2014 Trade Value: #40 – #31

Welcome to the second part of this year’s Trade Value series. If you haven’t already, read the intro and get yourself acquainted with what question this is trying to answer, as well as an incomplete list of guys who missed the cut for one reason or another. And then read the first ten entries on the list from yesterday.

There will be a couple of formatting changes this year. Instead of doing two posts per day, with five players in each post, I’m consolidating those posts into one longer list per day. Additionally, instead of having a player listed and then some paragraphs about his ranking, I’m going to list all ten players in a table at the top of the post, and then write about all ten in more of an article style than a selection of blurbs. Having all of the names available in a single table makes for easier comparison of some relevant facts, and in past years, the player capsules started to feel pretty repetitive by the end. Hopefully, this cuts down on some of the redundant text. We’ll find out, I guess.

A few quick notes on the columns in the table. After the normal biographical information, I’ve listed Projected WAR, which is essentially a combination of ZIPS and Steamer’s current rest-of-season forecasts extrapolated out to a full-season’s worth of playing time. For non-catcher position players, this is 600 plate appearances; catchers are extrapolated to 450 PAs. For pitchers, this is extrapolated to 200 innings. It is not their 2014 WAR, or their last calendar year WAR; it is a rough estimate of what we might expect them to do over a full-season, based on the information we have now.

The two columns to the right of that give you an idea of the player’s contract status. “Controlled Through” includes all years before a player accumulates enough time to be eligible for free agency, all guaranteed years of a contract already signed, and any years covered by team options that could be exercised in the future. Player options and mutual options are not included, as the assumption is that players of this caliber will generally opt-out of their current contracts if given the chance.

The “Contract Dollars” column includes the base salaries of each player in the controlled years going forward, starting from 2015 — the 40% of 2014 salary remaining is not included in the calculation — including the value of team options, since we’re assuming that they will be picked up. In many cases, players have incentives for various accomplishments that affect the base salaries, but those are not accounted for here, simply because of the tedious work of calculating all those incentive prices and the fact that $100,000 for an All-Star appearance or $500,000 for an MVP-finish there aren’t going to change the overall calculations. This column is not an exact representation of their future earnings, but should be close enough for our purposes.

For players who are under team control but not under guaranteed contract, I’ve listed out which arbitration years they still have remaining. There are a few players who have both guaranteed contracts and arbitration eligibility remaining, but we’ll deal with those cases in the article when a simple line in the chart doesn’t explain their situation perfectly.

Finally, “Last Year” notes where a player was ranked on this list last year, or if he wasn’t on the 2013 Trade Value series, then he is denoted as unranked. As you can imagine, there’s a lot more turnover at the end of the list than the beginning.

Alright, enough fooling around; let’s get to the list. For reference, I’m going to include the entire list up to this point.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Contract Dollars Last Year
50 Yan Gomes 26 CLE C 3.4 2021 $40,950,000 Unranked
49 Starling Marte 25 PIT OF 3.0 2021 $52,500,000 31
48 Kyle Seager 26 SEA 3B 3.4 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
47 Alex Cobb 26 TB SP 3.1 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
46 Edwin Encarnacion 31 TOR DH 3.7 2016 $20,000,000 45
45 Julio Teheran 23 ATL SP 2.3 2020 $41,600,000 Unranked
44 Chris Archer 25 TB SP 2.4 2021 $42,250,000 Unranked
43 Devin Mesoraco 26 CIN C 3.0 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
42 Corey Kluber 28 CLE SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
41 Michael Brantley 27 CLE OF 2.6 2018 $30,000,000 Unranked
40 David Wright 31 NYM 3B 4.1 2020 $107,000,000 21
39 Dustin Pedroia 30 BOS 2B 4.2 2021 $107,500,000 25
38 Byron Buxton 20 MIN OF 1.2 TBD Pre-Arb – Arb3 28
37 Jose Quintana 25 CHW SP 3.3 2020 $40,650,000 Unranked
36 Billy Hamilton 23 CIN OF 2.7 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
35 Matt Carpenter 28 STL 3B 3.9 2020 $66,000,000 Unranked
34 Jose Fernandez 21 MIA SP 4.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 17
33 Carlos Gomez 28 MIL OF 4.8 2016 $17,000,000 33
32 Yordano Ventura 23 KC SP 2.8 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
31 Sonny Gray 24 OAK SP 3.0 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked

Yesterday, I noted that the average age for the last ten in was 26 and their average forecast WAR was just a tick over 3.0, noting that it was a group of guys already close to their prime who probably weren’t going to become franchise cornerstones. This group is entirely different. Even though it includes both Wright and Pedroia, the average age is a full year younger. Even though it includes a not-ready-for-MLB Byron Buxton, the average forecast WAR is 3.5. This is a group of players who either have top-line potential, or have recently been elite MLB performers.

