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If the 2020 Twins were accurately paid for their contributions to the team

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Who is overpaid? Underpaid?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the doldrums of the offseason, where we have to reach for content. Someone send a memo to Derek Falvey to be interesting, okay. In the meantime, here is an interesting thought exercise: what if baseball players were paid for their contribution to the team. A “commission” of sorts. The formula here is simple: (team WAR/team payroll)*player WAR = player’s “WAR-Based Salary.” Who is overpaid, who is underpaid, and who just managed to earn their keep?

As a note, all WAR figures come from FanGraphs, and all payroll figures come from Spotrac. A further note, I did not prorate the salaries, but since we are just comparing players to each other, it shouldn’t matter. If it does to you, divide by 2.7 and presto. Look, this isn’t an exact science, mainly because I’m a liberal arts major.

The Twins combined for 18.6 fWAR in 2020, and had a payroll of about 141,254,851 (active payroll + injured reserve.) This means that each WAR accrued cost the team $7,594,346.83 or so. So using this number, lets see what each player was worth:

WAR-Based Salaries

Player Total WAR Win-based Salary Actual Salary Surplus Value
Player Total WAR Win-based Salary Actual Salary Surplus Value
Kenta Maeda 2.1 $15,948,128.34 $5,310,000.00 $10,638,128.34
Byron Buxton 1.2 $9,113,216.20 $3,075,000.00 $6,038,216.20
Randy Dobnak 0.8 $6,075,477.46 $571,000.00 $5,504,477.46
Luis Arraez 0.7 $5,316,042.78 $596,000.00 $4,720,042.78
Jose Berrios 1.1 $8,353,781.51 $4,025,000.00 $4,328,781.51
Tyler Duffey 0.7 $5,316,042.78 $1,200,000.00 $4,116,042.78
Caleb Thielbar 0.6 $4,556,608.10 $563,500.00 $3,993,108.10
Matt Wisler 0.6 $4,556,608.10 $725,000.00 $3,831,608.10
Tyler Clippard 0.8 $6,075,477.46 $2,750,000.00 $3,325,477.46
Ryan Jeffers 0.5 $3,797,173.42 $563,500.00 $3,233,673.42
Jake Cave 0.5 $3,797,173.42 $587,500.00 $3,209,673.42
Nelson Cruz 2.0 $15,188,693.66 $12,000,000.00 $3,188,693.66
Jorge Polanco 0.8 $6,075,477.46 $3,833,333.00 $2,242,144.46
Jorge Alcala 0.3 $2,278,304.05 $563,500.00 $1,714,804.05
Cody Stashak 0.3 $2,278,304.05 $571,000.00 $1,707,304.05
Max Kepler 1.0 $7,594,346.83 $6,250,000.00 $1,344,346.83
Sean Poppen 0.2 $1,518,869.37 $563,500.00 $955,369.37
Devin Smeltzer 0.2 $1,518,869.37 $571,000.00 $947,869.37
Trevor May 0.4 $3,037,738.73 $2,205,000.00 $832,738.73
Brent Rooker 0.1 $759,434.68 $563,500.00 $195,934.68
Travis Blankenhorn 0.1 $759,434.68 $563,500.00 $195,934.68
Willians Astudillo 0.1 $759,434.68 $571,000.00 $188,434.68
LaMonte Wade Jr. 0.0 $0.00 $563,500.00 -$563,500.00
Aaron Whitefield 0.0 $0.00 $563,500.00 -$563,500.00
Daniel Coulombe 0.0 $0.00 $575,000.00 -$575,000.00
Taylor Rogers 0.5 $3,797,173.42 $4,450,000.00 -$652,826.59
Ildemaro Vargas -0.1 -$759,434.68 $63,300.00 -$822,734.68
Eddie Rosario 0.9 $6,834,912.15 $7,750,000.00 -$915,087.85
Cory Gearrin 0.0 $0.00 $1,000,000.00 -$1,000,000.00
Rich Hill 0.7 $5,316,042.78 $6,518,518.00 -$1,202,475.22
Edwar Colina -0.1 -$759,434.68 $563,500.00 -$1,322,934.68
Mitch Garver -0.1 -$759,434.68 $620,000.00 -$1,379,434.68
Michael Pineda 1.1 $8,353,781.51 $10,000,000.00 -$1,646,218.49
Lewis Thorpe -0.2 -$1,518,869.37 $563,500.00 -$2,082,369.37
Ehire Adrianza -0.1 -$759,434.68 $1,600,000.00 -$2,359,434.68
Alex Avila 0.2 $1,518,869.37 $4,250,000.00 -$2,731,130.63
Miguel Sano 0.5 $3,797,173.42 $7,000,000.00 -$3,202,826.59
Sergio Romo 0.2 $1,518,869.37 $4,750,000.00 -$3,231,130.63
Zack Littell -0.4 -$3,037,738.73 $571,000.00 -$3,608,738.73
Homer Bailey 0.1 $759,434.68 $7,000,000.00 -$6,240,565.32
Marwin Gonzalez 0.2 $1,518,869.37 $9,000,000.00 -$7,481,130.63
Josh Donaldson 0.9 $6,834,912.15 $21,000,000.00 -$14,165,087.85
Jake Odorizzi 0.0 $0.00 $17,800,000.00 -$17,800,000.00

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not only was Kenta Maeda the most valuable 2020 Twin, he was also the most underpaid. On the other end of the spectrum was another starter, Jake Odorizzi. Willians Astudillo came the closest to being worth exactly what he was paid.

Other notably underpaid players included Randy Dobnak, Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, and Jose Berrios. The overpaid players included Josh Donaldson, Marwin Gonzalez, and Homer Bailey. What does this show—simply something we already knew—the economics of baseball are unfair. Veterans largely get paid for past performance, while younger guys are drastically underpaid—until its their turn to be an overpaid veteran. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of team loyalty—take Eddie Rosario for an example.

All that aside, there are certainly some unexpected results in this data. To me, the biggest surprise is position-player WAR leader (and number two overall) Nelson Cruz tumbling towards the middle of the list. Another notable result was that the Twins tended to get very good value from their relievers. While the bullpen was surprisingly decent this season, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see that either.

What surprises you the most?