2011 Trade Value: #35-#31

#50-#46
#46-#41
#40-#36

In this section, we deal with three pitchers at different points in their careers, but all highly coveted by the teams that don’t own their rights at the moment. We also look at two position players who couldn’t be more different, both in terms of on-field attributes and the ramifications of their contracts.

Rank – Player – Position – Team – Past 3 Calendar Year WAR

#35 – Trevor Cahill, RHP, Oakland: +4.3

If this list were just on field value, Cahill would probably not crack the top 50. But Cahill’s early career excellence and the quality of his sinker make him one of the most coveted young pitchers in the game even if his peripherals aren’t quite as good as his ERA. Teams look at his results and his stuff and believe that he’s a front-line guy, even if the walks are a bit higher than you’d like and him not being a dominant strikeout guy. When you add in the contract he just signed (4 years and $29 million left after this season, plus two team options), his value as a trade chip is very, very high.

#34 – Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox: +10.3

Ramirez might not be the most exciting player in baseball, and almost certainly doesn’t come to mind when you think of a franchise player, but given the dearth of shortstops in the Major Leagues, he could fetch a small ransom for the White Sox if they wanted to move him. He’s a solid average hitter who plays terrific defense at the most important position on the field, and it’s getting harder and harder to find that particular skillset. The White Sox were able to lock him up to a 4 year, $32 million contract that kicks in next year, so he’s both good and cheap for the foreseeable future.

#33 – Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco: +20.7

Again, we see another example of placement due to something other than on field value. Lincecum is going to blow up the arbitration system this winter, and it’s widely expected that he’ll land a salary in the range of $20 million for 2012, an unheard of number for a guy with his service time. Even with two more years of team control after this season, Lincecum’s wages are at the point where most teams would be priced out of the bidding. Certainly the teams with the payrolls to have him would be interested, but, realistically, there’s a shallow pool of teams who could say they’re in for $20 million in 2012 and maybe $25-$30 million in 2013. Those organizations would pay a lot to get Lincecum if the Giants ever decided to move him, but Brian Sabean wouldn’t have his pick of teams to deal with.

#32 – Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle: +2.4

Pineda has burst onto the scene in his rookie season, even getting named to the All-Star team and impressing everyone with a dominant inning on Tuesday night. With a power fastball and a breaking ball that serves as a true strikeout pitch, Pineda has the tools to be a front-of-the-rotation guy, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’7, which causes hitters to have trouble picking the ball up out of his hand. With five more years of team control after this one and a league minimum salary through at least the next two years, Pineda is also one of the most cost effective players in baseball. At this point, only questions about his long term durability would hold teams back from giving up significant packages to acquire Pineda.

#31 – Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee: +15.8

A year ago, Braun placed 12th on this same list, and he’s now enjoying the best season of his career, so why did he fall nearly 20 spots on this year’s version? Look no further than the extension the Brewers gave him that doesn’t kick in until 2016. While Braun’s current contract is a huge bargain, the $105 million extension that runs from 2016-2020 is a risk that many franchises simply wouldn’t be willing to absorb. They’d love to have Braun, especially at the wages he’s being paid now, but owing him money for nine more seasons after this one is a rightfully scary proposition. The Brewers clearly signed Braun with the intent to keep him in Milwaukee for the long haul, which is good because the deal almost certainly did more harm to his trade value than anything else.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


80 Responses to “2011 Trade Value: #35-#31”

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  1. SC2GG says:

    If Ramirez is on this list, does that mean Yunel Escobar is on the list later too? I understand if you don’t want to give away the future, but if not, why?

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    • harpago17 says:

      Yunel Escobar was basically dumped last year for Alex Gonazlez and 2 B-level prospects. Since then he has gain a year of service time and signed a guaranteed contract. I don’t think he would qualify in the top 50, since his trade value was so low a year ago.

