While the baseball community was reeling from the reckless nincompoopery of Justin Turner and the feckless nincompoopery of MLB, teams began cutting costs with a machete. More than a dozen club options were declined yesterday, and the most surprising name among them was Kolten Wong.
The Cardinals declined to bring back the left-handed hitting second baseman who had combined for 8.7 fWAR over his last three full seasons. In 2020, Wong was on pace for 3.5 fWAR over 162 games, and he was only going to make $12.5 million in 2021.
Talking about dollars-per-WAR calculations can cause some eye rolling, but it used to be that a win was worth somewhere between $8 and $9 million. If Wong’s case is any indication, the price has gone way, way down.
<sees Kolten Wong's option being declined>— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) October 28, 2020
<makes mental note to change $/win in free agency down to $4 million>
It could even be argued that the relationship between money and wins is nonexistent. One baseball executive told Evan Drellich:
Where business-side leaders see the baseball side as an expense, and then when you win, they share the glory, but when you lose it’s your fault and in the meantime, it’s just an expense. I think they see the proliferation of jobs on the baseball side as largely unnecessary.
A “win” for those cutting the checks doesn’t happen on the field, it happens in the bank account irrespective of what happens on the field. Kolten Wong might help the Cardinals win baseball games in 2021, but anyone out of Triple-A could take his at-bats for 1/20th of the price.
A reunion between Wong and the Cardinals isn’t out of the question, but he won’t be the only perfectly good player to take a pay cut this winter. There are likely going to be a large number of nontenders this offseason that wouldn’t have happened with a normal season. Of course, teams can still afford to pay their players despite lost ticket sales revenue; they just don’t want to.
One day into the offseason, and we already have owners pinching pennies that don’t need to be pinched. It’s going to be a long winter.
Jen Mac Ramos | Baseball Prospectus $: After the Dodgers won the World Series, Justin Turner made the irresponsible and selfish decision not to isolate and his team and the league let him do it. This reckless disregard for public safety is a slap in the face to the chronically ill.
Bradford William Davis | New York Daily News: We should have been celebrating the Dodgers’ first championship in 32 years, but Justin Turner, Andrew Friedman, and Rob Manfred ruined that.
Craig Edwards | FanGraphs: Before a COVID-positive, maskless Justin Turner ran out onto the field to have his picture taken, the dumbest decision of the night was to pull Blake Snell in the sixth inning. That decision was at least defensible on some level.