2014 Trade Value: #30 – #21

Welcome to the third part of this year’s Trade Value series. If you haven’t already, read the intro and get yourself acquainted with what question this is trying to answer, as well as an incomplete list of guys who missed the cut for one reason or another. You can see all the posts in the series here.

Due to popular demand — or maybe unpopular outrage? — this post and the next two will revert back to the prior year’s format of listing each player individually, with a blurb beneath them, rather than the article format that I experimented with in the first two posts. The mob has spoken.

A few quick notes on the columns listed for each player. After the normal biographical information, I’ve listed Projected WAR, which is essentially a combination of ZIPS and Steamer’s current rest-of-season forecasts extrapolated out to a full-season’s worth of playing time. For non-catcher position players, this is 600 plate appearances; catchers are extrapolated to 450 PAs. For pitchers, this is extrapolated to 200 innings. It is not their 2014 WAR, or their last calendar year WAR; it is a rough estimate of what we might expect them to do over a full-season, based on the information we have now.

For contract status, we have two pieces of information. “Controlled Through” includes all years before a player accumulates enough time to be eligible for free agency, all guaranteed years of a contract already signed, and any years covered by team options that could be exercised in the future. Player options and mutual options are not included, as the assumption is that players of this caliber will generally opt-out of their current contracts if given the chance.

The “Contract Dollars” column includes the base salaries of each player in the controlled years going forward, starting from 2015 — the 40% of 2014 salary remaining is not included in the calculation — including the value of team options, since we’re assuming that they will be picked up. In many cases, players have incentives for various accomplishments that affect the base salaries, but those are not accounted for here, simply because of the tedious work of calculating all those incentive prices and the fact that $100,000 for an All-Star appearance or $500,000 for an MVP-finish there aren’t going to change the overall calculations. This column is not an exact representation of their future earnings, but should be close enough for our purposes.

For players who are under team control but not under guaranteed contract, I’ve listed out which arbitration years they still have remaining. There are a few players who have both guaranteed contracts and arbitration eligibility remaining, but we’ll deal with those cases in the article when a simple line in the chart doesn’t explain their situation perfectly.

Finally, “Last Year” notes where a player was ranked on this list last year, or if he wasn’t on the 2013 Trade Value series, then he is denoted as unranked. As you can imagine, there’s a lot more turnover at the end of the list than the beginning.

Now, for the middle section of the list.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
30 Gregory Polanco 22 PIT OF 1.5 2020 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked

Polanco is the kind of player that every team covets; a useful contributor in the big leagues right now with enough upside to dream on what he could become in a few years. The mix of short-term and long-term value, combined with three and a half years of something close to league minimum salaries, make Polanco the kind of player that would generate trade interest from every single team in baseball.

It has to be noted, though, that Polanco’s short-term value was probably overstated in the backlash against the Pirates decision to leave him in the minors in order to avoid Super Two status. His power is still more projection than present day reality, and a 73% contact rate is not a great number for a guy who isn’t crushing the ball when he does make contact. History is littered with busted prospects who were supposed to hit for power and never did, and so while Polanco’s overall promise is enticing, he does come with a substantial amount of risk.

Of course, Polanco was crushing the ball in Triple-A, and he’s young enough that even holding his own at the big league level is an accomplishment. With a few more years of development, he should turn into one of the game’s best outfielders. He’s just not quite there yet, which is why he’s hanging out in the same range as the other prospects on the list, even though he’s technically not a prospect anymore.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
29 Kris Bryant 22 CHC 3B 2.8 TBD Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked

Speaking of prospects that belong in the big leagues, meet Kris Bryant. While we don’t have official rest of season forecasts for Bryant on the site, since he’s not an active member of the Cubs depth chart, Dan Szymborski and Jared Cross were kind enough to run his updated forecast for me, and both systems think Bryant would be a quality big leaguer tomorrow. That probably shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Bryant is a polished college hitter whose 179 wRC+ in Triple-A is the lowest mark he’s posted at any stop on the minor league ladder. You can quibble with the strikeouts and wonder what his eventual position will be, but right-handed power like this doesn’t come around very often, and Bryant’s bat is probably ready for the big leagues right now.

