2013 Trade Value: #20 – #16

Honorable Mentions
#50 to #46
#45 to #41
#40 to #36
#35 to #31
#30 to #26
#25 to #21

And now there’s a run on pitchers. Because of their inherent risks, this is getting close to the upper limit for hurlers, even though each pitcher at this point is an excellent performer and an excellent value. Oh, and there’s some hitter you might have heard something about this year too.


#20 Yu Darvish (P)

26 119.1 11.84 3.09 43.9 % 3.02 3.22 2.75 3.6 3.0

Under Team Control Through 2016: $10M, $10M, $10M, $11M

The Rangers bet big on Darvish, but it’s proven to be a wise investment, as he has turned into a top shelf starting pitcher, and projects as one of the best pitchers in baseball for the next few years.  His stuff is elite, his command has improved, and if he can keep the ball from flying over the fence quite as often, he’s got an outside shot at the Cy Young Award.  

The Rangers might want to root for Darvish to not win that award, however.  His contract contains a clause that turns the 2017 portion of his contract into a player option if he wins the Cy Young Award once and then finishes in the top four a second time.  Unless Darvish blows out his arm, he would happily opt out of the last year of the deal and score a bigger paycheck in free agency.  

Still, at either 3/30 or 4/41, Darvish’s contract is well below market price for a frontline starting pitcher, and doesn’t come with the long term risks that guys like Verlander or Hernandez present.  The Rangers already wrote the big check to get Darvish in the first place, and any team trading for him now would get the advantage of his deflated salaries.  Which, of course, is a reason why the Rangers aren’t trading him.  They invested a lot to put Darvish at the front of their rotation, and now that he’s returning dividends, they’re going to keep him.


#19 Madison Bumgarner (P)

23 125.0 8.78 2.45 44.0 % 3.02 3.27 3.37 2.4 1.9

Under Team Control Through 2019: $4M, $7M, $10M, $12M, $12M option, $12M option

Despite a bump in the road at the end of last season, Bumgarner has rebounded to pitch just like he always does.  Perhaps the most surprising thing about him is that he’s still just 23-years-old, even though he made his Major League debut back in 2009.  Bumgarner is an excellent young pitcher, but he’s this high on the list because of the contract the Giants got him to sign last year.  

By striking early, the Giants got his three arbitration years for a total of about $20 million, then got his first free agent year for $11.5 million, and then options for two more free agent years at prices that will be far under the market price by the time they come into play.  Given the rate of inflation in MLB, those options could end up being massive bargains.  

Of course, Bumgarner is a pitcher, and he’s a pitcher who throws a ton of sliders, so there’s also a chance that those options might never get picked up.  Counting on getting significant value from any pitcher in six years is a risky proposition, but the contract is structured in a way that doesn’t really gamble any significant money, while giving the team huge cost savings if Bumgarner stays healthy and keeps pitching at this level. 

He might not have the raw upside of some other hurlers in the top half of this project, but his combination of consistent success and a very friendly earn him this spot in the top 20.


#18 Chris Davis (1B)

27 393 9.7 % 28.0 % .315 .392 .717 .458 193 -1.0 1.0 5.1

Under Team Control Through 2015: Arbitration

The breakout star of 2013, Davis is establishing himself as one of the game’s premier power hitters, and at age-27, he’s just now entering his prime.  There’s still some uncertainty about just how much of this Davis can sustain, but there’s no reason to doubt the power, which has always been his calling card.  He won’t keep slugging .700, but .600 doesn’t seem entirely out of the question, at least for the next few years.  

The big question is cost.  If the Orioles don’t sign him to a long term deal, Davis could be a very interesting arbitration case this winter.  He’s very likely going to finish the year with 50+ home runs and he’ll be among the league leaders in RBIs, which are the kinds of numbers that arbitrators have typically awarded higher salaries to.  While he’s coming off a modest $3.3 million salary, he’s going to get a big raise, and could easily blow past the $10 million mark.  If he has another big season in 2014, his final arbitration payout could get near some of the highest salaries the system has ever given.  

So, the Orioles have some risk-reward balancing to do.  If they’re confident Davis won’t regress, locking him up now could save them a lot of money in the long term, as the Blue Jays did with Jose Bautista after his one big year.  Buying high after a breakout season can seem scary, but the Orioles can use his lack of track record against him now, while they won’t be able to if he follows it with another strong season.  

With just two years of team control and uncertain prices on those two years, I can’t put Davis any higher than this.  However, if the Orioles can sign him to a reasonable extension and he has another big season next year, he could easily move up on next year’s list.


#17 Jose Fernandez (P)

20 104.2 8.86 3.44 42.9 % 2.75 3.22 3.58 2.5 1.9

Under Team Control Through 2018: Pre-Arb, Arbitration

If it wasn’t for some other young hurler in the NL East having an okay season, you might be hearing a lot more about Fernandez this season.  Playing in obscurity for the Marlins probably isn’t helping either, so in case you hadn’t noticed, Jose Fernandez has been ridiculously good. Oh, and he doesn’t turn 21 until the end of the month.  

In fact, by throwing 100 innings in the big leagues as a 20-year-old, Fernandez has put himself in some pretty great company, as only 11 other pitchers in the last 30 years have even managed to throw a half season in the big leagues in their age-20 season.  While you have the likes of Jeremy Bonderman, Rick Ankiel, and Ed Correa as reminders of what can go wrong, the list is mostly just really excellent pitchers.  

