2012 Trade Value: #45-#41

#50-#46

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

45. (28) Ben Zobrist, 2B, Tampa Bay – Signed through 2015 for $22 million.

Since 2009, when he became a full-time player, Zobrist has posted the second-highest WAR in the major leagues, with only future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols ahead of him by that measure. Given the deal to which he’s currently signed — a four-year extension from 2010, with very afforadable option years ($7.0 and $7.5 million, respectively) in 2014 and 2015 — there’s every reason to believe that the Rays will extract considerable surplus value from Zobrist. As a trade commodity, however, Zobrist is slightly less valuable, owing to the fact that his production comes from areas that tend to have less value in the open market: defense, baserunning, and plate discipline.

44. (NR) Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis – Signed through 2017 for $94 million.

When Holliday was producing crazy offensive numbers with the Rockies, there was always the question, “Yes, but would he hit like this outside of Coors?” Holliday has answered that question with an emphatic “Yes” over the last three-plus seasons. Since leaving Colorado early in the 2008-09 offseason, Holliday has posted the seventh-highest wRC+ of any qualified batter and produced over 20 wins above replacement. The contract — $17 million annually through 2016, with an option (also for $17 million) for 2017 — isn’t necessarily a bargain over the long term. Plus, at 32, Holliday is on the wrong side of his peak. For a contending team in search of an impact bat, however, there are few better options in the short term.

43. (NR) Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore – Signed through 2018 for $87 million.

Before 2012, there was always a disconnect between what Jones appeared to be capable of and what he actually did on the field. Kindly donated by Seattle to the Orioles (along with George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, and two others) in exchange for left-hander Erik Bedard before the 2008 season, Jones immediately became the team’s starting center fielder. Aside from a (probably questionable) Gold Glove in 2009, however, the sense was that there was potential being left unfulfilled. This season, of course, has been a breakout one for Jones, who has already matched his career-high WAR (2.9) with approximately half the season left. That performance earned him the largest contract in Orioles history — a six-year, $85.5 million deal this May. The bump in production for Jones has been almost entirely based on increased power numbers. If those gains are real, though, he’s a value for the money he’s owed.

42. (NR) Yu Darvish, SP, Texas – Signed through 2017 for $53 million.

That the Rangers have been linked both to Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels with the trade deadline approaching suggests, in part, that Darvish is not precisely what the team expected (or paid for) when they signed him — which is, a legitimate No. 1 starter. Darvish certainly has electric stuff and has shown flashes of dominance, but command is enough of an issue for him at the moment that the Rangers would want to slot someone ahead of him in a playoff series. The good news, sort of, is that roughly half the money invested in Darvish was used in the posting fee, which means that he’s only being paid like a two-win pitcher, a figure he’s already reached this season. That has value as a trade commodity — although, with the Rangers likely to be competitive for the duration of Darvish’s contract, a trade of Darvish would be surprising.

41. (46) Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago – Signed through 2016 (arbitration 2013-16)
There are a lot of discussions about what Starlin Castro isn’t — he isn’t a great fielder, he isn’t a patient hitter, he isn’t the most focused player — and there is some legitimacy to all of those complaints. What Castro is, however, is an athletic 22-year-old with a roughly league-average bat and four years of team control remaining. That has value as a trade piece. Owing to his Super Two status, Castro is eligible for arbitration this coming offseason, and is a candidate, as an offensively oriented shortstop, to do well there. As for his next four years, the possible outcomes are more diverse for Castro than other players. He could learn to play shortstop. He could develop power and move to third, in the Hanley Ramirez mold. He could not develop power and move to third — which is a less favorable mold.




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


53 Responses to “2012 Trade Value: #45-#41”

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  1. Aaron says:

    Both the numbers and the eye test show that Castro has made tremendous strides defensively to the point where he is at least league average if not much, much better. I think it’s time to reevaluate the prevailing notion that he has stone hands.

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    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      “he isn’t a great fielder” does not mean “he has stone hands”

      hyperbole much?

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      • Anon21 says:

        To be fair, the phrase “isn’t a great X” isn’t usually meant literally. It usually means “is a below-average X” or “is a mediocre X.” And I think Aaron’s saying that’s not true–that he’s actually now an above-average defender. If Dave had meant to express that Castro is actually a good but not great fielder, he probably would have worded it differently.

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      • fresheee says:

        Still, the sentence that follows, “roughly league-average bat,” makes Castro sound like a below league-average defender. I agree with Aaron, this kid has stepped it up. His fielding looks improved from last year and he has +arm for sure.

