2009 MLB Trade Value: #25-#21

Continuing on with the trade value series.

#25: David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay: 0.2 WAR

The adjustment from bullpen playoff hero to front of the rotation starter has been rougher than planned, as Price’s command has been miserable this season, but he’s still showed ace-in-the-making stuff. Once he gets a little more confidence in his change-up, watch out. The major league contract he signed as the top pick in the draft makes him more expensive than most pitchers with his service time level, but he’s still a remarkably big bargain, and he won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2015.

#24: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington: 0.0 WAR

I debated leaving him off the list since he hasn’t signed yet, but in reality, his situation isn’t that much different than an arbitration eligible player. He only has one team he can sign with, but enough value to command a pretty hefty contract. I’m anticipating that he’ll sign a major league deal worth around $25 million over six years, and even with his unproven nature, that kind of price tag for an arm like Strasburg’s is something every team in the league would covet.

#23: Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit: 4.3 WAR

Verlander has made The Leap this year and is now one of the game’s most dominating power arms. He’s going to pass his strikeout total from last season before the end of July, as he’s dialed his fastball back up to 95 and is just throwing it past people. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they didn’t get him locked up long term before the breakout, so now they’re going to have pay through the nose for his final two arbitration years.

#22: Curtis Granderson, CF, Detroit: 2.2 WAR

Chronically underrated, Granderson is a true star, offering power, speed, patience, and premium defensive value in one package. He’s one of the best all around players in the game, in his prime, and under contract for $24 million through 2012 with a club option for 2013 that will probably be picked up. If he hit for a higher batting average, he’d get more notice, but he doesn’t need to in order to be a star. He’s already one.

#21: B.J. Upton, CF, Tampa Bay: 1.8 WAR

Pretty soon, we might just have to label Upton a tease. He has all the skills, and after a dominating October, he looked poised for a huge year. Instead, he’s regressed a bit, and at 25-years-old, we’re still waiting for him to put it all together. Even with the .239 batting average, he does enough other things (especially on defense) to be valuable, but he could be so much more than the +4 win player that he is now. With arbitration coming this winter, and the Rays depth of outfield talent, it will be interesting to see how patient Tampa is with him.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

68 Responses to “2009 MLB Trade Value: #25-#21”

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  1. Michael says:

    Oh, the Starsburg pick is quite a controversial one, I’d say.

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  2. Davidceisen says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Nats can’t actually trade Starsburg for awhile, right?

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  3. Teej says:

    After the Adam Jones trade and before the Franklin Gutierrez trade, I dreamed of somehow being able to get Curtis Granderson into a Mariners jersey. On top of being an awesome player, he just seems like an awesome guy.

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    • Richie Abernathy says:

      I’d take Adam Jones over BJ Upton. Maybe it’s just me, but I think in five years we’ll look back and realize 2007 was the blip on an otherwise ordinary offensive career.

      And, yes, Curtis Granderson is a hell of a guy apparently.

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      • scott says:

        I don’t know why people think that BJ’s ’07 is the outlier and not the possible norm. At this point, I guess it is, but remember the injuries he’s dealt with and the incredible flashes of brilliance he’s shown. Perhaps he’s as streaky a player as Pat Burrell, where he hits .200 with 3 HRs over 150 ABs and .360 with 12 over his next 150. He has increased his steals at a pretty great clip every year and has played top three CF defense since he’s been put there. This isn’t Delmon Young we’re talking about with all the scout hype that no longer exists; Upton still gets rave reviews and his “struggles” are as puzzling as any, but I still think he merits this ranking.

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      • Ryan says:

        That’s a strange stance considering BJ has had 2 4+ win seasons already and has been better this year than Jones. Jones is one year younger, but BJ’s 2007 was far superior to Jones’ 2008 and Jones’ 09 looks like it probably won’t eclipse Upton’s 2008.

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  4. Alex says:

    I don’t even know what to say about the Strasburg ranking. Yeah, he has a huge fastball, but we really don’t know much about how effective his secondary pitches are going to be at this point and he’s completely unproven against professional hitters. I’m not quite sure how you can justify ranking him this much higher than Hanson for example. Hanson’s fastball obviously isn’t as good (though his 92.8 mph average velocity is still very good), but he has 2 plus breaking pitches and a change up that’s at least average and has flashed plus potential. On top of that, we already saw him post a 12.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and a 2.42 FIP at the AAA level. I just don’t see Strasburg’s fastball being that much better that he should rate 16 spots ahead of Hanson.

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    • JH says:

      If Strasburg was a fastball-only pitcher, he wouldn’t have been the top draft prospect of the modern era. His secondary pitches are very, very advanced.

      Major league skills are major league skills, and Strasburg has the stuff and pitchability to be an ace.

