At the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066, Anglo-Saxon King Harold II of England was vanquished by Duke William II and his army of Norman conquerers. Legend has it that after the battle, King Harold’s mother, Gytha, offered the victorious Duke William an amount of gold equal to the weight of her deceased son, in return for his remains. To the grieving Gytha, if no one else, her son’s body was literally worth its weight in gold.
Gold trades at roughly $1300 an ounce today, $3.7M for 180 lbs — the officially listed weight for Yordano Ventura — which means that Ventura is worth far more than his weight in gold (as are many other baseball players).
According to Business Insider, gold is the fifteenth most valuable substance in the world. Antimatter is the most expensive, at $6.25 trillion per gram – and that’s for off-brand. Ventura, for all his skill and promise, doesn’t even come close. But how much is he worth?
Lewie Pollis at Beyond the Boxscore calculates the cost of a free-agent win at a tad over $7M. Cy Young is the all-time leader among pitchers for WAR at 170. If Cy were pitching today, he’d be delivering a career value of over a billion dollars. But Cy Young wouldn’t be Cy Young in today’s big leagues – pitching complete games on both ends of a double header, or routinely starting on two days rest (he threw over 400 innings in a season five different times).
The most valuable pitcher from the modern era is Roger Clemens, who delivered a career WAR of 139. He also had career earnings of $150M (lawyers have syphoned off a heaping portion of that – over-sized egos can be costly). Randy Johnson presently has the highest career earnings for pitchers at just over $175M (104 career WAR). CC Sabathia will soon surpass Johnson in salary (as will others currently playing under lucrative contracts), but not in value (54.5 WAR so far).
It’s impossible to know how Yordano Ventura’s first full season will play out, much less his career. He’s only appeared in a total of seven big leagues games. His considerable value (whatever it is – I’m sure Lewie Pollis could put a figure on it, but I can’t) at this point rests almost entirely on potential. But we do know that the Royals signed a ridiculously talented player for $28K. He’s being paid $500K this season, and has already out-performed the cost of this year’s salary by generating .8 WAR – and it’s still April. He has a fastball that occasionally clocks in at 102 MPH. At 22 years old, he displays great presence and maturity on the mound, smooth mechanics which should help to mitigate injury risk, and routinely makes talented big league hitters seem over-matched. They’re batting .204 against him so far in 2014.
The Royals have hit the jackpot, as they must in order to achieve success as a small market team. Yordano’s own jackpot will come in a few years, beginning in his first season of arbitration eligibility, and skyrocketing from there. Eventually, his salary will exceed the Royals budget limitations, and he will offer still more tremendous value to the franchise in the form of a trade.
When he first signed on, Dayton Moore promised to upgrade the Royals Latin American footprint (among other things). With the emergence of Salvador Perez and Yordano Ventura — two young players at crucial positions who have the capacity to reach elite status — he appears well on his way to delivering on that promise, at least.