27|6.136
Jason Castro … 1.43 | 8.167 | 5.711
Josh Reddick … 2.5 | 13 | 5.200
Justin Turner … 4.23 | 16 | 3.783
Ian Desmond … 3 | 14 | 4.667
Dexter Fowler … 3.1 | 16.5 | 5.323
Edward … 4 | 20 | 5.000
Mark Trumbo … 1.65 | 12.5 | 7.576
Kendrys Morales … 1.4 | 11 | 7.857
Ivan Nova … 1.4 | 8.666 | 6.190

These 10 top free agents averaged 5.74M per war.It’s probably an anomaly but Trumbo / Morales & Nova brought that average up.The other 7 players averaged 5.12M per WAR,
  
RPs  
Bret Cecil … 1.13 | 7.625 | 6.748
Aroldis Chapman … 2.666 | 17.2 | 6.452
Kenley Janzen … 2.333 | 16 | 6.858
Mark Melacon … 1.8 | 15.5 | 8.611
Average … 7.167.

 

Top BP arms got a premium last year.I suspect this average comes down if you look at the masses but I am not interested enough to look them all up.

 

Is the market data from all of the FAs able to get 3 year contracts adequate evidence for you?


#49 Major Leauge Ready

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 02:32 PM

 

I always applaud an analytic approach to decision making. :)

 

You seem to be aiming toward a forecast of WAR, at the time the contract is signed. I think the studies computing $6M or $8M (or whatever) per WAR are doing it in terms of value delivered, looking back after the contract is signed (so the jury is still out on recent guys). That is, they are asking the question, what do teams typically get for their FA money?

 

I think it stands to reason that front offices' forecasts are getting better and better, so as time goes along the actual value delivered (at least insofar as WAR represents "actual" value) becomes a better and better proxy for the forecasts.

 

But even in trying to come at the question from the forecast WAR for these players, a simple average of previous years seems awfully far from what teams probably use. I don't think you would use that kind of average for a product life-cycle study, for instance, unless at a very particular stage (probably mid-life) - you would draw dangerous conclusions if in the early years, or if at the end in maintenance mode when you're trying to wean customers off. Ballplayers, as a "product", surely aren't static enough in their "life cycles" to try that with.

 

With the horizon you specified, I would weight the most recent year more heavily than the prior year, and much moreso than two years back - almost ancient history in some cases. But I would also factor in growth or (more usually, for these free agents) decline relative to age. Injury risk also comes into play. It may be that teams are (in the privacy of their own processes) putting a very large downward factor on their forecasts over the life of the contract they intend to offer. That would move things in the opposite direction from your conclusion, since it makes the denominator smaller.

 

Another thing that makes the methodology difficult is that players' "accurate" forecast of value, by whatever procedure you think best, is probably in the middle range of what teams will compute for themselves; and it's highly likely that whoever computes the highest value will make the largest offer, and in turn the player is highly likely to accept an offer very near the top of the range. This of course would move things in the direction you suggest, as it makes the denominator larger.

 

All things considered, it's hard to approximate teams' forecasts with a simple average. Beyond hard, I think - misleading, or even not useful. We'd be dividing $$/WAR using something basically unknowable.

 

Cespedes, the first guy on your list, seems like a good example. He was a highly sought Cuban free agent in 2012, and when he became available again in the 2016-17 offseason his resume was a bit spotty. He was coming off a 2.9-WAR season (I'm using b-r.com) after a 6.2, decidedly his best, and he had missed a few games in August after putting in two full seasons the prior years, after starting off with two injury-impacted seasons. I could imagine some widely differing forecasts by competent professionals in the field. When the Mets prepared their eventual winning offer, it's not preposterous to think that another 6-WAR season could be expected. But, he was already turning 31, and for the four-year contract the team was contemplating, a decline could be expected. An injury during any of those four seasons could further harm the value delivered in that season just due to his absence, while also perhaps accelerating his declining ability for future seasons. All in all, just spitballing here, a four-year WAR of (6,5,4,3), times an 80% chance each season for not having a really serious injury, comes out to only about 14 WAR over the life of the contract, or about 3.6 a season, rather than the 4.4 you came up with. That comes out to around $7.5M per. If I did the math right. Again, I'm only spitballing.