For service time reasons, it makes sense for the Cubs to hold Bryant down until next May, at which point they would also control his 2021 season, so don’t expect Bryant in Chicago before then. But if he was on a team looking to maximize their win total in 2014, he’d probably already be in the big leagues, and the forecasts think he’d do just fine. Like Polanco, every team in baseball would bid on Bryant’s services, and the scarcity of power would likely drive the price up beyond reason.

Even if he tops out as Troy Glaus — a comparison I’ve heard more than once — Bryant has a lot of value, and there’s certainly room for a career beyond what Glaus did. Bryant might not be a big leaguer yet, but teams would pay a big league price to get him.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
28 Andrelton Simmons 24 ATL SS 3.8 2020 $56,000,000 Unranked

In some ways, 2014 looks to be a step backwards for Simmons, as his power numbers have declined and his defensive metrics have returned to the realm of actual human beings. But just as it wasn’t worth overreacting to last year’s second half performance — where he posted a 118 wRC+ and was one of the most valuable players in baseball — it’s also not worth overreacting to a half season where he’s been worth only” +1.8 WAR. Over the last calendar year, Simmons has been a +4.6 WAR player, and his profile is pretty well establised now; average-ish bat with elite defense.

And even as just a +15 defender at shortstop, instead of a +25 defender like he was rated last year, Simmons still projects as a nearly +4 WAR player going forward. Yes, teams will pay more for offense than defense, but they don’t ignore defense entirely, especially not at up-the-middle positions. And the $56 million remaining on the six years left of Simmons’ contract is a fraction of what he would make on the open market. The Braves were wise to lock him up through his prime years, and while he’ll probably always be a defensive specialist who won’t kill you at the plate, he’s still a highly valuable player.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
27 Jose Bautista 33 TOR OF 4.8 2016 $28,000,000 35

In the first section, we had Edwin Encarnacion. Last section, we had Carlos Gomez. This section’s two-cheap-years-of-a-star player is Jose Bautista, who has evolved to remain an elite hitter even as his power has begun to wane over the last few seasons. His breakout years were driven by ISOs over .300, but his current .210 mark is closer to his pre-breakout norms, and yet, he’s still running a 151 wRC+. As the league has shifted more and more towards strikeouts, Bautista has moved away from them. His K% by year, since the breakout: 17%, 17%, 16%, 16%, 15%.

Even without 50 home run power anymore, Bautista remains a dominant offensive force, and he’s not a defensive liability either. As a +5 WAR player making $14 million per year, Bautista is near the top of the list in terms of short-term value. His age and the fact that he’s only got two years left on his deal limit the long-term upside, but there’s enough short-term value for it to not matter too much.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
26 Stephen Strasburg 25 WAS SP 4.4 2016 Arb2 – Arb3 14

Like Bautista, Gomez, and Encarnacion, Strasburg is also only under control for two more seasons after this one. And one could reasonably argue that both Bautista and Gomez are better players today than Strasburg is, as his results continue to not match his underlying peripherals. But as an arbitration eligible player, that isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world for his trade value.

Strasburg’s 7-6 record and 3.46 ERA aren’t going to form a foundation for a monstrous raise in arbitration, even if the analytical numbers suggest that his results should improve going forward. Even with a strong finish, Strasburg is probably looking at no more than a $4 million raise this winter, which would put him line for about $20 million in salary before he hits free agency. And unlike many other front-line starters, there is no long-term exposure in case of an injury. Fewer years of team control are simply not the same deterrent to trade value for a pitcher as they are to a hitter.

And, of course, guys with this kind of stuff don’t hit the market too often. Strasburg continues to show that he has the makings of a legitimate #1 starter, even if he might not be that quite yet. As the Jeff Samardzija trade shows, teams are certainly willing to pay a premium for short-term pitching upgrades, and Strasburg is a good step ahead of Samardzija in both present and future value. The Nationals aren’t going to make him available, but if they ever choose to, they’ll get a monstrous return.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
25 Matt Harvey 25 NYM SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 7

This is the Jose Fernandez case, only with the timetable moved forward a year. The recovery rates on Tommy John surgery are encouraging enough to think that Harvey could easily be an elite hurler again next year, at which point he will still be making something close to the league minimum, and have three arbitration years remaining after that.

