2011 Trade Value: #40-#36

#50-#46
#46-#41

We move on to the next tier of players, and this group ends up being mostly about the contracts. We look at three pitchers whose deals are so team friendly that their trade value exceeds their on-field value. We also look at an example of when a long term contract is not always a great idea and a pitcher who is so good that his high price tag isn’t as big an obstacle as it would be otherwise.

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

#40 – Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado: +11.3

Another guy who was tough to place for me – I’m pretty sure Rockies fans are going to think that he should be much, much higher. He’s just 25-years-old and already established as one of the better outfielders in the game, and Colorado signed him to a long term contract in January that will keep him in Denver through 2017. But that contract is actually part of the problem for me: after this season ends, he’ll be owed $76 million over the next six years. There’s certainly significant value at the front of the contract while his salaries are well below market rates, but he’s getting paid some pretty significant salaries in the second half of the contract, and there are enough questions about his game that I’m not sure those years provide a ton of value. He’s more of a good hitter than a great hitter, and if he’s a corner outfielder, that makes him a nice player but not a star. Given the money he’s been guaranteed, there are certainly teams that would love to have him, but the deal might also scare others off and depress demand for his services.

#39 – James Shields, SP, Tampa Bay: +10.9 WAR

Now this is how you have a comeback season. After posting a superficially high ERA last year, Shields has made the leap this season and is establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. His home run rate is still a bit higher than you might like to see from an ace, but even that would likely fall if he was traded out of the AL East. But his inconsistency likely means that teams would be reluctant to commit to him long term, but lucky for them his contract ensures that they don’t have to – the final three years of his deal are all team options, and even if they are all exercised, he’ll only be paid $28 million through 2014. Quality pitching at below market rates with the ability to opt-out if something goes wrong? That’s the kind of asset that every team would want.

#38 – Yovani Gallardo, SP, Milwaukee: +8.8 WAR

Despite good stuff and the ability to rack up strikeouts, Gallardo has never quite developed into a true front-line starter, and he’s taken a bit of a step back again this season. But teams continue to covet guys who can generate swinging strikes, and Gallardo is under contract through 2014 at a total of just over $25 million, and his contract contains a $13 million team option for 2015 as well. At that price, Gallardo is a good value even for what he is now, and if a team thinks he could improve his command and begin to live up to the stuff, they would likely give up a significant haul to acquire him.

#37 – Ricky Romero, SP, Toronto: +8.4 WAR

While Romero’s career-best ERA might suggest he’s making the leap to ace-level starter, his peripherals suggest that he’s the same good-but-not-great starter he’s been the past two years. He’s not a standout guy at any one thing, but he gets enough ground balls and strikeouts while keeping his walks somewhat in check, so the overall package works. But the best thing about Romero is his contract – he’s due just $5 million next season and $7.5 million in each of the three following seasons, and then the Blue Jays have an option on him for 2016 at $13 million. Like Shields, Romero might not excite everyone as a guy who pitches off an excellent changeup, but he’s a good pitcher with an excellent contract, and those are few and far between.

#36 – Roy Halladay, SP, Phildelphia: +22.4 WAR

He’s 34. He makes $20 million per year. When he actually was put up for trade, the offers weren’t that amazing. I made all these same arguments a year ago in leaving him off the list, but have spent the last 12 months mostly regretting that decision. Halladay is one of the best pitchers of all time, and even heading into what should be the beginning of his decline phase, he’s having the best season of his career. He’s basically the perfect pitcher, and even with a contract that prices him out of some teams budgets, he’d still command a pretty massive haul if the Phillies were actually crazy enough to part with him.




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


72 Responses to “2011 Trade Value: #40-#36”

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  1. ryan says:

    Dave, in #50-46 you said

    “If you get bent out of shape because someone is #43 and you think he should
    be #41, you’re probably reading too much into specific placement on the list.”

    I’m wondering how many spots on this list would be significant? You are suggesting and I agree that two spots is not worth arguing about… Is there significant difference when two players are 5 spots apart? 10? Just curious to your thoughts.

    Enjoy the series, thanks.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      There’s no magic number – at the bottom of the list, the differences will be smaller, so there might not be a big gap between #35 and #45, but at the top of the list, there could be a similar sized gap between #1 and #3.

