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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