In sports, we always celebrate the failures. Search "worst contracts in sports history" on Google, and you'll get 8.89 million results. JaMarcus Russell, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Leaf, Mike Hampton — these names (and many more) immediately jump to sports fans' minds when the topic is mentioned.
Often, though, the overperformance can go unnoticed, so it's only fair to point out how much Jacoby Ellsbury is worth this year.
He's paid just $2.4 million this year, more than only Jarrod Saltalamacchia among Red Sox Opening Day starters, but he's worth a whole lot more than that.
Fangraphs.com, among its many nifty tools, lists a player's dollar value. It converts a player's WAR (wins above replacement) and estimates what a player would make in free agency. According to that measurement, Ellsbury is worth $22.6 million.
Though he won't reach free agency until 2014, it's safe to say he's in for a rather hefty raise next year.
That's due in part to an incredible offensive season, which has Ellsbury currently batting .316 (his best mark in a full season was .301 in 2009) with 15 home runs (career high), 54 RBIs (six short of career high) and an .884 OPS.
It's also due to his play in the outfield, where he's apparently much improved from what was a statistically subpar season in 2009 (some of us disputed such stats, though). He's gone from a negative-10 UZR/150 in 2009 to 11.2 this year, an improvement of infinity percent (I think that's how those numbers work).
Ellsbury's not the only Red Sox whose price tag on the open market would be a lot more than his current salary would suggest. Dustin Pedroia makes $5.5 million this year, but Fangraphs lists him as being worth $24.5 million. Adrian Gonzalez, still in the final year of his old contract, makes just $5.5 million, and he's worth $20.5 million (don't worry, Mr. Gonzalez, you'll be making that much annually for a long while). Kevin Youkilis, despite not performing to his own standards, is still outperforming his contract, which pays him $12 million this season. Fangraphs lists his value at $15.1 million. Add Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the list, too, as he makes just $750,000 but is playing as well as a $6.8 million player.
Surprisingly, Josh Beckett's 2.12 ERA has him being valued at roughly $2 million less than his $15.75 million sarry. Somehwat surprisingly, John Lackey doesn't have the edge in this category, as his $15.25 million salary is just a skosh higher than his Fangraphs value of $2.5 million. That's still not as great a differential as J.D. Drew who makes $14 million but is currently valued by Fangraphs at just $300,000.