Trade Value

Dave · December 5, 2005 at 8:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I imagine most of you probably have read a Bill Simmons column at least once. While he’s not much of a baseball analyst, his stuff is a fun read, and he has a running column he does every year ranking the top 40 players in the NBA in terms of trade value. Analytically, its a puff piece, full of cliches and unsupported arguments that, in the grand scheme of things, mean nothing. But every year, I enjoy reading it. It’s not serious analysis, but variety is the spice of life. So, as we enter the Week Of Insane Rumors, I figured I’d kick it off with my baseball version of his idea, and rank the 40 most valuable commodities in baseball. I’ll let him summarize the rules, though I’ll change the examples for those of you who don’t follow the NBA:

A. Salaries matter. Would you rather pay Bobby Crosby $2 million for the next three years or Derek Jeter $44 million for the next three?

B. Age matters. Would you rather have Pedro Martinez for the next five seasons or Roy Halladay for the next 12?

C. Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded straight up for any other player without budget ramifications. So if Team A tells Team B, “We’ll trade you Player X for Player Y straight up,” would Team B make the deal or not?

D. Concentrate on degrees. For instance, neither the Marlins nor Cardinals would pull the trigger on an Pujols-Cabrera trade. But at the very least, the Marlins say, “Wow, Albert Pujols is available?” while the Cardinals would say, “There’s no way we’re trading Pujols.” That counts in the big scheme of things.

E. Make the list in reverse order (Nos. 40 to 1). So if Alex Rodriguez comes in at No. 19, players 1 through 19 are all players about whom New York would probably say, “We hate giving up A-Rod, but there’s no way we can pass up that deal.” And they wouldn’t trade him for any player listed between Nos. 19 and 40.

Fair enough? Oh, and my own personal add-on rule: This is for fun. Try not to get too worked up over this. Feel free to disagree, make your own list, whatever. But try not to get offended, okay? Off we go.

#40: Daniel Cabrera, RHP, Baltimore

If you take away Felix’s command, you have Daniel Cabrera. Huge velocity, dominant groundball pitcher, impossible to hit, and crazy wild. Even when he’s not throwing strikes, he’s not bad, and if his command ever improves to passable, he’s an all-star. Also just 24 years of age and making the league minimum.

39: Felipe Lopez, SS, Cincinnati

After being a continual disappointment, he’s finally living up to his potential, hitting .291/.350/.486 and playing a passable shortstop for the Reds. Of course, that brings his career line up to .252/.317/.416 in 1250 major league at-bats, so there’s some pretty obvious downside, and he hasn’t been known as the hardest worker around. But shortstops who, at age 25, can post a .290 EqA aren’t exactly growing on trees. The chance that he’ll be a perennial all-star is worth the risk.

38: Nick Johnson, 1B, Washington

He went from the Future of the Yankees to the poster by for AFLAC, running himself out of the Pinstripes by continually finding himself on the disabled list. He’s always been a good hitter, but never stayed on the field enough to make it count. Well, at age 26, he’s finally put together a mostly injury free season, and he set a career high in games played, all while hitting .289/.408/.479. As a talent, he’s comparable to Edgar Martinez, and if he can ever stay healthy, he’s going to be a dominating offensive force.

37: Dan Haren, RHP, Oakland

The kid the A’s got from St. Louis in the Mark Mulder deal was a rock, throwing 217 league average innings for the league minimum and outpitching the all-star he was traded for in the process. Haren’s a command guy without a dynamite out pitch, but he’s a smart pitcher with good mechanics who is efficient enough to pitch deep in games. He’s not going to win any Cy Youngs, but he’s going to be a middle of the rotation starter until his arm falls off, and he won’t cost a significant amount of money until 2009.

36: Jason Bay, OF, Pittsburgh

Just signed a four year, $18 million contract with the Pirates that will take up through his arbitration years. That’s $4.5 million per year for a guy who just hit .306/.402/.559 at age 26. Talk about a bargain.

35: Jhonny Peralta, SS, Cleveland

Peralta just put up one of the biggest “Holy Crap” seasons in recent history, ranking as a legitimate downballot MVP candidate after showing little in his first 300 major league at-bats. He’s probably not quite as good a hitter as he was in 2005, but he’s an offensive force at shortstop, and he’s dirt cheap for the next several years.

34: Andruw Jones, CF, Atlanta

He almost won the MVP in his age 28 season and plays a premium defensive position, so why this low? He’s already extremely expensive and only has one more year left on his deal, after which he’s likely to become even more expensive. He also doesn’t strike me as a player who is going to age particularly well.