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      • Benjamin says:

        the guaranteed contract is $10M with 2 $5M team options. that’s an absolute steal for a 4 win shortstop, though your point about what he actually got traded for is a good one

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      • SC2GG says:

        Just because the Braves made a boneheaded move and traded Yunel doesn’t make his trade value lower, it just makes the deal look even worse for the Braves. If all the worlds GMs went by this list, the world would be less exciting.

        I have no doubt that Ramirez is a better overall shortstop, but was taking into account Yunels amazingly team friendly contract, and he’s doing a little better at the plate than Ramirez is this year too.

        I certainly felt he should be top 50, given the comparisons available. Hey Dave, did you forget about Yunel?! The adoring public wants to know.

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      • NEPP says:

        Yup, and even at the time, it was regarded as a universally stupid move by the Braves. You have clubhouse issues? Fine, trade him. There is zero reason to take pennies on the dollar even with clubhouse issues. It was a pathetic attempt by the Braves FO to give Bobby Cox one last chance to make a run. Great job, Braves!

        And this is coming from a biased Phillies fan that was ecstatic when I saw that trade last year.

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      • TK says:

        The Braves made the playoffs, which they probably wouldn’t have done if they had not shipped Yunel out. If there was a better SS available and the Braves decided against him, then it was a bad move. If Alex Gonzalez was the best they could get, it was a good trade. I don’t know if Wren overvalued Alex Gonzalez because of his great power in early 2010, or if he really was the best they could get. I do know that Yunel was not only a cancer in the clubhouse, but was really terrible on the field, too. And even now, let’s not act like the Braves traded away Ozzie Smith or Cal Ripken. Yunel has turned it around and is a nice player, but I’d rather have the Braves 2010 Wild Card in Bobby’s last year than who knows what with Yunel. And on another note, I don’t know if it is a Canada thing, but Blue Jays fans with their cult-like praise of AA are just annoying. I mean, I know it’s childish but: scoreboard? Where are the Jays and where are the Braves?

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      • Noxage says:

        “Where are the Jays and where are the Braves?”

        The AL East and NL East respectively. Sort of sewers you “scoreboard beak”.

        That was a nice way to wrap up an awful post though.

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      • Lewis says:

        @TK

        Jays fans are far from the only group that are all about the AA. As an impartial, NL West-centric observer (Padres fan), I think what the Jays (and similarly the Rays before them) are doing in the AL East to compete is fascinating.

        Up to this point, all the AA adulation is probably warranted.

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      • TK says:

        What the Rays have done is amazing, yet you hear much much less about them (maybe they just don’t have fans). On the other hand, the Jays have yet to compete in the AL East. I agree that they’ve made some good moves, but their fans are more obnoxious than Red Sox fans, which is hard to do. It really is baffling to me how one can sit and trash the Braves front office. Anyone who knows anything knows that trading Yunel was a good move for the Braves, as it probably was the difference between winning the WC and going home with nothing. Unless you have a reason to believe they could have gotten more for a clubhouse cancer with 0 HRs, then you’re just blowing smoke.

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      • Guy says:

        @ Frank Wren…or TK or whomever…

        “Anyone who knows anything knows that trading Yunel was a good move for the Braves”

        That is an obviously debatable statement.

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      • Jason B says:

        TK: “The Braves made the playoffs, which they probably wouldn’t have done if they had not shipped Yunel out.”

        Uh…because anytime you can trade a 4-win guy for a 2-win guy, you HAVE to do it??? I’m not sure how making your team worse improves your playoff odds. (If that’s the case, Ed Wade is sitting on a 115-win MONSTER! He just needs to unleash the beast!!)

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    • Benjamin says:

      Ramirez is a much better defender and baserunner (though Yunel is no slouch). Yunel’s contract is even better than Alexei’s, though, so maybe

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    • Mad Dan says:

      Escobar and Ramirez are both around $40M in value over the past 3 years, are around the same age, and are both locked up for 4 years.

