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Brewer Free Agent Value Review

Brewer Fanatic Contributor

Signing free agents is fun. But have the Crew's free agent signings worked out? I went back to 2005 (no reason, just picked it as the year to go back to) and listed all the major free agent signings of the since then. I then listed their salary, followed by accumulated WAR - both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. I may have missed some guys. I didn't list guys we picked up as minimum salary types. And salaries are probably not perfect. But they should be close.


WAR might not be the best way to judge a player, but it is nice way to actually put value on a guy. I only listed players who have completed their contracts (so no A-Ram or Aoki - but we'll discuss them later). Here you go:


Player - Salary - (bWAR) / (fWAR)


Doug Davis - $5 million (-1.5 WAR) / (0.0 WAR)

Bradon Looper - $5 million (-2.5 WAR) / (-0.8 WAR)

Damian Miller - $8.75 million (1.1 WAR) / (3.7 WAR)

Jeff Suppan - $44 million (-5.5 WAR) / (1.7 WAR)

Mike Cameron - $15 million (5.7 WAR) / (8.5 WAR)

Eric Gagne - $10 million (-0.5 WAR) / (-1.1 WAR)

Dave Riske - $12 million (-0.6 WAR) / (-0.6 WAR)

Jason Kendall - $9 million (2.6 WAR) / (3.7 WAR)

Trevor Hoffman - $13.5 million (1.2 WAR) / (1.0 WAR)

Randy Wolf - $30 million (-1.3 WAR) / (3.0 WAR)

LaTroy Hawkins - $7.5 million (-0.1 WAR) / (0.9 WAR)

Takashi Saito - $1.75 million (0.8 WAR) / (0.2 WAR)

Alex Gonzalez - $4.25 million (0.2 WAR) / (0.3 WAR)




bWAR (-0.4 WAR)

fWAR (20.5 WAR)

$165.75 million


As you can see, bWAR has the Brewers investing $165 million and getting negative value. Fangraphs isn't as harsh, but it's still not pretty. Fangraphs, if I understand it correctly, puts ballpark factors into their WAR values, so some of our pitchers don't look so bad to them.


No matter which you use, the Brewers use of free agency has been, in all honesty, pretty bad. Mike Cameron really saves things from being a total disaster. Some of the more modest signings have shown to be solid.


The thing that you notice in all the signings is that most of the players are older. But that's to be expected in free agency.


In general, people say that free agency doesn't pay off in the long run. You end up with older players, most of them with fading skills and growing injury problems. That criticism is pretty much spot on with Milwaukee's signings.


The take away? Free agency is often ripoff.


Not exactly earth shattering news, but using this review of it, it's been pretty bad for Milwaukee. For more specifics we could say that teams should avoid big dollar signings, especially for marginal players - and especially pitchers (again, not news to anyone). Aging players don't fare well either. The best signings are often the modest ones. Know that most signings will produce marginal return - which is why you invest modestly in the process.


Also, it can be argued that the Brewers have been foolish in their choice of free agent signings. We've let ourselves be duped into thinking a Wolf or Suppan can be greater contributors than should be expected. Looking at other teams may reveal different trends.


I realize that looking at a player's value over the life of the contract is a bit unfair. One bad year - like Wolf's last season - can mar two okay ones. But it is a way to assess the value of the signing. Not perfect, but a way to do it.


Perhaps someone can look at these numbers and glean more information.


I will say that it makes me feel better about how we've approached free agency this year. We've selectively added players, and avoided overpaying in dollars and years. It should probably be the approach we take every year.


Final note - Nori Aoki and Aramis Ramirez were very good last year. Both were free agent signings. Although Aoki's was odd in that he came from Japan. But if you add the two into the totals, you'll find an improvement of around 9.0 WAR. Not bad. Here are their numbers:


Nori Aoki - Some escalators in this contract, but probably worth no more than $6 million over 3 years - (3.3 WAR so far) / (2.9 WAR so far)

Aramis Ramirez - $36 million (5.4 WAR so far) / (6.5 WAR so far)

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I'm not going to disagree that free agency is a rip off but when you can afford to buy major talent like other big market clubs it isn't so much of a rip off. Teams like the Brewers can only afford to sign middle of the road free agents who are most likely not worth the cost compared to the team's own in house and cheap options.
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I'm not going to disagree that free agency is a rip off but when you can afford to buy major talent like other big market clubs it isn't so much of a rip off. Teams like the Brewers can only afford to sign middle of the road free agents who are most likely not worth the cost compared to the team's own in house and cheap options.

Right, but that's assuming you have adequate in-house or cheap options, of course. Some of those years, I can't totally blame the Brewers for what they did because their internal options were not good at all (or at least not nearly MLB-ready) at some of those positions at the time.

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Solid work Reilly. Really interesting look. I think if you went back another 5 years, you'd probably have consistent results with this although Gagne, Riske and Soup really were foul. I don't really recall many significant FA signings from 99-05 though other than Jim Abbott. In the 90s, I think our biggest FA signing was Ben McDonald. It is pretty stunning that the 2nd best values were two mediocre catchers, one of whom drove these forums crazy for two years. I bet if you put our "All Free Agent Team" vs our "All Scrap Heap/Waivers Team", the latter would dominate.
Formerly Andersoc420
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Now that we have all of this MLB ready Starting pitching and pitching in the mid-upper levels of the system there really isn't a need to spend serious money in Free Agency for a long time. I'd say multiple seasons. I was SO happy when I heard that Doug Melvin was going to go with the young pitching talent this season. I thought that day would never come, but was really surprised when it did. We have a great upper management team/ownership group guys that yes makes some mistake here and there, but it wise enough to know when to change direction.
Robin Yount - “But what I'd really like to tell you is I never dreamed of being in the Hall of Fame. Standing here with all these great players was beyond any of my dreams.”
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Pitching FA are either miss (mostly miss) or hits while positional players even someone like Kendall is a hit in FA. Small and mid market teams need to stay away from FA when filling pitching needs unless you are going after someone like Sabathia. The value is just not there while you can get some value in FA with relief arms it is mostly miss and your seldom hits though I am willing to bet players that are not closers you will have more success with as they will not cost as much.


Positional players give back some rather nice value in free agency.

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It's a nice writeup and examination. The only issue I have is that you're starting with a date on a club that was coming out from a non-existant, owner willing to field a team that would be competitive in Selig. The good in that was that the team got high 1st rd picks and put together a core of players to come up and be competitive. The bad is, that, the team had virtually no depth and had to spend money on players that a team not so barron of solid players wouldn't have needed to spend towards.

No closer/TurnBlow results in a Gagne signing.

Chad Moeller results in a Damian Miller signing.

Riske,Gonzalez,Hawkins,Saito all missed major playing time due to injury. They can't put up any decent WAR when they aren't on the field.

That leaves Suppan,Looper,Davis,Wolf who all provided neg WAR. What those pitcher signings were about was Starting Games with the hope of production. 200+IP was really the buy. And the fact these pitchers all had quality seasons before their signing. The key I think is tying it to aging.

Not re-signing Marcum is a sign the team has seen the results you've posted.


I'd probably wager the next 7years of FA signings far outperform the results of these past 7years.

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