Archive for 2011 Trade Value Series

What I Learned From the 2011 Trade Value Series

With the trade deadline a couple of weeks away, baseball is full of discussion about what kinds of players will be on the move and what kinds of players they’ll command in return. As usual, the types of players being made available are players who are headed towards free agency – Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, and Shane Victorino, to name four. However, when the summer trading season rolls around, we like to ask what players actually have the most trade value in baseball right now – in other words, if every player in baseball was available in trade, who would bring back the biggest return for their organization?

I’ve been doing this list for a while β€” after borrowing the idea from Bill Simmons, who does an NBA style version of this every year β€” and before putting together the list each summer, I look back at the previous version and try to see where I made some mistakes and what I can learn from how things have gone in the last 12 months. We’ll be rolling out numbers #50-#46 in a few hours, but before we get to this year’s list, let’s look back at last year’s and see lessons we can learn. First, the complete list.

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Trade Value Chat – 7/18/11


2011 Trade Value: #10-#1

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

And now, for the top 10. For the first time ever (I believe), it’s all position players. There’s a good young crop of guys who play the field and don’t come with the risks inherent with pitchers, and the toughest part was ordering them. You’d take any of these guys and be thrilled about it. Did anyone manage to dethrone the defending champ from the top spot? Scroll down to find out.

#10 – Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington: +16.4

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2011 Trade Value: #20-#11

#50-#46
#46-#41
#40-#36
#35-#31
#30-#26
#25-#21

The Trade Value series has it’s grand finale today, as we’ll wrap up the final 20 spots on the list with two posts this morning, and then I’ll be around to chat about the list at noon. Jonah Keri will then be by at 3:30 for his regular Monday chat, so don’t worry, you can still talk bagels and poutine later today.

On to the penultimate 10.

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

#20 – Bryce Harper, OF, Washington: +0.0 WAR

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2011 Trade Value: #25-#21

#50-#46
#46-#41
#40-#36
#35-#31
#30-#26

This is the point where it got really tough to put players in particular spots. Every team in baseball would love to have every guy on the list from here on out – the warts are now much more minor or the potential is so high as to make it seem like a risk worth carrying. Even in this section, you’re looking at some of the best young talents in baseball. If you want to move a guy a few spots up or down here, I won’t begrudge you at all. These guys are all very, very good.

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

#25 – Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Colorado: +16.4

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2011 Trade Value: #30-#26

#50-#46
#46-#41
#40-#36
#35-#31

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

#30 – Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas: +12.9

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2011 Trade Value: #35-#31

#50-#46
#46-#41
#40-#36

In this section, we deal with three pitchers at different points in their careers, but all highly coveted by the teams that don’t own their rights at the moment. We also look at two position players who couldn’t be more different, both in terms of on-field attributes and the ramifications of their contracts.

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

#35 – Trevor Cahill, RHP, Oakland: +4.3

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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

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2011 Trade Value: #46 – #41

#50-#46

Please click on the above link for an explanation of the methodology if you haven’t read it yet.

Moving on to the next five, we turn heavily towards to the AL East and look at three five-tool outfielders in the process.

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

#45 – Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore: +5.5 WAR

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2011 Trade Value: #50-#46

After yesterday’s recap of last year’s list, and the lessons taken from it, we’re off to the races again with the 2011 Trade Value series.

To maintain transparency and avoid any kerfuffles this time around, I want to be clear that this column was inspired by Bill Simmons, who tackles this same topic for the NBA. Thanks for the fantastic idea, Bill.

Before we get to the last five spots on the list, let’s talk briefly about what question this list is attempting to answer. Trade value is not an easy thing to measure, and it differs for each team – the Yankees will be interested in an entirely different type of player than the Astros, for instance. Winning teams with high payrolls will give up prospects that rebuilding teams would never move, while for some teams a premium player with a salary to match just isn’t someone they’d be willing to add to their payroll. No teams will put the same value on the player, so we have to answer something a little more broad than “would this team trade Player A for Player B”, because if we’re talking about the Yankees and the Royals, we’re answering a specific question that has a lot of extra variables in it.

So, instead, I’d say the goal of the list is to measure the league-wide demand for a player’s services if that player was made available in the trade market. There are a few players that every single team in baseball would call about if they were put on the block due to their abilities and their contract status. The demand would be astronomical if they were actually gettable, and in most cases they’re so valuable they just won’t be traded.

Beyond those elite guys that are fairly easy to put near the top of the list, though, there are players who have some big positives, but also a significant negative that depresses their value to some franchises. For some guys, that may be a high salary with a long term commitment, or they could be near the end of a contract and be looking for a big extension in the near future. For others, the contract might be the asset itself, with the player having some kind of wart in his game that would keep some teams from actually thinking he’s worth a premium return. Others have off-the-field issues that might cause teams to discount what they’d give up to get them.

I try my best to weigh these factors and determine which teams would see as the biggest determinants in whether he’s a player they’d make a real push to acquire. That said, sometimes this involves hair slicing or making judgment calls, and not everyone is going to weight things the same way, which is fine; this list is intended to spark conversation and interesting discussion, and reasonable people can disagree over placement. Just try to keep in mind that there’s not a huge difference between spots on the list, and in many cases, a guy could move up or down by a decent margin and still have it be reasonable.

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. In eyeballing the list, to me there’s a pretty clear top 15 or so, then there’s a big jumble where you could make a lot of different judgment calls than I do. There were also a few guys who I couldn’t believe I had to leave off the list (there’s no Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels, Matt Kemp, or Eric Hosmer for instance – it killed me to exclude them), but I ran this by a bunch of smart people who offered good feedback, tried to weigh the pros and cons as best we could, and this is what we came up with.

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