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  2. Big Oil says:

    Is Halladay’s NTC (which I assume he still has) no longer a factor in his ranking? I believe that was one of the reasons you left him off last year.

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  3. Mr wOBAto says:

    Meh, Cargo was off the list last year since then he has one bad month(april) following a bout with the flu(when he got sick he had a .368/.435/.474 line) and since May 1 has a .319/.391/.566 line with 12 HR and 11 SB as a CF.

    Maybe some GMs would have some concerns trading for a player with that skillset making 17 million per from 29-31, but I would argue cost certainty+ not have to pay for the decline phase might make an .850-.950 OPS CF being paid 76 million over his 26-31 years more attractive.

    All of that being said the Rockies are trading 23 of their 25 man or 38 of their 40 man roster before they consider moving Cargo.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      So we’re supposed to not adjust for his home ballpark, throw out his worst performance, and ignore the fact that he’s playing way more left field than center field this year?

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      • Mr wOBAto says:

        Actually since Fowler went down he has exclusively played CF, the issue is not where a player plays, it is about what they are capable of playing(if you put Chase Utley at 1B it doesn’t mean he can’t play 2B)
        You don’t have to throw out his worst month, but since his struggle obviously occurred after an illness it certainly contextualizes it. Even including the one below average month he has posted since his first month in Colorado he has a 324/.383/.576 line with 30HR and 28SB line in the last 365 days. He has in his 14 months in Denver two bad months .268 wOBA in April this year .280 in his first month in the majors. Two average months(May .340 wOBA and June .336 wOBA last year) Three excellent months(.374, .387, .388 wOBAs) two MVP months(.400, .408) and 5 other worldly months(.453, .460, .483, .484, .516).

        Leaving Coors didn’t hurt Holliday or Barmes any more than coming to Coors helped Olivo or Cirrillo(at least not in terms of overall results).

        If you choose to ignore the big hole in the WRC+ theory about how playing at altitude affects a baseball player then you are the one picking and choosing data.

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      • Ben Hall says:

        This is to Mr. wOBAto below.

        “If you choose to ignore the big hole in the WRC+ theory about how playing at altitude affects a baseball player”

        I think that you’re saying that wRC+ does not accurately adjust for playing at altitude. That is, while we should adjust the stats of Rockies’ players downwards somewhat, wRC+ does this too much.

        If I’m reading this correctly, then Matt Holliday is actually an example that it adjusts correctly. While his wOBA have dropped significantly since leaving Colorado (.409, .428, .418 to .390, .396), his wRC+ has stayed fairly constant (138, 150, 146, 144, 149).

        Am I misreading what you’re saying, or is there something else going on?

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      • Ben Hall says:

        When I say below I mean above.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        Ben, WRC+ measures dings players for playing in a friendly run environment. It measures road performance against what is an average performance in each particular park a player plays in on the road. What I was talking about is the way players who play at Coors tend to have historically strong home numbers like you would expect, but also tend to have historically bad road numbers which is never accounted for in Rockies players performance. Take Jeff Cirillo’s triple slash/OPS numbers

        Total
        1996 .325/.391/.504 .894
        1997 .288/.367/.426 .793
        1998 .321/.402/.445 .847
        1999 .326/.401/.461 .862
        2000 .326/.392/.477 .869
        2001 .313/.364/.473 .838

        Road

        1996 .350/.404/.548 .951
        1997 .289/.371/.436 .807
        1998 .329/.409/.469 .878
        1999 .300/.375/.454 .828
        2000 .239/.299/.329 .628
        2001 .266/.327/.383 .710

        Which one do you find to be easier to figure out when he came to Coors? By the way his wRC+ numbers for those years are

        1995 113wRC+
        1996 120wRC+
        1997 108wRC+
        1998 129wRC+
        1999 121wRC+
        2000 97wRC+
        2001 98wRC+

        After floundering around in the hitters graveyards of Safeco and Petco Cirillo returned to form in Milwaukee as a 35-36 year old. I am not attacking the idea of wRC+ I just have some serious questions about it’s application, and the adjustments the + makes.

