Franken-Roster: Creating a Playoff Team from the Bargain Bin

With the vast majority of MLB free agents having found new homes, there is the temptation to dream about what life would be like if your team had somehow acquired all of the best free agents, costs be damned. Typically, teams don't have that kind of money to spend though it seems like the Dodgers tried their hardest to do just that. However, what would a team like the Houston Astros look like if they were willing to spend in free agency in 2012 but only had a budget of $40M? Could they field a team that could reasonably compete for the playoffs with nothing but bargain bin free agents? Tampa Bay seems to be quite successful in turning cheap free agents into one-year Superstars, so it might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

For the sake of this post, the new team will play in the AL and have exactly 0 players under contract for 2013 and nobody in the minors that would be above replacement-level. You can use nameless minor league depth (replacement-level players) in your lineup that cost the league minimum ($500k for simplicity). Players that are still unsigned can be signed for $5M X their average WAR from the last two years though the league minimum still applies (subtract .5 WAR per year if they're over 33) or the average of those two seasons' salary (whichever feels fairer - this is not rocket appliances). Players that have signed as minor league free agents but have accrued more than 6 years MLB service time have a salary of $1M, while those with less than 6 years get the league minimum. Don't worry about performance bonuses. If they produce, the revenue from the gate will be put back in the team and will cover those costs. How would you spend your $50M?


It's often hard for teams to acquire one quality pitcher through free agency to complement an already decent core of starters. Finding 5 of them seems an even more daunting task.

2012 numbers courtesy of FanGraphs; 2013 projections by Bill James also courtesy of FanGraphs.

  • RHP Javier Vazquez - $4.5M (1.9 rWAR - 1.0 (aging penalty) X $5M)
    • 2011: 3.69/3.57/3.87 - ERA/FIP/xFIP - 3.2 fWAR
    • 2013: N/A
  • RHP Shaun Marcum - $4M
    • 2012: 3.7/4.1/4.21 - 1.4 fWAR
    • 2013 (Bill James): 3.63/4.01 ERA/FIP
  • RHP Bartolo Colon - $3M
    • 2012: 3.43/3.82/4.17 - 2.4 fWAR
  • RHP Rich Harden - $1M
    • 2012: 5.12/4.69/3.68 - 0.5 fWAR (82.2IP)
  • RHP Carlos Zambrano - $1M
    • 2012: 4.49/4.47/4.84 - 0.8 fWAR
    • 2013: 4.00/4.47

Total: $13.5M

This is a rather rag-tag collection of starting pitchers, but they're cheap and effective when healthy. Couldn't find a left-hander, but perhaps I'll use the gate revenue generated by mid-season to add one via trade.


  • RHP Brian Wilson - $2M
    • 2011: 3.11/3.33/3.91 - 0.5 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.48/3.12
  • RHP Jason Frasor - $1.5M
    • 2012: 4.12/4.10/3.76 - 0.2 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.82/3.67
  • RHP Matt Capps - $1M
    • 2012: 3.68/4.49/4.18 - 0 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.46/3.74
  • RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo - $1M
    • 2011: 4.06/3.96/4.16 - 0.2 fWAR
  • LHP Hisanori Takahashi - $0.5M
    • 2012: 5.54/3.93/3.79 - 0.2 fWAR
    • 2013: 3.38/3.8
  • RHP Takashi Saito - $0.5M
    • 2012: 6.75/7.09/4.96
    • Career: 2.34/2.81/3.26
  • LHP - Minor League Guy (not Jean Segura) - $0.5M

Total: $7M

It's going to be tough to fill the position players with all this money dedicated to my pitching, but I'm modelling myself after the 2012 Rays/A's that competed on a shoestring because of their quality pitching.

Starting Position Players:

