After our pre-preview of the Giants third-base situation, a spirited debate ensued in the comments box about Edgardo Alfonzo's value. In a perfect world, how much would the Giants pay him? More realistically, how much of his salary would the Giants have to eat in order to trade him? Some said he was really worth $2 to $3 million, some said even less.

Let's see if we can come up with a solid answer.

Of 23 ML 3rd basemen who qualified for the batting title in 2004, Fonzie ranked:

- 15th in OBP
- 20th in SLG
- 15th in OPS

Offensively, it's fair to say that in 2004 he was in the bottom third of starting third basemen. I haven't adjusted for park factor, but Pac Bell was actually a decent hitter's park in 2004. I don't think we can attribute Fonzie's poor showing to his home schedule.

In terms of salary, however, Fonzie's $6.5 million tied for fourth place with Mike Lowell. With the exceptions of Joe Randa ($3.25 M) and Tony Batista ($1.5 M), the eight 3Bs with worse OPS's than Fonzie all made under $1 million in 2004.

This isn't boding well for El Fonzogardo, but I'd like to switch to a different measuring stick: VORP, or value over replacement player. (Or, as Baseball Prospectus defines it: "The number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances.")

The top third-base VORP in 2004 was Adrian Beltre with 89.1. (Rounding out the top five: Scott Rolen, 73.7; Melvin Mora, 73.6; A-Rod, 62.3, and Aramis Ramirez, 59.6.)

The average 2004 VORP among the 23 qualifying starters at third base: 34.

Fonzie's 2004 VORP: 17.9.

The average 2004 salary among the 23 starters: $4.06 M.

Fonzie's 2004 salary: $6.5 M.

This is probably a crude way to measure value, but if you take the total VORP points of these 23 starters and divide by the total millions they earned in 2004, you get an average of dollars per point of VORP.

Thus: Major league owners paid these third sackers $119,000 per value point. That means if Fonzie were paid according to his VORP, he should have earned $2.13 million in 2004. Instead, he made $6.5 million, or $363,000 per value point. That's quite a premium, as we shall see.

Who were the best VORP buys at third base in 2004?

The best ratios come from young superstars who haven't been around enough to crack $1 million in salary. Hank Blalock of Texas, for example, made $550K and scored 40.2 VORP points, or $14,000 per VORP point. Quality on the cheap! (But not for long.)

Even cheaper this year, however, were older guys who took a while to break in. The bang-for-your-VORP-buck winner is Casey Blake of Cleveland, who earned the league minimum and scored 36.5 VORP points with a 28-homer, 36-double year. That's $9,500 per VORP point. And the guy's 31 years old. Dumpster diving at its finest!

The best bargain among the proven veterans was Melvin Mora, a six-year veteran who had his finest season at the age of 32. He earned $2.33 million and led the American League in third-base VORP with 73.6 points, or about $30,000 per value point. Adrian Beltre clocked in around $50,000 per point; the Dodgers probably got the best value from him that he'll ever provide.

Was Fonzie's $363,000 per point the worst value? The other obvious candidate for bloated, inefficient salary is A-Rod, whose $21.7 million salary meant he earned $348,000 per value point. But the worst must be Toronto's Eric Hinske, who actually scored negative VORP in 2004 while earning $900,000. That means he performed worse than your average warm body brought up from AAA but was paid three times as much.

So let's get back to the main question: How much of Fonzie's salary might the Giants have to eat to trade him?

Unfortunately, his salary goes up next year to $7.5 million, and in 2006 to $8 million. He was worth about a third of what he was paid in 2004 (and 2003, just by eyeballing the numbers), let's assume any trade talk will start with the Giants swallowing $10 million over the next two years.


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