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      • Ben Hall says:

        What kind of adjustment do you think we should make for Rockies? We can’t just compare a wOBA from Coors Field to other fields. It still inflates offense more than any other park.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        The home component is likely pretty close to correct, certain players like Brad Hawpe who were essentially the same hitter home and road are hurt in their WAR numbers but that is largely unavoidable. What I would like to see is a study of players who joined the Rockies as veterans and what they did Home/Road and or players who have left Coors. Let’s assume that players who join the Rockies get a 20% bump offensively coming to Coors, do they suffer a loss in road productivity? how big is that loss? 10%? 15%?

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  4. Ray says:

    I was surprised to see Shields at the same spot this year as last. Is that a product of there being more guys jumping over him this year, or the fact that he has one fewer year of that team-friendly contract? Based on performance I’d have expected him to jump forward at least a few spots, I’d be interested in hearing any reason why he didn’t.

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    • TL says:

      Better performance, but fewer years left under control, maybe?

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      • TL says:

        Oops, you did point that out- but I that might be it

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      • Ray says:

        Yeah, that’s what I mentioned as a possibility. But – that better performance seems considerably better (1.22 runs better in FIP, 0.66 better in xFIP), I’d think 3+ years of control is still enough for that increase in performance to justify a jump in rankings (unless, as I also mentioned, Dave believes enough guys behind Shields last year have made a bigger jump).

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Most of his struggles last year came in the second half, which obviously didn’t factor into last year’s ranking given the timing of when we publish this. Add in the lost year of team control and I don’t see Shields past 12 months performance changing the perception of his value that much.

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      • Ray says:

        Gotcha – thanks for the explanation, I figured it was something like that. Great series as always, it’s my favorite annual article that anyone puts out, period.

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  5. kid says:

    I don’t want to be the guy picking arbitrary endpoints for the sake of making points, but in 2011 Cargo’s been a .400+ wOBA player in every month besides April, and this on the heels of a .416 wOBA 2010 season. So that’s almost a year and a half of .400+ wOBA performance. What makes you refrain from classifying him as a “great” hitter? Shaky plate discipline? Too many groundballs? Not enough pop? Great work.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Everyone looks great when you throw out their worst performances. Gonzalez has a career wRC+ of 124.

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    • Prime Minister Cameron says:

      Look, why is it hard for you to understand that a 34 year old pitcher who is due 70 million dollars by 2014 his age 38 season is more valuable than a 25 year old .400wOBA CF who is due 76 million by 2017 his age 31 season? I mean isn’t it obvious? They are both coming off of a 6.6 WAR season.

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      • Max says:

        Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, and has been for some time. He’s a borderline hall of famer who is having his best year at age 34. Carlos Gonzalez is an above-average corner outfielder who is capable of playing an okay center field. The only reason they’re close at all is because of that contract difference you mentioned.

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      • chuckb says:

        I love how you guys who really want to be snarky, sarcastic, and condescending come up with some really witty pseudonym behind which to hide.

        Not only are you unable to comment without the snark but you don’t have the stones to even put anything resembling your real name behind your ridiculous post.

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      • Jordan says:

        Roy Halladay is not a borderline HoFer – he’s a 1st ballot lock. He’s been in the top 2 or 3 in both IP and FIP/xFIP for the past few years, and is having the best season of his life.

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      • jim says:

        cargo is an outstanding defender, and he is a victim of the wonky effect UZR has on coors- it’s the only system that has him in the negatives.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        Halladay is unquestionably the best pitcher in the game, but this exercise isn’t a game of “who would you rather have?” it is a game of who has more trade value.

        Halladay has track record and “best in the game” status but ignoring the 9 year age difference, that he usually plays once a week, that he has peaked, that you are paying for his decline, that he has full NTC is your prerogative but I would argue that more than his contract gets in the way of his trade value.

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  6. Salo says:

    I wander if Jose Bautista, under control for the next five years on a contract that wil be paid next season because of his awsome performance, will be abobe long time FG MVP (considering his contract).

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    • bender says:

      No way. FGMVP is under control for longer, cheaper, younger, and has absolutely no risk because they’re all team options.

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    • My echo and bunnymen (Dodgers Fan) says:

      I cannot be teh only one who has no idea what “abobe” and FG MVP are referring to. I tried hiragana for abobe, but just got more confused. There all fat?