      You could argue Ramirez is the better player since he’s been better this year, and that’s fine, but Escobar’s deal is $12M cheaper and the last two years are team options.

      It’s a toss-up between them, but if Ramirez cracks the top 35, I do feel like Escobar should be top 50.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      I’m a big Yunel fan, but Ramirez is absolutely better right now. Yunel’s contract is nice though.

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  2. greenfrog says:

    I don’t really understand this series – most of the players listed are highly unlikely to be traded (Halladay? Braun?). It seems more like a “top 50″ MLB players list than a trade deadline feature.

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    • JT Grace says:

      It’s not a trade deadline feature. It is a yearly article that fangraphs does that rates the value of players IF they were traded. Things like age, contract status, etc. affect the rankings as well as the player’s ability. For example, if Ryan Braun made 2M a year for the next four years he would probably be in the top five players. However, since he signed a long expensive contract extension is no longer as valuable.

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    • Tom B says:

      It’s about ranking players “trade value”, not who will get traded. that was pretty clearly explained in the first one. and last years… and the “what did i learn from last year” article… so which part of this “series” did you actually read?

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    • Dan says:

      That’s because it’s not a trade deadline feature, and has absolutely nothing to do with which players are likely to be traded at the deadline.

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    • Pat says:

      Can’t things just be for the entertainment value? Can’t it just be done because it’s an interesting exercise?

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    • Stephan says:

      I think the idea is under the circumstance that everyone on every team was all of a sudden available.

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    • NEPP says:

      Has anyone mentioned that Bill Simmons does a similar list for the NBA?

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  3. MikeS says:

    So now that Ramirez has shown up, we White Sox fans can stop reading, right? I don’t think Danks or Santos is going to show up and I can’t really think of anybody else on the team who qualifies as top 50 young, cheap and good.

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  4. Nik says:

    Why aren’t the excess values these players possess quantified based on WAR projections and the value they would generate minus their contracts. It would make it so much simpler to see why the players are ranked where they are in an objective manner.

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    • Slugger27 says:

      admit it, you’re Telo and just changed your username

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      • Nik says:

        no i’m a casual reader of this site, and I remember the Cost/Benefits of all the Free Agents this winter included the expected WAR for the length of the term based on age and regression in pretty much every article. Just wondering why its not done in this series of articles.

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      • Telo says:

        Bahahah. Nope! Love it though…..

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    • Drew1750 says:

      Well, and correct me if I’m wrong, I think that this ranking isn’t supposed to be objective. It is what someone most likely WOULD return on the open market and not what they SHOULD based on WAR/other stats.

      It seems like the write-up on Cahill is a good example of this where his peripheral stats don’t necessarily show a great pitcher but his perception around the lead ranks him higher on this list.

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      • Drew1750 says:

        league not lead*

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      • GiantHusker says:

        Not sure whether you’re wrong or not. Cameron’s intro left him waffle room to switch back and forth depending on what he thinks a player’s trade value is and what GM’s think it is.
        However, this is a quibble compared to the entertainment value of the series.

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    • Steve says:

      Because that makes it boring.

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    • Tom B says:

      Pretty sure there is nothing “objective” going on here at all. If you are looking for robotic rankings, best go elsewhere.

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      • Nik says:

        The “robotic” analysis is exactly what this site is best at. If i want to get subjective opinions i can always hit up bleacher report.

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      • Telo says:

        “Pretty sure there is nothing “objective” going on here at all.”

        You are literally an idiot.

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      • McE says:

        There is a pretzel stand over there that serves LITERALLY the best pretzel I’ve ever had.

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      • SC2GG says:

        Fortunately for people who are literally fans of the word, we’re in a virtual environment, so you can instead be virtually an idiot.

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      • Telo says:

        I think you mean… salty chew chew trains

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      • Telo says:

        You can call me an idiot when I say idiotic things, like

        “Pretty sure there is nothing “objective” going on here at all.”

