FG On Fox: The Anti-Trade Value Guys

So, we’ve been linking to our pieces over at FoxSports.com for a few months now, but today, those links go to their permanent new home. Fox has launched a new baseball page entitled Just A Bit Outside, and it will be the home for the content produced by the team Rob Neyer has assembled. The site officially launched today, and it will be updated daily with the kind of content that FanGraphs readers would likely enjoy. We’ll still be contributing our three pieces per week over there, and I’ll be doing some shorter stuff in the Baseball Joe section as well. Check it out.

Since the launch was happening this week, I wanted to do a tie-in to the Trade Value series that’s running here, and since it’s a popular question during Trade Value week, I decided to publish the Anti-Trade Value list over at Just A Bit Outside. So, if you’re wondering which five contracts would be the hardest to move, well, here’s my answer.

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Over at FanGraphs, I have an annual tradition of using the All-Star break to rank the game’s most valuable players by their overall trade value, factoring in not only their on-field performance but their age and contract status as well. After all, a good player making $1 million per year is likely more valuable to a franchise than a great player making $25 million per year, as the $24 million cost savings can be spent to buy the good player better teammates and result in a better product overall.

Not surprisingly, the top spot last year went to Mike Trout, as he was the best player in baseball and made the league minimum; his combination of high performance and low cost made him one of the most valuable properties in baseball history. Even after signing a new contract that guarantees him $140 million over the next six years, you can bet that Trout will still rank quite highly in the this year’s top 10, which will be released this Friday on FanGraphs.

But, of course, for every Mike Trout, there’s 10 big contracts that haven’t worked out so well, with teams now paying tens of millions of dollars for the kind of production you’d hope to get for a million or two. The history of long-term mega contracts for free agency is filled with high-priced busts, and when a team makes a mistake on a big money guy, they are often stuck with that player until the contract runs out. These players not only don’t have any trade value; they have negative trade value, and require a financial subsidy to another team just to move the player off their roster.

Paying a player to play for someone else is the most inefficient use of resources in baseball, but it’s also the reality that some teams face when they just want to move on from a bad decision. So which players would require the largest subsidies to another team in order to be willing to assume the rest of their contracts? Or, put another way, which players have the most negative trade value in Major League Baseball right now?

The easiest way to estimate how much money a team would have to include in a trade to move a player currently contract is to ask how much that player would sign for if he was made a free agent after the season ends. The difference between our estimated free agent price, and his remaining contract value, is a decent approximation of how much cash a team would have to kick in to trade their overpriced former stars. To come up with the five players with the most negative trade value, I’ve created estimated free agent prices, and included the difference in “dead money” that their current contract includes.

5. Prince Fielder, First Base, Texas Rangers

Read the rest at Just A Bit Outside.




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


49 Responses to “FG On Fox: The Anti-Trade Value Guys”

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  1. LHPSU says:

    CC Sabathia is owed $48M over the next two years, but has an option that can easily vest if he is willing to pitch that would take his deal to $73M/3yr. If you believe that he is what he has been this year, he’s a 1 WAR pitcher and may not even be that.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      There’s a lot of unknowns there, though. If the Yankees have insurance, a lot of it could be covered due to his health problems. If he’s forced to retire because of the knee, the contract goes away entirely. It’s definitely one of the worst contracts, but there seem to be some outs here that don’t exist with the others.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Assuming he couldn’t pitch, wouldn’t he just go through the motions of rehabbing instead of filing retirement papers? I know there’s a pride issue, but regardless of how much money he’s made, I’d think he’d much rather have that $48MM in his family’s account than in the Yankees’ account.

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  2. marc melton says:

    No Ryan Howard? Blasphemy!

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  3. Ned Colletti says:

    My work is CLEARLY not appreciated on this Graphfans.net website.

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    • BFR says:

      Dunno, he only listed 5 big winners here. Kemp & Ethier probably are both in the top 10 but not quite Fielder-esque.

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      • Bip says:

        I don’t really see how Kemp isn’t top 5. They guy is below replacement level these days.

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        • SW says:

          I’m pretty sure the most untradeable Dodger is actually Carl Crawford due to his physical fragility, and he was the one LAD OF the leaked Houston records reported as being on the block. He would be traded straight up for Justin Verlander every day if that was proposed. I think the Dodgers are more sentimentally attached to Kemp and Ethier and in particular still believe in Kemp’s bat though not his defense.

