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.