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        fresh, i dont know what your first sentence means. what does league average bat have to do with anything?

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      • fresheee says:

        Sleight of Hand Pro: In the article Dave starts Castro’s section by saying he isn’t a great fielder and then contrasts that with the following sentence: “What Castro is, however, is an athletic 22-year-old with a roughly league-average bat…” If having a league-average something is a positive, that makes me think his not being a great fielder equates to being below league-average.

        My opinion is Castro is, at worst, right at league-average as a fielder.

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      • TKDC says:

        But a league average bat for a SS is really good. Being league average or even a little below defensively at SS is also good in contrast with average defensive value irrespective of position.

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      • The Mighty Tim says:

        PSST. Starlin has the highest fielding score on Fangraphs leaderboards. Go ahead check it out. I guess this part of WAR only really matters for saber golden boys like Zobrist or Andrus …

        So yeah, Dave’s first sentence was completely stupid and assinine as was yours.

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    • Sam says:

      But his bat has been worse, and below average this year. If you’re willing to write that off as SSS, then you have to do the same with his fielding.

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  2. Zach says:

    STFU, YBP.

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  3. Cardsfan says:

    Kind of stunning that Matt Holliday would make a list like this 2.5 years after signing a contract that was almost universally panned as too much for too long.

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    • kid says:

      Yeah it is surprising, but in a time when offense is in such demand, a high-average, high on-base, plus power slugger is pretty valuable, contract and all.

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    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      in fangraphs defense, they say every major free agent contract is too much for too long. they fail to realize most mlb franchises are very healthy financially and dont care about overpaying a little if they get their guy.

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      • CabreraDeath says:

        I’m pretty sure they realize that, Sleight. What they realize – apparently more than you and ML teams – is that value is value and if you continue to overpay players – simply because your flush in cash – you will find yourself one day……not so much flush in cash.

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    • Brian says:

      Fangraphs had it as a “fair” or “average” deal when it was signed (with the obvious risk caveats)

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/holliday-returns-to-the-cardinals

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      • Cardsfan says:

        They pegged him as 4.5 win player in his age 30 season. That translates to around 21 war over seven years or just under $6 million per war. In addition, he received a complete NTC. That’s pretty borderline, especially considering the Cardinals seemingly had outfoxed Boras and Holliday by waiting out all other suitors and letting the negotiations drift into January.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford kind of put that one in perspective.

      As a Sox fan, we had a vacancy in LF for 2009 and, at the time, I called it too much too long and dictated that, while Lackey was an overpay, he suited the team’s long term needs better with guys like Ryan Westmoreland, Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish in the minors.

      That totally worked out in my favor, yup. Baseball: You can’t predict it.

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  4. Louis says:

    Surprised you put Darvish on here, given how much concern you’ve shown over his control.

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  5. ralph says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if/where Salvador Perez makes this list. Like Castro, he doesn’t draw many walks (he drew his first UIBB last night), but he’s two months younger and is very well-regarded defensively. It’s a bit of a small sample size to say he also has a league-average bat…. but man, that contract.

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  6. Milby says:

    Disregarding the Darvish posting fee got me thinking – shouldn’t we not only consider the total value remaining on the contract, but also the structure? It could be that asymetrical annual salaries might change the way a players’ trade value is perceived…just a thought.

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    • Big Jgke says:

      The Rangers are the only ones who carry the burden of the posting fee. In a hypothetical Darvish trade the team acquiring him would carry only his salary obligations.

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      • Milby says:

        Right. That fact didn’t escape me. My point is that a contract that is structured in a fashion that places a disproportionate amount of the cost at either the beginning or the end of the contract will have significant variations in the value of the player/asset.

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  7. CabreraDeath says:

    SSS and arbitrary end points aside, since June 1st, Adam Jones has been getting on base less than 30% of the time and has slugged right around .400.

    Taken together with his first two months (which were mammoth and consistent), we still don’t know *who* he really is. Which, in my eyes, makes him have quite a bit less value than Dave attributes in this piece. Add the inconsistency at the plate with the consistency of overall bad defense in CF, he’s just not that great of a player.

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    • Will says:

      Ian Desmond and Jones have been remarkably similar players this season. Both have only moderate success to fall back on before this break out season. Both are turning 27 at the end of the season, and both play an important defensive position.

      Desmond has 3 arb-eligible seasons before hitting free agency.
      Jones is owed $87mil over the next 6 seasons.

      Comparison: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2012&month=0&season1=2012&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&players=6368,6885

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      • GoToWarMissAgnes says:

        Ian Desmond has gone from a HR/FB% of 6.0 and 7.7 the last two years to 18.5 this year. Other than that he’s basically the same player.

