Last winter, BJ Upton was one of the biggest names available in free agency, signing a 5-year, $75 million contract with the Braves. However, his first year with the club was so bad that the Braves would have actually been a better team with a scrub off the street.
In the first year of the deal, the Braves paid Upton $15.5 million, which was $18.5 million more than he was worth (-$3.0 million) on the field.
This season, Upton hit nine home runs, stole just 12 bases, and his .184 batting average would have been second-worst among all players if he had played enough games to qualify for the leaderboard. Even his normally gold glove caliber defense was measured to have saved the Braves just 1.1 runs this season according to UZR.
This all translated to -0.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) which measures how many wins a player is worth to his team compared to a freely available player off the scrap-heap. In other words, a freely available, minimum-salary player would have been more valuable in 2013 than Upton.
With each win in WAR valued at $5.0 million*, Upton's -0.6 WAR translates to a value of -$3.0 million, suggesting the Braves overpaid their center fielder by about $18.5 million.
There are still four years left on the contract and there is time for Upton to prove his worth. But at this point he has a lot of catching up to do.
* The value of a Win changes through time and is approximately how much a team would have to spend in free agency to sign a comparable player. That value is currently $5 million per Win. In other words, if a team wants to sign players worth a combined total of 5 wins, the team would have to spend $25 million on average. Via Fangraphs.com.
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