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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