        Yes, Cameron just threw together a list of players who he thought had really nice butts. Value is something we spend countless hours trying to measure – it’s practically the mission statement of sabermetrics. If you are telling me that we are creating a list of most valuable player contracts, and that nothing about it is objective, it makes me think “is there anything inside of your brain”. He lists their WAR for crying out loud. That is pretty clearly objective.

        What Nik wants (and coincidentally what I want) is a list that is TRANSPARENT and CONSISTENT. Where we see some sort of rudimentary calculation of marginal value, so that discussions on who is ranked where can be productive. As it is, every comment about where someone is ranked has no substance because we have no baseline. If we did, we could say “well, I think he’s going to produce a bit more than 5 WAR over the next three seasons, so I’d move him up a few spots.” Or “I think that’s an optimistic projection of player X, I’d move him down.”

        You start objective so you can then make subjective adjustments.

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      • SC2GG says:

        That was literally TLDR.

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      • Telo says:

        You must have a doozy of a time with books, newspapers, mcdonalds menus.

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      • slamcactus says:

        Telo,

        One thing you’re missing is that trade value is inherently subjective. For reasons Dave went into last year, Dan Haren had much lower trade value around the league than the numbers suggested he should have. Other players have a huge part of their value influenced by perception. Teams don’t value players based on their expected excess value, so why should this series?

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      • Ben Hall says:

        Telo–people are commenting on your use of the word literally. The original meaning does not fit your usage.

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      • Telo says:

        “One thing you’re missing is that trade value is inherently subjective.”

        You are right that inherently subjective – but only in practice. This is in theory. Dave says himself we are to wipe away circumstance and context, and focus on the players value to all teams in the league, on average. That’s the entire goal of the exercise, to be objective.

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      • Telo says:

        Hahaha. Thanks, Ben Hall. You literally just told me something I didn’t know.

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  5. Mike Green says:

    Ramirez might be a little high. He’s turning 30 in September (I know that doesn’t seem right). With quite a bit of his value tied up in his defensive capabilities, that contract price and term might not seem so favourable to prospective trade partners given his age.

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  6. Dustin Rucinski says:

    No Rickie Weeks yet? I mean, he must be on the list, but I didn’t think he would be this high.

    Relatively good contract for the team, and he has turned into the second best 2B in baseball.

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  7. Sean O'Neill says:

    If Brandon Beachy keeps up his current level of performance, I’d think he’d have to be a Top 50 caliber guy if Pineda is. He may not have Pineda’s flashy fastball, but his peripherals are superior (albeit in the weaker league).

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    • Nik says:

      Keeps it up is the operative word. He doesnt have much of a pedigree but he’s been very impressive thus far, I’ll admit.

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    • Anon21 says:

      I venerate Beachy, but he just established himself as a legit prospect last year. Right now, he could probably net a Michael Bourn or a Josh Willingham straight-up, but next year he may very well appear on this list.

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    • Adam says:

      I’ve been thinking about Beachy too while reading this. His lack of a pedigree may explain the hesitancy of some folks to lump him together with a Pineda, and thereby put him a list like this, but the knowledge gap in the baseball industry closes pretty quickly. The Braves, in particular, probably have as little intention at this point of trading Beachy as they do Hanson. That might sound crazy in theory, but not if the team buys into his performance.

      He should be on the list next season.

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  8. Dylan says:

    I think I’d have Braun a bit higher, even with his contract. He’s owed, starting next year, around $141.5 million. 18 million is deferred and will be paid from 2022-2031, which helps out a bit. Braun has proven to be worth about $20 million a year, and will probably be worth closer to 25-30 million this year. If he can just play like this for 5 more years (he’s 27, it’s not unreasonable to think he can be a 5 win player in his age 28-32 seasons), that almost $125 million of the contract earned. That still leaves him a few more years to earn the rest of the contract.

