Big contracts get significant attention in sports, but it's the biggest bargains that help organizations build champions. These are the biggest bargains for each team entering the 2021 MLB season. Contract data via Spotrac.com.
Gallen has pitched like an ace since the Diamondbacks acquired him in 2019 from Miami, posting a 2.80 ERA in 20 starts. Only entering the third year of his MLB career, the right-hander has yet to enter arbitration and draws only $575,000 per season.
Albies signed a seven-year, $35 million contract in 2019, a deal that was heavily criticized for how team-friendly it was for the braves. The second baseman will make only $3 million this season, yet he's seen as one of the best players at his position through four seasons. Albies has a career .803 OPS, two 24 home run seasons, and is excellent defensively.
Mountcastle is one of Baltimore's building blocks, entering his second MLB season. He's set to make the league minimum in his second season after hitting .333-5-23 in 140 plate appearances last year, and won't be arbitration-eligible until 2024.
Verdugo is one of the game's budding stars in the outfield, hitting .290-20-64 in 709 career plate appearances over four seasons. He's also proven to be elite defensively, yet Verdugo still makes the league minimum and isn't arbitration-eligible until after 2021.
A former first-round pick, Happ had a breakout season in 2020 hitting .258-12-28 with an .866 OPS. His career .825 OPS over four seasons shows a very capable bat, and he's also found a home in the outfield. Happ is set to make only $4.1 million in 2021.
Jimenez is one of the brightest young power hitters in baseball, with 45 home runs in 730 plate appearances over two MLB seasons. The White Sox have him under team control through 2024, and he's set to make just under $4.4 million in 2021.
Castillo has tantalizing stuff that has made him an ace in Cincinnati. He won 15 games with a 3.40 ERA over 32 starts in 2019 and built on that with a 3.21 ERA in 12 starts last season. Castillo is set to make only $4.2 million in 2021.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Bieber is also entering just his fourth MLB season. That means he still makes less than $600,000 prior to arbitration. That's an incredible bargain for a pitcher who went 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 12 starts last season.
Cron has 118 career home runs in seven seasons, including a 30 home run campaign in 2018. Unfortunately, he missed most of last season in Detroit due to injury and had to settle for a minor-league deal late in the offseason. The assumption is that Cron accepted far less money to play in the hitter's mecca known as Coors Field and help rehab his value.
Castro is one of Detroit's top young players, hitting .349-6-24 in 140 plate appearances in his second season in 2020. He's set to be the Tigers starting shortstop this year but will make the league minimum under $600,000.
Houston has a high-priced core, but has continued to develop strong talent in their farm system. One of those talents is Tucker, who is coming off a breakout season in which he hit .268-9-42 with eight stolen bases and 27 extra-base hits in 58 games. With only three MLB seasons and 108 total games under his belt, he draws the league minimum.
KC's rebuild is starting to deliver with talented pitchers like Singer. The 2018 first-round pick had a solid rookie campaign with a 4.06 ERA in 12 starts, putting him eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Singer makes the league minimum and isn't arbitration-eligible until 2023.
There can be no better value than a legitimate two-way player, and Ohtani is capable of being great as both a DH and starting pitcher. While arm injuries have hindered his pitching in three seasons, Ohtani has hit 47 home runs over 967 plate appearances. He's set to make only $3 million in 2021.
The Dodgers are rightfully known for their high-price star players, but it's their brilliant player development that makes all the difference. Smith has quickly become one of MLB's best catchers, hitting .268-23-67 in 333 plate appearances over two seasons. He continues to draw the league minimum in his third season.
The Marlins have developed outstanding pitching talent in recent seasons, led by Alcantara. Acquired in the Marcell Ozuna trade from the Cardinals, Alcantara has a 3.71 ERA through four seasons and had a 3.00 ERA in seven starts last year. Miami's ace is still making only the league minimum pre-arbitration this year.
