Oakland Athletics: Which Arbitration-Eligible Players Are Worth Keeping?

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Aug 8, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics infielder Eric Sogard (28) fields a ground ball before throwing to second to start a double play against the Houston Astros in the second inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Infielders

Eric Sogard

2015 Salary: $1.0 million

Projected 2016 Salary: $1.7 million

Our favorite Face of MLB is due a raise of $700k for a total of $1.7 million in 2015, and I say give it to him.

It is easy to imagine that Sogard is a great defensive middle infielder simply because he was playing next to Marcus Semien all season. But you aren’t just imagining it. In 2015, his .989 and .983 fielding percentages at second base and shortstop respectively were both significantly higher than the league averages of .984 and .972 at those positions. Additionally, his range factor of 5.06 and 4.46 at those positions were also significantly higher than the league averages of 4.58 and 4.21.

Make no mistake: Eric Sogard is an outstanding defensive infielder.

Sogard’s chief criticism has been his bat, though. There is a reason he typically sits near the bottom of the lineup. But maybe his position in the lineup is exactly the context in which his at-bats should be seen. 

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In 2015, players batting ninth in the American League collectively slashed .228/.282/.342. That’s right, when combining all of the league’s weakest hitters, they hit for just .228. Sogard slashed .247/.294/.304 in 2015, which makes him significantly more reliable than the average nine-hole in the American League. This isn’t to say Sogard has an above-average bat (he doesn’t), but he is fully capable of making meaningful offensive contributions in ways that many bottom-of-the-order hitters don’t.

Conclusion: Eric Sogard is worth at least $1.7 million.

Danny Valencia

2015 Salary: $1.6 million

Projected 2016 Salary: $3.4 million

The model is recommending that Valencia more than double his salary next season, bumping him up to $3.4 million from $1.6 million. There is good reason for this when looking at the numbers, too. He can play the corner infield positions as well as the outfield, and he has a solid bat. Through 47 games in Oakland, he became one of the more reliable sources of offensive production by slashing .284/.356/.530.

But his performance isn’t the reason he won’t be staying in Oakland.

Susan Slusser wrote that clubhouse chemistry is going to be the reason for a flurry of roster moves this summer, and there are numerous reports that Valencia has contributed to some kind of discord on every team he has ever played for.

If third-party reports aren’t good enough to convince you, then just consider the fact that he has been in the league since 2010. Despite 2012 being the only season he didn’t put up good numbers, he has still played for six teams in six years. Every team he plays for can’t wait to get rid of him.

Conclusion: Probably worth $3.4 million, but it doesn’t matter.

Next: Part Four: Outfielders

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