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  4. LK says:

    So this means you think that Miggy would get $226M+ at the end of the season?

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  5. Andrew says:

    It seems like Verlander coming off a non breakdown related injury and surgery should at least be mentioned, instead of pretending that age is almost magical in how it functions.

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    • dudester says:

      Miggy mentioned in a recent interview that both he and Verlander are still recovering from the core muscle surgery.

      And apparently a league average FIP (FIP- of 101) constitutes a “miserable” season.

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    • SW says:

      I agree there should be more data gathering on how Verlander does in the next year or so due to the surgery recovery before branding him a bust. If he were theoretically FA after this year, he’d be seeking a short term deal with the Tigers to rebuild value rather than a long term deal. A declining Verlander would be worth to them at least as much a declining Lincecum was to the Giants the past offseason.

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  6. Brian says:

    5 years ago, the argument was “who’s the best player in baseball… Mauer or Pujols”. Now they’re both on this list. Depressing as a Twins fan.

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    • Neckbeard says:

      What? When was this a debate? 2009 Mauer was uncharacteristically worth 7.7 WAR, 2009 Pujols hadn’t been worth less since 2002.

      And I love Joe Mauer. Would have his lovechild if I had a uterus.

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  7. Sigh says:

    I tried to leave this comment over on that other site, but their commenting system seems to be broken. Since I actually took the time to write an internet comment, I thought I’d leave it here where maybe Dave at least will see it and pass it along.

    What a disaster of a site design. Who mandated that all websites need to look the same now? What’s the point of that header outside of #branding? I understand that it’s supposed to be a tool bar, but it’s not accomplishing anything that couldn’t be accomplished within the context of the page, and it’s unpleasant for the eye, to have that static frame as the rest of the screen scrolls. That font, with the “a bit” italicized, was played out back in 2010, when it was just coming into its own as a cliche, and is frankly kind of embarrassing.

    Speaking of ridiculous restaurant design cliches, what does “authentic” even mean in this context? Not a rhetorical question, how do questions of authenticity even begin to matter with a baseball blog? Is there a concern the reader will think they’re being catfished? That I might worry the players and statistics are fictive, that I’d be concerned I was reading about Jack Kerouac’s imaginary baseball league were that “authentic” not there to reassure me? It’s ironic that “authentic” has become one of the most empty signifiers in our language.

    This website looks like the menu for a five year-old “authentic” American restaurant that covers for the weakness of its cuisine by telling you the name of the farm the lettuce was grown on.

    Sorry to be so negative, but this website made me kind of embarrassed for the people whose content gets published here. I’ve read Dave Cameron since 2008, and Rob Neyer for a decade longer than that. I expect they’ll continue to do excellent work. But they deserved a lot more than this. It’s also sad/puzzling to me that Neyer has to have his name attached to this, as he’s an “authentically” incisive and critical mind when it comes to most other endeavors.

    The invasive and barely functioning comment system is another huge win. Although maybe all commenting systems are like this now? lol internet comments

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    • Bip says:

      Weird thing to post here when its about the other site specifically. Though I share your annoyance at the word “authentic.”

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    • Kris says:

      It’s actually pretty fantastic on an ipad. It was bad on my PC earlier today, though.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      I agree with you. It’s the grantland long form bullshit. I hated when Hardball Times switched to that format.

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    • Dayton Moore says:

      I guess to each his own, but I have no problem with Fox’s website redesign. I actually rather like it. The text down the middle should be wider and I agree that the header should be smaller, but otherwise the design is clean and readable. It highlights the important aspects and still the navigation controls are where they should be. It is a huge improvement of the train wreck that was their former design.

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  8. Jim says:

    I was curious whether you gave Miguel Cabrera serious consideration here? I know he’s having another great year but he is 30 and this is only the first year of a 10 year $292 commitment. I would think the Tigers would have to commit close to $100M to move that contract.

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    • Pumpsie Green says:

      The list of comparable contracts is pretty small. Then you think about what you would have to pay a free agent for that kind of production in the short-term. Then the hard part – how long of a contract? I’d say Cabrera is worth the money in the short term, and Dombrowski’s guess is as good or better than anyone’s on how long Cabrera will sustain that production. Right now, the player could probably get close to the same deal from at least a few other GMs. So, too early to say he should be on this list.

