Okay, so, the list has been revealed – now, let’s talk about some of the questions that came up during the last week, including about some of the more notable guys that didn’t make it.
Probably the most discussion centered around Roy Halladay. He is unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball today, and the contract he just signed with the Phillies is both below his market value and short enough to not saddle a team with a potential albatross. He’s a highly valuable asset, no doubt. However, as we just saw over the last year, the actual market for Halladay’s services is significantly smaller than the theoretical one, because he holds a full no-trade clause that he puts to maximum use.
The Blue Jays spent months working on potential deals for their ace, but in the end, they were limited to just a few options, as Halladay’s NTC ruled out most of the teams in baseball as potential trade partners. Because of his selectiveness, there’s just no way the Phillies could drum up enough of a competition for his services to get one of the guys from this list in return. We just saw Toronto work for months to deal Halladay, eventually settling for multiple guys nowhere near this list in value, and they had to pick up a significant portion of his 2010 salary in order to pull that off.
He’s a great pitcher, the best in baseball, and he’s underpaid relative to the market. But part of why he’s underpaid is because he’s not willing to open himself up to go to any of the 30 MLB teams, limiting the potential demand for his services. That gets reflected in his actual trade value, and is the main reason why he didn’t make the list.
The other name pitcher who didn’t make the cut was Dan Haren. While his ERA is higher than usual this year, his underlying performance shows that he’s still one of the better pitchers in the game, and he’s proven to be a durable workhorse. However, when I talked with folks in MLB about him, the reaction to what they’d give up for him was surprisingly lukewarm.
The main issue that was brought up is that he’s a guy whose best skill is command and has achieved most of his success in the National League. There’s a good amount of skepticism about NL arms without top-shelf stuff, and Haren was lumped into that category. Combine that with his escalating salaries (he’s due $40 million over the next three seasons), and I just couldn’t get anyone in the game to get very excited about giving up premium talent to acquire him.
I was pretty surprised, honestly. He started out in the 30s on my original list, but by the end of the weekend, he just missed the cut. The sense that I got in Anaheim was that guys like us like him more than major league teams do.
Moving on to the hitters who didn’t make the cut, there’s one group that certainly took a beating from where they ranked last year – young, athletic center fielders. Last year, Grady Sizemore (#12), Matt Kemp (#14), Adam Jones (#19), B.J. Upton (#21), and Curtis Granderson (#22) all scored very highly in this series. This year, none of them made the cut, as almost all of them have taken steps backwards in their development (and Sizemore got hurt).
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that five somewhat similar players have all regressed in the last year. That’s certainly possible. Also possible – I overrated that particular skillset. Besides Sizemore, all of those guys have issues making contact and general problems with the strike zone, which has been exploited by MLB pitchers this year. For all their physical gifts, they had a pretty big flaw, which was perhaps too easily overlooked by focusing on what they did well.
For those arguing for Carlos Gonzalez‘s inclusion on this year’s list, I’d suggest those guys offer a pretty significant warning. Aggressive hitters can be easy outs when pitchers figure out how to get them to chase, and it takes a pretty special talent to succeed long term with that approach.
Thanks for participating, everyone. It was a fun exercise, and we’ll do it again next summer. And yes, by popular demand, coming later this week – the 10 least valuable assets in baseball. Look for that on Thursday.
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