#5 – Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston
Whether it is his size or the fact that he is overshadowed by other players on his team, Pedroia still hardly ever gets the recognition for being one of the best players in baseball. But he is one of the best in baseball at making contact while still hitting for power, and he rounds out his game by drawing walks, stealing bases at a high success rate, and playing excellent defense at second base. Over all, the package adds up to a +5 to +6 win player in his prime. Oh, and he’s under contract for the next five years at a total of $44 million – the last year is voided if he’s traded, but still, 4/33 for what Pedroia brings to the table is a huge bargain.
#4 – Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida
Yet another guy for whom it was pretty tough to find a final spot. Ramirez obviously brings positives to the table, as he is an offensive monster for a shortstop, especially compared with the current group that comprises his peers. He’s a five tool player producing at a premium position, and at just 26 years of age, he could get even better. And yet, he’s had some pretty public issues with management and is still not considered the hardest worker around. Further his contract is no longer dirt cheap, as he’ll be paid $57 million over the next four years. The performance and talent, however, is too impressive to have him any lower on this list, as teams would gladly put up with Ramirez’s warts in order to get a shortstop with a career .394 wOBA.
#3 – Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington
This may be as high as any pitcher will ever rank on this list. Strasburg has been nothing short of sensational so far in the big leagues, posting a ridiculous 2.11 xFIP in his first eight starts. His stuff is better than anyone in baseball, and it’s hard to see hitters figuring him out as long as he keeps throwing this hard. Oh, and the Nationals control his rights through 2016. He won’t make any serious money for another three years, so for now, the Nationals get one of the game’s best pitchers at about 5 percent of his market value. But, as with any pitcher, the risks are significant. The superlatives could all disappear with one pitch, as it has for so many phenoms before him. Pitcher attrition would keep other teams from giving up the kitchen sink to get Strasburg, but as good as he is, the refrigerator is probably on the table.
#2 – Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta
The year’s other phenom, Heyward isn’t as good as Strasburg right now, but he’s a hitter, and that makes all the difference in the world when assigning risk. At just 20 years old, he’s already shown he’s ready for the big leagues, flashing both patience and power at the plate. He’s far from a finished product, but the skills are there for him to become the game’s premier outfielder. It may come sooner than later, in fact. Because the Braves brought him up at the start of the season, they “only” control his rights through 2015, but that’s still five more years of team control for the game’s best young talent who still can’t drink. Almost everyone who is this good at this age becomes a superstar, and few doubt that Heyward is headed that way.
#1 – Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
In May, when Heyward was going nuts, I asked my fellow FG authors if they thought there was an argument for Longoria to get displaced from the top spot. The answer – no, that contract is still too ridiculous. And,upon a another look, it is. Despite being one of the game’s premier players, Longoria will make $2 million next year. Over the next six years, he’ll be paid $42 million, or about 25 percent of his market value, which is just crazy. No player in the game provides the same performance for anything close to this kind of cost, and I don’t know that there’s an offer out there that would make Tampa Bay trade their third baseman. Unless Heyward turns into the best player in the game next year, I’m not sure Longoria will be ceding this spot to anyone for quite some time. His contract is the most team friendly deal any player has ever signed.
So, that’s the 2010 Trade Value series. I’ll do another post at 5 pm talking about some of the questions that arose from the list, such as why I left off Roy Halladay and Dan Haren, and look at some of the guys who disappeared from last year’s list.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.