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  9. vivalajeter says:

    Question on the Arod contract. For arguments sake, let’s say the Yankees cut him loose at the end of the year, then a team like the Marlins pick him up after he passed waivers. Arod hits 10 HR next year and passes Mays. Are the Yankees on the hook for that bonus, even though they cut him before it happened? Or would the Marlins pay him the league minimum, plus any performance bonuses that he gets?

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  10. Pumpsie Green says:

    According to BP, the Marlins have $22 million (14 next year, 8 the year after) in total committed contracts – forever! They would need to double the entire franchise payroll just to catch up to the low guy on this list. I can’t decide if that’s a comment on wretched excess or astounding frugality – maybe just an illustration of the extremes?

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  11. Bad at reading guy says:

    at first I thought the headline said something like The Anti-Gay Value Trade.

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  12. Roger says:

    Did you consider BJ Upton and Dan Uggla? I know their contracts aren’t as large as these 5, but they also feature much less performance.

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    • The Flaming FIPs says:

      At least they aren’t long-term anvils. Only a year left for each.

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      • macheesmo3 says:

        BJ has 3 years left after this (he signed a 5 year $75m deal) and since being moved to lead off has performed much better. and he carries defensive value. Uggla, while being awful, isn’t in the same ballpark contract wise with the other players mentioned.

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  13. Bip says:

    Since no one actually comments on these articles on Fox, I’m reposting mine here:

    What about Matt Kemp? He’s owed 107 million after this year, and he’s a below replacement level player. Right now, he’s worth a minor league contract and an invite to camp… so doesn’t that mean the Dodgers would have to eat all 107 million of his contract to get rid of him?

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    • Vernon Wells says:

      Now, perhaps. But not long ago, the Dodgers had to look no further than about 30 miles south on I-5 for a sucker.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      “Right now, he’s worth a minor league contract and an invite to camp”

      I get your point, but let’s be real here – if he was a free agent, he’d easily get a guaranteed contract. Look at the year Chris Young put together last year. He got $7-8MM last off-season. Kemp would easily surpass that, based on his upside.

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      • Jim says:

        He’s still owed 107M. Even if he signed a 20M contract tomorrow that still leaves an 87M gap the Dodgers would have to pick up 87M to pick up the difference which puts him in the conversation with Fielder at the bottom of this list.

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        • vivalajeter says:

          No question it’s an awful contract. I’m merely saying that he’s not a spring training invitee that you sign a minor league contract. Given his past, he’d easily get a guaranteed contract, and probably a multi-year deal.

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      • Bip says:

        Yes, you’re right. I was making a statement about what he was worth, not what he would get. Since this exercise requires speculating on what a player would get, I should have approached it that way.

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  14. Hmmm says:

    Dave,

    No offense to your face, but I wish I had never seen it in that avatar. I just like imagining you as someone who looks significantly more intelligent than you actually do. Congrats on not being old though!

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Dave probably would have been offended by that, but since you said ‘no offense’ it’s all cool.

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    • The Flaming FIPs says:

      No offense, but you’re a real dick.

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    • BRH says:

      I’m curious what an intelligent person is supposed to look like. There’s quite a bit of variety in physiognomy between Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and that’s simply among phycisists. Frank Wilczek looks like a guy on a street corner selling pencils from a cup, but that dude can bring it.

      According to Hollywood, an intelligent person looks like Sandra Bullock. In reality, she’s retarded. So there you go.

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      • BRH says:

        Among physicists as well.

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      • Bill says:

        As any reputable Phrenologist will tell you, skull shape has a lot to do with one’s intelligence and many other traits. Without accurate measurments it’s hard to say, but I believe Hmmm is incorrect in his diagnosis. Based on Dave’s head shape I would say he is likely intelligent, however I would say that would likely be lacking in philoprogenitiveness and, I’m sorry to say, amativeness.

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  15. bookbook says:

    Mayhap it’s irrational of me, but I expect 2015 to be bounceback years for Verlander and Mauer, sufficient to alter their future trajectories. That may not be enough to justify their massive contracts, but I wouldn’t count either one out just yet.

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  16. Mike Ozkalych says:

    No offense Dave, but you’re really, incredibly dumb.

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  17. Bobby Ayala says:

    There is no possible way any player could have less trade value than ARod.

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  18. Brad says:

    Dave Dumbshit strikes again.

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  19. Moonraker says:

    I’m kind of surprised no one mentioned Votto’s contract on here. Isn’t he owed something north of 200 million after this season? He’s still ok offensively but seems to be rapidly declining and is injured frequently.

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