33: Scott Kazmir, LHP, Tampa Bay

If the New York Mets had compiled this list, Kazmir would be about 1,145 spots lower. Victor Zambrano? Ouch.

32: Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee

The best second base prospect to come along in years, he hits like Jeff Kent. He also fields like Jeff Kent. He has the tools to become a good defensive player, and his bat has the chance to be extremely special. Weeks is hard for me, because there’s a great chance that in a year, he’ll be in the top 10 on this list. But he’s not there yet.

31: Victor Martinez, C, Cleveland

Did you know he turns 27 in a couple of weeks? Because of catcher attrition, he probably only has another 3 all-star level years in him before the decline, but for the next three years, he’s an amazing bargain, and one of the most valuable players in the American League.

30: Lance Berkman, LF, Houston

The bat belongs much higher up the list, but he turns 30 in a few months and is coming off a serious knee injury, so he doesn’t offer much besides a thunderous bat. But man, what a bat.

29: Mark Teixeira, 1B, Texas

Just 25-years-old and already has 100 career homers and a .282/.362/.541 line in 3 seasons. Playing in Texas has padded his stats a bit, but he’s an elite young slugger who also just won a gold glove. If he had played for an organization that would have left him at third base, he’d likely be much higher on this list.

28: Travis Hafner, 1B, Cleveland

The Indians got him for Einar Diaz. He just hit .305/.408/.595 last year, following a .311/.410./583 season. Einar Diaz. And you wonder why I think Mark Shapiro runs the best organization in baseball?

27: John Lackey, RHP, Anaheim

Why doesn’t anyone realize how good this guy is? He took a big step forward in performance at the age of 26, and he’s one of the ten best pitchers in the American League. He’s also three years away from free agency. He, not Bartolo Colon, is the ace of the Angels.

26: Adam Dunn, LF, Cincinnati

His home/road splits don’t inspire confidence. He’s a bad defensive player. He’s not much of a baserunner. But Dunn has once-in-a-generation power. He’s a monster of a hitter, and with some growth, could be a hall of fame slugger. He just turned 26, and he’s got a long career of mashing ahead of him.

25: Josh Beckett, RHP, Boston

How often is a guy like Beckett traded? He just finished his age 25 season, is under control for two more years at reasonable prices, and has a 3.46 career ERA. A fantastic acquisition by whoever happens to be running the Red Sox at the moment.

24: Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago

The Pirates rushed Ramirez to the majors at age 20, watched him have an all-star season by age 23, and then shipped him out at age 25 for Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez. Just a monumental series of bad decisions in Pittsburgh, and now the Cubs get to enjoy the prime of Ramirez’s career.

23: Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia

Like Victor Martinez, he’s a “young player” who is going into his age 27 season. He might not have the longest career of the players on this list, but a second baseman who can hit like he does doesn’t come around every day.

22: B.J. Upton, SS, Tampa Bay

Was on the Aramis Ramirez career path before Chuck LaMar was shown the door. Now that competant people are running the Devil Rays, he should be developed like a player of his abilities should, and there are few better talents anywhere in the game.

21: Eric Chavez, 3B, Oakland

A great defensive third baseman, it’s also been said that Eric Chavez can hit a little bit. Especially against the Mariners. Now if he could only learn how to hit left-handed pitching.

20: Jeremy Bonderman, RHP, Detroit

He who laughs last, laughs best. Grady Fuson must be rolling.

19: Bobby Crosby, SS, Oakland

A guy who just plays way above his tools. Crosby’s got a shot to be the best shortstop in the American League for the forseeable future. He’s also not a free agent until after the 2009 season.

18: Carlos Zambrano, RHP, Chicago

When the Cubs were assembling their rotation of young hurlers, Zambrano was always listed last. He was the wild, emotional guy without a firm grasp of how to pitch. Without much fanfare, however, he has become a frontline starter. His combination of groundballs and strikeouts makes up for the fact that he’s also ridiculously ugly. He is what Daniel Cabrera aspires to.

17: Delmon Young, RF, Tampa Bay

If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will. He’s worth this ranking, despite never having played in a major league game. He’s that good. And he’s got a long, long career ahead of himself.

16: Ben Sheets, RHP, Milwaukee

Would have ranked significantly higher before the injuries. Was called the best kept secret in baseball for so long, he’s no longer a secret. He’s just a terrific pitcher.

