2009 MLB Trade Value: #5-#1

Finishing off our trade value rankings with the five most valuable assets in baseball. We’ll recap the top 50 and answer a few questions in the wrap-up post this afternoon.

#5: Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore: 0.3 WAR

Don’t freak out about his first 120 trips to the plate. He’s still a switch-hitting catcher with every offensive tool you could wish upon a player his size. He’s going to be the Orioles best hitter sooner rather than later, and his upside is off the charts. Baltimore has some great pieces to build around, but he’s the best of the bunch. Joe Mauer with power might be too lofty of an expectation, but a switch-hitting Brian McCann with a few more walks is still an amazing talent.

#4: Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis: 5.4 WAR

The best player in baseball, hands down. He’s an eight win player every year and he just keeps getting better. What else is there to say? He’s one of the best hitters of all time, and we’ll tell our grandchildren that we got to see him play. The fact that he’s only under contract through 2011, with $32 million due to him over those two years, means that this is as high as he can go, but he’s about as untouchable as any player on earth. He is the definition of a franchise player.

#3: Justin Upton, RF, Arizona: 3.2 WAR

Already one of the best players in the league at age 21. We’ve already talked about the pedigree of players who are this good at such a young age, and the career arc for this kind of player usually leads to multiple All-Star games and a good shot at Cooperstown. The bat is that special, and he’s a pretty decent right fielder to boot. As a pre-arb player, he won’t make any serious cash until the 2011 season, and he’s under club control through 2013. Enjoy him, Arizona.

#2: Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida: 4.2 WAR

The offense has been incredible since he arrived, but questions lingered about his position. He’s answered those with significant improvements in his glovework at shortstop to the point where he’s a decent defender at the hardest spot on the field to cover. Combine that with consistent top shelf hitting in a 25-year-old, and Ramirez has become a true superstar. The contract extension he signed keeps him under lock and key through 2014, and while the salaries aren’t a bargain, they’re not even close to his true value.

#1: Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay: 3.9 WAR

I might just have to retire his jersey if I keep doing this list going forward, because unless he gets hurt or takes a big step back, it’s hard to see anyone passing him for the next five years. His on field value puts him in the discussion with the best players in the game, but his contract is just so unbelievably team friendly that no one else comes close to his overall value to their club. Ramirez, for instance, will make $64 million from 2010 to 2014 – Longoria will make $21 million, and then the Rays will have two more options that would keep him in TB at $11 million per year for 2015 and 2016. Crazy. He’s going to be paid like a league average back-end starting pitcher through a potential Hall-Of-Fame prime. Agents, this is the template of what not to do with your best client going forward.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Beau
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Beau
6 years 11 months ago

I dont remember, did older brother Upton make the list?

JZ
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JZ
6 years 11 months ago

BJ was earlier on the list, I think in the 40s or so.

Longoria’s agreement to his contract can be traced back to the influence of friend Eric Hinske who said something about not passing on the first million he makes.

Nick
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Nick
6 years 11 months ago

Well, Hinske really fucked him over on that one.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 11 months ago

Same franchise as Baldelli, though. Wouldn’t Rocco have enjoyed a 6 year / $24,000,000 contract now?

Sunking1056
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Sunking1056
6 years 11 months ago

I *think* he’ll be ok.

Mark
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Mark
6 years 11 months ago

Nick– Uh, wrong. What are you, a Red Sox fan? Jesus.

There’s no guarantee of anything in this game. Somebody offers you a big contract, you take it. Your career is by no means a sure thing. Longoria wants to make money, and he will, he’ll wait until free agency. Thanks for playing.

B
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B
6 years 11 months ago

“There’s no guarantee of anything in this game. Somebody offers you a big contract, you take it.”

Well, that’s a very simplistic way of looking at things. Rather, you make a decision based on how much money you’d be losing by signing a contract like Longoria’s vs. how much the added security of a guaranteed amount is worth. It’s a different amount for everybody, obviously Longoria liked the guaranteed money.

The way he’s been playing, though, he was set to get a lot of money the second he was eligible for arbitration, so the risks were probably pretty minimal. I think Longoria got absolutely hosed, he would have made so much more money than he’s going to now. Those club options are the end are also killer – that’s just poor negotiating by his agent, after the steal the Rays got on the initial part of his contract the least his agent could have done is get him mutual options or something…

Sky
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6 years 11 months ago

There’s a difference between passing on the first million and passing on the 140th million. Taking an expected pay cut to lock up $10M to $20M through arbitration is smart. Agreeing to three years of free agent options was not. In six years, $14M a year will be a steal for a 5 WAR player. If Longoria’s a scrub by some chance, or injured, the Rays are off the hook for paying him.