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      • Alex says:

        I never said he was a fastball only pitcher, I just said that we don’t know much about how effective his secondary pitches will be. I have seen varying reviews on his slider, and have seen it graded as low as average to above average. That was also with a college baseball, which has more raised seems than the one MLB uses, and many guys loose quite a bit on their breaking pitches (especially sliders) making the transition.

        You also can’t just ignore how much his fastball allows his other pitches to play up at the college level. We have seen the same thing in the minors where a guy with a huge fastball has no problem dominating the lower levels, but once he starts facing legitimate hitters that one great pitch isn’t enough. We also lose perspective on the difference between college and pro baseball at times. I remember in one of his games, Strasburg got ~40 swings and misses on balls outside the strike zone. That’s not going to happen against advanced hitters in the upper minors and majors.

        Is it really too much to ask that Strasburg prove himself to some extent against professional hitters before we start ranking him as the top pitcher with less than one year of service time in all of baseball? Especially considering he didn’t even perform in a power conference at the college level?

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      • JH says:

        You can think whatever you want about Strasburg, but this post is about trade value. GMs trust their scouts, and those scouts are universally saying that he’s the best talent to come out of the amateur ranks in more than a decade, whatever anonymous contrarian opinions about his secondary stuff you may have read somewhere. College stats alone don’t get you to the level of hype Strasburg’s enjoyed.

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      • Alex says:

        Was Strasburg really universally considered the best talent coming out of the amateur ranks in over a decade? Prior came out in the past decade and he seemed to have every bit as much hype as Strasburg, while having the added advantage at least proving himself in the PAC-10. I know a lot of scouts were willing to rank Strasburg ahead of Prior, but I never got the impression that a universal feeling and to a certain degree I think scouts are knocking Prior in hindsight because he ended up being a huge failure.

        Why do you keep acting like I’m saying that Strasburg only got the hype he did because of his college stats? I think its a combination of the great stats and the fastball that grades out somewhere between a 70 and an 80. Its not like guys don’t get overrated by scouts because of big time fastballs fairly regularly. Just to be clear, I’m also not saying that Strasburg isn’t a great prospect or anything along those lines, I’m just saying I’d like to see the guy face some professional hitters before he’s crowned the most valuable pitcher with less than 1 year of service time in all of baseball. I imagine most teams would like to see the same thing before they send more established guys with only slightly lesser upside in return for Strasburg.

        This is of course leaving aside the fact that Strasburg can’t even be traded for more than a year as anything other than a PTBNL and no team is going to give up a lot for a pitcher that another team is going to control for another year. Just would have made a lot more sense in my mind to hold off on ranking Strasburg until he’s actually eligible to be traded and we’ve seen him against pro hitters. Maybe that’s just me though

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      • JH says:

        It’s fair to say hold off, but it’s also fair to say that if Strasburg were eligible to be traded, he’d be insanely valuable on the trade market. Like I said, scouting reports play a huge role in GM’s valuation of players in trade discussions, and Strasburg’s reports are off the charts.

        You’re right that it’s impossible to tell whether or not scouts are knocking Prior down because he was ruined by injuries, but I haven’t read a single scout who didn’t say that Strasburg was the superior college prospect during draft season, with better pure stuff and pitchability.

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  5. Brad says:

    Agreed with Alex completely. Additionally, I don’t see how Price is rated so far above Hanson either. Price is older, more expensive, and so far in his professional career he has been significantly less dominant (looking at his numbers in the majors and minors). I could justify ranking Strasburg and Price above Hanson is they were cheaper or significantly younger, but that is not the case, so the ranking is very inconsistant.

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    • Davidceisen says:

      Evaluating young pitchers purely on performance is not a good idea, especially minor league stats. Most scouts see Price as having a higher upside than Hansen. Price being a lefty also adds some value.

      Anyway Price has not been significantly less dominant than Hansen:
      In 58 MLB inning Price has 4.75 FIP. In 41 MLB innings Hansen has a 5.04 FIP.

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      • Brad says:

        Hanson is younger and cheaper, and was better at comparable levels than Price was in the minors despite being younger. I agree that most scouts thought Price was a better prospect a year ago, but from what I have gathered over the last month or so, that perception has changed, and Hanson is now considered a better talent.

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      • Alex says:

        I would say that almost all scouts saw Price having higher upside when both guys were essentially two pitch pitchers (FB/SL for Price and FB/CB for Hanson). Since then Hanson added a few ticks to his fastball and a plus slider, while Price never really got the feel for his curveball. Neither one has anything more than an average change at this point, so we’ll just leave that issue aside. Anyway, the fact that Hanson now has 2 plus breaking pitches and a similar fastball to Price gives Hanson the edge in my book, at least until Price shows some development on one of his other pitches.

