Best bang for your buck: revealing shortstop free agent values vs Cardinals

Seven All-Star caliber shortstops have been signed recently, and the Cardinals passed on each one of them. Were they wise to run with who they already had?

St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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In the past three offseasons, the shortstop market has boomed in Major League Baseball. Players such as Javier Baez, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Zander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and even Dansby Swanson have fetched contracts well above $20 million annually.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have stood pat with the players they have on the roster and in the minors. Relying on discounted players such as Tommy Edman and Paul DeJong has allowed the Cardinals to pass on these multi-million dollar contracts in the last two offseasons.

Many St. Louis fans have asked one question: did the Cardinals exceed value by avoiding these players, or did they miss out on wins? Fangraphs has a useful tool that provides the dollar value of a win. Site Expert Josh Jacobs used this figure last year when evaluating the best contracts in recent history. Frangraph's website describes this statistic very clearly.

"In other words, the best description of the question that the valuation is answering is “how much would you expect to have to pay to replace this performance in free agency if you knew that you were going to get this level of value exactly?”"

Dave Cameron

Let's start with finding the value of the two players currently on the roster: Edman and DeJong. Since 2019, Tommy Edman has been paid $6,074,557 in total. He has accumulated 16.2 WAR. Using the stat provided by Fangraphs, Edman would fetch around $115.8 million over the last 4.5 seasons. Tommy Edman has been a steal for the Cardinals. While he hasn't accumulated an All-Star amount of WAR, his value has been exceptional for the team. Edman's surplus value is around $109 million.

Paul DeJong is a different story. After a strong rookie and sophomore season, the Cardinals bought out his remaining arbitration and added a couple of years on at the end. The thought here was that DeJong could find a balance between his stellar offensive rookie season in 2017 and strong defensive sophomore season in 2018. This contract bought out all three pre-arbitration years and three arbitration years for Dejong. Mo and company believed that over those six years, DeJong would cost them more than $26 million in arbitration due to strong play. This was not the case, and the team will be happy to have his contract off the books at the end of this year.

Dejong has accumulated 11.5 WAR during the course of his contract, boosted primarily from 5.3 WAR in the 2019 season. On the open market, Dejong would have cost $83.6 million over his 6.5-year career. The Cardinals have paid him just over $23 million. Using these figures, DeJong's contract was a "good" deal, contrary to popular opinion. Pauly D has a surplus value of $60 million.

Let's take a look at the former free agents that were previously mentioned and see if the Cardinals found value in their players or if they could have received more production from dipping their toes into the free-agent market. Keep in mind that these values are all created in a vacuum in which it's assumed that all teams and owners would be willing to pay the salaries that the players have earned thus far in their careers. As we all know, the Dewitt family isn't always willing to pay big money for free agents even if they are star players.

Here's how the Cardinals' shortstops rank against the recent big name free agents in terms of value