Gary
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Gary
6 years 7 months ago

I agree with Sky, locking up your arb years is fine if it provides you with the financial security you’re looking for.

…but man are those option years dumb. Tampa has no leverage over you at that point, why let them have that kind of financial flexibility?

Big Oil
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Big Oil
6 years 11 months ago

Enjoyed the series, Dave. Only gripes are with Tulo at #15 IIRC (on the talent part of the equation) and Strasburg (on the technicality that he can’t be traded anyway; other parts of the assessment were spot on in my view). As usual, good stuff.

Bodhizefa
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Bodhizefa
6 years 11 months ago

Longoria could always hold out for a renegotiation down the line if his pay becomes too abstractly low in comparison to his peers. The Rays don’t have to agree, but if he blossoms into the true superstar franchise player, they might bow to his desires at some point. It’s a rare instance, but it has happened before in the past.

In any case, that’s one helluva top 4. Wieters seems inflated to me, but the guys in the top 4 slots are hands down the best players and contracts in baseball. Great work, Dave, and although I have doubts on a few players’ values in the real world baseball trade market in comparison to where you value them, this is one giant undertaking and a few quibbles are bound to exist for any writer and reader in a piece with this scope.

Steve C
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Steve C
6 years 11 months ago

0.5 Sandoval

;)

Kind of surprised that the man with no home (Zobrist) did not pop up. I know SSS, but the kid is showing he can really hit. When an organization has two “starters” sitting on their bench to begin the year it really just isn’t fair.

Chris
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Chris
6 years 11 months ago

Zobrist was among the Honorable Mentions.

Jordan M
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6 years 11 months ago

In other undervalued players news, I have to represent the Brewers here and say that I’m surprised Yovani Gallardo didn’t even make the honorable mentions. He won’t be a free agent until 2014. Seeing guys like Max Scherzer and especially Robinson Cano on the list makes me wonder why he wouldn’t fit in anywhere.

Boomer
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Boomer
6 years 11 months ago

Another way to look at this list is by thinking of it as a draft with the entire player pool with their current contracts. Would you take Zobrist ahead of any of the 50 plus HM’s on here?

Doubt it….same could be said for anyone else people think are missing from the list.

Jordan Mader
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6 years 11 months ago

Trying not to overextend the point, but would you take Cano over Gallardo in this hypothetical draft?

Davidceisen
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Davidceisen
6 years 11 months ago

Is there something wrong with the ZiPS RoS projection? Currently Longoria has a wOBA of .376 and ZiPS projects a .370 from here on out, yet it projects him to finish the year with a .377 wOBA.

There is no God but Pablo Sandoval and Barry Lamar is his prophet
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There is no God but Pablo Sandoval and Barry Lamar is his prophet
6 years 11 months ago

This list was crap.

But seriously, awesome work. I look forward to this series every year.

Jerry
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Jerry
6 years 11 months ago

Dave – just wanted to say thanks for this series… It’s always one of my faves!

Kevin
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Kevin
6 years 11 months ago

I think Longoria is somewhat overrated as a hitter. He isn’t anywhere near Pujols/Mauer/Fielder level. That contract is ridiculous though, and understandably puts him at #1. Plus, his defense is great.

Sky
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6 years 11 months ago

Do people think he’s that good? If so, I agree with you.

But the total package is well beyond Fielder’s level, nearing Mauer’s and, well, Pujols is Pujols.

JH
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JH
6 years 11 months ago

He doesn’t have the offense of those guys, but he still has a chance to develop to that level (remember he’s still only 23). You’re right though. He’s a merely great hitter and not truly elite. His real value comes from his contract and the fact that he gives the Rays shortstop-quality defense at 3B.

Shizane
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Shizane
6 years 11 months ago

Quote: “I think Longoria is somewhat overrated as a hitter”

Did you happen to see what he did in his first 200 ABs this season??? 13 HRs, 55 RBIs, 23/50 BB/K. I would like to see him strike out a bit less, but that’s nitpicking.

I personally think his hamstring injury is worse than he is letting on and is the cause for his recent bad stretch.

paul
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paul
6 years 11 months ago

how can you not have Miguel Cabrera on your list compare his stats

Brad
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6 years 11 months ago

Look at his contract.

