St. Louis Cardinals: Reviewing 2017 payroll and player production

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 16: General Manager John Mozeliak (L) and owner William DeWitt, Jr. of the St. Louis Cardinals speak at a press conference at Roger Dean Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 16: General Manager John Mozeliak (L) and owner William DeWitt, Jr. of the St. Louis Cardinals speak at a press conference at Roger Dean Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals ranked 16th in payroll in MLB for 2017, but how well did they spend their $149 million dollars?

When analyzing the St. Louis Cardinals payroll I am going to take two avenues, one is on an individual player basis and the other is the team as a whole.

First, I will begin discussing on an individual basis with contracts. All player values calculated on here are done by my Predator Player Value Index and all contractual numbers are found by Spoctrac.

Tommy Pham is the first mention when reflecting on the 2017 season. I have his play valued at $14.1 million dollars, best on the Cardinals. However, thanks to being a perennial minor league player, he played for the MLB minimum of $535,000. That is a heck of a deal for the Cardinals.

Another similar example of this comes in the form of Jose Martinez. He too is paid the MLB minimum of $535,000 for 2017, but his actual play was valued at $7.33 million.

Both hitters played prominent roles and without a doubt outplayed their contract.

The last hitter I must mention is Paul DeJong. Not really on anyone’s radar to start the season, but found himself in the middle of the order for a majority of the season. He obviously was paid the MLB minimum, but his play was valued at $7.64 million.

On the pitching side of the baseball there are four players in particular who I would like to highlight.

First being John Brebbia. What an unbelievable season for a no-name player. An incredible story coming from the depths of independent baseball. His value was $535,000 for 2017, and my Predator Value accounts him worth $6.2 million. That’s a bargain.

Another bullpen piece Tyler Lyons is in a similar boat. His contract for 2017 paid him $549,800. For his role out the bullpen he was valued at $3.75 million. Another quality contract for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The last bullpen pitcher worth mentioning is Matt Bowman. For a good part of the year he was a go-to player for Mike Matheny. Another MLB minimum contract for the St. Louis Cardinals of $535,000, but his play valued at $2.81 million.

Lastly, how could I not mention Luke Weaver and his finish down the stretch. His contract in 2017 was $535,000, but his play according to my Predator Value had him at $3.32 million. He did a phenomenal job winning seven of his ten starts.

The next few players I will analyze are guys whose contracts are the most costly on the team, and they do bring great value to the team, but still cost us a bit of unnecessary money.

My first player is Dexter Fowler. I love his play in the field and all he is worth to the team, but he in no way is worth his $16.5 million dollars in 2017. My Predator Value had him at $7.93 million, which is still great, but a lot left to be desired.

Next is Brett Cecil. Prior to the 2017 season the Cardinals paid a significant amount for the left-hander. Now he did have a down season, but he did add value. His contract was worth $7.75 million, however his play was only worth $3.87 million. Once again, productive, but only worth half of what we pay.

Mike Leake, even though no longer a St. Louis Cardinals player, fits this category to me. He could fit in the category below as one of the worst contracts, but due to the fact that he had a decent season for us in 2017, I felt it was fitting for this year to put him here. His contract was for $12.295 million, but for the Cardinals his value was just slightly over $4 million. Quality starter, but not worth the big money.

I will not go into great detail with the list of players I have below, but these are guys who played to their expected value or close to in 2017:

Name                                     2017 Salary                           2017 Predator Player Value

Matt Carpenter                   $10 million                               $8.36 millon

Carlos Martinez                  $4.5 million                              $10.396 million

Lance Lynn                           $8.5 million                              $7.492 million

Kolten Wong                        $2.5 million                              $3.42 million

Jedd Gyroko                            $6 million                                 $5.37 million

Michael Wacha                    $2.775 million                        $2.52 million

Trevor Rosenthal                $6.4 million                              $3.58 million

Stephen Piscotty                $1.33 million                           $811,772

Now, it is impossible not to mention some of the worst contracts for the Cardinals in 2017. These are players who cost us greatly.

Arguably the worst is Johnny Peralta. I loved everything he brought until this year, but his fourth year on the contract was a bust. His contact was $10 million for 2017, but he only brought in a value of $811,816.

Another bust was Jonathon Broxton out of the bullpen. His contract was worth $3.75 million and he was only worth an abysmal $804,777 and really was a non-impact player.

The next contract I am going to mention is Adam Wainwright. Obviously, his leadership and clubhouse role are not evaluated, but his play on the field is not comparable to his contract. In 2017, his salary was $19.5 million. Pitching wise, his value is the worst on the team at $799,748. Adding in the batting his value increased to $2.15 million dollars. Obviously an incredible amount is lost.

My last individual player I would like to discuss is Yadier Molina. The reason why I have kept him last is because his play is invaluable. His contract for 2017 was $14.2 million. As a player I have him only valued at $1.42 million. However, I as well as everyone else understands his value is much greater than statistics. He is the Cardinals Way and he is a coach who plays almost every day. So he is the guy I would label as invaluable.

As you can see if you have made it this far through all the numbers, the St. Louis Cardinals had some good contracts in 2017 as well as some mistakes on players. Overall though, they were a very good team with their money.

As mentioned in the header, the St. Louis Cardinals had a $149.454 million dollar payroll in 2017, ranked sixteenth in the MLB. Their Predator Player Value calculated only produced $137.902 million dollars in production. Roughly a loss of value of $11.5 million.

Do not be fooled though, the St. Louis Cardinals ranked thirteenth in MLB in player value with the sixteenth largest payroll. For that, the Cardinals are not terrible by any means.

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The loss of $11.5 million actually ranks fourteenth best in MLB. Putting it in perspective, only ten teams had higher player values than what they spent. Teams like the Chicago Cubs had losses of $23.7 million and Boston Red Sox had losses of $84.45 million. The trend was bigger market teams had much greater losses, which is probably an expected result.

Overall, MLB had a dead weight loss of $556.3 million. That is amount of money spent on players that did not live up to contracts. An incredible amount. With thirty teams in baseball, the average losses would be 18.54 million, so for that the Cardinals did better by almost $7 million.

Lastly, the the Cardinals spent $1.8 million per win in 2017. The average teams spent $1.889 million per win. Once again, the St. Louis Cardinals were just slightly better than the average on that. Comparing other teams in the division: Chicago Cubs spent $1.982 million, Milwaukee Brewers spent best in baseball only $970,798, and Cincinnati Red spent $1.696 million, and lastly the Pittsburgh Pirates spent $1.464 million.

Next: Debating the Cardinals

I would give the St. Louis Cardinals a grade of a B for 2017 on their payroll. As seen they did just slightly better than average on player value compared to their payroll, as well as their cost per win. Also, they had great seasons from players they were only paying the MLB minimum. I think they did a decent job in 2017 and I will be curious to see as some of their young players develop if they can cut their losses even more and get into positive player value territory in 2018.