2009 MLB Trade Value: #35-#31

Continuing on with the trade value series.

#35: Nick Markakis, RF, Baltimore: 0.5 WAR

After a monster 2008, his follow-up season hasn’t gone as well – his walks and power are down, and UZR no longer loves his defense in right field. The talent is still there, though, and as a 25-year-old with across the board skills, he’ll have more seasons like his 2008 in the future. The contract extension he signed will keep him in Baltimore through at least 2014, and while he’s no longer cheap, the salaries are discounted enough to still make him a big time asset.

#34: Jon Lester, LHP, Boston: 3.4 WAR

The massive jump in strikeout rate (6.5 in 2008, 10.3 in 2009) is nearly unprecedented, and K/9 stabilizes very quickly. His velocity is up a couple of ticks, and it’s made the most impact on his curve, which is now a nasty out pitch. A 25-year-old lefty with this kind of dominance unbelievably hard to find. His contract is definitely team friendly ($30 million through 2013 or $43 million through 2014), but not the bargain basement rate that others are pitching on. If he keeps pitching like this, though, this will still look like its 20 spots too low.

#33: Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Colorado: 3.3 WAR

This is what it looks like when a 25-year-old with the biggest fastball in the game posts a 3.23 FIP while pitching half of his games at Coors Field. Jimenez has the makings of a Brandon Webb-style groundballs and strikeouts ace, with stuff that few can match and improving command as well. He’s also due just $22 million through 2014, and the last $14 million of that is tied to club options for the final two seasons. He’s not a household name yet, but he will be if he can stay healthy.

#32: Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas: 2.8 WAR

His walks and power are up, and he’s worked hard to improve his defense at the keystone, showing that he’s not done improving despite an already strong body of work. He’s a legit 30-30 player headed into his prime and is locked up through 2013 at bargain basement rates. If he can continue to show that he’s an asset in the field at second base, than this is about 20 spots too low. Questions about whether his defensive improvement are sustainable or not hold him back for now.

#31: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston: 2.6 WAR

The reigning AL MVP is unlikely to ever have another power spike like he did in his 2008 campaign, but he doesn’t have to if he keeps hitting .300, racking up the doubles while making obscene amounts of contact, and playing quality defense at second base. The contract extension he signed that pays him just $40 million through 2014 increases his value as well.




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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: #35-#31”

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  1. Bob says:

    Wut??? The Giants would NEVAR trade Pablo Sandoval for Ubaldo Jiminez!! This list is such a crock!

    Now that that’s out of the way hopefully we can move on to more productive discussion. Love the series so far by the way.

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    • Teej says:

      I had written “RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE BIAS SANDOVAL!” and wasn’t sure if I should post it.

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    • Derek says:

      The giants wouldn’t because they need pitching. They already have great pitching, they need hitting. I think most other GMs would definetly make that trade. Ubaldo is still young and cheap, he is showing flashes that he can get control of that monster fastball. If he can get consistent control he could be the next Verlander.

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  2. Ray says:

    I’m interested to see the pitchers that come ahead of Lester (especially after seeing Ubaldo ahead of him), who is 10th in baseball in FIP, is just 25 years old, has shown an ability to actually get stronger as the season wears on and has a very team-friendly long-term contract. It might not be too low, I’ll have to see the names, but I’m just a bit surprised.

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    • Judy says:

      I would think it’s mostly the contract and/or service time. Lester’s deal is actually pretty generous, compared to similar contracts and arbitration.

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      I think we’ll see that the lower portions of the list will be dominated by position players under team control or with very team friendly contracts. That’s because overall position players have more reliable projection, lower injury risk, and greater overall contribution to winning.

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  3. ebc says:

    Quick comparison: #35 Markakis vs #43 Zimmerman.

    Markakis is ten, maybe fifteen runs a year better with the bat, but Zimmerman is a far superior fielder, even if Markakis’s 2008 UZR turns out to be accurate (and I see no reason to think that it will). The contracts are similar — Markakis is signed for an extra year + option, but those years are effectively going to cost around $19-20 million. Zimmerman is a year younger.

    I’d take ZImmerman.

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    • Bob says:

      Without looking up the numbers, didn’t Zimmerman just have a pretty good April and May with the bat after being fairly poor (or at least disappointing) the past two years, while Markakis has had a down year so far after two pretty darn good ones? That would make me less sure of what I’m going to get out of Zimmerman over the next few years versus Markakis, which is why I’d prefer the outfielder.

      Still, you make some pretty solid points, it’s definitely close. I wonder if the Orioles would trade Markakis straight up for Zimmerman? Even though they’re playing Melvin Mora at 3B, I don’t think they would.