Burnes became an ace almost overnight for Milwaukee in 2020, with a 2.11 ERA in 59.2 innings and a whopping 88 strikeouts. There's reason to believe he will continue to be effective with elite velocity and spin rate on his fastball. Burnes collects the league minimum from the Brewers.
Maeda signed an incredibly reasonably eight-year, $25 million contract with the Dodgers when he arrived from Japan in 2016. Since then he's been consistent and highly effective with a 3.76 ERA in 655.2 innings, including a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts with the Twins last year. He's set to make only $3.125 million in each of the next three seasons.
The Mets spent big money this offseason with new owner Steve Cohen opening his wallet, but they still have several young stars making the minimum. Alonso is one of the best of that bunch, winning NL Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 53 home runs and adding 16 home runs in an abbreviated 2020 season.
The Yankees are an organization known for spending big money, but in recent seasons they've also been elite at developing prospects. Torres, acquired in 2016 from the Cubs for Aroldis Chapman, has developed into the star shortstop many envisioned. He was in All-Star in his first two seasons and hit 38 home runs in 2019 before some struggles last season, though he's set to make only $4 million this season.
The A's survive with a small payroll between a small market and a stadium that has seen better days. Much of their roster is usually making the league minimum, and that includes their center fielder. Laureano hit .288-24-67 with an .860 OPS in 2019 before running into some struggles last year, but he remains one of the most talented center fielders in baseball.
The Phils had made headlines handing out big contracts for the likes of Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, and J.T. Realmuto, but they also have several excellent players making the league minimum. Bohm was the third overall pick in 2018 out of Wichita State and matched the hype upon arrival, hitting .338-4-23 in 180 plate appearances. Philadelphia has reason to be optimistic about his future.
The Pirates have undergone a painful teardown over the last two years. The good news is that they have some talented young players getting an opportunity, including Hayes. The third baseman hit .376-5-11 in only 95 plate appearances during his rookie debut, and he's also outstanding defensively. Hayes is making the league minimum and isn't arbitration-eligible until 2024.
The Padres have made headlines for their spending and personnel moves, including big free-agent contracts for Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado, as well as a massive contract extension for Fernando Tatis Jr. Young players like Paddack, making the minimum, enable to team to give out those big contracts. Paddack struggled in his second season but still has a 3.74 ERA in 38 starts over two seasons.
The grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, Mike is a late bloomer who has recently become a star for the Giants. He's hit .281-31-90 in 161 games thus far in his career and still draws the league minimum.
Lewis is the reigning AL Rookie of the Year after hitting .262-11-28 with five stolen bases in 58 games last season, showing why he was a first-round pick in 2016. The outfielder is making the minimum as a pre-arbitration player.
Edman looked like a utilityman in the Cardinals farm system, but he's likely to settle in as the team's starting second baseman in 2021. He's hit .283-16-62 with 17 steals in 147 games through his first two seasons while playing multiple positions effectively. The Stanford alum makes the minimum and isn't arbitration-eligible until 2023.
Arozarena was mistaken for Babe Ruth during his playoff run last year, hitting 10 home runs in 20 games. That was after he hit .281-7-11 with four steals in only 23 games during the regular season. It looks like the Rays have a budding star on their hands, but Arozarena only makes the league minimum for now.
Solak is an offensively gifted player who is just finding a defensive home in the majors. He's likely to start at second base in 2021 and has hit .277-7-40 with nine steals in 368 plate appearances in his first two MLB seasons. Solak will make the league minimum in 2021.
The Jays have an enviable set of young position talent, with Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio, each sons of outstanding major league hitters. Bichette has been the best performer in his early MLB career, hitting .307-16-44 over 340 plate appearances in two seasons. He continues to draw the league minimum salary.
As one of the truly elite hitters in the game at only 22, whatever salary Soto makes probably would be a bargain. He's set to make $8.5 million in 2021 after leading the league in batting average, on-base, and slugging last year. He hit .282-34-110 with a .949 OPS in his only full MLB season.
Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.