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The biggest bargain on every MLB team

The high priced stars in MLB like Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Clayton Kershaw get most of the attention, but great teams also need bargains to enable those bigger contracts. These players are the biggest bargains for their respective teams.


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The Diamondbacks identified Marte as a potential breakout player, signing him to a five-year, $24 million control in 2018 with two team options worth a total of $18 million at the end of the deal. It’s safe to say those options will be recognized if Marte’s recent performance continues. He made his first All-Star appearance and finished fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2019, hitting .329-32-92 with a .981 OPS. He’s also off to a strong start this season.

Atlanta Braves: Ozzie Albies, 2B

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Albies was heavily criticized for signing a seven-year, $35 million contract with two team options in 2019, a deal that was criticized well below market value given the second baseman’s upside. He’s hit 24 home runs in back-to-back season and led the NL with 189 hits in 2019, batting .295. That performance won Albies his first Silver Slugger Award. Albies would have made only $1 million over a full 2020 season, and his contract never awards him more than $7 million in a season.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means, SP

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Means was a surprise breakout player for the Orioles in 2019, making an All-Star appearance and finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year vote. The lefty finished 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 155 innings. He’s one of Baltimore’s few building blocks on their current MLB roster and set to make the minimum salary in 2020.

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers, 3B

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The Red Sox have their fair share of high-priced contracts, so they need some bargains to make their roster work. Devers certainly qualifies, making the league minimum as he first qualifies for arbitration in 2021. He had a breakout 2019 season, hitting .311-32-115 with a league-leading 54 doubles. Over a full 2020 season, Devers would have made just under $700,000.

Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras, C

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Conteras has quickly become an elite MLB catcher, most recently hitting .272-24-64 in 105 games during the 2019 season. His 2019 performance garnered Contreras his second consecutive All-Star appearance. The 28-year-old catcher would have made $4.5 million over a full 2020 season and isn’t set to be a free agent until 2023.

Chicago White Sox: Lucas Giolito, SP

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The White Sox continue to see their top prospects ripen at the major league level, and Giolito’s breakout season finally came in 2019. The right-hander went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA and 228 strikeouts in 176.2 innings to become an All-Star and the White Sox ace. He continues to make the league minimum after arriving to MLB in 2019, but Giolito will be arbitration eligible following this season.

Cincinnati Reds: Luis Castillo, SP

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Cincinnati has one of baseball’s best starting rotations, and Castillo could be their best pitcher. The hard-throwing right-hander is still making the league minimum, which would have been over $600,000 in 2020, even after making an All-Star appearance last year. Castillo won 15 games with a 3.40 ERA and 226 strikeouts in 190.2 innings in 2019.

Cleveland Indians: Shane Bieber, SP

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Few organizations have done a better job developing pitching recently, and the Indians have reaped the benefits with huge bargains when their young pitchers are promoted. Bieber would have made just over $600,000 over a full 2020 season, even after finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young vote last year with a 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts in 214.1 innings. He’s off to another spectacular start this season.

Colorado Rockies: German Marquez, SP

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Marquez is Colorado’s highest paid starting pitcher, due $4.8 million over a full 2020 season, but that’s a bargain relative to his contribution. He finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year vote in 2017, posted a 3.77 ERA in 33 starts during 2018, and posted a 4.76 ERA in 28 starts last season. He’s consistently fanned more than one batter per inning recently with his electric stuff. Marquez signed a five-year, $43 million contract extension with the Rox in 2019.

Detroit Tigers: Joe Jimenez, RP

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The Tigers are set to have plenty of bargains on their MLB roster soon when their top prospects arrive, but for now, the talent on their roster remains limited. Closer Joe Jimenez is an exception, making the league minimum this season (under $600,000 over a full season). He was an All-Star in 2018 and picked up closing duties last year. He’s had some trouble keeping the ball in the park, resulting in a 4.37 ERA in 66 appearances last year, but remains one of the team’s most talent players.

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez, DH

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Houston’s acquisition of Alvarez from the Dodgers in 2016 for reliever Josh Fields is a deal that could be remembered for a long time. Alvarez is limited defensively, but his bat won him the AL Rookie of the Year in 2019, hitting .313-27-78 with a 1.067 OPS in only 369 plate appearances. He’s yet to play in 2020 after recovering from COVID-19, but was set to make just over $600,000 over a full season.

Kansas City Royals: Adalberto Mondesi, SS

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The rebuilding Royals have a lot of players making the league minimum, including Mondesi. The speedy shortstop has become one of the faces of the franchise, showing a great glove while hitting 14 home runs with 32 steals in only 75 games in 2018, and nine home runs and 43 steals in 102 games last year.

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP

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Angels owner Arte Moreno was regularly opened up his wallet and signed players to huge deals during his tenure, including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, and Justin Upton. However, the Angels have also found bargains like Ohtani. The two-way star picked the Angels when he came over from Japan in 2018. He continues to make the league minimum with his first arbitration year in 2021. Ohtani won AL Rookie of the Year as a hitter and pitcher in 2018, and had another fine offensive season in 2019 (.286-18-62 with an .848 OPS in 106 games) while his arm healed from Tommy John surgery.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Walker Buehler, SP

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The Dodgers not only have deep pockets to sign free agents, but are also elite at drafting and developing talent. Walker Buehler fits into the latter category as a homegrown product currently making the league minimum of just over $600,000 over a full season. The right-hander has had back-to-back great seasons, and finished 2019 going 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 182.1 innings, putting him ninth in the NL Cy Young voting.