        Adam Jones from 11.4 to 16.7 to 20.4% HR/FB. My guess is most people believe that Jones has made a natural progression that is more likely to stick, while Desmond has gotten lucky over a small sample.

        Desmond has also always graded out a poor defender by UZR but has graded out well over the first half of the season. I would assume most people believe this is an non-sustainable aberration as well. Jones’s defensive numbers are right in line with what we’ve come to expect.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        @GoToWarMissAgnes

        I’m not sure that you’re being fair on Desmond’s defense. The rap on him has always been that he makes the easy plays look hard and the hard plays look easy, he’s never had poor range, he just makes a lot of errors, and that’s fixable.

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  8. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    Did Zobrist get any boost for his incredible versatility?

    It still boggles my mind that the Rays don’t have a 4th OF good enough to keep Zobrist at 2B whenever there’s an injury in the OF (quite a lot this year.) Instead they move Z to RF and trot out scrubs in the infield. They never should’ve let Ruggiano go!

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  9. Eric R says:

    Well, I sure am glad the Mets chose to take Bay instead of Holliday to save 1-1.5M per year, plus a couple of years. Where do you suppose Bay will be on the list…? Mid-20s?

    Major, major, blunder.

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    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      The Holliday contract is double Jason Bay’s contract. very disengenious (sp?) for you to imply theyre even remotely close.

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      • Eric R says:

        Not really.

        It is 7/$120M vs 4/$66M guaranteed. The total dollars are nearly double, but so are the years, so it’s not like Holliday got $17M per and the Mets got a deal at $9M. The Mets are paying $16.5M per, so essentially the same amount over the first four years.

        Then year five– Bay’s deal would have vested with 500 PA this year and next year or 600PA in 2013 alone. Given that Bay was coming off of five consecutive years of 613+ PA, I think those two scenarios seemed pretty likely, Given that it was really a heck of a lot closer to a 5/$80M deal than a 4/$66M deal…

        In any case, do even a pretty favorable 2010 onward projection for Bay and an unfavorable one for Holliday and Bay’s contract still looks much worse. And this isn’t even 20/20 hindsight. I posted on scout.com once both deals were finalized some basic 3-2-1 projections for the two of them and it said exactly the same thing.

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    • NatsFan73 says:

      In retrospect, the Metropolitan’s budget consciousnesses may have been the right move regardless …

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      • Eric R says:

        Through 2013 the obligation to each player is about the same. Through 2014 depending on the vesting option.

        So the difference realistically is more in the 2015-2016 time frame. While that is important to keep an eye on, I don’t think taking half the player because of a maybe 5-6 years down the road is always the best choice.

        Now with 20/20 hindsight, in 2010 and 2011 the Mets got 2.2 fWAR from Bay and the Cards 11.7 from Holliday. If the Mets had an extra 9.5 wins in those years, it certianly wouldn’t have made a difference as far as making the play-offs– but if they were an 82-83 win team instead of a 78 win team, maybe they wouldn’t have plummeted quite so far in attendance [from 3.2M to 2.4M between 2009 and 2011].

        If hovering a bit over .500 could have even held onto 20% of the losses in attendance, then they would have needed to only net about $10 per head to pay for the difference between the two hitters for those two years [by AAV]. I would certainly hope they are making a profit of more than $10 overall per body in the park…

        Thus far in 2012 the gap is over three wins. If the Mets were three wins better right now, they’d be right in the hunt for the first wild card, not forth in the running for the second wild card.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      They should have guessed Bay was headed for a freak concussion.

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      • BlackOps says:

        He lost all of his power before the concussion. Even before the loss of power which was before the concussion, it was a bad signing.

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  10. Matty Brown says:

    Also, Holliday equals consistency.

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  11. Average_Casey says:

    It’s odd to see the contract value listed for Darvish because it doesn’t include the posting fee. Structurally, it makes sense but you would think that if Texas ever tried to trade him, they would attempt to recoup some of the posting fee as well.

    Also, I’m not really sold on Darvish in general. I know he has good numbers but everytime I watch him pitch, he’s horrible. This is Mariners’ games when I see him and they take him to town, the freaking Mariners own Darvish. I give it a year or two and he then looks like a failure compared to the contract and posting fee.

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    • Bob Loblaw says:

      The posting fee is a sunk cost.

