MLB: The game’s most valuable first basemen

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets is safe at first base in the third inning as Christian Walker #53 of the Arizona Diamondbacks can't handle a ball thrown for an error at Citi Field on September 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets is safe at first base in the third inning as Christian Walker #53 of the Arizona Diamondbacks can't handle a ball thrown for an error at Citi Field on September 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

5. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians, $8.227 million value; $20.333 million contract

The Phillies signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal prior to the 2018 season for reasons that escape rational explanation. He was coming off a 2017 season when he hit .259 with 23 home runs for the Indians, and somehow Phils management convinced itself that he was the first baseman the team needed to put it over the top.

When Santana’s 2018 play failed to even approximate that level of faith, he was included in a trade to Seattle, and 10 days after that packaged back to Cleveland. It is contracts like Santana’s that have put the Indians in a financial bind such that they felt compelled to trade away Corey Kluber…go figure.

It’s not that Santana is a bad player; he’s merely wildly over-valued. He hit .281 for the Indians in 2019, and his .515 slugging average was good enough to justify $4.4 million in value. His .397 on base average ranked behind only Anthony Rizzo, adding another $2.75 million to his worth.

Obviously his performance is never going to approach the $20 million he was paid. As an aside, first base is a position where you get paid a substantial premium for reputation, which is why a half dozen other players – Albert Pujols, Chris Davis, Eric Hosmer, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, and Freddie Freeman – surpassed that $20 million salary level. For the record, only one of them made the positional top 10.

Santana did log a representative 1,186 innings, ninth best and worth a bit more than $1 million. His 73 assists were nothing to write home about, adding just $62,000 to his final value.