2009 MLB Trade Value: #30-#26

Continuing on with the trade value series.

#30: Josh Johnson, RHP, Florida: 3.4 WAR

This is what Ubaldo Jimenez would be with better command. The strikeouts and groundballs skillset is an ace package, and Johnson throws strikes too. His present value is extremely high, though health concerns and the fact that he’s a free agent after 2011 make this the highest he’ll ever rank. Still, a 25-year-old ace making $1.4 million this year? Teams would be killing themselves for a shot at the guy if Florida made him available.

#29: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles: 1.9 WAR

Kershaw’s stuff is so good that even with well below average command at age 21, he’s still a good major league pitcher. He’s certainly still a work in progress, but there’s enough present value, combined with his enormous potential, to place him here during his pre-arb years.

#28: Chad Billingsley, RHP, Los Angeles: 2.4 WAR

Here, we start to get into the list of guys who just aren’t going to get traded. The Dodgers aren’t giving up their ace – he’s 24, he’s a frontline starter who they have under club control through 2012, and even with his arbitration reward coming, he’ll be vastly underpaid the next few years. Like Kershaw, he could stand to throw a few more strikes, but that’s just nit-picking.

#27: James Shields, RHP, Tampa Bay: 2.8 WAR

He might not have dominating ace-like upside, but his present value is remarkable – a durable, strike throwing machine who misses bats with a devastating change-up. His contract is unbelievably team friendly, as he’s owed just $7 million combined the next two years, then three low cost team options kick in, reducing the risk while also keeping him in Tampa Bay long term.

#26: Jay Bruce, RF, Cincinnati: 1.0 WAR

Don’t overreact to the .202 BABIP that has sunk his performance this year – he’s a 22-year-old monster power bat with defensive value as an outfielder. There’s legitimately best-player-in-baseball upside here if Bruce reaches his full potential, and he’s already a solid player. The Reds have a cornerstone foundation piece, as long as they don’t break him while trying to improve his batting average.




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

57 Responses to “2009 MLB Trade Value: #30-#26”

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  1. Booya says:

    Jay Bruce on here at 26 but no PABLO SANDOVAL!!!!!

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    • Fresh Hops says:

      I’d take Bruce over Sandoval seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Sandoval is limited to 1B/DH by his body and it’s not hard to question whether he would be an average defensive 1B. However, his Vlad-style plate approach is very hard to project and there’s not doubt he lacks the athleticism of that comparable hitter. Bruce has legitimate Manny-upside.

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      • B says:

        Fresh Hops he was joking…

        Not disagreeing with your Bruce over Sandoval opinion, but I take it you haven’t watched Sandoval play a whole lot. He hasn’t been bad at 3B by any standards, was considered a C coming into the season, could definitely play 1B easily based on how well he’s picked up 3B so far, and just seems to be a natural/fast learner for all things baseball. He’s also a very good athlete. Obviously he’s a heavy-set guy and his body type isn’t ideal, but he’s not slow by any means despite being as large as he is because he’s a very good athlete.

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  2. matthew says:

    i would rather have kershaw then shields

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    • Derek says:

      Agreed. I see why Shields is so high on the list (contract) but you have to assume Kershaw is going to out peform Shields very shortly.

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      • ebc says:

        I think you’re underestimating the chance that it takes Kershaw years to find his control.

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      • matthew says:

        kershaws ERA is 3.16

        i think hes outperforming sheidls already

        and even though he walks every his BAA is in the .190s so he makes up for walks by not allowing hits

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      • Dan says:

        Shields is going against a much higher level of competition than Kershaw

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      • matthew says:

        i hate the argument of competition

        when your in the majors your talented so everyone is very talented

        -19 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dan says:

        So the Padres, Dbacks and Giants are on the same level as the RedSox, Jays and Yankees?

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      • matthew says:

        yes they are all MAJOR LEAGUE TEAMS

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      • B says:

        “i hate the argument of competition”

        At times I agree, but the AL East is very stacked at the moment. All 5 teams would be at least decent in every other division. You also have to recognize the DH affects ERA.