      Yes, Darvish has had 3 crappy games against the Mariners, to the tune of a 9.00 ERA, 5.12 FIP, and 5.77 xFIP (although since two of those games were in Safeco, I don’t really rely much on that xFIP), with a K/9 of 7.88, a BB/9 of 7.88 and a HR/9 of .56. That’s a WHOPPING 16 inning sample. I’d also note he’s given up line drives on 30% of batted balls by the Mariners.

      Against the rest of his opponents, in 93 IP he’s put up a line of 3.10/3.60/3.48, with a K/9 of 10.35, BB/9 of 4.16 and HR/9 of 0.87. Against non-Mariner batters, he’s given up line drives on just 21% of batted balls. So he’s been pretty dang good (though still walking way too many batters).

      But rather than cherry picking either of those samples, you should just continue to look at his good but not great overall line.

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      • Average_Casey says:

        I wasn’t cherry picking but making an observation from the games I watch. I’m a Mariners fan and so I watch the games he pitched against the Mariners. Yes, it’s a small sample size but it’s three different starts with two coming at Safeco. He walked a ton and was pitching outside the zone, probably hoping to get the players to chase. The Mariners are a patient team at home and have the fourth highest BB% at home. If Yu uses that approach with all teams, (which I would think he would as most pitchers don’t drastically change their style on a team per team basis) the league will figure it out and adjust. It may take time, but sooner or later, they will start taking pitches and Yu will get hit.

        For $100 Million, there are better pitchers out there who will produce better long term. I know he looks pretty good right now, but in two years, I’m calling that he won’t be very good.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      Darvish is only 25 years old (turning 26 in August). You don’t think he has the ability to improve? Factor in that he’s in his first year in a new environment, with a foreign language and culture, and I think he’s only going to get better as he settles in. His pure stuff is outstanding.

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  12. Tom says:

    Since signing the contract, Adam Jones has a wRC+ of 93 in June and 82 in July and has basically posted 0 WAR

    While it is obviously a small sample, this year looks eerily similar to 2009, when everyone was saying he was breaking out based on a red hot Apr and May and then he fell off a cliff.

    Seems like his trade value is somewhat limited – 85mil to a player who has only been able to string together 2 hot months a couple of times in his career would probably lead to some skepticism

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  13. Angelsjunky says:

    Dave, I would love to see a similar article listing the top 10 or 20 worst trade value players.

    BTW, I’m not sure how I feel about the “Hanley Ramirez mold.” Hanley was an amazing player there for about five years, but the last two he’s been the definition of mediocrity. What happened to him? It isn’t like he’s Jamie Moyer at 28 years old. He should still be in his prime. I was expecting that as he grew older the steals would vanish, the average would go down, but the power would increase. But instead everything has dropped, and rather precipitously. Another article idea there…

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    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Can they get any page clicks if they just post the same blurb about Ryan Howard 20 times?

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      • Angelsjunky says:

        Dunno, but he’d have some company: namely, Alex Rodriguez, Vernon Wells, Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, among others. Princes Albert and Fielder are going to be looking like albatross deals very shortly, if they don’t already, and deserve to be up there.

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  14. payroll says:

    Shortstops like Castro don’t come around very often. The Cubs would be wise to lock him up

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  15. Nitram Odarp says:

    Definitely think Andrelton Simmons should make this list, but at this point I’ll be surprised if he does. I think teams would be salivating at a chance to get the best defensive SS in baseball through 2018. If his bat is league average, he’s a 4-5 win player.

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  16. Alex says:

    I’d like to bang the Starlin Castro-for-Justin Upton drum.

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  17. Ash says:

    I’d like to see the net prospect bounty each player would receive in return for a trade, but without the team kicking in any cash to improve the prospect haul. I.E player X would net prospects such as A, B, and C, while player Y would net prospects such as A, C, and D. Or maybe something like 4 prospects; one top 3 and one top 10. Prospects are the currency of trades in baseball.

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  18. Ticohans says:

    Suggesting that Castro is below average defensively is just piss poor writing. All defensive metrics have him as one of the best defensive SS’s in the NL, and the eye test confirms this.

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  19. everdiso says:

    “Castro is eligible for arbitration this coming offseason, and is a candidate, as an offensively oriented shortstop, to do well there.”

    Arbitrators don’t take into account positonal value do they? I thought it was basically just how many HR, RBI you have and what your BA is.

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    • Dr_Caligari says:

      They do to a certain extent, but the fact that he has a career .300 average will look good for him. There aren’t that many .300 hitters on most teams, and then the majority of those don’t play shortstop. Even though he doesn’t have the greatest power or a ton of RBI, his average is high enough for a big raise.

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