    I think Braun easily gives his team over $150 million of production in the lifetime of his contract, even if he does miss some time due to an injury somewhere in there. Factor in the fact that some of the money is deferred, we’re seeing dominant pitching that makes his positive baserunning and power more important, and a team trading for him will immediately get huge production thanks to his age (27, teams will immediately be getting his prime years), and I think he’s worth much more than some of the guys who will be ahead of him.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      It’s true that Braun will likely age very well, given his skillset, over the length of the contract.

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    • Ben Hall says:

      Your analysis makes a lot of sense. But there is the unlikely chance (5%, 15%?) that his production falls off a cliff or he has a career-ending injury. In either case, the team is left with an enormous amount of money tied up in a below average player. It’s the risk that is inherent in such a huge contract that lowers his value, in my opinion.

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    • Salo says:

      Yes, Braun deserves his contract and if healthy he will produce 150 M in value. This means his contract does not add value to a trade; you are paying what you are getting.

      He is valuable because you don´t find much players that can put a MVP caliber season every year.

      Maybe he would be higher if Dave haven’t consider that only contending rich teams can try to add him if he becomes available.

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  9. kid says:

    I must really be missing something with Cahill. Doesn’t fool anybody (just 7.5% strike swinging, and 25% O-swing), has shaky control (5.36 K/9 vs 3.33 BB/9 career) with just enough velocity for a RHP (89 MPH in ’11).

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  10. prospectslol says:

    alexei ramirez the most valuable SS in chicago?

    HAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    breathe

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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    • Telo says:

      Basically the same hitter, way better fielder. What’s the issue?

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      • prospectslol says:

        problem is cost, age, ceiling…. the factors this column is supposed to take into account

        they may be basically the same hitter today…… with Alexei being 30 in september in the midst of his prime and Castro being twenty one and still a few years away from his….

        Castro is going to get a lot better on both sides of the ball and Alexei’s having a career year, plus Castro is going to be half the cost of Alexei over the next 4.5 years

        this column isn’t supposed to be about who’s better right now; it’s about who’s more valuable moving forward. Anyone who would rather have alexei ramirez from ages 30-35 at 42.5M over Castro from ages 21-26 in the low 20Ms is a moron.

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      • Ben Hall says:

        I think most people think Castro is going to get worse defensively. I’ve read several people that say they think he’s going to have to move off of SS relatively soon.

        Offensively, I’m not sure where Castro will improve a whole lot. It’s hard to cut strikeout rates much lower than he has. His walk rate may improve, but guys who start with rates as low as his often don’t (I think). He may hit more home runs, but given what he’s doing now I would think 10-15 would be the most you could expect. He already has a very high BABIP. Where do you think he’ll improve.

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      • prospectslol says:

        get worse defensively? I haven’t seen anyone say that, and it’s just not true. the majority of his errors are fixable with more experience. he makes throws he shouldn’t attempt, if he cuts those out nearly half of his errors this year are gone.

        offensively, he will develop more power, he will improve his BB%, and he’s becoming very aggressive on the bases, turning himself into a legit 25-30SB threat. he’s biggest problem is he gets himself out because he has elite contact skills he swings too much; with more time, he will keyhole pitches in hitters counts instead of swinging like he always has 2 strikes.

        the only way i see him off short is if he gets too big physically and loses range…. if he bulks up a lot, i’d say he has a far better chance to go to 3rd than 2B.

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  11. test says:

    To a team like the Yankees or Red Sox, WAR in excess of contract value is a completely secondary concern to simply amassing as much WAR as possible (or whatever metrics they use instead). Did Crawford have obvious value in excess of his contract? Not really, but if someone else had signed him to that contract, the Red Sox would still trade for him and give up significant return. Meanwhile, the Rays would have passed on trading for his new contract entirely. Or if you prefer to focus on a player who has done well, same thing for Gonzalez. No trade value to the Padres at all anymore, but if San Diego signed that contract with him, trade value to the Red Sox similar to what he had before the contract.

