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The biggest bargain on every MLB team

The big contracts get the headlines, but bargains often play the biggest role in MLB roster building and eventual championships. These are the biggest bargains for each MLB franchise in 2021.

 

Rick Scuteri / USA Today Sports Images

Arizona has had a disappointing season, which started when Gallen suffered a freak arm injury in Spring Training. He’s battled injuries throughout 2021 as his team has struggled, but Gallen still has a career 3.28 ERA in 39 starts. Now in only his third season, Gallen continues to draw the league minimum salary before becoming arbitration-eligible in 2023.

 
Atlanta Braves: Ozzie Albies, 2B

Vincent Carchietta / USA Today Sports Images

Albies signed a much-criticized seven-year, $35 million contract in 2019 that was seen as well below market value. He made his second All-Star appearance this year and also won the Silver Slugger in 2019. The second baseman is making $3 million this season before his salary increased to $5 million in 2022.

 
Baltimore Orioles: John Means, SP

Kim Klement / USA Today Sports Images

Means is one of the few building blocks in Baltimore’s rebuild, becoming an All-Star as a rookie in 2019 and contributing to progress since then. Despite injuries, he has a sub-3.00 ERA through 14 starts this season, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until after this season.

 
Boston Red Sox: Alex Verdugo, OF

Brian Fluharty / USA Today Sports Images

A huge part of the return in the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo has been a solid contributor in two seasons with Boston. The 25-year-old has a .785 OPS and 3.4 WAR in nearly two full seasons with the Red Sox, and he still makes the league minimum.

 
Chicago Cubs: Adbert Alzolay, SP

David Banks / USA Today Sports Images

The Cubs had a firesale at the trade deadline, and are now in a full-blown rebuild. Alzolay looks like one of their foundational players despite some struggles in his first full season this year. His ERA is 4.73, but Alzolay is a former top prospect who has fanned more than one batter per inning, so better things are likely to come soon. He’s making the league minimum and won’t be arbitration-eligible until after the 2023 season.

 
Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon, SP

Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today Sports Images

The third overall draft pick in the 2014 draft, Rodon failed to fully develop with the White Sox due to injuries. Chicago was able to bring Rodon back in free agency during the offseason, and it’s all come together in 2021. A legitimate AL Cy Young candidate, Rodon has a 2.49 ERA and league-best 12.8 K/9 in 18 starts, yet he’s making only $3 million. Rodon has put himself in position for a huge contract this offseason if he can stay healthy down the stretch.

 
Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker, OF

David Kohl / USA Today Sports Images

Winker struggled to stay healthy earlier in his career, but he’s gone through 2021 unscathed and become a superstar. The outfielder made his first All-Star appearance, now hitting .304-21-59 in 428 plate appearances. He’s making only $3.15 million and has two seasons remaining before free agency.

 
Cleveland Indians: Shane Bieber, SP

Jeff Curry / USA Today Sports Images

Bieber has had his 2021 season disrupted due to a shoulder injury, but the ace remains one of the biggest bargains in MLB. He won the AL Cy Young in the 2020 abbreviated seasons and has a glistening 3.31 ERA over four seasons, yet Bieber won’t be arbitration-eligible until after this season.

 
Colorado Rockies: Austin Gomber, SP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports Images

Gomber was Colorado’s main return in the Nolan Arenado trade earlier this year and has helped salvage their side of the deal. He has a 3.69 ERA in 17 starts, an impressive feat for a Rockies pitcher. The lefty makes the league minimum and won’t be arbitration-eligible until after next season.

 
Detroit Tigers: Akil Baddoo, OF

Rick Osentoski / USA Today Sports Images

Baddoo has been quite the find for Detroit as a Rule 5 draft pick, now playing center field and batting leadoff for the team. The dynamic outfielder is hitting .270-10-40 with 14 steals in 300 plate appearances, with plenty more time to add to his Rookie of the Year resume while he draws the league minimum salary.

 
Houston Astros: Luis Garcia, SP

Joe Nicholson / USA Today Sports Images

Garcia is a top AL Rookie of the Year candidate who has been a savior for the Astros starting rotation. The 24-year-old right-hander has a 3.19 ERA and 10.7 K/9 over 96 innings, and won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024.

 
Kansas City Royals: Scott Barlow, RP

Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today Sports Images

The bullpen has been one of the strengths of the Royals roster this season, and Barlow is a big reason. The 28-year-old is having a breakout season with a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings, also converting six saves. He’s making the league minimum but will be arbitration-eligible after this season.

 
Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH

Kelvin Kuo / USA Today Sports Images

Ohtani is a two-way talent like MLB has never seen, now the clear favorite for AL MVP after winning Rookie of the Year in 2018. He leads the AL with 37 home runs and a .684 slugging percentage while also posting a 3.04 ERA in 15 starts. The superstar is making only $3 million this season, which will increase to $5.5 million in 2022.

 
Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Smith, C

Kelvin Kuo / USA Today Sports Images

Smith has been one of the best all-around catchers in MLB since he was promoted in 2019. During his three seasons, he has an elite .890 OPS with 37 home runs in 176 career regular-season games. He won’t be arbitration-eligible until after next season.