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  7. Jason says:

    Halladay is way to low. He has way more surplus value than your giving him credit for. What makes someone valuable in trade is that its hard to get the same commodity via free agency… at a reasonable price. An acquiring team right now would be getting Halladay for 2.5 seasons at 50M. That is an unbelievable bargain for the best pitcher in the game.

    (particularly when you consider track record and durability – you can be much more confident in his production over the next two years than some of the younger pitchers in their arb years that we are sure to see on this list ranked higher)

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    • domingoes says:

      Surplus value is great, but part of this series does take into account that a lot of teams couldn’t afford Halladay, which suppresses his trade value. Also, the guys at the top of this list are young stars under team control with surplus value is through the roof because their pay is so cheap compared to their abilities or there are guys with ridiculously team friendly long-term contracts (Longoria). Halladay is already getting paid fairly for his skills.

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      • Jason says:

        Not questioning the methodology – just the result. When the rest of the list is published I think we are going to see quite a few names that wouldnt get the same return as Halladay would if they put him on the market. Sure the Padres wouldnt be in on him, but the Yankees, Rangers, Reds among others would have a hell of a bidding war for him. And the pool of teams would increase if we are talking in offseason.

        But you comment does bring up another point that often gets overlooked at FG. Halladay may be getting paid “fairly for his skills” if you are looking at how WAR is valued in the FA labor market – but from the team’s perspective their is still considerable surplus value attached to any “market rate” deal. In Halladay’s case that value is considerable.

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    • bender says:

      Halladay has a full no trade clause. There’s probably only a few teams he’d even permit a trade to, if any

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  8. Dan says:

    Watching the All-Star game last night brought my mind to Jair Jurrjens, who I assume does not show up on the list. He’s pretty similar to Shields, no? Both guys seem to be true-talent mid to high 3’s FIP guys. They have pretty similar effective contract situations with Shields having an extra year of team control. Given that Jurrjens was a 1st time arb eligible guy this past offseason, the Braves effectively have the same opt-outs as the Rays do with Shields.

    I know Shields strikes out more guys, but that is mainly offset by Jurrjens lower home run rate. So is Dave basically discounting Jurrjens low HR rate and the fact that he pitches in the NL to come up with the apparent large gap in value between Jurrjens and Shields?

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    • mscharer says:

      My guess is durability and league/division disparity as the difference.

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    • Ben Hall says:

      I think Jurrjens is much less proven at this level of performance than Shields. He’s never struck out a lot of batters, and now he’s striking out significantly fewer than league average. If he can maintain an elite walk rate, then even with an expected rise in home run rate he can be a solid pitcher, but so far it’s just 110 innings of 2 BB/9.

      In contrast, Shields has had an elite walk rate since 2007 to go with good (and over the last year and a half very good) strikeout rate.

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      • Dan says:

        Fair points–But Shields has a history of trouble with the long ball, and also is 30 years old. It is less likely that a 29-30 year old pitcher figures something out and takes a large leap forward in performance.

        I’ll buy the durability argument to a point, but Jurrjens injuries were not arm injuries, so health is closer to a push than a clear Shields win given their ages.

        My point was that clearly neither guy is as good as they have been in 2011. But given their ages and track records are they really that different in value?

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      • Ben Hall says:

        I don’t think Shields has made a large leap forward in performance. He’s better than he was last year, but each of the aspects under his control have improved slightly. All of the “luck” factors were terrible for him last year, and this year they’re all great. His ERA has dropped almost three runs, but his xFIP has only dropped 0.66. I’m not saying (and I’m pretty sure Dave’s not saying) that he’s a true talent 2.33 ERA pitcher.

        I think it comes down to how much confidence you have in Jurrjens’s ability to limit home runs. If you think he can maintain his career rate of 6.8% HR/FB, then they probably are equal. If you don’t (and I think we know from past comments that Dave doesn’t) then they probably aren’t.

        Over the last five years, Matt Cain is the only person with a HR/FB rate equal to Jurrjens’s career rate (6.8%). http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=800&type=8&season=2011&month=0&season1=2006&ind=0

        You have to go up to Zito at 8.4% to find a pitcher who has a below average strikeout rate (or isn’t a knuckleballer).

