2012 Trade Value: #10-#6

#50-#46
#45-#41
#40-#36
#35-#31
#30-#26
#25-#21
#20-#16
#15-#11

Note: salaries are rounded estimates and include all team-controlled years. Rankings from the 2011 Trade Value series in parentheses.

10. (2) Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto – Signed through 2015 for $63 million

An early season slump and another low BABIP has Bautista performing at a more human level than the past few years, though he’s still among the best hitters in the game. However, he does turn 32 in October, so whether he’s going to remain an elite player for much longer is an open question. The steal of a contract that the Blue Jays signed him to in 2010 has four years left at $14 million per year, and then there’s a team option for 2016 at the same price. For the next couple of years, it’s a significant discount, though I probably wouldn’t expect the option to be exercised. For a team in need of a short term offensive boost without taking a huge hit to their payroll, Bautista would be one of the most appealing players in the sport.

9. (8) Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta – Under Team Control through 2015.

Heyward has bounced back nicely from his disappointing 2011 season, showing a different set of skills than what made him a heavily hyped rookie and flashing potential to be a premier all-around hitter. Still a few weeks shy of his 23rd birthday, Heyward already has 1,400 career plate appearances and has posted a 120 wRC+ during those three years. Guys who can do that over an extended period from 20-22 generally turn into superstars. There are downsides here, though — health has been an issue, for one, and he’s only three years from free agency. Any team trying to pry Heyward from the Braves would be hoping to land a franchise player, but would need to pony up a large contract in order to get his prime years locked up, and they probably wouldn’t come cheap given what Heyward has already accomplished. Still, he’s one of the best young hitters in the game, and a legitimate franchise cornerstone.

8. (24) Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington – Under Team Control through 2016

If durability wasn’t a question mark, Strasburg would be in the mix for the #1 spot. So, yes, he’s a pitcher, and we acknowledge that pitchers get hurt more often and have a high risk of flameouts, but we can’t just ignore the fact that Strasburg is outpitching everyone in baseball on a per-innings basis. His 67 xFIP- is the best mark of any qualified starter this year, and puts him on par with most recent Cy Young winners. There’s no question about Strasburg’s abilities — if his arm stays together, he’s a Hall of Fame talent. Any pitcher is a gamble, but Strasburg offers enough potential to make that a gamble that GMs want to take, especially given that they’d control his rights for four more years without the downside of a guaranteed contract.

7. (NR) Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers – Signed through 2019 for $153 million

It took about a month for Kemp’s 8 year/$160 million contract to look like a steal, as he spent April proving that last year was no fluke. He’s not the best defensive center fielder around and his lingering hamstring problems are a bit of a concern, but Kemp is still a 27-year-old five tool superstar who might just be baseball’s best overall player when he’s on the field. The Dodgers took a risk in paying him big money after what appeared to be a caree year, but Kemp is performing at an even higher level this season, and simply looks like he’s developed into one of the game’s true elite players. He probably can’t keep hitting as well as he has so far in 2012, but then again, we said that last year too.

6. (31) Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers – Signed through 2020 for $128 million

At age 28, Braun has essentially developed into a complete all around player. He’s always had power, but his game was rough around the edges before he made the leap last year. Now, with improved plate discipline, better defense, and more aggressive baserunning, Braun has no real weaknesses on the field. While I didn’t understand the Brewers desire to an extend his contract until 2020 when they already had him signed through 2015, the move now looks like it will save them tens of millions of dollars, and was one of the best decisions in franchise history. The Brewers have essentially locked up one of the game’s rare talents for well below market rates, and they didn’t have to guarantee years beyond age 36 in order to get a lower price. Braun’s a great player with a great contract, and is only this low because of the great wave of young talent that has pushed their way past him with their incredible production.




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


89 Responses to “2012 Trade Value: #10-#6”

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  1. Mike M says:

    Where would Wieters sit on the Top 50 list?

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  2. the hottest stove says:

    Did I miss Wainwright in the top 50? Due to the recent surgery I guess?

