The price of performance: Calculating the most "valuable" player on the Cardinals

Using Fangraphs' WAR and 2023 salaries, we can find out which player for the Cardinals last year was the most "valuable" on the roster.
St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox
St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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The Least "Valuable" Players

To probably no one's surprise, Adam Wainwright was the team's least valuable player. He had a negative fWAR total (-0.4) and he was paid $7.5 million in 2023. That means that Wainwright had a -$21 million price tag for every win above replacement. Wainwright's 2023 season was tough to watch as a fan; he had a memorable career in St. Louis, so it was tough to watch him struggle as much as he did last year. He may have been the least valuable, but Waino was the most memorable.

Drew VerHagen (-$17.5 million value), Andrew Knizner (-$11 million value), Andre Pallante (-$7.29 million value) Drew Rom (-$7.2 million in value), Jake Woodford (-$1.23 million in value), Masyn Winn (-$0.9 million in value), and Alec Burleson (-$0.721 million in value) round out the remaining negative players.

Giovanny Gallegos accumulated just 0.3 fWAR and he was on contract for $4.75 million last year. This means he was valued at over $15 million per WAR last year. The average value of one win above replacement is around $10 or $12 million. Paul Goldschmidt and Miles Mikolas, despite both being worth over 3.0 fWAR, were the 24th and 25th most valuable players out of the thirty-six that I analyzed.

While underperformance and high salaries are typically a dangerous combination for a player's value, underperformance carries the most weight. Pallante, Knizner, Woodford, Rom, Winn, and Burleson were all paid the league minimum last year, but they had a negative value for the team. This isn't to say that these players can't turn it around (excluding Woodford and Knizner -- the Cardinals' non-tendered players of 2023). All of these players are young and have plenty of potential, but they need to show that improvement next year.