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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