 

Now, given that the Mets won this sweepstakes, it's fair to assume that every other team came up with a lower WAR estimate and made commensurately lower offers to the player. Unless you believe the Mets are super geniuses and have a unique ability to forecast future value, it's very likely that the actual value he returns will be lower than they paid for. Ergo, the cost per WAR will likely be higher than this guesstimate. That's the so-called Winner's Curse in any free market, right? (Not that MLB markets are all that free. :) )

 

I'm not going to invest the time with my rinky-dink eyeballing methodology, on the other players you listed, but you probably see my point, that trying to infer MLB forecasts of WAR is harder than just averaging some recent seasons.

 

Everything you have pointed out is very fair.It would have actually lowered the dollars paid per WAR had I used 2 years and I would agree that teams are definitely going to weigh the newest information more heavily.Had I added some common sense in cases in terms or whether to use the last year, two years or 3 years, the amount per WAR would have come down.I only used the 3 year approach because it was conservative and others could not suggest I was cherry picking. 

 

The point I am making is not this granular.It's this simple.It is crystal clear that a model paying $8M per WAR is not sustainable for even the largest market teams.To say its reasonable or sustainable for all of the teams in the league is to ignore many economic and business principals.I guess it's this simple .... If the MN Twins or any team of similar revenue produce at a rate of one WAR per $8M, the probability of success is extremely low if FAs are relied upon to any significant degree.

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#50 ashburyjohn

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 03:19 PM

It is crystal clear that a model paying $8M per WAR is not sustainable for even the largest market teams. 

That's undisputed. I don't know why you keep coming back to this point. Even the largest market teams do not pay market prices for their entire 25-man rosters. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino, along with the various low-salary role-players, all make the Yankees' front office jobs much easier.

 

Teams don't pay $8M (or whatever) per WAR. Full stop.

 

They pay $8M (or whatever) per WAR to players who, by virtue of 6+ years of service, can more nearly control their own destiny. This includes free agency, but also players who agree to deals with their teams so as to buy out their free agency.

 

Smaller market teams pay this same price, otherwise they get outbid for an individual player. They simply do it a lot less frequently, perforce, than the big boys.

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#51 ashburyjohn

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 03:53 PM

There was a very interesting series of articles by Matt Swartz in fangraphs this summer. He looked at several aspects including varying methods for calculating the dollar amount and the aspect of linearity.

Yeah, I was about to recommend his series of articles. They are at:

https://www.fangraph...s/author/matts/

Probably should scroll down to the first of his July 2017 articles and work your way back up chronologically.

 

Anyone with serious concerns about trying to understand the cost of acquiring MLB-ready talent on the open market should read these critically, along with the comments that have been posted there by readers. He says on his LinkedIn page he consults to a MLB team (the Nationals), as well as doing risk management for an insurance company (Cigna), so his POV should not be dismissed out of hand.

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#52 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 07:29 PM

OK Let’s look at ALL of the players who received contracts of 3 years or greater last year. That would be the definition of assessing market value, right. I used these players because they obviously were the best positioned of all of the free agents. I also picked the best players because I don’t think most TD participants are much more interested in the Johnny Cueto types as opposed to Jason Castro.

Yoenis Cespedes … 4.4 | 27 | 6.136
Jason Castro … 1.43 | 8.167 | 5.711
Josh Reddick … 2.5 | 13 | 5.200
Justin Turner … 4.23 | 16 | 3.783
Ian Desmond … 3 | 14 | 4.667
Dexter Fowler … 3.1 | 16.5 | 5.323
Edward … 4 | 20 | 5.000
Mark Trumbo … 1.65 | 12.5 | 7.576
Kendrys Morales … 1.4 | 11 | 7.857
Ivan Nova … 1.4 | 8.666 | 6.190
These 10 top free agents averaged 5.74M per war. It’s probably an anomaly but Trumbo / Morales & Nova brought that average up. The other 7 players averaged 5.12M per WAR,

RPs
Bret Cecil … 1.13 | 7.625 | 6.748
Aroldis Chapman … 2.666 | 17.2 | 6.452
Kenley Janzen … 2.333 | 16 | 6.858
Mark Melacon … 1.8 | 15.5 | 8.611
Average … 7.167.

