Free Agents Shifting Leagues

Cliff Lee spent all of 2010 in the American League earning 7.1 WAR. Now in the National League, Lee swings a lot of value from the AL to the NL. If you thought an American League team was, on average, say five wins better than a National League team in 2010 then Cliff Lee could have lessened that gap to four wins all by his lonesome had he spent the year in the NL.

That thought got me thinking about the rest of the transactions this winter concerning players switching leagues. At this time the free agents who have moved (and their relevant 2010 WAR) are:

To the National League:
Lance Berkman 0.0
John Buck 2.9
Randy Choate 0.5
Matt Guerrier 0.2
Orlando Hudson 3.1
Gerald Laird -0.2
Cliff Lee 7.1
Dustin Moseley -0.4
Dioner Navarro -0.1
Lyle Overbay 1.5
Carlos Pena 1.0
J.J. Putz 1.5
Ryan Rowland-Smith -1.6
Javier Vazquez -0.2
Ty Wiggington 0.3
Kerry Wood 0.1

To the American League:
Adam Dunn 3.9
Pedro Feliciano 0.8
Russell Martin 2.1
Joel Peralta 0.7
Hisanori Takahashi 1.6
Yorvit Torrealba 2.4

All told the NL gained 15.7 2010 WAR and the AL 11.5 2010 WAR.

Note well that I specifically state 2010 WAR. Obviously, this is not a substitute for an actual projection of what the talent gap between the leagues will be in 2011. It ignores that these players will not perform identically, that players not switching leagues will develop and decline and that teams will import some players from elsewhere entirely. To work out how 2011 might look, we would need to utilize real projections. What this can show is how 2010 might have been different if played with these new rosters.

And that is in fact not much change. Despite an overwhelming majority of players shifting to the National League, many of them were not valuable in 2010. Even though the AL has poached just four players from the senior circuit, all four were solid players.

There is still time for that difference to widen. Most of the top remaining free agents – Adrian Beltre, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Soriano, etc – were AL players in 2010. Also, we just saw Zack Greinke change leagues. These alone will not close the gap between the two leagues, but it’s worth remembering that league strength is always fluctuating and that the National League looks like it is making inroads against the American League for next season.

We hoped you liked reading Free Agents Shifting Leagues by Matthew Carruth!

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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Adrian Gonzalez?


The article was specifically about free agents, it would have been worth a mention when talking about the Greinke trade however.


True story. Let’s include Greinke and Gonzalez as well, then, as an addendum since they are notable fluctuations, though as you noted, not free agents. =)