15: Dontrelle Willis, LHP, Florida

The Marlins have had a ton of good young arms over the past few years. Beckett, Burnett, Clement, Penny. All gone. The D-Train remains. Turns 24 in January and already one of the best pitchers in baseball.

14: Jake Peavy, RHP, San Diego

If Ben Sheets used to be the best kept secret in baseball, its probably now Jake Peavy. This kid is something else. I’ll take him over Dontrelle because he has better stuff, but it’s basically a coin flip. These kids are part of the creme of the crop in the National League.

13: Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota

A 22-year-old catcher who can already hit .300, has amazing plate coverage, and developing power? He also has one of the best arms behind the plate in the game. Oh, and he’s playing for his hometown team, where he’s a local high school legend. I’m not sure the Twins would trade him for all of the next 12 players on this list, much less any of them.

12: Roy Oswalt, RHP, Houston

He’s pitched almost 1000 innings in his major league career and has an ERA of 3.07. If his arm doesn’t fall off, he’s going to the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a 23rd round pick.

11: Vladimir Guerrero, RF, Anaheim

$13 million per year gets you Rafael Furcal. $15 million per year gets you Vladimir Guerrero. Advantage, Los Angeles. No, the other one.

10: Mark Buehrle, LHP, Chicago

I’m prepared to get impaled for him being this high, but did you know that he has five straight seasons with 220 innings pitched, and has gone over 230 in the last four years. The man is the definition of a workhorse, and he’s pretty freaking good, to boot.

9: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York

The contract, and the fact that he’s now 30, make this the highest I can put him. But he’s the only player on this list who would still be inducted into Cooperstown if he never played another game.

8: Mark Prior, RHP, Chicago

Maybe I have a weak spot for Prior, as his performance the last two years can’t match that of several pitchers behind him. But watching him pitch when he’s going right is like watching a movie. He has three amazing pitches, great command, and he knows how to pitch. He just turned 25, and he’s the most talented pitcher in the National League. I have a feeling his next five years will be a lot more successful than the last five.

7: Roy Halladay, RHP, Toronto

Did you know he holds the major league record for highest ERA in a season with at least 50 innings pitched? Hard to believe a guy this talented could give up 80 earned runs in 67 innings, but that’s what he did in 2000. Since then, his ERA’s have ran 3.16, 2.93, 3.25, 4.20, and 2.41.

6: Rich Harden, RHP, Oakland

He just turned 24, and his ERA was 77 percent better than the league average last year. Health is a concern, but talent is not. And he’s dirt cheap for several more years.

5: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle

I’ve written so much about Felix, I’m running out of interesting things to say about him. Long Live the King.

4: David Wright, 3B, New York

A few years ago, when Wright was having what appeared to be a pedestrian season in the Florida State League, I wrote an article at Baseball Prospectus and compared him to Scott Rolen. I got several emails that weren’t exactly friendly, lambasting me for saying a guy who wasn’t playing great baseball in A-ball was comparable to the best third baseman in baseball. In hindsight, they were sort of right. There is no comparison. David Wright is already better than Scott Rolen has ever been.

3: Johan Santana, LHP, Minnesota

Greatest Rule 5 Selection Of All Time.

2: Miguel Cabrera, LF, Florida

Most Similar Batters Through Age 22: Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle. So, basically, unless he dies, he’s going to the Hall Of Fame.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis

From ages 21-25, an average Pujols season reads .332/.416/.621 with 41 home runs, 82 walks, and 71 strikeouts. If he had posted those numbers in the minor leagues, he’d be something like the best prospect we’ve ever seen. Since he posted those numbers in the National League, he’s something like the best hitter, at his age, of all time.


79 Responses to “Trade Value”

  1. Jeff on December 6th, 2005 8:37 am

    Dave, love the list. What’s the reason for omitting Sizemore? Solid line-drive hitter, with great wheels, and glove. What’s he missing?

  2. Jake L. on December 6th, 2005 8:43 am

    The problem with Grady Sizemore is his name. It sounds like he should be a mashing corner OF/1B type, not a fleet-footed centerfielder. He should trade his name with Wily Mo Pena, and both their trade values would skyrocket.

    And, Dave, I figured Ichiro! belonged in the same group with Jeter and (perhaps) Barry Bonds, and not on this one. Since I couldn’t come up with a rational argument to get Jeremy Reed on that list, I went with that one. I still don’t like seeing Feliz Lopez up there, though…..