Davidceisen
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Davidceisen
6 years 11 months ago

2009: 15 million, 2010: 20 million, 2011: 20 million, 2012: 21 million, 2013: 21 million, 2014: 22 million, and 2015: 22 million.

141 million over 7 years, which is probably exactly what he is worth, but that doesn’t make him a valuable trade asset.

JH
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JH
6 years 11 months ago

Yeah, baseball players cost money. The ones who cost a lot of it hurt a team’s flexibility. Cabrera’s a great player, and he’s paid like a great player. Only a handful of teams could afford to match that salary if Detroit ever tries to dump him. In such a scenario, the Tigers aren’t getting many assets in return, and they certainly wouldn’t net any player who cracked this top-50.

Slick
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Slick
6 years 11 months ago

Hurts flexibility? Baseball doesn’t have a salary cap. If an owner is willing to spend a fortune, they can. Its plainly obvious by now that the luxury tax is not a deterrent for some. Anyone team could match that salary, its whether the owner wants to or not.

Kurt
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6 years 11 months ago

Look boy genius you just said what they said… They said “NOBODY EXCEPT VERY FEW CLUBS WOULD WANT TO TAKE ON THAT KIND OF SALARY” and it’s clearly obvious that IF the Tigers were to trade Cabrera, it would be to…

a) Yankees

b) Mets

c) Red Sox

d) Angels

e) Nats

f) Orioles

g) Giants

That’s 7 teams that would pony up for him because his defense is crap!

I know Oakland, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas City, Cleveland, Toronto, and Tampa Bay in the AL, along with Florida, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Houston, Cincinnati, Chicago (too many big contracts and a change of ownership), St. Louis, Colorado, Arizona, and San Diego in the NL, simply don’t have the payroll flexibility to pay him his contract.

That leaves Seattle, Chicago (AL), Milwaukee, Los Angeles (NL), who for many reasons could not make sense of Miguel Cabrera on their roster.

Loney blocks Miguel for years to come and arbitration will eat up the Manny dollars that are available in two years.

Milwaukee has Prince Fielder now and Gamel in the future, so again no place to play.

Chicago is done with old vets and big contracts, right now they are trying to unbury themselves from the debt of the last couple years from bad contracts.

Seattle has learned about big contracts to 1 dimensional players. Ichiro gives you GG defense and All-Star production more consistently than anybody not named Pujols, so yes he’s an exception, but even then his contract isn’t great and leaves a lot of people in Seattle wishing they could move him for the financial flexibility.

Seattle would see Cabrera as more of a negative than a positive because of their team first mentality that his conditioning program clearly outlines as secondary to all things Miguel. Of course some of these other trade candidates might feel similarly from my list of 7 teams. I think the Giants are desperate for offense and would consider him, but again, like everyone else said, just because there are 7 teams that would consider him, doesn’t mean any of them would feel the pressure to get him. Alex Rodriguez had defense on his side when he was traded to the Yankees, and all the Rangers got was Alfonso Soriano and having to pay $75MM for him to perform on another team. If Alex didn’t have such a rediculous contract, probably they could have got Soriano, and a handful of promising young players. You might be able to get Sanchez from the Giants straight up for Cabrera if the Tigers ate $4-5MM per season. So yeah, Cabrera is NOT a Top 50 acquisition. Even in Seattle where our offense is desperate for a bat… We aren’t THAT desperate… Not even if they ate $5MM a year and took Silva, Batista, and Johjima in return for him.

Kurt
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6 years 11 months ago

1 dimensional players being:

$6-8MM a year for Vidro (whose 1 dimension became getting more gatorade by the end of the deal.

$14MM x 2 to can’t hit for power and can’t field for sh*t Sexson.

$12MM x 4 + 1 to “I can throw strikes, but I can’t keep them from getting hits” Silva.

and

$8MM x 3 to a guy who can throw out runners and hit some, but who has a horrible OBP and can’t call a game or work with pitchers worth a d4mn in Johjima. His hitting is .5 dimension, same with his throwing, still two halves just make him 1 dimensional in the end.

We could probably do this for a ton of teams after the stupid contracts that were signed over the last few years…

Jeff
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Jeff
6 years 5 months ago

Cabrera was an above average defensive player at 1st last year…

He moved down the defensive spectrum from 3rd to 1st, so just because he was below average at 3rd doesnt mean he will be at 1st..

His defense got better and better as the season went along… I would have no problem calling for a +5 URZ for 2010!

