Using FanGraphs projections from Steamer’s 2019 WAR for remaining free agents, here are the top 100 (chart below) who could potentially move the needle for the upcoming season. At the top of the list, you will see some familiar names. As you drill down the list, there are names of players who are coming off of seasons where their impact was not felt necessarily in a positive direction — but there are always players who beat their projections by small margins and a few that will blow the projections away and of course quite a few who are complete busts. Anibal Sanchez was one of those players in 2018 who blew away his projections at a +2.4 compared to the +0.7 he was projected at.
When you analyze the top WAR players, Machado and Harper would not even rank in the Top 5 in the American League for position players and Harper would not make the Top 5 in either league. Tell us again why either of them are worth so much money? Alex Bregman who is projected at a +5.3 WAR ranks higher on FanGraphs than both Machado and Harper. On top of that, Bregman will make about $600,000 for the upcoming season which will be about what Harper will get paid in the first 3½ games of the season. Think about that for a moment. A $30 million annual salary equals $185,200 per game. A team has to sell an extra 2,500 tickets at $75 each to pay that salary for one game or charge an additional $6 per person in attendance at a game with an average attendance of 30,000. Okay, it does not work exactly like that as marquee players do help sell extra jerseys and maybe sell some extra ads on the radio. Clayton Kershaw only pitches every 5 games and the math on him is even more complicated to breakdown so we should probably use that formula of what every WAR point is worth in contract dollars — but if we did that, Mike Trout would be worth about $72 million a year, and we can’t remember the last time he won a playoff game for his team.
Keep in mind that any player you acquire, they will replace a player(s) who FanGraphs gave a value to or a few players as playing time must equal out when new players are acquired or taken off the roster. When Anibal Sanchez was signed for instance he took away projected playing time from Erick Fedde and Joe Ross, and when Tanner Roark was traded prior to the Sanchez acquisition, Fedde and Ross gained playing time and WAR. The net result was about +0.4 WAR added to the Nationals season when Sanchez was acquired because his 2019 WAR is projected at +1.7 and that was greater than the projection on Joe Ross. Yes, it is complicated on all of the mathematics and variables involved, and remember, there is a reason we play the games!