20. Jacob DeGrom, starting pitcher, Texas Rangers
There’s a view among some major League GMs that if you want to win, you have to be willing to take chances. Rangers chief exec Chris Young certainly subscribed to that theory when he signed the highly talented but often-injured Jacob DeGrom to a six-year, $222 million contract this past winter.
Sometimes, of course, you roll the dice and lose. There’s a reason it’s called a gamble.
DeGrom made six solid starts for the Rangers, and he looked good in the first five. He won two, allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of the six, and struck out 45 batters in 30 innings.
Then four innings into his sixth start in late April, DeGrom reported what DeGrom always reports, an arm injury. He underwent surgery for a UCL tear and will not return until late next season at the earliest.
As a result, what the Rangers got from DeGrom in April is all they will get in exchange for the $30 million they’re paying him this year. The thing is, nobody’s especially surprised by that result.
How do we assess what the Rangers did get? DeGrom’s two wins, solid 2.67 ERA and massive strikeout totals translated to 0.7 WAR, which would be an impressive total if this were still late April. But it is only about two-thirds the positional average WAR to this point in the season.
Beyond that, DeGrom’s $30 million salary – more than three times the positional average — suggests he ought to be delivering at the 3 to 3.5 WAR level at this stage of the season rather than where he is, stuck at 0.7.
Pitcher injuries are one of the most common reasons why a player is overpaid, and DeGrom clearly qualifies in that respect. The exact amount works out to $23.243 million.
As bad as that sounds, it could be worse. It could be next season, when DeGrom will earn $40 million from the Rangers and may not pitch at all. If we re-do this list one year from now, DeGrom is a strong candidate to capture the No. 1 spot.