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  3. Person says:

    So: Trout, Harper, McCutchen…

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  4. CJH88 says:

    1- Trout
    2- Harper
    3- ‘Cutch
    4 -Stanton
    5-Longoria

    ????

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    • Person says:

      This looks right.

      @Erix Votto was 26th.

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    • GoToWarMissAgnes says:

      I think Stanton’s gotta be 5th. He still hasn’t put up a full season as good as Longoria’s worst (although he will this year…), and Longo’s contract is still just silly.

      After that, I think my list would be the same. I could see the top 3 being in any order though. McCutchen’s contract is also pretty crazy if he actually is this good.

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    • Matthew says:

      I’m guessing McCutchen will be ahead of Harper. Harper is a fantastic player for his age, but he hasn’t performed at an MVP-contender level yet, while McCutchen has. Also, don’t forget McCutchen is signed through 2017 (club option in 2018) on a very affordable contract.

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      • cwendt says:

        And he’s an up-the-middle player.

        Trout
        McCutch
        Longo
        Harper
        Stanton

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      • GoToWarMissAgnes says:

        Yeah I think I have to agree. I didn’t realize quite how crazy McCutchen’s contract is. That said, Cameron is a huge Harper fan (beyond the sense that we all are). Not sure that the argument can still be made that Harper’s power gives him a higher upside than Trout since Trout is currently putting up a season better than anyone’s peak can reasonably be projected to be (his WAR/game translates to 11.5 WAR in 150 games).

        Anyway, my best guess is Trout, Cutch, Harper, Longo, Stanton. The only real question to me is Harper/Longo. The other three are pretty entrenched as I see it.

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      • Pig.Pen says:

        One thing you seem to be overlooking when you say that Harper hasn’t “performed at an MVP-contender level yet,” is that he’s 19. To put this in perspective, most of the guys on this list weren’t even in the high minors at 19, let alone playing in the majors and outproducing guys that are in their prime years. You might also compare Harper’s first few months with the time Trout spent in the bigs last year. Even Trout, who is an absolute freak for doing what he’s doing at 20, wasn’t as good as Harper at 19. Harper is only going to get better, grow bigger and stronger, and hit more dingerz in a league that has been sapped of power over the last few years. And while he’s not as fast as Trout (Who is besides Hamilton and Brown), he’s pretty fast, has a cannon for an arm and plays good defense. I love McCutchen, but he’s significantly older than Harper and much of his value is tied to his speed, which fades a lot faster than power does.

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  5. Andrew says:

    Longoria and Stanton

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  6. TKDC says:

    I don’t get the Bautista ranking, compared to Stanton.

    What Stanton does well, Bautista does better. Bautista also seems like the better defensive player. We’re only talking the next 3-4 years, and while yes Bautista should decline, we don’t really have a lot of good comps for a player like him.

    Further, there is a pretty good chance Stanton makes 60ish million dollars by the time he reaches free agency. Bautista is the better player right now (are we even factoring in the fact that Stanton is currently DLed?).

    Also, 14 million dollars in 2016 could easily be a 2 win player. That option still has a lot of value. In short, Bautista is better now, and by the time he is likely to not be better, he will probably be a better deal.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Stanton’s younger and has a bit more team control.

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    • Cory says:

      lol you know Bautista is on the DL right now too right? What does Stanton being on it have to do with anything? Neither injury is serious.

      Santon is 9 years younger than Bautista and is currently way cheaper. You’re also extremely incorrect about Bautista being better defensively, as Stanton has posted UZRs of 8.7, 3.2, and 5.2 the last 3 years while Bautista has put up -7.1, -4.8, and -0.1. Stanton’s wRC+ is 7 points higher than Bautista’s this year despite being AT LEAST 5 years away from his prime, while Bautista will be exiting his soon.

      So what are you talking about again?

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      • TKDC says:

        Fine, looking at them I think Bautista is better defensively, but I’ll drop that.