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      • Kevin says:

        I hate the argument about ERA. Why would you even bother with it here?

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      • alskor says:

        “yes they are all MAJOR LEAGUE TEAMS”

        So they all enter the season with exactly the same chances of winning?

        That’s a load. There is obviously differences in talent between the teams. Further, its blatantly obvious the teams of one league have been stronger than those of the other for awhile now.

        What’s the difference between the Red Sox and the Class A+ Salem Red Sox? THEYRE BOTH PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL TEAMS. I guess there must be no difference.

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      • B says:

        “Further, its blatantly obvious the teams of one league have been stronger than those of the other for awhile now.”

        I wouldn’t even say it’s as much teams in one league as teams in one division. That division happens to be where Shields pitches, by the way…

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    • TomG says:

      Also agreed. A pitching staff with Kershaw then Shields at the top of your rotation is a clear winner.

      Wait, what?

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    • Slick says:

      The obsession with youth over experience is ridiculous.

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      • mattymatty says:

        This is a list of tradable players. They’re going to be young because in baseball youth is cheaper.

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      • Joe R says:

        Yep, totally ridiculous to value essentially equivalent performance for about 1/20th the price. Sure Jeter makes $18,000,000 and Hanley Ramirez makes $439,000, but Jeter is a WINNER!

        Nice to see you’re still making piss poor points, Slick.

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      • Mike says:

        Except that no one on the planet would take Jeter over Ramirez even if their contracts were the same…

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      • Joe R says:

        Silly you of rational thought, Mike.

        Remember, Jeter has INTANGIBLEZ and is a WINNA!
        Stats don’t matter for Jeter cause it’s all about the team for him. Probably why he moved to 3rd when A-Rod was traded to NY…right?

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  3. Joe R says:

    I know normally a drop in BABIP, especially for a low walk hitter like Bruce, shouldn’t be cause for too much concern normally…

    but his line drive rate is just 12.7%. Could be luck, but I think there should be a little bit of alarm, since you can’t really pin it on anything physical (his ISO is higher this season than last).

    I like him, though, so I hope I’m off base.

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    • Joe R says:

      And he’s not even low walk: 9.1% in 2009.

      I suck today.

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    • truth says:

      Bruce is a 22 year old OF that lowered his K%, while raising his BB% and ISO. His HR/FB regressed to a more realistic level. He’s swinging at less pitches that are out of the zone, and making contact with more pitches in the zone.

      I think it’s more important to note the decrease in GB% rather than the decrease in LD%. Bruce isn’t a line drive hitter. In that park, the more flyballs, the better. I think he is a MUCH better hitter now than he was at this point last year.

      Unfortunately for everyone, we won’t get to see how he adjusts in the 2nd half. That wrist injury will probably mess with him heading into ST next year, ala Figgins and Ortiz last year. It’s a shame, because we could have been looking at a huge 2nd half.

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  4. Michael says:

    Nice to see JJ on the list. Looking at the five players he’s being listed with, I’d have difficulty arguing with the judgment. If the Marlins sign him to a deal buying out his arb years and two free agent years for $8-10M, how significant would his value change? Sky at BtB put up a trade value calculator for just such a thought process, and I am not tinkering with it.

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  5. Derek says:

    I am starting to see a trend of how a player gets placed highly on this list. It is mostly due to the contract that the player is signed to. This does make alot of sense that it is only putting value into the length of current contract.

    Therefore, I make a prediction that the #1 trade value player is………Tim Wakefield.

    With a 2.1 WAR this year he is performing quite well. He has a team option contract for $4M/yr forever. With past Knuckleballer Phil Neikro pitching from the age of 25 to 48. It is not hard to imagine him pitching another 6 years.

    @4.2 WAR for the year equalling around $18.6M, Wake’s worth is (18.6 – 4)*6 = $87.6M

    PS This is clearly a joke but I feel that Wake doesn’t get the respect he deserves for pitching quality innings for so many years at a dirt cheap price

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    • Joe R says:

      I can’t wait for the Wakefield hall of fame debate if he does stick around another 5 seasons. Given that he’s had no dropoff at all (why should he, it’s not like the knuckleball’s a killer), it could happen.