There is certainly a risk component here, and some teams would likely prefer safer bets like Bryant, or even maybe one of the healthy-but-not-quite-as-good hurlers from the previous section on the list. The appeal here might not be as broad, but the potential of acquiring four cheap years of a starter who was as good as anyone when healthy would be very appealing to teams looking for a cost-controlled ace. Value is a balance of risk and reward, and while Harvey certainly comes with plenty of risk, the reward is extraordinarily high as well.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
24 Freddie Freeman 24 ATL 1B 3.7 2021 $123,500,000 Unranked

Freeman’s 2013 breakout has carried right on over into 2014, and he has firmly cemented himself as one of the game’s best young hitters. Given that he’s coming up on 2,500 career plate appearances, it’s easy to remember that he’s still just 24 years old; he’s only a week older than George Springer, for instance. If he develops more power as he grows towards his physical peak, Freeman could easily turn into a legitimate MVP candidate.

Of course, unlike some other young stars, Freeman is no longer all that cheap. While the Braves were wise to lock him up while they still could, the price to keep him in Atlanta was $135 million over eight years, and 2014 was the cheapest of those years. Going forward, Freeman’s salary will average nearly $17 million per season. That’s still a bargain compared to what he produces on the field, of course, but he’s not running ridiculously deflated salaries that allow every team in baseball to fit him into their payroll. But for teams that have room for a $120 million in future commitments, Freeman is one of the safest bets in the game, and given his age, he has plenty of upside remaining.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
23 Xander Bogaerts 21 BOS SS 2.0 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 29

Speaking of upside, Bogaerts is the highest ranked player on this year’s list that isn’t already a star. In fact, to date, Bogaerts has been close to replacement level, and his extended slump of late has even created questions about whether or not he should head back to Triple-A for a little more polish. However, the most relevant number here is age; Bogaerts is still only 21, and plenty of superstars were ineffective big leaguers at this same stage in their career. It is way too early to be jumping off the Xander Bogaerts bandwagon just yet.

Like with Polanco, the primary variable here is the power development. Without the ability to drive the ball, the rest of the package is more interesting than valuable, but the power should come, and Bogaerts could take a big leap forward when it does. While he’s likely going to be a guy who always profiles better at third base because of his height, he’s shown that he can play shortstop at least in the near term, and there are few shortstops in baseball with his offensive upside.

He’s not there yet, but the upside is just too high to ignore. Give it time. Bogaerts will likely justify the hype and then some.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
22 Yadier Molina 31 STL C 4.5 2017 $43,000,000 11

Molina was a tricky guy to rank this year, because as an aging catcher, he’s a short-term value play, but his 2014 value almost entirely disappeared when he hit the disabled list last week. A team trading for Yadier Molina right wouldn’t be that different from a team trading for Matt Harvey or Kris Bryant right now, and both offer significantly more long-term upside.

But Molina is so good that I simply can’t see teams passing up the chance to acquire him, even with his 2014 injury factored in. There are still plenty of parts of catcher defense that we’re not capturing in the current WAR calculations, and Molina seems to excel at almost all of them; his overall value is likely higher than even the +4.5 WAR estimate suggests. He is legitimately one of the game’s very best players.

Of course, he’ll be 32 next year, and the three remaining years on his contract cover seasons where catchers are typically not that productive. There is real risk here, but Molina would likely be just as coveted as the similarly-aging Jose Bautista, only he’s under control for an extra year as well. It would be a niche market, given his lack of 2014 value and long-term value to a rebuilding club, but for teams looking for a catching upgrade over the next few years, Molina would be manna from heaven.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
21 Buster Posey 27 SF C 4.9 2022 $165,500,000 6

Posey is an interesting case, because as I noted in the recap of last year’s list, Posey has been a pretty average player over the last calendar year. Sure, some of that is just a drop in BABIP that probably isn’t real, but there’s a decrease in power and a drop in walks that are a little more concerning, and we’re coming up on the point at which it isn’t that small of a sample anymore.

