Underpaid Superstars. The Minimum-Wage Roster: Second base

What is it about second base? Why is it the position where teams take the most liberties about underpaying their player?

It is possible that Braves’ second baseman, Ozzie Albies, has the worst contract in MLB.

The 2021 World Series winner was paid $3 million last season, despite arguably being the best second baseman in the league over the last three years.

Ozzie Albies34560226211389.3
Jose Altuve31867238175138.8
Whit Merrifield38435240178727.5
Primary second basemen (2019-2021)

As a 22-year-old, Albies signed a seven-year, $35 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. The contract was almost universally berated. Obviously, except by those wanting to see the wealth of John C. Malone and Liberty Media increase. This is the same Liberty Media outfit that purchased Formula 1 for $4.4 billion.

In 2019, Kansas City Royals signed Whit Merrifield to a four-year contract which will see the 32-year-old earn less than $3 million in 2022. He has not missed a Royals game since June 2018.

Hopefully, you have already read the first two instalments in the Bat Flips and Nerds Underpaid Superstars – The Minimum Wage Roster: Catcher, First base, so without further ado, we present the third instalment.

All of the players were paid less than $610,000 in the 2021 season.

Second base: Jake Cronenworth

This was one of the most competitive positions – if you consider vying to be the most underpaid player a competition.

Runner up for Rookie of the Year in 2020, Cronenworth proved he was the real deal. An All-Star in 2021, the 27-year-old has already accumulated 6.5 WAR in a little over 200 games.

The Padres primary second baseman also played 20-plus games at first base and 40-plus at shortstop. You can’t put a price on that sort of versatility. Well, in fact, you can, and it is less than $585,000.

Cronenworth hit 21 homers with an .800 OPS. His right-side-of-the-infield partner, Eric Hosmer, hit 12 homers with .732 OPS. One earned 36 times more than the other. Baseball is weird.

There was, in fact, another second baseman who out-hit Cronenworth but was paid even less. In his first season in the big leagues, Reds’ Jonathan India matched Cronenworth’s 21 homers. He also swiped double-digit bases, had an impressive .835 OPS, and was just two shy of scoring 100 runs.

Cardinals’ Tommy Edman led the NL with 641 at-bats and won a gold glove but was paid less than $600,000. This season, his fourth in the majors, he will once again get less than $600k, as he is not arbitration-eligible until 2023.

No matter whether his hair is Electric Blue or Purple Haze, Jazz Chisholm deserves more than his minimum salary on the basis of his dynamic energy alone. The Bahamian so nearly went 20-20 in his first full season, finishing with 18 home runs and 23 stolen bases. He was the leading run-scorer on the Marlins.

Perhaps the most interesting second baseman in 2021 was Brandon Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays. In March 2019, Lowe signed a six-year deal worth $24 million. According to Fangraphs valuation of dollars per win – $/Win ($Millions) – it could be argued that Lowe earned the full value of his contract in 2021 alone.

Do you have an opinion? Please share it in the comments below, or better still, join the conversation on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds

Photo by Denis Poroy

Salary information courtesy of Spotrac

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