      Shocker of the year, I’m a Red Sox fan. Biased opinions, got to love them.

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    • Whateverfor says:

      If Wakefield is traded, though, the team he is traded to doesn’t get a team option.

      Wakefield might have signed the worst contract in the last thirty years: there’s no way he wasn’t going to get effect no-trade protection with it.

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    • JH says:

      It’s not a list about favorable contracts. In a nutshell, the considerations are:
      1) how valuable (good) is the player in a vacuum?
      2) how long is his current contract?
      3) is he likely to sustain/improve his performance? If sustain, how long?
      4) what’s the chance he declines rapidly?
      5) how much does he cost (i.e. how much of a drag is he on roster flexibility?)

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      • alskor says:

        Hey someone gets it!

        I call it “VOPS” – Value Over Pablo Sandoval.

        +18 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • B says:

        VOPS is a stupid stat, because nobody has value over Pablo Sandoval. :)

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      • Derek says:

        4) What’s the chance he declines rapidly?

        I don’t think this is taken as highly into consideration as the other points you mentioned. It seems that mostly the age is what they use to determine if they are going to decline. There are many players that have shown flashes of brillance even on the MLB level and don’t pan out even at a young age. Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Eric Hinske, even JD Drew still hasn’t lived up to his potential.

        If BJ Upton made the list this high and he probably projects to fail more then anyone else on the list says something.

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  6. Ben says:

    When is Fangraphs going to throw us an article on Pedro’s potential value going forward? I’m curious, because my league is deep enough for him to be a good add-and-stash (he’s on the DL).

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  7. Sky says:

    “I am starting to see a trend of how a player gets placed highly on this list. It is mostly due to the contract that the player is signed to.”

    Yes, that’s pretty much the definition of this list.

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    • Michael says:

      Well, given the equality of the level of play, i.e. we’re splitting haira in determining who is better for the most part, this is understandable. I’m sure there is a tier of guys similar to last year’s top 5 that is at a talent level higher than a lot of the players on this end, many of whom are somewhat unproven, high talent players under rookie contracts or solid players under really affordable deals.

      Why wouldn’t the list be about the value of the contract compared to the real value provided by the player given his fair market value? If we assume many of the players have similar performance values, which at this stage has been pretty accurate, the contract would give their trade value.

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      • Sky says:

        Ok, yes, I was reading that statement differently than you.

        This list is about the contracts which provide the most production compared to the cost. I think we’re both on the same page.

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  8. DavidA says:

    i would’ve thoguht that Kershaw would be much higher than Billingsley, given that Kershaw has a over a year’s less service time, is about three years younger, and (arguably) has a much higher ceiling. should be top ten, i think.

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    • B says:

      Except Billingsley has proven over a reasonable amount of time to be good, while you’re going strictly on potential with Kershaw. If you haven’t noticed the trend yet, Dave hasn’t been giving a whole lot of credit to pitchers on their “potential”, probably because of the unpredictable nature and injury risk of pitchers…

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      • David A says:

        Yeah, I’ve noticed that. But in the real world (where these trades would actually take place) I think you’d find that most scouts and GMs put a premium on potential. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do. If you gave the other 29 GMs in baseball the opportunity to pick one of Kershaw or Billingsley from the Dodgers roster (at current contract terms and service time) I think the overwhelming majority would take Kershaw.

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      • B says:

        Well are we trying to figure out trade value by what we think real world GM’s would do, or trade value by what we think it should be?

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  9. Dan says:

    Way too many pitchers are being listed. The volatility and injury risk–especially for the young guys who are valuable because they have several years of cheap team control left–are not being full appreciated by the author.

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    • Ray says:

      Way too many pitchers are being listed because Dave is getting the young studs out of the way so the young bats can take most of the top 30. Seriously, how many top pitchers are left at this point? Maybe four, five guys? There aren’t many I can think of. When guys like JJ, Billingsley, Ubaldo and Lester are all outside the top 25 you know most names left are positional talent.

