Last week, I went through the 50 best assets in baseball, as rated by overall trade value based on their performance, age, and contract status. Today, we finish up the Trade Value series with the five players farthest from making the list. This is the Anti-Trade Value list; the guys who would be nearly impossible to trade because of their outsized contracts and undersized performances.
The take home notion: Beware the aging slugger.
|29||434||11.5 %||17.3 %||.269||.362||.453||.354||122||-6.6||-2.5||0.9|
Under Team Control Through 2020: $24M per year
Maybe it’s just a slump. Good players have mediocre stretches, and even in Fielder’s down season, he’s still posting a 122 wRC+. Perhaps he finishes strong and provides a few more elite offensive seasons for the Tigers.
That’s a lot of ifs and maybes for $168 million over the next seven years. Fielder wasn’t highly prized by many teams as a free agent because of the costs associated with a supersized DH-in-the-making and the historically poor aging curves of position players carrying that much weight. The first year of his deal turned out just fine for Detroit, but if 2013 is the start of a trend, this deal could get ugly in a hurry.
Fielder is among the worst defenders and worst baserunners in the sport. He’s only good if he’s mashing, and right now, he’s not mashing. One dimension players making $24 million per year have to be among the game’s best hitters to have value, and while Fielder might get back to that level, a team would have to have a tremendous amount of confidence in a rebound in order to take him off the Tigers hands.
He certainly isn’t untradeable, especially given the lack of bats on the market right now. I’d imagine Detroit could even get another team to pick up most of the rest of his deal. Even coming off a mediocre season, I could see Fielder getting $120 million over seven years from a team desperate for a cleanup hitter. But that is still well shy of what Detroit is paying him, and the Tigers would have to kick in a lot of cash in order to move his contract.
Estimated Cost to Trade: $48 million
|32||387||6.7 %||25.3 %||.223||.279||.409||.297||89||0.7||1.6||0.6|
Under Team Control Through 2017: $15M, $23M, $30M, $30M
It was less than a year ago that Hamilton incited a bidding war. In addition to the Angels, the Mariners reportedly offered Hamilton $100 million over four years, with a couple of team options that could push it to $150 million over six years. So, maybe $103 million over four years with no team options now shouldn’t be completely immovable.
Except Hamilton has been worse than anyone could have possibly imagined. There were warning signs, sure, but a .223/.279/.409 line that translates into an 89 wRC+? As bad as Hamilton’s plate discipline is, this is still way below any reasonable forecast coming into the season. But it’s the kind of performance that justifies why the Rangers just showed little interest in retaining him, and the kind of performance that suggests that the end might be closer than we might have thought.
Hamilton, right now, projects as about an average player when he’s healthy, which is not something you can really count on with him. This is the kind of season that would relegate him to a one year “pillow contract”, as he’s lost his only real valuable skill at age-32. If he had this kind of season a year ago, maybe he ends up taking the qualifying offer and playing for $13 million to try and bounce back.
For a guaranteed four more years, I can’t see any team being willing to go over $40 million, leaving $63 million in dead money. It’s not just how the mighty have fallen, but how quickly the mighty have fallen, that is the big surprise here.
Estimated Cost to Trade: $63 million
|33||317||7.3 %||30.0 %||.266||.319||.465||.332||110||-1.2||-3.0||0.4|
Under Team Control Through 2017: $25M, $25M, $25M, $10M buyout
You’ve probably read enough about the Ryan Howard contract by now. It’s been a running joke for years, and is probably going to go down as one of the least productive contracts in sports history. While other deals have turned bad after getting signed, this is maybe the last contract to be an obvious disaster from the minute of conception, and given the increasing education of baseball executives, it might be the last of its breed.
The good news is that the end is in sight. While it’s an utter waste of almost the entire $85 million, it will only limit the Phillies for three more seasons, plus the buyout cost in 2017. Howard is unlikely to provide much value during the remaining years on the deal, but those years are ticking away, and he won’t hamstring the franchise for that much longer.
Estimated Cost to Trade: $70 million
|37||11163||10.9 %||18.2 %||.300||.384||.560||.401||144||17.3||36.1||111.3|
Under Team Control Through 2017: $25M, $21M, $20M, $20M
The salary is detrimental, but the circus that surrounds him is a pretty big deterrent to other teams as well. Rodriguez’s combination of health issues and never ending link to PEDs make him just about untradeable even before you factor in the huge salary. Put those things together and there’s probably not a player in the game that would generate less interest in the trade market.
On performance alone, Rodriguez is one of the best players of all time. It’s too bad that such a career is going to end this way.
Estimated Cost to Trade: $86 million
|33||419||9.3 %||12.4 %||.252||.325||.434||.324||107||-1.0||-3.1||0.5|
Under Team Control Through 2021: $23M, $24M, $25M, $26M, $27M, $28M, $29M, $30M
If you’re wondering, that’s $212 million over the next eight years. Not only did the Angels give Pujols a massive contract, but they backloaded it, so after the first two seasons finish, they’ll still have only paid him $28 million of the $240 million he was guaranteed. Basically, the Angels borrowed heavily from the future in order to finance their 2012 and 2013 playoff runs. Oops.
Unlike some of the other names on this list, Pujols would still be in demand if the Angels made him available. He was nearly a +4 WAR player last year, and while he’s regressing, he still projects as a pretty good player in the short term. But 8/212 is so far beyond what he would actually get as a free agent, the Angels would have to send along the biggest check in sports history to make Pujols’ decline years someone else’s problem.
Best case scenario, I think a team might talk themselves into Pujols as a $15 million per year player for the next four years. I could see him getting the Nick Swisher contract, basically. There’s enough reason to think he could still hit for a few more years, and provide enough short term value to make that kind of contract a viable risk for a contender. But that’s 4/60, leaving $152 million in dead money. Rodriguez and Howard combine for about $156 million in dead money. Basically, the Pujols contract is as toxic as the next two worst contracts in baseball put together.
It’s a good thing the Angels have Mike Trout.
Estimated Cost to Trade: $152 million
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.