 
Miami Marlins: Trevor Rogers, SP

Brad Mills / USA Today Sports Images

Rogers has quickly become an ace for the Marlins, with a 2.37 ERA over 19 starts this year. He’s rapidly improved his control after struggling last year and is set to make the league minimum until he’s eligible for arbitration in 2024.

 
Milwaukee Brewers: Corbin Burnes, SP

David Kohl / USA Today Sports Images

Burnes has been one of Milwaukee’s three spectacular aces in 2021 after finishing sixth place in the NL Cy Young voting last year. He has a 2.46 ERA and league-best 7.60 K/BB ratio in 18 starts. Burnes won’t be arbitration-eligible until after this season and has a shot to win the NL Cy Young after Jacob deGrom’s elbow injury.

 
Minnesota Twins: Kenta Maeda, SP

Tim Fuller / USA Today Sports Images

Maeda came up just short of winning the AL Cy Young last season, finishing second in the vote. While he’s struggled this season with a 4.40 ERA in 17 starts, Maeda has an excellent career 3.82 ERA. He signed an eight-year, $25 million contract in 2016, making only $3.125 million in each season.

 
New York Mets: Pete Alonso, 1B

Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

Alonso has an NL Rookie of the Year and two Home Run Derby titles in what’s now only his third MLB season. The first baseman is hitting .260-23-62 in 92 games this year as a fixture in the Mets batting order, and he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season.

 
New York Yankees: Jordan Montgomery, SP

Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

Montgomery has rebounded this season after returning from Tommy John surgery last year. The lefty has a 3.78 ERA in 20 starts for the Yankees while making $2.13 million.

 
Oakland Athletics: Ramon Laureano, CF

Joe Nicholson / USA Today Sports Images

Laureano has shined as a five-tool center fielder since he was promoted by Oakland in 2018. He’s hit .246-14-39 with 11 steals in 88 games this season until he was suspended 80 games after testing positive for PEDs. He is arbitration-eligible after the 2021 season.

 
Philadelphia Phillies: Ranger Suarez, RP

Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports Images

Suarez has been a surprise for the Phils pen this year, emerging as the closer after Hector Neris floundered. The lefty has a 1.12 ERA and more than one strikeout per inning over 40.1 innings, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until after next season.

 
Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds, OF

Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports Images

Reynolds was terrific in his 2019 rookie season and has managed to rebound this year after struggling in his sophomore season. The 26-year-old outfielder was an All-Star rep and is hitting .310-18-58 with an elite .915 OPS. He will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season.

 
San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS

Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports Images

Quickly becoming the face of baseball, Tatis Jr. signed a 14-year, $340 million contract this year. The check will come due for the Padres eventually, but for now, he has a very reasonable salary of just over $1.7 million. The shortstop finished fourth in the NL MVP vote last year and could top that this year, leading the league in home runs, stolen bases, runs, and OPS heading into August.

 
San Francisco Giants: Logan Webb, SP

Jeff Curry / USA Today Sports Images

San Francisco’s outstanding performance from their starting rotation has been a big reason why they are in the playoff race, and Webb has been one of their biggest surprises. His great sinker and improved control have helped him post a 3.36 ERA in 67 innings. Webb won’t be arbitration-eligible until after next season.

 
Seattle Mariners: Kyle Lewis, OF

Joe Nicholson / USA Today Sports Images

After winning AL Rookie of the Year with 11 home runs in 58 games last season, Lewis has been plagued by injury in 2021. Still, he looks like a strong core player for the M’s, joining fellow top outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, and won’t be arbitration-eligible until after next season.

 
St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty, SP

Jeff Curry / USA Today Sports Images

Flaherty has been an ace for the Cardinals since 2018 and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young vote in 2019. He’s been injured for much of this season but has a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts, and remains a bargain making only $3.9 million.

 
Tampa Bay Rays: Tyler Glasnow, SP

Kim Klement / USA Today Sports Images

The cash-strapped Rays have their fair share of bargains produced from one of the best farm systems in the game. Glasnow has been an ace for the team since 2019, and had a 2.66 ERA in 14 starts this year before suffering an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. He’s earning only $4 million this season.

 
Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia, OF

Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports Images

A minor league veteran from Cuba, Garcia has been a huge surprise for the Rangers this season. He made the All-Star team and is hitting .257-23-63 in 92 games as now the biggest source of offense on the team. He is making the league minimum salary and has two additional seasons before being arbitration-eligible.

 
Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B

Tommy Gilligan / USA Today Sports Images

Guerrero would be the clear AL MVP favorite this season if not for Shohei Ohtani’s emergence. The 22-year-old leads the AL in RBI (83), on-base percentage (.425), and OPS (1.084), and he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season.

 
Washington Nationals: Juan Soto, RF

Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports Images

After Washington’s firesale at the trade deadline, Soto remains one of their few recognizable players. He’s making $8.5 million this season, but even that salary is a bargain considering that Soto is leading the NL in on-base percentage for the second consecutive season. He’s finished in the top 10 in the MVP vote in each of the last two years, and will likely extend the streak to three seasons after 2021.

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