        On the other hand, given that this is trade value, and there are clearly still some general managers who value ERA and the ability to limit home runs more than most of us do here, perhaps his value is as high as Shields.

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  9. Garrett says:

    Why do you call Halladay one of the best pitchers of all time? Its about as reasonable as calling Pedro Martinez the best pitcher of all time.

    Actually the latter is infinitely better.

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    • Garet says:

      How is Halladay NOT one of the best pitchers of all time?

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    • Cam says:

      The game gets a little more competitive every year. Halladay’s been consistently dominant for the past decade against the best and deepest crop of hitters baseball’s ever seen. Realistically, who else could do what he’s done and continues to do?

      Also, “one of the best” has a bit of wiggle room. Top ten would still count as one of the best, and I’m pretty sure Halladay will be there by the time he retires.

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    • Allan says:

      That’d be because Halladay is one if, if not the top pitcher of his generation, and that would also make him one of the best all time. Is he a top ten pitcher all time? No, but he’s probably top 25, and that makes him an all time great.

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    • Allan says:

      And by looking at top 25 ERA+ of all time, Halladay is certainly up there. He’s a certain top 25 pitcher of all time, and that should be plenty enough to make you an all time great.

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      • Jordan says:

        He’s currently #19, and 7 of the guys above are either RPs or have thrown over 1000 fewer innings than him.

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    • McE says:

      Which would be a problem, if both Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay weren’t among the best pitchers of all time?

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    • Garrett says:

      What is Halladay’s “generation”? Are you using multiple endpoints to choose an arbitrary time period that makes him look better than he is? Likely so.

      Also, rate stats that don’t include a decline phase will always overrate current players.

      Oh, and projecting a player with a long and graceful decline is retarded (See Jeter, Derek).

      Again, “best” is a superlative. What criteria does Halladay fit the “best” of? How many pitchers are part of the “best”? 40? 100? 1000?

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      • Garrett's mother says:

        You sure are having a major hissy fit over a general comment that most people would agree with. Chill out, and please stop calling things “retarded”

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      • Garrett says:

        Considering most people are fucking idiots. Whateva.

        Lets take some players his career has substantially overlapped with: Maddux/Johnson/Clemens.

        Is he better than any of these players? Do you expect him to be better than any of these players by the time he retires? Does a ~decade long career overlap qualify for generation? How many pitcher generations are there? (Is the better half of the HOF all part of “the best”?)

        Sweet logical fallacy BTW. Standard of the average fangraphs reader.

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    • dustygator says:

      I went to B-Ref wanting to compare Doc to Mussina and low and behold, the first similar player at age for Halladay is Mussina. I think both are HOFs and Halladay is the best right now but one of the greatest of all time is pushing it.

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      • Jordan says:

        Mussina is criminally underrated. He’s 5th all-time among starters in fWAR, and he retired coming off of a 5.3 WAR season. So yes, if Halladay finishes his career like Mussina, he will join the Moose as one of the best starters ever to play the game. Plus, Halladay’s best has been – and continues to be – better that Mussina’s. Roy has four 7+ WAR seasons and is well on his way to a 5th, while Mussina only had one. Oh, and Halladay’s currently tops among active SPs in WAR, and is less than 20 away from the top 5.

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      • Garrett says:

        Mussian is underrated. fWAR is retarded for all-time. Tell me what Walter Johnson’s fWAR is. Oh? He’s not listed.

        Also. Pedro Martinez is 5th and on fWAR list at 89.4 Halladay sits at 66.7 I’d look into retaking the 3rd grade if you think that is “less than 20″

        PS: For giggles:

        Randy Johnson is 3rd in fWAR and 12th in bWAR.
        Pedro Martinez is 5th in fWAR and 23rd in bWAR.
        Kevin Brown is 10th and 34th.
        Halladay is 14th and 82nd.

        But lets choose statistics that are most favorable when making our arguments. Instead of using statistics to see, you use them as support. That is completely retarded.

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      • Kevin says:

        I’m pretty sure Roy Halladay is 43rd in bWAR and not 82nd.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/WAR_pitch_career.shtml

        But lets choose statistics that are most favorable when making our arguments.