As with all pitchers, health will be a big factor in Fernandez’s future outcomes, but if he can avoid surgery, the future looks pretty bright.  Because the Marlins chose to put him on the Opening Day roster rather than hold him back for a few weeks, he’s down to five more years of team control after this one, but five years of Jose Fernandez at heavily discounted prices is still a premium asset.  If the Marlins do decide to trade Giancarlo Stanton this winter, they’ll have another franchise player to take the mantle.  


#16 Chris Sale (P)

24 120.0 9.83 2.03 45.8 % 2.85 2.94 2.92 3.5 3.3

Under Team Control Through 2019: $4M, $6M, $9M, $12M, $13M option, $14M option

Sale is the American League’s answer to Madison Bumgarner, just with a few slight improvements.  Both are tall left-handers who rely heavily on their big sweeping sliders for strikeouts, and not coincidentally, both have almost exactly the same contract.  There is no question that Bumgarner’s 5/35 with two options contract was used as a template for the 5/33 with two options contract that Sale signed with the White Sox.  If all the options on both contracts are exercised, the total payouts will be almost identical.  

Sale ranks ahead of Bumgarner because he’s been a little bit better, especially once you factor in park and league adjustments.  Instead of playing in a pitcher friendly west coast ballpark and getting easy outs from opposing pitchers, Sale has pitched in a hitter friendly midwest ballpark and run through the DH league.  As a guy who has shown he can be effective against stiffer competition, and is certainly not a product of his home park, Sale would command a bit more than Bumgarner in trade, though both are excellent pitchers. 

Sale’s arm problems from last summer, when he was temporarily moved to the bullpen, probably remain a bit of a drag on his value.  His delivery has long brought about questions about his long term durability, and that scare reinforced preexisting beliefs that he might end up breaking down.  Of course, no one really knows how to forecast future pitcher health yet, and Sale is good enough to earn his contract — and then some — in the near future. 

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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9 years ago

Rays still tops with 4.
Cardinals with 3.

Teams with 0: (9) Astros, Rockies, Angels, Padres, Athletics, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Reds.

Robert Lmember
9 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Astros won’t get on

Angels will get one.(Trout)

Rockies will likely get one(CarGo and/or Tulo)

Padres won’t

A’s won’t

Phillies won’t

Diamondbacks will(Goldy)

Yankees won’t

Reds won’t

9 years ago
Reply to  Robert L

Rockies will get 2. Tulo gets hurt and is still more valuable than anyone at the most premium position while outperforming his contract. He would bring a lot in a trade.

9 years ago
Reply to  Scott

As far as the rest of the list goes, we can expect Trout and Goldschmidt for sure… less sure about Tulo, Carlos Gonzalez, Votto, since all are locked up long-term but paid like stars.

9 years ago
Reply to  rustyspatula

Tulo and Cargo were just as locked up to expensive deals (actually, Cargo’s isn’t really that expensive) when last year’s list came out and they were both top 25 then. They certainly haven’t done anything to move themselves out of the top 70 (including honorable mentions) since then. They will both be in the top 15.

Cool Lester Smooth
9 years ago
Reply to  Kyzslew77

I think Tulo missing all of June, July, August and September last year and most of June this year could bump him down a bit.

He’s a great, great talent, but he’s not like he’s suddenly going to get healthier from 29-35.

9 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Let’s see if I can guess any of them…

Astros: None? Certainly none of their big leaguers. I don’t think any of their prospects are close enough yet either.
Rockies: Cargo for sure, MVP-level player at 16M a year for his age 28-31 seasons.
Angels: You know who is probably number 1 on the list again.
Padres: Headly doesn’t have enough time on his contract. No way Cashner makes it. Not sure about them.
A’s: Donaldson is 24 in pre-arbitration, so he has a chance
Phillies: but seriously I can’t think of anyone else. Ruiz and Utley are too old/close to free agency.
D-Backs: Goldschmidt is going to make 6M a year for the next 5 years, so he’s got to be on this list.
Yankees: Not surprisingly the team known for large contracts to aging players doesn’t have an great cheap contracts to young players that I can see. Gardner is too close to free agency and doesn’t have the skillset that is valued very highly
Reds: Votto’s contract is just too big for me to see it here. Jay Bruce has a great contract but he basically has one tool, so I’m not sure it’s enough to compete with some of these guys. I don’t think Frazier has proven himself quite effective enough yet.

9 years ago
Reply to  Bip

html removed my [insert Ryan Howard joke here] on the Phillies section

9 years ago
Reply to  Bip

Still a pretty good joke.

Robert Lmember
9 years ago
Reply to  Bip

Votto and Donaldson were on the honorable mention list

That Guy
9 years ago
Reply to  Robert L

It’s almost as if this comment hasn’t been written about 15 times in each of the previous installments of this series, huh?

Cool Lester Smooth
9 years ago
Reply to  Bip

Yeah, the Cano contract was the Yanks’ only good one, and it’s ending.

Ruki Motomiya
9 years ago
Reply to  Scott

I’m still surprised Cano isn’t up here at all. If he got put up on the block, I suspect he’d get more back than some other names on the list…

9 years ago
Reply to  Ruki Motomiya

really? why would anyone give up a lot for him when they know for sure he’s going to test the open market? Knowing this would basically narrow the list of potential suitors to the Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox, Phillies, and maybe the Tigers? Teams that have no chance to sign him would be silly to give up a ton for a 3-month rental. The contending teams like the Braves, Nats, Reds, Cards, Pirates, DBacks, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, and Rangers all have good enough options at 2B that Cano wouldn’t be worth the price-tag for 3 months. The As, Orioles, Rays, and Rockies prolly A.) don’t have the financial surplus to sign him to the $200+ million contract he’s likely to receive, and B.) don’t have the pieces to make such a trade in their farm system.