I had lunch at my local Hardees (Ed note: they operate under the far superior name “Carl’s Jr here, but we all know its the same.) yesterday. Well more precisely, I had lunch outside, as the dining room is closed. But you get the gist—I grabbed a burger from the big gold star. It was a decent burger too, I believe they are one of the more underrated fast food joints out there. This particular Hardees is always, and I mean always empty though.
Its not really their fault. The employees are friendly, the location is just off a main road, and generally clean. The food is consistent. But no one goes there. Its literally right next door to a very, very popular Chik-Fil-A. Like that chicken place literally had drive-thru lines that wrapped the building, routinely, before we were all banished to drive-thru only.
My theory though, about the Hardees is that it plays in a weird middle-ground of value. You can get a better burger, and you can get a cheaper burger. McDonald’s will happily sell you a burger for five dollars that comes in close (in theory) to the one you’re dropping nine dollars on at Hardees. Heck, if you catch the promotions right, Burger King will sell you two burgers for that fiver. Meanwhile, if you go around the corner, you can hit up Five Guys or Applebees, and get a lot more meal for your less-than-fifteen-dollar budget. Or Olive Garden. Or one of the sandwich shops like Firehouse, Panera, or Jason’s Deli, if you’re not feeling the heart attack in a sack. Not to mention all the various local places in the area—or that fried chicken sandwich place (as long as its not Sunday.)
There is a point to this rant—Eddie Rosario is the same as Hardees. He’s pretty decent. But, you can get the same general results a lot cheaper, or spend just a little bit more and get much better results. Hence why he is in a weird spot for Twins fans this off season.
The 2020 season excepted, Rosario is generally worth two or three WAR each season (in 2020, he would have got there in a normal number of games.) On the open market, that should still make his projected 2021 salary a bargain—he should make around $12.9 million in arbitration, and the accepted value of one WAR is around eight million. Yet he runs into that Hardees Problem — you can get close to replacing that value much cheaper, or get more value for not much more.
Rosario was worth 0.9 WAR this season. Michael Brantley, as one example, was worth 1.5 WAR, playing in left field for the Astros. Brantley made $16 million, and that’s as a veteran on a free agent deal. David Peralta, one of the most similar players to Rosario, earned seven million, and was worth 0.4 WAR. AJ Pollock, another highly-similar player, is averaging $15 million per year on a four year free agent deal. Yasiel Puig, yet another guy with a high similarity score to Rosario, has never made $10 million in a season. The same statement applies to Corey Dickerson. Meanwhile, you get guys like Robbie Grossman (who actually outperformed Rosario this season) playing for around three million per year.
And that’s just looking at outfielders—imagine if you called up a guy on a league minimum salary, and spent the extra $12.5 million or so on another position. You don’t need a super-prospect like Alex Kirilloff for this to work. Raimel Tapia, of the Rockies, accrued 0.7 WAR this season, and earned $560,000 for doing so. Even if none of the “big name” prospect are ready, LaMonte Wade Jr or Jake Cave could match Tapia. But the Twins have both Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker in the wings. Either of them would provide that level of value cheaper.
I like Hardees. Its probably my favorite burger joint. I also like Eddie Rosario on the Twins, and have been a proponent of keeping him — but that’s an emotional response. The simple fact of the matter is that you can get the same value cheaper, or you can get more value for not-much-more. It’s not as cut-and-dried as where to go for lunch, but the decision the front office has to make should be pretty clear. Where do you think Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are going to get their lunch from today? I bet it isn’t Hardees.