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How much were the Yankees' players actually worth in 2015?

A comparison of player salaries versus actual value in dollars reveals that Brian Cashman put together an effective Yankee roster in 2015.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency officially underway, it seems like an appropriate time to see how the Yankees fared financially in 2015. As most baseball fans know, the gap between how much players make and how much they are actually worth can vary greatly. Older, declining players tend to rake in huge sums of money as their production falls off thanks to long-term contracts signed in their prime. Younger players who produce at a high level make peanuts in comparison, as baseball's current collective bargaining rules keep players' salaries under team control over the first six years of their careers. The key, then, to an effective roster from a financial perspective is stocking enough young, productive players on your roster to counterbalance the impact of high-priced stars that may be fading.

The wonderful people at FanGraphs have developed a way to quantify this and have been tracking it since 2002. The high-level concept is that each season they sum the total amount of money spent in free agency and divide by the total WAR that those free agents were worth. The result is the market value of a marginal win that can be applied to all players. There's a more detailed explanation of their dollar values here. By comparing player salaries with the dollar values assigned by FanGraphs, we can gauge how much money the Yankees saved or lost on their 2015 roster.

Salary data courtesy of Cot's baseball contracts and rounded to the nearest $100,000.

Starting Lineup

Pos Name Salary Actual Value Profit/Loss
C Brian McCann $17,000,000 $23,500,000 $6,500,000
1B Mark Teixeira $23,100,000 $23,200,000 $100,000
2B Stephen Drew $5,000,000 $1,300,000 -$3,700,000
SS Didi Gregorius $600,000 $24,700,000 $24,100,000
3B Chase Headley $13,000,000 $12,100,000 -$900,000
LF Brett Gardner $12,500,000 $20,400,000 $7,900,000
CF Jacoby Ellsbury $21,100,000 $6,900,000 -$14,200,000
RF Carlos Beltran $15,000,000 $15,400,000 $400,000
DH Alex Rodriguez $22,000,000 $21,400,000 -$600,000
Total $129,300,000 $148,900,000 $19,600,000

Both McCann and Beltran rebounded from disappointing debuts in pinstripes and actually justified their sizable salaries. Before the season, it's safe to say nobody expected A-Rod and Teixeira to produce anywhere near the level that they're being paid, but they managed to get the job done. The biggest concern here is obviously Jacoby Ellsbury. His contract may be an albatross for years to come. After a rough start to his Yankee career, Didi Gregorius proved to be the most valuable position player on the Yankees in 2015. Let's hope that continues.

Starting Rotation

Pos Name Salary Actual Value Profit/Loss
SP CC Sabathia $24,300,000 $9,300,000 -$15,000,000
SP Michael Pineda $2,100,000 $28,200,000 $26,100,000
SP Nathan Eovaldi $3,300,000 $25,200,000 $21,900,000
SP Masahiro Tanaka $22,000,000 $17,900,000 -$4,100,000
SP Ivan Nova $3,300,000 $3,700,000 $400,000
SP Luis Severino $500,000 $5,300,000 $4,800,000
Total $55,500,000 $89,600,000 $34,100,000

The struggles of CC Sabathia are no secret at this point, and he cost the Yankees more money than any player on the roster this year. Young guns Pineda and Eovaldi were two of the most valuable members of the roster from a business standpoint and should continue to be, as they each have two more arbitration years before they hit free agency. Injury was the biggest risk for Tanaka heading into the season but he remained relatively healthy and still failed to meet expectations. The Yankees will likely get an even larger return from Severino in 2016 than the $5 million they saved this year.


Pos Name Salary Actual Value Profit/Loss
OF Chris Young $2,500,000 $9,400,000 $6,900,000
1B Greg Bird $500,000 $7,400,000 $6,900,000
C John Ryan Murphy $500,000 $5,500,000 $5,000,000
UT Garrett Jones $5,000,000 -$3,700,000 -$8,700,000
IF Brendan Ryan $2,000,000 -$3,100,000 -$5,100,000
CL Andrew Miller $9,000,000 $16,400,000 $7,400,000
RP Adam Warren $600,000 $17,200,000 $16,600,000
RP Dellin Betances $500,000 $19,400,000 $18,900,000
RP Justin Wilson $600,000 $11,900,000 $11,300,000
RP Chasen Shreve $500,000 -$1,700,000 -$2,200,000
Total $21,700,000 $78,700,000 $57,000,000

The Yankee bench was led by the resurgent Chris Young and there probably wouldn't be too many upset Yankee fans if they brought him back for something close to the $9 million he was worth in 2015. Somehow, Bird will likely find the playing time to save the Yankees even more money next year. Although Brendan Ryan picked up his player option, it would be no surprise to see the Yankees cut him loose next spring. The team's biggest strength this year was the bullpen and it's no different when looking at it from a business perspective. As a group they saved the Yankees $52 million which is far more than any other roster grouping above.

It's clear that Brian Cashman avoided previous years' excesses and found the right roster balance that made sense on the field as well as on the books in 2015. Most Yankee fans would agree that it would be nice to see that continue this winter. Stay ninjaCash.