While reading pnole's Fanpost about Alejandro De Aza, I got to thinking about the best and worst deals during Kenny William's tenure as GM for the Sox. As that post explained, De Aza has established himself as a cost-effective outfielder--a rarity during the Williams regime.
\I went ahead and ran some numbers, drew up a few charts, and decided to go ahead and write up a top five list of the most cost-effective White Sox players from the past decade**. Specifically, I took a look at the actual salaries of players versus their actual production. As you might suspect, there are some ridiculous values (Esteban Loaiza racking up 7+ WAR on a damn-near league-minimum salary), and some disappointing Donkey punches to the guts of Sox fans everywhere.
But in general, the picture just isn't all that complicated. The best assets are young, productive, and cost-controlled players. But how they ended up on the South Side varies: of the top 5, two came to the Sox in a trade, two were drafted, and one was a free agent signing.
**Apologies in advance for the hokey 'BEST PLAYER EVER' conceit that might bring to mind a certain sports blog network.
Some notes on the charts and data:
- Actual and Expected WAR numbers are from Fangraphs. I based the Expected WAR numbers on Fangraphs' value per WAR numbers. Fangraphs only provides these numbers for 2002 and beyond, so everything in here is limited to that timeframe.
- I took salary information from Baseball-Reference. I only included seasons where I could find salary information, and where the Sox were listed as the team paying the salary. This means that some rookie and partial seasons are excluded.
- The horizontal axis shows the number of wins that a contract is worth (open market value). The vertical axis represents a player's actual production. All points represent a single season by an individual player.
- The charts are designed to show surplus value. To that end, the gray line on each is the breakeven point: any point above that line represents surplus value; any point below means that the player is an overpaid bum.
- Individual players' seasons show up as red circles
Here's what a chart of all Sox players in that period looks like overall:
Because there are many, many more league-minimum players than there are superstars, there's a glut of players right around 0 Expected WAR. Sometimes these are good, young players. But most of the time, they're rookies, bench players, or Kotsays.
5) Aaron Rowand (11.2 surplus wins)
I was a little surprised to see the Legend Himself have such a good showing on this list. Since he left the Sox in the middle of the decade, he only had three eligible seasons for this list. A homegrown prospect, Rowand's surplus value is mostly a function of his time on the South Side coming before his free agency and posting nearly 10 WAR between 2004-2005. Since then, he has had a few good years but also exploded his face on a wall.
4) Alexei Ramirez (11.3)
Although he's fourth on this list, Ramirez has been an absolute steal for Williams. As an international free agent, his full cost is reflected in his salary (no draft picks lost, no players traded). Signing Alexei was a great move for the Sox, if for no other reason than it allowed Kenny to outsmart Brian Cashman:
"[The Sox took a chance on] Alexei Ramirez. They liked him a lot more than we liked him and that type of move has worked out for Kenny. He has taken what appeared to be small moves and over time has made them bigger ones."
3) Gavin Floyd (12.8)
Floyd starts out the pitching parade to top off this list. And while he has tended to struggle at times this year, he's right at the cusp of providing surplus value for 2012. If he can finish out the year with a month and a half's worth of replacement-level production, he'll complete a fifth consecutive year of providing surplus value.
2) John Danks (13.9)
Obviously, Danks' standing in this sort of list will take a huge nosedive come the end of this season. Thanks to his injury, his 2012 will end up with .3 WAR production while being paid like a 3.1 WAR player. Still, that places him firmly in Alexei Ramirez / Aaron Rowand territory, a testament to how valuable of an asset he has been throughout his time with the team.
1) Mark Buehrle (20.6)
This shouldn't surprise anyone. As a Sox draftee, Buerhle spent a few years as an elite pitcher on a newcomer's salary (he was worth an average of about 4.3 wins above his paygrade from 2002-2005). And when he started to make some serious cash, he consistently performed at or above what you'd expect for his contract. In fact, he only underperformed his pay once while with the Sox, and that was in 2006--and can be easily forgiven as a post-World Series fatigue/hangover year.