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      • ebc says:

        Zimmerman dipped a bit last year thanks to injury, but he’s always been solid, he’s currently having his best year yet, and he hasn’t yet turned 25. So I think there’s a little more room for growth in his numbers than in Markakis’s.

        I doubt either org would actually make the trade, since it’s basically a coin flip.

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      • Davidceisen says:

        Markakis has outperformed Zimmerman at every age. He is having a disappointing season this year, but he has the potential for a huge second half.

        Both have similar potential as far as BA and power are concerned (perennial .300 hitters with ~20-30 HRs), but Markakis can steal bases and walks more. Zimmerman is a better defender, but Markakis is at least above average.

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      • ebc says:

        Going by WAR, Markakis was much better in 2008, but Zimmerman was significantly better in 2005, 2007, and 2009.

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      • pm says:

        Zimmerman has a better WAR this year and a better one for his career. He is cheaper, younger, a better defender. I’m not sure what if anything makes Markakis more valuable.

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  4. Sky says:

    Ok, so if you disagree with a prior ranking, can we agree to keep that criticism quarantined to just the one prior thread? No need to bring it up every time there’s yet another player who you think someone should be above. Let’s focus on these five, cool?

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    • ebc says:

      Is this addressed to me? I don’t see how one can discuss a ranking of the top 50 players without considering the ones already listed (and the ones yet to come).

      It’s definitely time to start ignoring any and all comments about Pablo Sandoval, though.

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  5. Terry says:

    Lets just cut to the chase. Is Longoria #1? Or is it David Price?

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    • TomG says:

      It’s actually Pablo Sandoval. Dave red herringed us by putting his name out there earlier.

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    • D says:

      How about Wieters? Premium position, and hasn’t even signed a team-friendly contract eating the arb years, so potentially such a contract could be even more team favorable than Longoria’s.

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    • ace and gary says:

      I’d think it’s between Longoria, Hanley, or (my vote) Justin Upton.

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    • Derek says:

      No Contest. It is going to be Longoria.

      He is signed for 6 years with 3 years of club options. That is 9 years for a total of $44M. No other player is going to come close to that.

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  6. D says:

    Wait, this is Fangraphs, right?!

    I don’t have much quibbles with the rankings per se, but given that this is Fangraphs, what’s up with the commentary associated with the rankings? Why are you mentioning hitting .300 with respect to Pedroia when (most of) the site eschews batting average as a quality performance indicator?

    Same criticism for the snippet on Adrian Gonzales – giving him extra props over and above his numbers because he doesn’t have protection in the lineup. I thought protection was a false deity.

    If a commentator used BA and lineup protection to argue for a player, they would be laughed at.. by Dave Cameron amongst others. So what gives?

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    • aweb says:

      It is explicitly a list of those players that Dave thinks have the highest trade value, not for hypothetical world where players are objectively evaluated by all GMs, but in actual world where GMs acquire/trade players based on things like BA and RBIs. Keeping in mind that part of a GMs job is to get marketable players, and casual fans still like the old school stats, this isn’t completely unreasonable. Or at least that’s my reading of it.

      If there was a young player who could guarantee a .400/.420/.500 line (extreme singles hitter, hits .400), the trade value would be huge. Best average hitter of all time – hugely tradable, but not the best hitter. Similarly, if there was suddenly a .210/.250/.650 (a guy who hits 50-60 HR a year, but nothing else) player available, wouldn’t the trade value be bigger than rational analysis would indicate?

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      • D says:

        If this was the case – unobjective GMs like the real world – taking Adrian Gonzales for instance, wouldn’t Dave mention his ethnic/cultural heritage, like every other talking head on ESPN, and saying how there is additional value there for SD and big city teams because of it?

        And frankly, GMs are too short sighted to really care about contracts more than the current year and next. They move on before the cash crunch hits.

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      • alskor says:

        “And frankly, GMs are too short sighted to really care about contracts more than the current year and next. They move on before the cash crunch hits.”

        Not the good GMs.

        And I entirely disagree.

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    • alskor says:

      This needs to stop. Batting average can be somewhat fluky year to year – but hitting for a high average is a SKILL. Its something players can do and repeat to a certain extent. Its a good thing. Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs didnt get lucky 20 years in a row. This completely misses the point. Dustin Pedroia is a legit .300 hitter.

      NOW, that being said, as a tool for evaluating performance in any given year and especially with regards to predicting future performance, batting average isnt great. For evaluating performance, looking at OBP is much more instructive than AVG. For predictive value OBP and components (like Contact rate, walk rate) correlate much better than AVG. This does not mean we shouldnt pay attention to batting average.