  • C Kelly Shoppach - $1.5M
    • 2012: .233/.309/.425 .316 wOBA 96 wRC+ 1.2 fWAR
  • 1B Lyle Overbay - $1M
    • 2012: .259/.331/.397 .314 wOBA 91 wRC+ 0.1 fWAR
      • 2012 vs. RHP: .323 wOBA 97 wRC+
      • Career vs. RHP: .356 wOBA 116 wRC+
  • 2B Jeff Keppinger - $4M
    • 2012: .325/.367/.439 .352 wOBA 128 wRC+ 2.8 fWAR
  • 3B Placido Polanco - $2.75M
    • 2012: .257/.302/.327 .279 wOBA 71 wRC+ 4.1 FLD 0.6 fWAR
    • 2013: .279/.331/.368 .303 wOBA
  • SS Hiroyuki Nakajima - $3.25M
    • NPB: .302/.367/.475 - .834 OPS
  • LF Melky Cabrera - $8M
    • 2012: .346/.390/.516 .387 wOBA 149 wRC+ 4.6 fWAR in 501 PAs
    • 2013: .295/.348/.432 .338 wOBA (though I think that's a little light)
  • CF Andres Torres - $2M
    • 2010: 6.9 fWAR .358 wOBA 125 wRC+
    • 2012: .230/.327/.337 .297 wOBA 87 wRC+ 1.7 fWAR
    • 2013: .240/.328/.370 .307 wOBA
  • RF Reed Johnson - $1.75M
    • 2012 vs. LHP: .311/.354/.444 .348 wOBA 117 wRC+
    • 2012 vs. RHP: .263/.315/.339 .289 wOBA 77 wRC+ (0.5 fWAR)
    • 2013: .272/.325/.382 .299 wOBA
  • DH Travis Hafner - $2M
    • 2012: .228/.346/.438 .342 wOBA 119 wRC+ 0.6 fWAR in 263 PAs
    • Career: .258/.363/.446 .347 wOBA 135 wRC+ 22.2 fWAR in 4483 PAs

Bench Players:

  • 1B/OF Juan Rivera - $1M
    • 2012: .244/.286/.375 .287 wOBA 81 wRC+ -0.8 fWAR
    • 2012 vs. LHP: .323 wOBA 106 wRC+
    • Career vs. LHP: .351 wOBA 115 wRC+
  • C Henry Blanco - $0.75M
    • Career: .227/.276/.331 .286 wOBA 65 wRC+
    • 2013: .218/.276/.331 .270 wOBA
  • INF Cesar Izturis - $0.5M (Cheated here, but I don't think he's worth $1M. Sub in minor league depth)
    • 2012: .241/.254/.343 .259 wOBA 58 wRC+ 0 fWAR
    • Career: .255/.294/.323 .273 wOBA 62 wRC+ 54.2 FLD
  • OF Bobby Abreu - $1M
    • 2012 vs. RHP: .312 wOBA 96 wRC+
    • Career vs. RHP: .385 wOBA 136 wRC+

Total: $29.5M

Grand Total: $50M

Who says you need to have superstars making the league minimum to compete in this modern world? I'd actually prefer to change a couple guys for their opposite handed equivalents but have spent far too much time on this as it is... Do you dare assemble a team of free agents that could rival me for $50M or less?

The 2013 free agent tracker at MLBTradeRumors is a great resource for finding your team - 2013 Free Agent Tracker.


The rules for this little contest will be derived from the comments section as Siggian suggested below. Make each rule suggestion individually so that they can be rec'd individually. Rosters should be finalized before the first game of the season which will give everyone a chance to adjust their rosters based on the signings yet to come.

You can have any player who was a free agent in the 2012-13 offseason but the entire roster must cost $50 million or less (per Cotts). The MLB Free Agent tracker includes players who had options that were exercised and were not actually free agents. If you place a player that had an option exercised on your team, you shall be charged with tampering and that player will be suspended and the roster spot sacrificed.

See the post above for additional costing rules. Below, I've outlined the rules with my suggestions in brackets.

Tentatively, you must fill all of the positions on the diamond and DH, 5 starting pitchers, 7 relievers (1 of which must be left-handed) and 4 bench spots (one of which must be a catcher). A player is eligible for a position if he plays 20 games/pitches 10 there. (I think the threshold should be a little higher and based on the percentage of innings played, say 33.33% of innings in the field. The DH spot can be filled by a player that plays any position. Picks are not exclusive so you can share common picks with the other teams but try not to Price is Right and add a single dollar. If one of your picks gets a season-ending injury, then you're out of luck. You cannot sign a replacement.

SP X 5

RP X 7 (>0 LHP)

C X 2

1B X 1

2B X 1

SS X 1

3B X 1

OF X 2

CF X 1

Bench X 3

I think LF/RF should be pretty interchangeable for the sake of this exercise as long as there are no protests. However, CF should be filled with a true CFer.


BBB Executive of the Year: goes to the GM of team that produces the most fWAR in the season.

Miss Congeniality: goes to the GM with the lineup that has the most negative fWAR players (produces the east fWAR?)

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.