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      • Garrett says:

        My error. My source was clearly not updated:

        http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/top500p.htm

        Regardless, what line would you draw at HOF eligibility (and first ballot if you felt that was a separate subset), then inner circle HOF, then “best”?

        Where would Halladay fit into this?

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    • NBarnes says:

      Pedro Martinez’s case for being the best pitcher of all time is pretty good. He certainly had one of the top 3 career peaks of any pitcher of all time.

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  10. Omar says:

    Other than Brett Gardner I’ve found this list pretty good…perhaps Cano’s a bit low, but if I agreed 100% with you what would be the fun in reading it?

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  11. TK says:

    How many good players are traded before reaching arbitration? Very few, which I believe is because they are way too valuable. Really, year 1 arb guys are almost never traded. In general, a stud like for instance cliff lee or mark teixeira just couldn’t be traded that early before free agency at the discount you get. If Danny Espinosa earns 15 WAR over the next 5.5 years and is paid 25 million, halladay would have to earn 20 over the next 2.5 to be as valuable. Would the Nats make that trade right now (for sake of argument after a 4 game winning streak)?

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    • DBA says:

      A very fair point. Another factor to consider, though, is that roster spaces are finite, and truly elite players are scarce – and thus more valuable, on some sort of non-linear scale.

      IE, you can’t have 40 2-WAR players on your 25 man roster. You can, in theory, have 10 8-WAR players.

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      • TK says:

        Yeah, that’s true, but the number of teams who have to worry more about roster space (and by “roster space” I mean starting players) than dollar bills can be counted on one finger. I do see your point, though, and I think this has been made before. I think the best example is having a 10 WAR guy and a 0 WAR guy verses two 5 WAR guys. It would be a lot easier to improve on the 0 WAR guy than one of the 5 WAR guys.

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    • Ben Hall says:

      I agree with the first part of your comment.

      Can you take me through the math you used there to compare Espinosa and Halladay? My numbers aren’t coming out the same, but I may be making a mistake.

      It also seems to me that spreading the same amount of surplus value out over six years is less valuable than over three years.

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    • WilsonC says:

      I don’t expect either team would make that trade right now. Halladay’s certainly more valuable to the Phillies since he helps them more in the short term, and they’re a team where the value of wins now is high. The Nats are probably better off with Espinosa, since they’re not yet set up for winning in the short term.

      If you reverse the teams for the two players, I suspect both would try to make it happen. The question is which team would have to add more in the balancing?

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  12. Anthony says:

    Anyone want to venture a guess as to when will be the first year that Longoria won’t be #1 on this list anymore?

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    • TK says:

      Assuming we are talking about during the month of July, I’d say barring major injury, he obviously is this year, almost impossible he isn’t #1 in 2012, unlikely he isn’t in 2013, 2014 is a toss up, and I doubt he’s still the best value in 2015 and almost impossible that he is in 2016.

      In 2013, it’ll be 3.5 years at 29-32 million. If I were betting, I’d say someone comes along in 2014 to knock him off his perch.

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  13. well says:

    I expect Shields is another guy the fangraphs/stats community has a much higher opinion of than actual GMs do. Much like Dan Haren. Except Shields isn’t anywhere near as good as Haren

    Putting Carlos Gonzalez just one spot above Colby Rasmus (contract status be damned) seems like damage control for leaving him off the list last year

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  14. Big Jgke says:

    You write about Halladay, ‘When he actually was put up for trade, the offers weren’t that amazing.’ But surely the fact the he had demanded a trade from Toronto and had said the would accept a deal to only New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta (and maybe one other team) limited the offers. His last trade was a coup for AA not an accurate indication of the Halladay’s market value.

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  15. bookbook says:

    I don’t know. Bautista seems like an awfully valuable property to me.

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  16. RC says:

    “he’d still command a pretty massive haul if the Phillies were actually crazy enough to part with him.”

    If teams weren’t willing to give a huge haul for him lastyear, when he wasn’t owed 20M a year for the forseeable future, why would they now?

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    • Joncarlos says:

      His contract status was uncertain. A lot of teams were worried they’d have to give him 6 years. Now that that’s off the table, he might be as attractive or even more attractive, even though he’s a year older.

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