      People need to stop taking this so far. Batting AVG is and always will be important. Ranking players by their batting AVG out of context, as was done until recent times, is a very, very bad idea (both in terms of performance evaluation and, again, in terms of predictive value). Batting average has its flaws as a tool, but it is neither random nor should it be entirely eschewed as a quality performance indicator.

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      • B says:

        True, batting average does help win games, so it does mean something. It just doesn’t mean as much as a bunch of other stats we have.

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  7. aweb says:

    Division count so far for 20 players:
    AL East – 8
    AL West – 4
    NL East – 4
    NL Central -1
    NL West – 3

    I can think of at least one top-ten player in the AL Central, who haven’t had a single player yet. The NL Central should have a few more

    Oh, and the AL East is a good division…in case no one noticed.

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    • Ray says:

      There actually may not be too many more from the East: Price (maybe), Wieters, Longoria, Upton…am I missing anyone? Lind? That might be about it for the East.

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      • Whateverfor says:

        I could see Tillman, Matusz, or Price making the list since Buchholz did.

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      • Alex says:

        No way are Tillman and Matusz making it. Dave apparently already said Heyward was his #1 minor league prospect and he “only” checked in at #39. It also seems unlikely that those two, with no ML experience and track records no more impressive than Hanson or Buchholz would rank well ahead of both.

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      • Derek says:

        Other AL East players could be: Adam Jones, Ricky Romero, Price (Yes), Wieters, Longoria, Upton, Joba (maybe), Hughes (maybe).

        I don’t see Lind making it mostly because he is a DH, but I could be wrong.

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    • Chris says:

      Joe Mauer? Justin Morneau? Grady Sizemore? Zack Greinke? Justin Verlander?

      At least one of those will likely be in the top ten.

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  8. matthew says:

    I RATHER HAVE IAN KINSLER THEN THE HORIBLYY OVERRATED DUSTIN PEDROIA

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  9. Nathan says:

    Adam Jones from the AL East? He’s 23 years old, already good and getting better at a premium position, and still under team control for, what, 4 more years?

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  10. Nathan says:

    Also, I’m surprised at how low Lester is. I would imagine that he’s essentially untouchable to the Sox and I’m very skeptical that Jimenez is higher on the list, even if we agree that a few spots here and there are essentially the same value.

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    • Judy says:

      Two hard throwing 25 year old LHPs with very high ceilings having basically the same very good season, the cheaper one would have a bit more trade value.

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    • Bill says:

      The Sox would never trade Lester, but they also have more money than most other teams in the league. For the Sox, the slightly bigger contract for Lester is not a very big deal. For some teams, the extra $10M over 4 years might be enough to push him down the list a little bit.

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  11. matthew says:

    i rather have jon lester then dustin pedroia

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    • Ray says:

      Agreed there. There’s obviously a balance between the tremendous value a true ‘ace’ brings to the table and the near certainty you get with younger position players. Pitchers fall apart all the time, they have year-long injury issues that can spill over into the next season or even effect them for the rest of their careers. With position players, those with an established level of production who are still young and have proved durable, you don’t often see them miss more than a month or two a season through their peak.

      So I think Dave tends to err on the side of caution: when in doubt go with the guy who’ll give you 140+ games a year. And I don’t necessarily disagree with that.

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  12. Booya says:

    jimenez is a rhp

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  13. Judy says:

    Thanks, but I was hoping no one would notice.

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  14. mattsd says:

    I was expecting to see Billingsley somewhere 35-45. I’m feeling more and more like he isn’t going to be on the list at all now.

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  15. Ummmm says:

    Come on, Pedroia ahead of LESTER?!?!?! You have got to be kidding. No team in the entire league would even consider trading Lester straight up for Pedroia if they had him.

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    • NadavT says:

      Your expert opinion is appreciated.

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    • Teej says:

      I’d rather have Pedroia.

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    • Davidceisen says:

      Dustin Pedroia has been worth 13.1 wins over the past 3 years, which makes him the second best second baseman in the league.

      Jon Lestor has been worth 9 wins over the past 3 years, which places him out of the top 20 pitchers.

      The fact is there are not many above average offensive and defensive second basemen in the league. Lester is a rare talent, but Pedroia is slightly more uncommon. There is only one second baseman I would rather have than Pedroia.

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      • Tom says:

        “slightly more uncommon” doesn’t necessarily mean mor valuable though. Positions aren’t interchangeable.