But the track record is still very strong, and Posey is still just 27, so even with a down performance of late, history suggests betting on a rebound. He probably hasn’t forgotten how to hit right as he enters his prime. However, a lot of Posey’s value is tied to being a great hitting catcher, and he’s not likely to stay behind the plate for the remainder of his contract. There’s a lot of present value here, and the contract is certainly reasonable, but he probably doesn’t have as much long-term value as other players his age given the likelihood of a move to first base at some point in the future.

But for now, Posey’s a catcher, and likely still one of the best in the game. There are plenty of teams that would love to have their main concern be whether or not Posey will go back to being the game’s best hitting catcher, or just settle in as a very good one.

And now, because I think it still serves a purpose, here’s the entire published list to date.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
50 Yan Gomes 26 CLE C 3.4 2021 $40,950,000 Unranked
49 Starling Marte 25 PIT OF 3.0 2021 $52,500,000 31
48 Kyle Seager 26 SEA 3B 3.4 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
47 Alex Cobb 26 TB SP 3.1 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
46 Edwin Encarnacion 31 TOR DH 3.7 2016 $20,000,000 45
45 Julio Teheran 23 ATL SP 2.3 2020 $41,600,000 Unranked
44 Chris Archer 25 TB SP 2.4 2021 $42,250,000 Unranked
43 Devin Mesoraco 26 CIN C 3.0 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
42 Corey Kluber 28 CLE SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
41 Michael Brantley 27 CLE OF 2.6 2018 $30,000,000 Unranked
40 David Wright 31 NYM 3B 4.1 2020 $107,000,000 21
39 Dustin Pedroia 30 BOS 2B 4.2 2021 $107,500,000 25
38 Byron Buxton 20 MIN OF 1.2 TBD Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
37 Jose Quintana 25 CHW SP 3.3 2020 $40,650,000 Unranked
36 Billy Hamilton 23 CIN OF 2.7 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
35 Matt Carpenter 28 STL 3B 3.9 2020 $66,000,000 Unranked
34 Jose Fernandez 21 MIA SP 4.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 17
33 Carlos Gomez 28 MIL OF 4.8 2016 $17,000,000 33
32 Yordano Ventura 23 KC SP 2.8 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
31 Sonny Gray 24 OAK SP 3.0 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
30 Gregory Polanco 22 PIT OF 1.5 2020 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
29 Kris Bryant 22 CHC 3B 2.8 TBD Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
28 Andrelton Simmons 24 ATL SS 3.8 2020 $56,000,000 Unranked
27 Jose Bautista 33 TOR OF 4.8 2016 $28,000,000 35
26 Stephen Strasburg 25 WAS SP 4.4 2016 Arb2 – Arb3 14
25 Matt Harvey 25 NYM SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 7
24 Freddie Freeman 24 ATL 1B 3.7 2021 $123,500,000 Unranked
23 Xander Bogaerts 21 BOS SS 2.0 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 29
22 Yadier Molina 31 STL C 4.5 2017 $43,000,000 11
21 Buster Posey 27 SF C 4.9 2022 $165,500,000 6



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark
Guest
Mark

Thank you for changing it to this format :). Enjoyed the article.

Hmmm
Guest
Hmmm

Can you please revise the format in the future to remove all of the text and replace each entry with a GIF of a representative highlight of said player proportionally sized vertically to the applicable dollar value of the contract and then horizontally to the length of the contract and then scatter-plot those GIFs based on WAR and age? All of your words and numbers together hurt my eyes and brains.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar

I, too.

ReuschelCakes
Guest
ReuschelCakes

Massive kudos to Dave for (a) trying to improve and (b) being flexible when the results were in question. I liked the other way. I probably slightly prefer this way. Doesn’t matter though – Dave’s the man both ways.

The guy in the next cell
Guest
The guy in the next cell

I can say with confidence and agree, Dave is the man… both ways :)

wpDiscuz