  3. chico ruiz on December 6th, 2005 9:12 am

    Thanks for the post, this is fun. I couldn’t help but notice that no relievers made the list, and I assume that’s due to a belief that in general their value is low. Even so, wouldn’t K-Rod deserve some consideration? He’s young, cheap, and has an outside chance to turn into Mariano Rivera. To a pennant contender, he’d seem to have as much value as a Scott Kazmir or Daniel Cabrera, don’t you think?

  4. taro on December 6th, 2005 9:39 am

    So your saying your saying that Felix is risky enough that you WOULD trade him for Pujols straight up? Or any of the four players rated above him?

  5. Will on December 6th, 2005 9:46 am

    Nice list – I especially like the comment in #11 – Vlad Guerrero. Perspective is fun, isn’t it?

    I do have one quibble with the list – you have young guys like Peralta, which I agree with, but at the bottom of your list, I would have inserted Jimmy Rollins.

    He’ll be 27, he’s been cutting down his K’s, great basestealing ability, and a wonderful hitting streak to end the season. Best thing? He just got signed for 5 years/40 million, which is a bargain looking at the signings going down this offseason.

    I wouldn’t rank him above Jason Bay, as Bay is a powerhouse, and the Pirates made a great move to lock him up, but I would have stuck Rollins on the list somewhere.

  6. mln on December 6th, 2005 9:51 am

    Speaking of Miguel Cabrera, there was an article in one NY paper that stated that the Marlins are even open to listening to trade offers for him or even Dontrelle Willis.

    Too bad the Mariners don’t have any young cheap MLB talent that would really interest the Marlins … except Felix and possibly Jeremy Reed.

    Felix for Cabrera? You know that would be tempting. Given a choice between comparable talents–one a pitcer, the other a everyday player–take the everyday player.

  7. NC on December 6th, 2005 9:52 am

    Maybe I’ve been out of it the past few years, but is the Pujols age question resolved to everyone’s satisfaction?

  8. Evan on December 6th, 2005 10:00 am

    I think Halladay’s easily a better pitcher than Santana. I suppose their relative positions are based on Santana’s age (and possibly cost – I have no idea how much Santana earns)?

  9. Adam S on December 6th, 2005 10:15 am

    What does Alex Rodriguez’s contract look like the next few years? I’m surprised to see him so high on the list. I realize the Yankess won’t trade him, but it seems like at $21 or $23 million, he isn’t underpaid anymore.

    Given the choice of Alex Rodriguez or Bobby Crosby/Peralta and Millwood and Burnett (with the cost savings), I’d take the package.

  10. Churchill on December 6th, 2005 10:19 am

    AROD is making about 16 mil per year from NYY.

    Texas is picking up the rest.

  11. John on December 6th, 2005 10:37 am

    I think Zack Duke from the Pirates should be on there.

    Talk about cheap,young, and productive last year.

  12. Chestor on December 6th, 2005 10:37 am

    Zach Duke shouod be on this list. No questions asked. Pitched great for Pittsburgh when brought up from minors. With a good team he can dominate.

  13. Deep 6 on December 6th, 2005 10:48 am

    Great job with the list. I question two things, but I know if I put one together (with my limited overall knowledge) it’d get torn apart.

    I remember being as surprised as when I saw Jason Bay listed 36th (So Low?) It was when I read about the contract he signed.

    I couldn’t put a player who’s making more than prabaly 30 of the others combined into a list like this. There’s no bargain in A-rods Guerrero’s or Jones’ (etc.) contract. Regardless of age I don’t see how anyone making over $10 Million can be considered equally. I think they belong on the other list (young or not). But it’s your list, so have it your way.

    Well I’d take Santana Pujols or Guerrero+cash for Felix, but then I’m not too familiar with Wright and Cabrera.

    A couple Minor league SS’s & OFers for Delmon Young…I might offer Clement after seeing a few months of Kenji…?

    And Ben Sheets would be a GOD at Safeco! I imagine he’s as available as Felix.

  14. brian on December 6th, 2005 11:22 am

    Where would the 2004 beltre be ranked in this list?

  15. Mat on December 6th, 2005 11:37 am

    “I think Halladay’s easily a better pitcher than Santana.”

    Easily? No one is easily better than Santana right now. WARP3 for the two over the past three seasons is 6.4, 11.2, 9.1 for Santana and 10.3, 4.2, and 6.9 for Halladay. And Santana’s 6.4 was in a year where the Twins had him pitch out of the bullpen for the first two months of the season.

    There are other numbers that go into this discussion, but to me it basically boils down to the fact that not only is Halladay not easily better than Santana, but Santana is better than Halladay.