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    • Jeff says:

      Where is Porcello in this conversation????? He is younger than all 3 of the above mentioned pitchers, and has just as much time under team control as Price and Hanson!!!!

      And since all the way up to 6 is posted, and since we are told the top 5 are all hitters, HOW DOES PORCELLO NOT EVEN MAKE THE LIST???

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  6. Joe S. says:

    I agree that Price should not be ranked so far above Hanson. I am not a Braves fan but I have been really impressed with Hanson so far. As far as Strasburg goes, I beleive the MLB rule is that you cannot trade a prospect until they have been signed for 1 year, i am sure on that, i bet someone else could correct me if i am wrong. So that would mean that Strasburg could’nt really have any market value until next year.

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  7. Joe S. says:

    i meant that i was NOT sure about the 1 year thing, and I can’t remember if I heard it was 1 year after being drafted or 1 year after being signed

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  8. Bill says:

    Potential counts in trade value though, and Price/Strasburg have about as high a ceiling as you can get.

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  9. matthew says:

    i would take Kershaw over Price anyday

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  10. Judy says:

    Can you have trade value if no one can trade you, though? Is Chapman making the list, too?

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  11. rw23 says:

    Wow, a lot of young pitchers have come off the board in the last 15 or so spots. As a Brewers fan, I wonder if Dave has Yovani somewhere on the list…

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  12. pm says:

    Who are the scouts who are saying that Strasburg’s slider is average? I can’t remember one saying that. I’ve heard a few people who believe that his slider is actually better than his fastball (I agree with that assessment).

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    • Alex says:

      Well I’ve seen a ton of conflicting reports on his slider so its tough to get a handle on it. I’ve seen an ESPN piece that says its his best pitch and is as fast as most pitchers fastball, but I’ve seen another scout say it isn’t even a slider because he doesn’t throw it hard enough compared to his fastball, labeling it a power curve instead. I’m not about to dig through the internet trying to find specific quotes on his slider, but the impression I’ve gotten is that its very inconsistent, ranging from a slurvy pitch without hard bite to a nearly unhittable hard breaking slider. I have questions about how the transition away from the college baseball will affect the pitch, especially since he’s not that consistent throwing it with the college ball with higher seems.

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      • pm says:

        The pitch is definitely not as fast as other players fastballs unless you are talking about Jamie Moyer. His Slider is 78-82 and looks more like a slurve. If you read one of those pieces where they have his slider at around 90 then you should know they are lying because they have never watched him pitch.

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      • Alex says:

        I agree, that just goes to my point that the hyperbole got so big with Strasburg that its tough to separate fact from fiction. When you add in the fact that he wasn’t even using the same ball in college that he will be using in the majors, I’d like to actually see his breaking ball and how professional hitters react to it before I go crowning him the best pitcher in baseball with under a year of service time.

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  13. Sky says:

    Leaving Strasburg’s talent out of it, if he signs a $25M MLB contract, that’s WAY different from a $25M signing bonus. Assuming he’s good but not great during his cost-controlled years, he’d probably earn $20M ($4M, $6M, $8M) in arbitration anyways. If Boras gets him a $25M MLB contract, he’ll pimp the heck out of it, but it’s really only comparable to a $5M signing bonus with no contract, which, well, is a loss in my book.

    So what’s the word? $25M bonus or MLB contract?

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    • Alex says:

      I think the idea is that it would be a MLB contract with $25 million guaranteed, but with the ability for Strasburg to opt out once he hits arbitration if they feel he will earn more through the arbitration process. Boras isn’t the sort of agent that would tie his hands by giving up the right to go to arbitration.

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      • Sky says:

        Well, it can’t all be guaranteed, or else there’s no reason for Strasburg not to opt out. What matters is how much those arb year default salaries would be if he doesn’t opt out. I’m guessing the bulk of the money is in those years (1/2/3/5/6/8?) and he’d only be gaining minimal amounts by opting out, although if not (8/8/8/0/0/0?) then he could earn up to $50M total by “opting out” of near-value-less arb year default figures.

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      • Alex says:

        It can all be guaranteed, but if Strasburg opts out he doesn’t get the money guaranteed money for those seasons. The deal also isn’t likely to be structured like you have it. I would guess there will be a large signing bonus, probably somewhere around 10 million, fairly small salaries the first 3 years, let’s say 1 million, and then maybe 3, 4, and 5 million guaranteed in his 3 arb years with Strasburg having the choice to opt out and give up that salary and go through arbitration instead.

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  14. B says:

    I don’t like Verlander that high. His fastball issues last year scare me. He’s obviously worked past that, but I still see it as a big red flag for the future.

