Several weeks ago, I thought I would write a piece documenting who was the least valuable player in each league, as a complement to the most valuable player and Cy Young voting. Then we decided to pack an entire hot stove season into a hot stove two weeks, and I decided the idea would store for a while.
Before we move on, I am wondering whether John Mozeliak realized that the offseason would be B-A-N-A-N-A-S at the outset, or whether we simply lucked into finishing our Christmas shopping early, not realizing the Black Friday bloodbath that would ensue. At last round-up, Ruben Amaro got tazed fighting Cleveland's Assistant GM for a 90%-off Scott Kazmir, and Doug Fister got traded for a pile of poop. Walt Jocketty was overheard loudly bragging that he missed the whole thing by going last week, and so what if he paid full price for his Tickle-Me-Schumaker?
The Cardinals have favored quick signings in recent years (Furcal, Lohse, Westbrook, etc.) and seem to get their essential business done early, maybe holding out for one of those after-Christmas sales for a few nice-to-have extras, or Ty Wigginton. Given that recent history, I suspect that the timing of our trade and signing was not the result of the front office divining the chaos that was to come, just the front office's general proclivities working in concert with a weird off-season to leave us in a good spot. It's nice, though, to pretend that somebody figured out how weird and overpriced this off-season was going to get beforehand.
If there are any psychics in the front office, I'd prefer they focused their attention on detecting future opportunities to trade Tim Cooney, Daniel Descalso, and Sam Freeman for Doug Fister, though.
Okay, I have to share one more story:
Anthopoulos says Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told him that the Jays simply didn't have the players he wanted in a trade for Doug Fister.
Anyway, on to the least valuable players!
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First Round: Least Valuable All-Around
NL Winner: By pure fWAR reckoning, Adeiny "best defender in the division" Hechavarria was the worst position player in the National League, with a -1.9 fWAR total. Honorable Mention and several controversial first-place votes from Milwaukee reporters goes to Yuniesky Betancourt, the Brewers "first baseman," with -1.8 fWAR. He was a below average defender who hit for a Kozma-esque 56 wRC+.
If you're feeling forgiving or suspicious of UZR, you could swap the two of them up. Hechevarria stands a decent chance of being a better defender than his brief career would suggest, but Betancourt has spent years proving that he is nearly useless as a player. Betancourt has long been a hideous defender, inexplicably stuck at high-value defensive positions. This year, he combined his defensive ineptitude with hitting like Pete Kozma while playing first base. If that's not some kind of least valuable player perfect storm, I don't know what is.
AL Winner: Macier Izturis of the Blue Jays takes the LVP for the Junior Circuit, with a total of -2.1 fWAR. Bad defense and weak hitting made him the worst player in the major leagues. I feel kind of bad for him, since he had a decent career up until 2013. The good news is that he is on a 3-year contract with 2 years left, making it less likely that the Cardinals will acquire him. But not yet out of the question.
The AL runner-up for the terriblest is Paul Konerko, who paired being a bad first baseman with Daniel Descalso production at the plate. The good(?) news is that Konerko already has a multi-million dollar contract for next year. Do you wish you could be literally one of the worst people at your job and have someone offer you $2,500,000 to do that again next year? Sure!
Second Round: Least Valuable Player by Extrapolated Rate of Stink
Unlike actually valuable players, the worse you get in baseball, the more likely it is that they will stop giving you a chance to stink. Hey, anybody can be one WAR below replacement in 500 PAs. Probably even Fink! But being so bad that you amass a lot of negative value in 100 or 200 PAs? That's an achievement.
NL Winner: There were so many good choices here, but I think I really have to give the award to ex-Cub Tyler Colvin. Colvin played only 78 PAs with the Rockies this season, but he was worth -1.1 fWAR in that time. He hit .160/.192/.280, for a 6 wRC+. Among starting pitchers taking at least 40 PAs, his 6 wRC+ ranked about at the middle. If he were a starting pitcher, he would have been the 25th out of 58 pitchers by wRC+. Extrapolating his value out over 600 PAs, he'd be worth -8.4 WAR. That's bizzarro Mike Trout performance.
Honorable mention: John McDonald's achievement should not go overlooked either. McDonald was almost similarly useless, worth -0.9 fWAR in 77 PAs. What is extraordinary is that he did so for FOUR DIFFERENT TEAMS. Yes, McDonald somehow landed jobs with the Pirates, the Indians, the Red Sox, and the Phillies. Two of those teams made the postseason! He hit for a 5 wRC+ but was defensively incompetent at slightly more important defensive positions than Colvin. PS We haven't not-signed McDonald yet, so don't get too comfortable.
AL Winner: No one ran away with the award here. I'm going to give it to Darin Mastroianni, who was worth -0.7 fWAR in 73 PAs with the Twins. He struck out 31% of the time and hit for a .031 ISO rate. Across 600 PAs, this performance would have been worth -6.0 fWAR. Decent, but not all that compelling.
Honorable mention: Casper Wells was worth -1.0 fWAR for three different teams, including 5 PAs with the A's. He hit for an impressive .126/.186/.147 line (translating to a -12 wRC+). He thus wins both the shortest stint with any team and worst offensive performance among our nominees.
Round Three: Worst Bang for the Buck
I'm kind of excited about this round. Here, we're looking for the player who, combining his salary and his performance, most hurt his team's chances of success by being on the payroll. That is, the player whose salary most exceeded his value. These players are worse than any light-hitting shortstop or quadruple-A left fielder, because they hurt the team by their failure to perform and by depriving the team of the resources it could otherwise use to improve.
NL Winner: This pains me some, just because I like him as a pitcher, but Roy Halladay's collapse is mostly complete. Halladay made $20M this year, but was worth almost a full win below replacement as a pitcher, for a total negative value of -$24.1M.
Honorable Mention: Matt Kemp seems like the next choice here. Kemp made $20M this season, but was actually below replacement value in the brief window of time that he was on the field, worth a -$2.4M in value to the Dodgers, for a total of -$22.4M. If you believe Halladay should've competed for some Cy Young of Stank, you can give the LVP to Kemp, and consider Ryan Howard, who was at least healthy enough to take more than 300 PAs this season, though he was barely worth a half-win above replacement value, leaving the Phillies about $18M in the hole in terms of value.
AL Winner: It is hard to compete with Alex Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in baseball. The Yankees paid him $28M to be worth a half a win in 180 or so PAs. This sad performance left the Yankees overpaying Rodriguez by $25.6M.
Rodriguez has lots of competition among his teammates. Mark Teixiera and Vernon Wells had a photo finish for second place. Wells was paid $21M to be almost a full win below replacement, for a net loss to the Yankers of $24.8M. Mark Teixeira was paid $22.5M to be slightly below replacement, for a net deficit in value of $23.4M. If you're keeping score at home, that's $73.8M that the Yankees could've just burnt in a big Joker-pile this season and been just as well off.
Seven major league teams had budgets lower than $73.8M last year.