Miami Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, SP

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The Marlins underwent yet another firesale two years ago with new ownership, and they added Alcantara in a trade for Marcell Ozuna in the process. Alcantara has started to fulfill expectations, posting a 3.88 ERA in 197.1 innings and making an All-Star appearance in 2019 while making the league minimum.

Milwaukee Brewers: Brandon Woodruff, SP

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Milwaukee has several stars, with Woodruff leading the way in their starting rotation. The right-hander still makes the league minimum despite going 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 22 starts and making an All-Star appearance in 2019. He will be arbitration eligible after this season. 

Minnesota Twins: Kenta Maeda, SP

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The Dodgers got quite a bargain when they signed Maeda to an eight-year, $25 million contract from Japan in 2016. His contract does include some incentives for starting, but regardless, he’s quite underpaid given his career performance that includes a 3.83 ERA over 606 innings with well over one strikeout per inning. The Twins acquired Maeda from LA in the offseason.

New York Mets: Pete Alonso, 1B

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Alonso is a building block for the Mets in only his second MLB season after winning NL Rookie of the Year and setting the rookie home run record in 2019. He would make just over $650,000 over a full 2020 season.

New York Yankees: Gleyber Torres, SS

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The Bronx Bomber are notorious for having loose purse strings, but they’ve also developed their fair share of talent in recent years. One of the best players they’ve brought their the minors was Torres, who was originally acquired from the Cubs in 2016 for Aroldis Chapman. He’s been in All-Star in each of his first two seasons, combining to hit 62 home runs with an .849 OPS and superb defense. He would have made just over $675,000 had the 2020 played out in full.

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson, 1B

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The Moneyball  A’s still do things on the cheap under Billy Beane, but they’ve maintained success recently that way. The core of their team is still making the minimum salary including Matt Chapman, Ramon Laureano, Jesus Luzardo, and Olson. The first baseman was won consecutive Gold Gloves at first base and also hit 36 home runs with an .896 OPS in only 127 games last season.

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins, 1B

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The Phillies have spent big money with recent free agent signings like Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper, and Andrew McCutchen, but they also have some talented players produced in their farm system still making the minimum. Hoskins is the most prominent of the group, with a career .854 OPS and 63 home runs over the last two seasons while making league minimum.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds, OF

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The Pirates have seemingly been in a constant rebuild in recent seasons, but they have some players who can help them for a while. Reynolds is one of them, hitting .314-16-68 with an .880 OPS in 134 games during his rookie season in 2019. He’s still making the minimum salary, which would have been under $600,000 over a full 2020.

San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS

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Tatis Jr. arrived to the majors in 2019, but he’s already one of the most exciting players in the game. He hit .317-22-53 with 16 stolen bases over only 84 games in his rookie season and started 2020 with eight home runs through 16 games. Tatis Jr. is making the league minimum, but the Padres seem likely to try to workout an extension soon.

San Francisco Giants: Mike Yastrzemski, OF

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The Giants are currently in rebuild mode, an odd position for an organization that has seen great success over the last decade. The have found a diamond in the rough with Yastrzemski, who wasn’t promoted to the majors until age 28 in 2019 and hit 21 home runs in 107 games. He’s off to another strong start in 2020 while making league minimum. Yastrzemski is also the grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski.

Seattle Mariners: Marco Gonzales, SP

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The Mariners underwent a firesale in 2019, but Gonzales was one of the few top players they retained. The lefty is currently in the second year of a two-year, $1.9 million contract before his four-year, $30 million contract begins in 2021. He’s won 29 games over the last two seasons with an ERA hovering around 4.00.

St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty, SP

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Flaherty has quickly become the Cardinals ace since his promotion in 2017. He had a 3.34 ERA in 28 starts during 2018, followed by a 2.75 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 196.1 innings last year. The right-hander continues to make the league minimum, but he’s eligible for arbitration after this season.

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows, OF

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The penny-pinching Rays continue to field a competitive squad despite their budget constraints. Part of the reason has been their ability to produce great prospects or find them via trade, like they did when they acquired Meadows from Pittsburgh in 2018. The former first-round pick has gone on to become a star, hitting .291-33-89 with a .922 OPS in 138 games last season. He also continues to draw the league minimum salary.

Texas Rangers: Lance Lynn, SP

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The Rangers front office deserves credit for signing Mike Minor and Lance Lynn to profitable contracts in consecutive offseasons. Lynn’s contract, in particular, has been a great deal for the team thus far. In the first season of a three-year, $30 million deal, Lynn went 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA and 246 strikeouts in 208.1 innings, finishing fifth in the AL Cy Young voting. He’s off to an even better start in 2020.

Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette, SS

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The Blue Jays promoted top prospects Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio last season. While Guerrero was the most hyped of the group, Bichette has been the most impressive producer thus far. The son of former MLB outfielder Dante Bichette, Bo hit .311-11-21 with four steals and a .930 OPS in 46 games last year, and he’s off to a nice start this season. The entire Jays trio continues to earn the league minimum salary.

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto, OF

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Soto emerged in the majors at age 19 during 2018 and has been on a tear ever since. He produced a .923 OPS in 116 games during his rookie season and a .949 OPS last season while hitting 34 home runs and 110 RBI. Soto would have earned just over $600,000 over a full 2020 season.

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