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    • Bmore says:

      Could it be that pitchers are being listed because their real life trade value is so high for pitchers?

      Case in point, Eric Bedard. Although it was a terrible, terrible trade for the Mariners it still happened and netted the Orioles a decent closer, a potential star CF, and a potential #1 or 2 rotation guy in Tillman. As well as a couple other pieces.

      I shudder to think what a team will give up for Halladay, although I think/hope teams are getting more intelligent. Royals continue to prove me wrong however.

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  10. Alireza says:

    Does it really matter if Kershaw stacks up 100 walks a year if he does other things well? Nolan Ryan averaged 120 walks every 162 game season. If Kershaw keeps striking people out, keeps limiting contact and stops allowing guys to foul off pitches, it won’t matter if he walks a ton of guys.

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    • alskor says:

      Yes. It very much matters. It matters in terms of his team winning more than traditional pitching stats.

      Oh, and Nolan Ryan? Overrated. Career ERA+ of 111.

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  11. Chris says:

    Im sorry but as a reds fan Jay Bruce will be a great hitter but he’s not close to it now 18 homers is nice but lets not be homers…He’s been struggling all year with the consistent stroke…will be great sooner or later but not now

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    • Bmore says:

      Can the Reds please have an offseason camp where all of their players come in and are taught to hit for average by Joey Votto? Their team avg has to be at or south of .250 without him and he rakes. They have the talent and potential to be better.

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  12. Joe S. says:

    Kershaw’s numbers would not be nearly as good if he pitched in the AL East. period. Sorry chief but thier is a huge difference between pitching to the padres and diamondbacks and pitching to the Yankees or Red Sox. Not to mention the DH rule. That is why Halladay is so freaking good, because he pitches well in this division. Kershaw is a great talent but dont give us this ALL MAGOR LEAGUE TEAMS garbage

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    • Joe R says:

      When some baseball analysts try to pull the “stats cloud the picture” crap, this is one of those rare times they are right.

      Right now, having a 1.20 WHIP, 10 K/9, 3 BB/9 in the AL East is better than those same numbers in the NL Central or West. Toronto plays over 1/3rd of their games vs. Boston, NYY, or TB, and Halliday still is a monster.

      Dodger pitchers on the other hand get the benefit of 1/3rd of their season being vs. teams with collective 89, 87, and 84 OPS+’s. Colorado is 100.

      Red Sox are only 102, though. Odd.

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      • B says:

        While it’s definitely true that the talent level in the AL East is far superior to any other division, I think we should refrain from trying to take that into account much. Seeing two guys with essentially the same numbers and concluding the one in the AL East is better is certainly reasonable, but unless we quantify how much of a difference it actually makes, I think we should be cautious in making mental adjustments between players based on their division.

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  13. aaron says:

    dude | k/9 | bb/9 | fip | age

    JoJo | 7.71 | 3.42 | 3.54 | 25

    UbJi | 7.75 | 4.23 | 3.83 | 25

    JeWe | 7.37 | 2.63 | 3.92 | 26

    YoGa | 8.82 | 3.61 | 3.77 | 23

    obviously not in the same class as those three guys above him.

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    • aaron says:

      forgot one…

      ChBi | 8.29 | 4.10 | 3.83 | 24

      so four of those pitchers rank between 29 and 50 and one isn’t even honorable mention? (scratches head) all other things being more or less equal (which they certainly seem to be) i’ll take the youngest guy with the best strikeout rate going forward.

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  14. Matt says:

    Kershaw should be ahead of Billingsley. Kershaw is more talented, younger and had a better ERA this year.

    As for Pablo Sandoval, he doesn’t hold much trade value because

    1. Not much was expected of him entering the year
    2. He was never a stud prospect
    3, There are plenty who offer more of an overall package who are proven.

    This means people are gonna see his performance as a fluke. It’s the same with Zobrist. Zobrist however offers more value than Sandoval considering the various positions that he qualifies for. But neither was expected to do much in the preseason and neither were stud prospects thus a lot are gonna see both as having a fluke year.

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