Cleveland Indians payroll offers the best value in MLB

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Jose Ramirez /

When you’re talking bang for your buck and MLB payrolls, the Cleveland Indians offer the best value in terms of payroll and production.

The Cleveland Indians have surged their way to the best record in the American League and have an outside shot at overtaking the Dodgers and Nationals for the best record in all of baseball, two teams with far higher payrolls than the Tribe.

The Indians salary numbers aren’t eye popping, but they are important. The Indians have found talent in the draft and through shrewd trades. The end result is that the Indians provide the best team value in the game today.

According to Fangraphs, both Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor rank near the top in Wins Above Replacement for position players. Ramirez sits 8th with 5.7 WAR and Lindor 11th with 5.5 WAR, ahead of higher profile stars like Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, Anthony Rizzo, and Freddie Freeman.

But one interesting tool inside of Fangraphs is that WAR is translated into real dollars of value. For instance, Jose Ramirez’s 5.7 WAR translates to $45.4 million of value. Compare that to the $971,400 he makes in actual salary this season. Lindor provides $43.7 million in value for the actual cost of $579,300. Even Edwin Encarnacion, the highest paid player on the roster at $14,666.66 million this year, is outperforming his $18.4 million in value per Fangraphs.

Those three have relied mostly at their bats to carry their value, but this team also has a handful of players that are driving up their value based on the glove. Both Yan Gomes ($4.83 million salary, $9.7 million in Fangraphs value) and Roberto Perez ($675,000 salary, $4.5 million in Fangraphs value) have outperformed their contracts, technically. Bradley Zimmer, pressed into service as the only healthy center fielder on the entire roster, has exceeded his $406,297 salary with $12.7 million in Fangraphs value.

The numbers are even crazier for the pitching staff. It’s no secret that Corey Kluber is one of the best in baseball and is on his way to a second Cy Young Award. His 6.9 WAR for a pitcher is second only to Chris Sale‘s.

While Sale is making $12 million this season, Kluber makes only $7.7 million while providing $55.3 million in Fangraphs value compared to Sale’s $61.2. Carlos Carrasco (4.8 WAR, $38.5 million in Fangraphs value), and Trevor Bauer (2.9 WAR, $22.9 million in Fangraphs value) also far outperform their contracts. Carrasco makes $6.5 million and Bauer $3.55 million.

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Remember, Alex Rodriguez is getting paid $21 million to not play for the New York Yankees. Zack Greinke is getting paid $23 million this season. Max Scherzer is getting $15 million. Stephen Strasburg is getting $15 million. Justin Verlander is getting paid $28 million this year and each year through 2019 to get shelled by the Indians.

The Indians began the season with only the 17th highest payroll in baseball, behind Detroit (4th), San Francisco (7th), and Kansas City (15th). Detroit and Kansas City are buried in the AL Central and San Francisco has the worst record in the bigs.

The Indians have turned themselves into a juggernaut without having to break the bank. This level of frugality has allowed the team to sign players to team friendly extensions (Jose Ramirez), go after the right free agent (Encarnacion), and make key mid-season moves as needed (Jay Bruce this year, Andrew Miller last year).

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There’s a lot to be said of the return on investment that the Dolans have made in the ball club.