    This is one simple example as to why $ valuation above remaining contract doesn’t come close to a player’s trade value. As I understand the series, it’s an attempt to merge these competing trade concerns, which beats a simple WAR projection-contract value list.

    Another end is Brett Gardner – the Yankees might be getting good value for their $ at his position, but if a player was available that was slightly better and cost twice as much, they’d still make the trade even if the other team gets back surplus value.

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    • Sean O'Neill says:

      This is a good point, but it also misses a critical consideration: a series like this can’t really account for case specific differences such as what a team is maximizing, let alone specific market conditions.

      Generalized example:, a profit-maximizing team like the Marlins will have an entirely different valuation of a player than a win-maximizing team like the Athletics. A 5 WAR player being paid like a 2 WAR player is of extreme value to a team like the Athletics, but his value to the Marlins may be much lower because those 5 wins still won’t generate that much revenue for them, so the marginal cost of his salary may still outweigh the marginal benefit of the revenue generated by his wins.

      A series like this is a general, ceteris paribus, analysis of trade value. Once case specifics are brought into play, of course it’s going to fail, but that’s not really the point.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Thank you for laying this out.

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  12. Jaybo Shaw says:

    Why is Lincecum above Halladay?

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    • NEPP says:

      He’s younger and cheaper…that’d be my guess anyway.

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      • Reg says:

        “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, WHAT HAVE THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US???”

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  13. JWTP says:

    Definitely thought Pineda would be higher as well, like last year’s Colby Rasmus, but I guess that’s the residual difference in value between pitchers and hitters, or of course that he’s only pitched a half season in the majors. I also expected far more people to comment on this, so I’m just an idiot all around.

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    • seattlecougar says:

      Gotta see how he’ll hold up over a full season. Innings limits and all that. Even if he is crazy cheap and crazy good right now, he’s probably one of the least certain entities over the length of his contract that you’ll see on this list.

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  14. razor says:

    Not even convinced Ramirez is a better overall shortstop than Yunel is…48 DRS for Yunel at SS in 4,554 innings. Ramirez is at 23 DRS in 3,507 innings. Ramirez has the slight edge in UZR but that’s basically supposed to be similar to the plus/minus system, no?

    Anyway, Yunel gets on base much more. Yunel’s career OPS = .768 in 2,178 at bats. Ramirez is at .750 in 1,957 at bats. Yunel also played in Atlanta the vast majority of his career compared to Ramirez in Chicago. The OPS+ numbers have Yunel at 105 for his career. Ramirez is at 97.

    Finally, Yunel is a year younger than Ramirez.

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  15. everdiso says:

    Career

    Escobar (28): 2481pa, .289/.365/.403/.768, .341woba, 109wRC+, 4.4war/700pa
    Ramirez (29): 2124pa, .281/.323/.427/.750, .326woba, 95wRC+, 3.6war/700pa

    2011

    Escobar (28): 368pa, .291/.365/.438/.803, .355woba, 125wRC+, 5.0war/700pa
    Ramirez (29): 383pa, .274/.331/.414/.745, .329woba, 103wRC+, 5.9war/700pa

    This year’s war numbers for Escobar are brought down by the first negative uzr rating of his career – and a significant one at that. Which definitely doesn’t pass the eye test of anyone who’s watched him out there this year, and is likely an SSS anomaly in the uzr system.

    I’ll take Escobar straight up, no question.

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  16. Barkey Walker says:

    ” only questions about his long term durability” and small sample sizes. When a pitcher is on, the pitchf/x numbers speak to sabermetricians about how great the pitcher is. When they are off, then the pitchf/x says that they are off. Funny how that works.

    The only real way to know if this guy is on is to see him put up more good numbers for the rest of the year.

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  17. andy says:

    cahill really? i know those era’s are spiffy but his fip is right around 4 the last two years. he’s 55th! in pitcher WAR over the last two years. (barry zito comp anyone?). not sure im digging this series, i’m less interested in who mlb teams perceive as valuable, but who they should perceive as valuable.

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