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  15. Joe S. says:

    this list is measuring value THIS year, as mentioned by someone else above, no matter how talented he is, if the Nats can’t trade him until a year after signing, he shouldnt be on this list.

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    • Teej says:

      Such a travesty. I’m done reading this series.

      Just because rules prevent a guy from being traded doesn’t mean he doesn’t have trade value.

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      • Teej says:

        I mean, I could see leaving him off the list for the reasons presented, but it’s also interesting to see just where people would place him. I don’t see the problem.

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      • Casey says:

        How exactly do you put a value on something that is impossible? Can’t we all wait until next year so it actually makes sense?

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      • JH says:

        He actually can be traded as soon as he’s signed. He would just need to be traded as a PTBNL.

        If the series isn’t interesting to you, don’t read it.

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  16. David A says:

    i wonder where Bryce Harper will be on the list…

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  17. Jon says:

    The big question for me – where’s Tim Wakefield going to be? My guess is not on the list, but it’s not a no-brainer.

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    • TomG says:

      Hunh? Why is it not?

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      • Jon says:

        I wouldn’t trade Verlander or Upton for him, of course, but just in terms of value/profit – he could pitch for 5 more years, being worth $10M a year, earning $4M/year. Profit of $30M.

        Verlander, say – he could be worth $45M over the next two years, and he’ll make say $20M. Profit of $25M.

        Play with the numbers if you like, but that’s in the ballpark IF you believe Wakefield can be effective for multiple years, which is certainly possible.

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    • TomG says:

      I don’t doubt that Wakefield could pitch effectively for another 3-4 seasons; after all he is a knuckleballer – they’re all some kind of high powered mutants never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die and all that jazz. But that contract and the options in perpetuity are voided upon trade I do believe. And he doesn’t really offer anything other than a remarkably consistent and resilient league-average arm. While that is valuable on a sheer economic scale, there’s no tangible appreciation in value of that asset.

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      • Jon says:

        Ok, if the contract is voided, then the point is moot.

        But if not, he certainly has a good amount of trade value, no? I mean, Garland’s making $8M a year or so, no?

        Wakefield is about as guaranteed a $5M profit as there is among older (post free agency) players.

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    • CH says:

      You’re kidding, right?

      Please tell me you’re kidding.

      You wouldn’t trade Wakefield for Upton? It doesn’t even matter which Upton you’re talking about, you make that trade in a heartbeat.

      I thought the people bitching over Sandoval were over-doing it. Saying that Tim Wakefield is one of the top 50 most valuable trade chips in baseball is flat out stupid. I mean that in the most insulting way possible.

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      • Jon says:

        Would it be insulting to question your reading comprehension?

        “I wouldn’t trade Verlander or Upton for him, of course…”

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  18. Judy says:

    If Strasburg can’t be traded for a whole year, then I believe he can’t be traded as a PTBNL yet, either. There’s a time limit on that, too, I forget how long.

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  19. q says:

    Just because a player can’t be traded for a year doesn’t mean he has no trade value. That’s like saying a stock option that can’t be exercised for a year has no value.

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    • B says:

      That’s a very good analogy.

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    • Alex says:

      True, but its value is also affected to a large degree by the risk of the price changing over the next year. Its also not the best analogy because stock options can be traded at any time, while Strasburg can’t be traded over the next year.

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      • B says:

        “True, but its value is also affected to a large degree by the risk of the price changing over the next year.”

        And a similar risk exists with Strasburg.

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      • Alex says:

        Right, but Dave doesn’t seem to be holding that risk against him in anyway, as he ranks well ahead of guys who at worst have slightly lower upside, have proven more, have the same amount of team control left, and can actually be traded now as opposed to a year at best.

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  20. Nateg26 says:

    Two names on this list seem totally blown out of proportion IMO. The first one is Strasburg (oh my god someone on here thinks he shouldn’t be!). I love what the scouts are saying about him and who wouldn’t love the high ceiling, but he’s never faced professional hitters. Yes, that matters. dozens of high ceiling pitchers collapse against elevated competition after being hyped draftees. I don’t know how many MLB GM’s would consider him more valuable than all but 20 or so Major league proven/ready players. I’d guess none – that ranking is WAY off. Price is the other that I disagree with. He’s basically a 1 pitch guy. If he ever shows anything resembling a decent slider then he’d be a very good closer candidate, but those are the only 2 pitches he’s ever shown any real major league quality with. Even those two pitches have been pretty bad this year. I don’t know how you rate him above a guy like buccholz who at least HAS more than 2 pitches, and his change-up may end up being the best in the game. I think they both might have a spot on this list, but not in the 20′s – not even close.

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  21. Betsy says:

    Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good informoaitn.

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