Michael
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6 years 11 months ago

Great list Dave, can’t say I agree with everything, but I think you nailed the top 10 pretty much exactly right. I can’t wait to see some of these younger talents hit their primes in the next few years. It’ll be an exciting time in baseball.

JI
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JI
6 years 11 months ago

I love the trade value write ups, good job Dave.

YC
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YC
6 years 11 months ago

Once again, top notch work as always Dave. I look forward to next year’s trade value write up. (And also, the Organizational Rankings the next time you get around to write it) Your writing is what makes baseball extra enjoyable for me. Thank you.

brian_sun
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brian_sun
6 years 11 months ago

Where is Franklin in your list?

dan l
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dan l
6 years 11 months ago

NO Votto means total waste of time!

Jason
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Jason
6 years 11 months ago

Justin Upton should be #1. He has more potential than any hitter in baseball, including Hanley and Longoria.

Bob
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Bob
6 years 11 months ago

Meh, Justin Upton is certainly an outstanding player but what he’s doing this year as a 21-year old is not that different from what Longoria did last year as a 22-year old. Trying to project a far superior career as a hitter based on that alone is a little iffy. Throw in the fact that Longoria is a better defender at a more premium defensive position and Longoria gets the edge. What really seals the deal though, as others have mentioned, is that Upton has actually accrued more service time to date and word is that both Uptons are intent on testing free agency at the earliest opportunity, while Longoria is signed for 8 more years at reasonable-to-downright-cheap rates.

Slick
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Slick
6 years 11 months ago

By your logic, Weiters should be #1, he only has potential going for him right now.

Fresh Hops
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Fresh Hops
6 years 11 months ago

Longoria is signed to an absurdly below market contract that extends through his prime. Even if you think that Longoria will be just the 25th best player in baseball for the next seven years, you’d be getting him at next to nothing if you traded for him. Upton, on the other hand, is due for arbitration, which means that he’s going to get paid soon and will not likely sell off his FA years as cheaply as Longo did.

Sean
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Sean
6 years 11 months ago

Hey, Simmons had Duncan in the top 5 (No. 2, No. 3, No. 1, No. 2, No. 1, No. 3, No. 3, No. 4) for an entire decade. No reason you cant do that for Longoria.- he’s THAT valuable. Completely untouchable.

Kurt
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6 years 11 months ago

You just listed 8 ratings, that would be 2 years less than a decade. I mean if we’re counting…

John
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John
6 years 11 months ago

No Joey Votto or Yovani Gallardo? Neither have a contract in place, but they are both young and under team control for 3-4 more years.

Marco
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Marco
6 years 11 months ago

It all comes down to the contract. Longo is great, but a .359 OBP isn’t *that* special. Perhaps Longo’s agent should have made the list.

Eyin
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Eyin
6 years 10 months ago

Where the heck is Jason Kendall on this list? I thought he’d at least be top 3… power bat, good speed, high average, canon for an arm…
or what about Suppan and that lethal fastball
or Counsell
or Looper
or Bush
or Hall
or McGehee
sometimes I hate being a Brewer fan… but then Braun or Fielder belts a HR and reminds me that there is hope if we can get some pitching to fill in around Yo.

Dylan
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Dylan
6 years 10 months ago

I am a Cards fan, and no way would I trade Albert for those guys in the top three. Pujols is just too freaking awesome.

Felonius_Monk
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Felonius_Monk
6 years 5 months ago

I’d trade him for Longoria or HanRam, definitely.

I agree that I probably wouldn’t pull the trigger on Upton, because he’ll only just be hitting his peak when he reaches free agency, meaning whoever wants him through his peak years is going to have to seriously pony up some cash. He was pretty good last year, at an absurdly young age, but his BABIP was nearly .370 which is unsustainable even for a guy with his speed, and I’m not convinced he’ll put up an 18% HR/FB again, even though Chase Field is pretty friendly to flyball hitters, so perhaps his raw power numbers, OPS and non-park-adjusted wOBA over-rate him somewhat in 2009.

I also think his defence is yet to kind of “level out”; he’s had some wildly variable UZR ratings and, despite the speed and strong arm, I think it’s hard to say with assurance that he’s a great defender going forward.

He’s a hell of a player and putting up the numbers he has at 21 is pretty special, but I think his ceiling is questionable enough that I’d rather be paying the greatest player in the game $30m for two years than have Upton under team control for another four years at probably $20m or so.

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6 years 4 months ago

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