Players that are just as valuable, but less expensive, than Ryan Howard


By Jake McCormick

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard may officially be one of the most expensive commodities in baseball after inking a five year, $125 million extension, but these budding superstars willingly took fan and team-friendly contracts for a good reason.I’m probably in the majority of baseball fans and writers when I say that I like Ryan Howard. He’s affable, intelligent, and is capable of hitting almost any pitch 500 feet. There’s little doubt that Howard is arguably the best power hitting first baseman in baseball, and will continue to get paid like it.

But not all stars/superstars are looking to cash in on the maximum contract. More than a few MLB stars have become fan favorites not only from their play on the field, but their financial perspective off it.

It’s great to know a quality young player will be around for more than a few years. But when that player prefers to accept a lower than market value contract so the team can continue to build around them as a franchise cornerstone, it elevates that player into a respectability level among fans that is rarely achieved by most professional athletes.

I think it’s safe to say that the following players are paid under their market value, given their All-Star-caliber talent. (Data courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.)

1B – Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
5 yr/$45M (2009-13)
Zimmerman takes over at first in this lineup because of the Longoria roadblock and lack of cheap talent at the not-so-hot corner. The most tenured National will deserve a maximum deal once his current one expires, and Washington would be smart to oblige.

2B – Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
6 yr/$40.5M (2009-14) + 2015 club option
Pedroia has already won an MVP and World Series, and came out of the gates swinging hard this season. He’s got a whole lot of talent bottled up in that 5’9” frame, and is the one position player for Boston that is actually underpaid. My fantasy team thanks you and your over-achievements, Dustin.

SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
6 yr/$31M (2008-13) + 2014 club option
The runner-up to Braun in the 2007 Rookie of the Year race has more than made a name for himself with his cannon arm, dual threat bat, and overall team leadership in the Mile High City. Tulowitzki is an upper middle class version of Hanley Ramirez.

3B – Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
6 yr/$17.5M (2008-13) + 2014-16 club options
Longoria’s contract is basically like buying a brand new 80 GB iPod for $25. Considering the team he plays for and their notoriously tight wallets, it’s great to see Longoria sacrificing his arbitration years for the chance at long-term success in baseball’s most competitive, and expensive, division.

LF – Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
8 yr/$45M (2008-15)
When it comes to affordable superstars, Braun is second only to Evan Longoria in terms of bang for your buck. Braun took this deal last year knowing full well that he could go the path of Prince Fielder and set his sights on the open riches of free agency, yet he decided to commit to Milwaukee.

CF – Denard Span, Minnesota Twins
5 yr/$16.5M (2010-14) + 2015 club option
I loved this deal the second I got the news via ESPN text on by Blackberry. Span is the prototypical leadoff hitter and fits into the Minnesota offense like cheese with macaroni noodles. He’s fitting quite seamlessly into a position that was once occupied by Kirby Puckett and Torii Hunter.

RF – Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
6 yr/$51.25M (2010-15)
Upton is going to be 27 when his contract is up, and will most likely be hitting his peak around that time. Upton is fast becoming the definitive five-tool player, and he’s still younger than I am.

P – Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
5 yr/$30M (2009-13) + 2014 club option
Lester is already a legitimate staff anchor in Boston, and coincidentally has the cheapest contract of all the Red Sox starters. Boston won’t have any problems resigning him should they choose to do so in the future, but Lester deserves credit for taking a pay cut on a team that’s never strapped for cash.

P – Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
5 yr/$30.1M (2010-14) + 2015 club option
Gallardo’s contract is based more on potential than current production. But in the age of overpriced mediocre pitching (see fellow Brewers Doug Davis and Randy Wolf), any sub-$10 million per year contract for an up and coming starter in his mid-20s looks like a good decision.

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  1. paulmbanks says

    Lester and Pedrioa are my fav players on the Red Sox, maybe the only guys on Boston that I like, and both made your list. fancy that. I love Longoria’s new commercial for MLB licensed hats- it’s pretty cool

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