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      • B says:

        Ah, but this isn’t about what they’ve done in the past. Is Pedroia closer to the 6.6 WAR player or the 3.5-4 WAR player we’ve seen? That makes a big difference. Also keep in mind Pedroia’s stats are slightly inflated from the 726 PA’s he received last year – that adds both to his batting runs and his replacement runs in calculating WAR.

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  16. alskor says:

    Judging from he comments on here… I cant help but come to the conclusion that … somehow, shockingly… Dustin Pedroia… is still underrated.

    Mystifying.

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    • Judy says:

      Pedroia’s great, he’s a unique talent, my favorite player and no one else is even close, and, as much as I’d hate doing it, I’d still trade him for most of the guys ahead of him on this list if I could somehow force myself to use my brain to make the decision.

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      • alskor says:

        Well, then you should stick to using other people’s brains. You dont give up 25 year old 4-6 win 2B signed cheaply to 7 year deals, even for the players above.

        He’s not a “unique talent” as much as he’s an ELITE talent.

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      • B says:

        Well, is Pedroia really a 4-6 win player? Last year his fielding was higher than it’s been any other year, so what’s his true fielding talent? His 726 PA’s also inflated his WAR last year by over half a win I think. I’m not sure exactly how PA’s factor into batting runs, but they added 4.2 runs above what you’d expect in a full season to the replacement value, and I imagine some additional amount in the batting value. So the question is, what is Pedroia’s true talent level (what kind of WAR can we expect from him) going forward?

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  17. Michael says:

    Kinsler is too high. He’s a different player on the road. Not a problem if he spends his career in Arlington, but we are talking about trade value here right?

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    • DK says:

      A lot of players are different players on the road.

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      • Michael says:

        A lot of players don’t have the extreme home/road discrepancy over their full career that Kinsler does. And it’s not like he plays in a neutral park, either.

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  18. kevinM says:

    If we’re judging trade value, doesn’t a team like the Mets (for example) have to weigh Kinsler’s home/road splits heavily? While Kinsler hits HRs at an equal rate at home and on the road, there’s a MAJOR gap in his overall productivity. His road numbers this season are downright horrific.

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  19. Joe S. says:

    WIth Kinsler there is just so much risk. For (1), He plays in a “generous to hitters” ballpark and struggles when he plays elsewhere and, (2) injuries. I really dont like the Red Sox much but I would definatly rather have Pedroia

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  20. Ross says:

    As a die hard Rangers fan I watch Kinsler every day. The home-road splits are overrated. The problem isn’t where he plays, it’s his approach. The first month of the year he was one of the top 5 players in baseball, but it happens every year, just not for this long… He hits a few homers and gets excited and completely changes his approach and trys to be Barry Bonds. If he would just be Ian Kinsler his average would be well over .300 and he would have tons of doubles and his fair share of homers. Since April he just trys to blast everything out and he is very susceptible to popping out. He leads baseball right now in fly outs, and with his speed that’s unacceptable. Kinsler should be high on this list, but if he would get out of his head and just play like he’s capable of he’d be the best second baseman in the game.

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  21. Ummmmmm says:

    Pedroia’s home road splits are also lopsided. OPS of .762 on the road! He had one ridiculously fluky power year, and I do not think he is going to improve very much in the future. Lester is a young, left handed pitcher, who recovered from cancer a few years ago, and seems to get better each year. Give me a break, Pedroia UNDERRATED?! One of the worst MVP winners to ever win the award.

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    • Michael says:

      You must not think much of this site’s Value stats. Might wanna check out the 2008 rankings.

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    • alskor says:

      My God… he really is underrated.

      Fluky power year? He’s leading the league in doubles right now! He’s not some scrappy guy who had a lucky year! He’s a 4-6 win player, year in, year out. Elite defender.

      He is exactly the kind of guy that has brought the Red Sox two championships in the last 5 years… while other teams and fans just dont get it.

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    • B says:

      He’s a good player, but he was a combination of bad choice/bad overall season for an MVP winner. Is he an elite defender? Is he really a 4-6 win player (I asked these questions farther up in the comments so if you want to respond, respond to them, they go into more detail)? His iso in his other two seasons have been .125 and .127, so that .167 could very well be fluky.

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  22. Ummmm says:

    Pedroia will probably never have a better 3 year stretch in his entire career than 07-09. Lester has probably only started to reach his potential. His highest value has not been realized.

    Oh boy, Pedroia leading the league in doubles! Wow! Maybe because he plays in Boston and doesnt have enough power to clear the monster. He is a very good player, one of the best 2b in the game, but there is no way he is more valuable than Lester, even considering their contracts.

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