        Your contention about offense is borderline trolling. This year is an awfully small sample size, and there is a lot of BABIP regresssion you can do. Are you arguing Stanton is a better hitter right now? That’s really what I’m talking about. Baustista is much better right now, SSS aside.

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    • schlomsd says:

      Are you serious or is this just Blue Jay fan trolling?

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    • Doug says:

      I don’t think there’s too much comparison between Stanton and Bautista’s value for the rest of 2012. Bautista is a professional masher of taters. This list is about evaluating value/(cost*risk) though, and then accounting for liquidity. Youth and cost control are what push Stanton ahead hear, not current level of play.

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  7. TKDC says:

    Question for the author: Would Heyward be ahead of Stanton if the Braves did not bring him up opening day and controlled him through 2016?

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    • Anon21 says:

      Interesting question. Stanton’s generating his most obvious value through homers, which are bankable in any day and age, whereas Heyward’s doing a lot of his damage in the field and on the basepaths. I honestly don’t know who will have the better career or the better next 3-4 years, but I do think Stanton’s skillset generally pays better.

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      • TKDC says:

        Which of course brings up the question of arbitration. While GMs might covet what Stanton does more, they also know they’ll have to pay a premium through arbitration. While Heyward might be a better player the next 3-4 years, he’ll likely receive 15 million less in arbitration (assuming both continue pretty much as they are now).

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  8. JA311 says:

    So DWright is no longer in the Top 50 in trade value? A tad harsh.

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  9. JA311 says:

    I’m assuming he isn’t in the Top 5

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  10. Jonathan says:

    Honestly kind of surprised Strasburg didn’t rate the top five. Can’t really argue with the rationale, though.

    Hard to argue against the actual (Presumed) top five anyway. I’d give up a ton for any of them.

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  11. braveslifer says:

    I know Kimbrel is a RP but he has been very valuable and is under team control for four more years. I can understand him not making the list due to the value of RP but would like to know how far off he was.

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    • Cory says:

      He probably wouldn’t even be in the top 200

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      • Anon21 says:

        No, that’s ridiculous in an age when GMs are handing out $60 million contracts like candy to worse closers. He’s easily a top 100 asset, may have only missed the list by like 10-15 players.

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      • Cory says:

        He’s a reliever. He definitely shouldn’t come even close to top 100. GMs giving out stupid contracts when elite relievers are found out of nowhere every single year is absolutely idiotic. Kimbrel belongs nowhere near this list.

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      • Anon21 says:

        So’s Chapman, for the record. And both would likely be overvalued unless you also swapped in a manager who would use them in high leverage non-save situations and the occasional multiple inning appearance.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Cory: It’s a descriptive list. It’s not how good these players are objectively, it’s how in demand they are. “Proven” closers with tons of saves and strikeouts are definitely overvalued relative to their on-field contributions, but that’s neither here nor there. The question is what you could get in trade for them, not what you would get in trade in a hypothetical perfectly rational market.

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      • kp says:

        I can’t see any team trading, say, Alcides Escobar (#47) or Gallardo (#49) for Kimbrel straight up.

        That being said, to the right team in the right situation Kimbrel has more value than either of them in a short playoff series. Top 50? No. But I doubt he’s more than 20 or 30 players away from this list.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Craig Kimbrel would be top 20 if your trade partner was Bill Smith.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        kp, tbh, I think that if Alcides Escobar were offered for Kimbrel, the Braves would the first to hang up. Not saying it should be that way, but I think that’s the way most teams see proven RP dominance.

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    • Mac says:

      Well, specifically in this context of trade value, I think he wouldn’t rank very high. I would actually place a lot of value on a consistent reliever. The Hoffman/Wagner types, it’s a great boost when you can count on a consistent bullpen arm from year to year.

      But … as many have said, acceptably good relievers do always seem to fall out of the woodwork, and if you’re really in trouble picking up an RP for a playoff push is never all that costly.

      Push came to shove, if there was an above average but maybe not all-star position player anywhere up for trade, you’d very likely pull the trigger to acquire them at the price of Kimbrel, amazing though he is.

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  12. Spencer Silva says:

    Where is Hosmer?