  16. Sriram on December 6th, 2005 11:41 am

    Dave – if you were to compile the worst 40, would it start with Christian Guzman or Ryan Franklin 🙂

  17. Deep 6 on December 6th, 2005 11:59 am

    Just looking at the pitchers on the list:
    Top 10 WHIP Last year among pitchers with at least 10 starts

    Pedro 0.95 (2.82 ERA)
    Halladay 0.96 (2.42)
    Santana 0.97 (2.87)
    Felix 1.00 (2.67)
    Clemens 1.01 (1.87)
    Petitte 1.03 (2.39)
    Peavy 1.04 (2.88)
    Carpenter 1.06 (2.83)
    Harden 1.06 (2.53)
    Sheets 1.07 (3.33)

    It looks like you ordered them perfectly, once you factor in money and age.

  18. Deep 6 on December 6th, 2005 12:02 pm

    Sriram, I’m sure you could do worse than that.

  19. Dave on December 6th, 2005 12:18 pm

    How about Garrett Anderson? He has 3 years and $36 million (including the buyout) left on his contract. For that $12 million per year, the Angels have a 33-year-old who hit .283/.308/.435 last year and has serious back problems.

    Either him or Russ Ortiz.

  20. Morisseau on December 6th, 2005 12:20 pm

    Nice. Thanks Dave.

  21. chico ruiz on December 6th, 2005 12:25 pm

    Re the bottom 40: Aren’t the Mariners still paying Scott Spiezio $3 million for 2006? How could you do worse than that?

  22. Jake on December 6th, 2005 12:35 pm

    By paying Scott Spiezio $4 million a year not to play, of course.

  23. Chris B on December 6th, 2005 1:25 pm

    Oh I think the extra million to get Spiezo NOT playing is money very well spent.

  24. Evan on December 6th, 2005 1:37 pm

    Matt – Way to use counting stats when Halladay didn’t pitch a full season.

    Using your numbers, Santana managed a WARP3 of 9.1 in 33 starts.
    Halladay got his 6.9 in only 19 starts (before a line drive broke his leg). WARP3/start, Halladay beat Santana by over 30%.

    That’s a pretty big margin.

  25. ray on December 6th, 2005 5:49 pm

    Very nice. I can’t wait for the top 40 worst list (least tradable).

  26. bookbook on December 6th, 2005 8:09 pm

    I might rank Oswalt even higher.

    I’d have to think that injury risk alone makes Nick Johnson less valuable a commodity than a few guys not on this list.

    Hank Blalock? I still believe.

    After Felix, there aren’t many Mariners sniffing the top 100. And that, my friends, is why we’re fighting to find a way out of 4th place…

  27. Mat on December 7th, 2005 12:32 am

    Evan –

    Exactly, I used counting stats. Pitchers are no good to the team if they can’t stay on the mound. Health is an ability. But go ahead, use rate stats, even then, there’s no way Halladay looks “easily better” than Santana.

    Take Support Neutral Value Added over Replacement, Lineup-adjusted (SNLVAR), per 10 starts for 2003-2005, since that was the original time frame. Santana comes out with 2.5 wins per 10 starts while Halladay grades out to 2.3 wins per 10 starts. Per Clay Davenport’s translated statistics, Halladay has about 6.8 K/9 for the last three season, Santana has about a 9.3 K/9. Halladay has about a 1.2 BB/9 the last three seasons, Santana has a 1.8 BB/9 or so. Santana’s HR/9 is .8, Halladay’s is .7.

    Halladay has no obvious edges on Santana, and Santana’s been healthier. Santana’s better than Halladay.

  28. Joe Towarnicky on December 8th, 2005 9:55 am

    I apologize if this is a duplicate post. Computer glitches apparently deleted my post before I sent it.

    Great Article. Well reasoned.

    But I think that you should have found a place for CCSabathia. IMO, every team would be interested if he were available. He’s not 25 yet, a lefty with lots of tools, five years AVERAGING 195 innings per year, not overworked but consistent. In addition, he already has a top 10 finish is wins, era, strikeouts, etc. I believe he’s poised to put these great tools/skills/output together for a few years.

    Even if he never makes the jump, you get 200 innings of better than league average pitching from a lefty who can have dominant stretches.

    He’s got some conditioning issues but can you say Mickey Lolich? And he’s just now starting to earn some $$$.


  29. Doug on December 8th, 2005 10:02 am

    Met fan here, and I have been arguing that there are 3 guys I would consider trade D. Wright for, and they are the top 3 on your list. When someone brought up Felix, I told them I would think about it. So basically, I think you nailed it.