Top BP arms got a premium last year. I suspect this average comes down if you look at the masses but I am not interested enough to look them all up.

Is the market data from all of the FAs able to get 3 year contracts adequate evidence for you?


That's still way too small of a sample size.
You need to look at all FA's, not just 3 year guys. Also need to look at multiple years.
I also don't know why you are looking at previous to contract WAR. What matters is price per WAR during their contract.

And no team is comprised of nothing but FA's. Guys under team control are much cheaper. That is where you get the value from. Of course $8 million per WAR would not be sustainable for a full 25 man roster. That is why developing talent is so important.
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#53 kab21

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Posted 10 December 2017 - 07:26 AM

 

That's still way too small of a sample size.
You need to look at all FA's, not just 3 year guys. Also need to look at multiple years.
I also don't know why you are looking at previous to contract WAR. What matters is price per WAR during their contract.

And no team is comprised of nothing but FA's. Guys under team control are much cheaper. That is where you get the value from. Of course $8 million per WAR would not be sustainable for a full 25 man roster. That is why developing talent is so important.

But it is easier to ignore the statisticians and in depth analysis that has been done on a major site like fangraphs.

With that being said - A team should target exceeding the market value when signing FA's. And the other big thing is that teams should try not to pay market value for 1+ WAR players (like Chatwood or Gibson) since you can find those guys on the cheap (like Gibson). I think fangraphs in the past has said that X/WAR doesn't account for the increasing value of elite players since they only occupy one roster spot. Meaning that two 3 WAR players don't equal a single 6 WAR player.

Addendum #2 - I also find the 8M/WAR a little high but it doesn't really change anything if you change the number to 6M/WAR.

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#54 amjgt

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Posted 10 December 2017 - 08:11 AM

I like the idea of an increasing value on WAR

1st WAR - 3m
2nd WAR - 5m
3rd WAR - 7m
4th WAR - 9m
5th WAR - 10m

So... a 2 WAR player would be worth 8m annually and a 4 WAR player would be worth 24m annually

Maybe my escalation numbers are a little low, but you get the idea

#55 ashburyjohn

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Posted 10 December 2017 - 08:53 AM

I like the idea of an increasing value on WAR

1st WAR - 3m
2nd WAR - 5m
3rd WAR - 7m
4th WAR - 9m
5th WAR - 10m

So... a 2 WAR player would be worth 8m annually and a 4 WAR player would be worth 24m annually

Maybe my escalation numbers are a little low, but you get the idea

It seems intuitive, since 25-man rosters are the limiting factor. You can't get to 100 wins with (say) 60 1-WAR players. If you sign two 2-WAR players, that ties up two roster spots, whereas signing one 4-WAR player doesn't limit you to a 0-WAR player for the other roster spot. Teams with championship aspirations would bid that 4-WAR guy right up.

 

But the above-mentioned Matt Swartz wrote an article demonstrating that linearity is not a bad assumption, after all.

 

I think the solution to the seeming paradox is to remember (again) that we are talking about the cost of signing players who have bargaining power, only. And we are discussing actual WAR delivered (in hindsight), not the (unknowable) forecasts that the contract offers are based on.

 

Since any team with championship aspirations has a pipeline of cheap talent coming up too, with a precious few of those prospects forecasted to be above 3 or 4 WAR themselves, augmenting the roster with a 2-WAR player might be more valuable than it looks. Also, it's really important to avoid a 0- (or negative-) WAR player, and a couple of proven veterans at the 2-WAR level might be more appealing than taking a chance on a rookie. As Swartz (inelegantly :) ) summarized, "there are, in practice, many different options a teams has".

 

Linearity aside, the table Swartz offers also show a trend over time toward teams paying more and more, for less and less return.

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