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    • Anon21 says:

      The Yuni trolling is much funnier. This is just sad (because Hosmer had the chance to be great).

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    • batpig says:

      I’m sure Hosmer was on the cusp, but the bottom line is that (despite his youth) he does not project to be an elite hitter, which is pretty much required to be valuable at 1B. And it’s not like Hosmer makes up for that with insane defensive value.

      A lot of this reflects the methodological shift that Dave mentioned — bankable superstar production at 1B (Votto, Miggy) is more valuable in trade. 1B are freaking awesome hitters, and Hosmer has been exactly league average so far… pretty nice for a 22 year old, but you need to crush it to be a star at 1B.

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      • KCDaveInLA says:

        I think you’re assuming a little too early that Hosmer won’t be elite. As for Votto, he’s 29, expensive, and will be expensive into his late 30’s.

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  13. Spencer Silva says:

    That seems like a pretty big omission…

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  14. JimNYC says:

    I’m bewildered at this ranking for Ryan Braun, who’s basically guaranteed to get a 50 game suspension at some point in the next two or three years, and seems like the kind of jerk who won’t take that to heart, and will get a full season suspension on top of it. Between the steroid risk and the fact that he’s just an awful, untrustworthy human being, I think that contract was a horrible move by Milwaukee.

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  15. Dana says:

    The extension point is a great one, both Braun and Gonzalez are examples of smart GMs. It is a way to lock up those early 30s without having to pay for the late 30s. If you let Braun’s contract run until 2015, it takes a 10 year contract to get him signed again. Of course there is inherent risk in any long-term contract, but it makes sense for the truly elite

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  16. rogue_actuary says:

    @TKDC,

    … you realize that Stanton doesn’t turn 23 until after this season, right?

    Stanton’s career wRC+ is 134 up to this point. The four people ahead of him and behind him on that list (qualifying, 22 and under, and dating back to 1977) are as follows:

    Pujols (153)
    Rickey Henderson (138)
    Alex Rodriguez (135)
    Griffey Jr. (135)
    Stanton (134)
    Miguel Cabrera (131)
    Darryl Strawberry (131)
    Eddie Murray (131)
    Tim Raines (130)

    Stanton is making $480K in 2012. The other eight guys at the top of the “22 and under” wRC+ list all produced significantly higher wRC+ in their 23-26 seasons.

    Pujols (175)
    Rickey Henderson (157)
    Alex Rodriguez (155)
    Griffey Jr. (156)
    Stanton (???)
    Miguel Cabrera (141)
    Darryl Strawberry (156)
    Eddie Murray (143)
    Tim Raines (156)

    From age 23-26, Miguel Cabrera’s 141 was offset by the loss of over 20 runs from defense and baserunning. He was a 1B for that entire time, so the hitting level of a replacement for him would have been higher. He was worth 20.5 WAR over that period of time.

    Stanton is an OF and he doesn’t suck. For his career, he is +13 runs from defense and baserunning over 2.5 seasons. Over four seasons, that would end up grossing up to something around +20.

    If you use Cabrera’s 20.5 WAR as a baseline, ignore the difference in positional value, and tack on another 4 wins for defense and baserunning, you end up with a 5-6 WAR/year player who is making $480,000 in 2012.

    Stanton has accumulated 2+ years of MLB service. I’m not sure if he’ll have Super 2 status or not, but let’s say that he’ll be arb-eligible after this year. I read somewhere that the rule of thumb for arbitration is that you can expect to make roughly your value multiplied by (1 minus 20% times “years of arbitration remaining”). In Stanton’s case, that would be 40% of what he’s worth next year, then 60%, then 80%. Arbitration is largely based on precedent, but Stanton is likely to always have sexy HR numbers, so he would probably fair moderately well in actual hearings.

    The Marlins could easily get another three wins out of him this year for next to nothing. Even if he only ends up being worth 5 WAR per year, and assuming that a win is worth $5M, that means his surplus value would be about $15M for the rest of this year, then $15M in 2013, $10M in 2014 and $15M in 2015.

