Photo: AP Images
In 1920, Babe Ruth was a 25-year old outfielder coming off a season in which he hit .376 with 54 home runs, a .533 OBP and an astronomical .600 wOBA (similar to OPS but on same scale as OBP). He had also just completed his sixth full-season in the big leagues. So under today’s rules, Ruth would have been eligible for free agency.
With players like Jayson Werth getting $126 million and Carl Crawford possibly getting $150 million, let’s see if we can figure out what Ruth would have been worth in today’s free agency market.
While it is always fun to talk about Ruth’s value in terms of being a slugger and a great pitcher, we are going to ignore his pitching stats. In 1920, Ruth made only one start and his career as a pitcher was essentially over. Maybe, in 2010, Ruth would have recognised the Bo- and Deion-esque potential of being a hitter and a pitcher, but let’s just assume he would be content hitting lots of home runs.
Here are Ruth’s offensive numbers for the first six-plus seasons of his career…
As we can see, we really only have two full seasons as a hitter to go on. But those two seasons were pretty darn special.
Now we need a reference point. In Ruth’s case, there is really just one potential comparison, Alex Rodriguez. Here are A-Rod’s numbers for the first six-plus seasons of his career…
That led to Rodriguez receiving a 10-year, $252 million contract from the Rangers. If we assume a modest three per cent growth per year for baseball, that deal would be worth about $325 million in today’s dollars. $32.5 million per season sounds about right if A-Rod were 24 this year.
But would that be enough for a 25-year old Ruth? While Ruth’s offensive production was limited to just two complete seasons, he was clearly a better hitter than A-Rod.
From Ruth’s point-of-view, he would probably feel he was worth $40 million per year. And if we assume the Yankees would be involved in the bidding, it is not that much of a stretch to think they would be willing to commit 20 per cent of their payroll to a player with Ruth’s talents.
$400 million for arguably the greatest player that ever lived. Even without the pitching, that still seems like a steal.
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