    Even in that example, there is the potential that Stanton puts up a few 7 or 8 WAR seasons. He’s a top notch power hitter just entering his physical prime.

    Bautista is also producing at a high level and is signed to a team-friendly deal. But Stanton is clearly demonstrating HOF-caliber skill for his age level. And it is pretty likely that he’ll even improve from this point going forward. Bautista simply can’t be expected to improve his fundamental skillset in future years.

    So, … yeah. I would rank Stanton ahead of Bautista. I would probably rank Stanton ahead of everyone not named “Mike Trout”. I might be talked into Bryce Harper at #2, but Stanton’s present power is probably too much for me to switch the two.

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    • TKDC says:

      Your post is too long, but I’m going to assume you made a good point, because you got so many pluses this far down the comments section.

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    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      I’d take Harper over Stanton just for the 2 extra years of control at the league minimum. Stanton’s going to be better than Harper for the next 3 years, but I don’t think that he’s going to more -valuable- with his arbitration raises.

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  17. Guest says:

    I know he’s only got a year and a half left, but no Jacoby Ellsbury? As a Rays fan, I would gladly trade Zobrist for Ellsbury. I’d have thought he’d be right there with Cano.

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    • JM says:

      Injury concerns are omnipresent, he’s an FA in 2013 and, unlike Cano, his major league success is limited to only last season.

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  18. Bob says:

    Its too bad that Prince wasn’t interested in signing long-term deals early. He was offered essentially the same deal that Braun took. Can you imagine if Milwaukee had both of them locked up long-term to fairly reasonable contracts?

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  19. Tim says:

    Based on the contract and how great of a player he is when healthy, I still say Evan Longoria should be number 1. Trout and Harper are amazing talents Mccutchen has came on strong this year, but Longoria has performed at a 6+ war per season level for his entire career, is still young and controlled for 5? more years at bargain rates.

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    • hk says:

      Interesting. The “when healthy” is a key qualifier as, if you were the GM offered McCutchen for Longoria, the injuries that dogged him last year and have kept him out this year have to be considered. Throw in that McCutchen’s one year younger, is under team control for two extra years and has progressed from 3.7 to 5.7 to an 8+ WAR pace and I would prefer McCutchen.

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    • deadhead says:

      Longoria is the most over rated player in baeball.

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  20. David Littlefield says:

    I knew Andrew McCutchen would one day be worth something! Anyone looking for a GM?

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  21. RollTribe says:

    Dwight Howard?

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  22. Matt says:

    He’s not the best defensive center fielder around and his lingering hamstring problems are a bit of a concern, but Kemp is still a 27-year-old five tool superstar

    *face-palm*

    According to defensive WAR, and most defensive metrics, Kemp is consistently one of the worst defenders in baseball.

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    • brendan says:

      had the same reaction to that stmt by dave. defense is one of the 5 tools, right? maybe dave meant that since he can hold down a premium defensive position (even being below avg), he has defense as a tool. certainly has more defensive value than miguel cabrera right?

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      • David says:

        I think 2010 was just an outlier year for him though. He did everything badly that year (compared to the rest of his career) – contact rate, walk rate, strikeouts, defense, baserunning… The advanced defensive stats are rather skewed by that 1 season, and if you take it out, his career UZR/150 is around -5, which sounds about right. I think that’s a fair thing to do when looking at his future value, just like nobody would say Greinke is a bad player because of that year he went through depression, or that Josh Hamilton is a bad player because of his first few seasons, etc.

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  23. chrisdenorfia says:

    lets trade me and will venable for dan haren and pujols ill even give the angels back amastria

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    • kampfer says:

      pujols is one of the least attractive options around because of his ridiculous contract and declining production. Same as A-Rod.

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  24. Still no Melky Cabrera?

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    • Alex says:

      This is based on trade value. Cano is the only player who is a FA before 2014 who made this list, and he was in the 40s. Melky is a FA at the end of this year. As far as trade value goes, he’s much, much lower than the top 50. Much

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