Let’s start with the two guys who probably have peaked as MLB players, and whose value comes from attempting to remain where they are for as long as possible. Wright and Pedroia both took hometown discounts to re-sign with their current organizations, and while both are having disappointing 2014 seasons, they’re significantly underpaid relative to other +4 WAR players in the game. Even though these contracts carry well into the decline phase of each player’s career, there is substantial short-term value in acquiring star-level players at highly discounted rates, and the costs at the end of the deal are not so high as to offset that value.

One could make an argument that Matt Carpenter is in a similar stage, even though he’s a couple of years younger than both Wright and Pedroia. Even with the move back to third base and some expected offensive regression, Carpenter is still a very valuable player, though the lack of power limits his upside to some degree. It’s unlikely Carpenter is going to develop much more power at this point, so for him, the question is how long he can maintain elite line drive rates and avoid weak contact; his seven career infield flies is Votto-esque, and one of the reasons why he has a career .346 BABIP.

It’s a bit of a unique skillset, and not one that teams traditionally pay as much for as they do for power or speed, but Carpenter has 1,500 plate appearances and a 132 wRC+ in the big leagues. Given the lack of offense in the game and the guaranteed minimal salaries he will earn over the length of his deal, there would be significant interest in Carpenter’s services if the Cardinals put him on the block.

But maybe not as much as if the Brewers put Carlos Gomez on the block. Gomez is this section’s Edwin Encarnacion; a player with only two years left on his contract, but a present value/low salary combination that is ridiculously slanted in the team’s favor, and makes up for the lack of years of team control. Since making the transition into a legitimate power hitter, Gomez has blossomed into a true superstar. He’s not going to repeat last year’s UZR-driven +7.5 WAR season, but he’s on pace for a +6 WAR season that might be seen as even more reliable, given that it is being compiled on the back of a 145 wRC+ instead of a +25 UZR.

Realistically, Gomez is worth something in the neighborhood of $30 to $35 million per season right now; he will make $8 million next year and $9 million the year after. He’s unlikely to accept another team-friendly extension after giving away three free agent years right before he turned into a superstar, so any acquiring team would have to look at this as a two year rental before a market price correction kicked in, but those are two absurdly valuable seasons.

Beyond Pedroia, Wright, Carpenter, and Gomez, though, the rest of the players on this section of the list are brimming with future value. Buxton was widely viewed as the best prospect in baseball before the season, drawing (unrealistic) comparisons to Mike Trout based on his overall package of tools. 2014 has been a lost season to date, but those tools are still there, and scouts are still convinced that Buxton has the ability to eventually become a legitimate superstar. He offers little in the way of short-term value, and probably won’t be big league ready for a few years, but for teams with the patience to wait, the payoff could be dramatic.

But perhaps the biggest upside play here is already a big leaguer. Before his elbow exploded, Jose Fernandez was making a legitimate run at Clayton Kershaw’s title for best pitcher in baseball, and even if he’s out for all of the 2015 season as well, he’d still be looking at a full recovery for 2016 as a 23 year old.

Yes, he’ll have burned through all of his pre-arbitration years by that point, but the injury is also going to limit his earnings in arbitration, so any team paying for Fernandez’s rehab would get Fernandez’s age-23 through age-25 seasons at highly discounted rates. Given the success rates of Tommy John surgery and Fernandez’s ridiculous performances before the injury, the lack of value for the next 18 months wouldn’t dissuade teams from aggressively pursuing his long-term value.

Of course, if a team didn’t want to wait for 2016 to upgrade their rotation, you could do a lot worse than choosing between Quintana, Ventura, and Gray. In his third year in the big leagues, Quintana is the seasoned veteran of the three, but has quietly developed into one of the best young starting pitchers in the game today. And because the White Sox had the foresight to sign him to a long-term deal before last season, he’ll make a grand total of $20 million over the next four years, and then the White Sox hold a pair of $10 million options if he stays healthy and keeps pitching well.

Ventura and Gray haven’t signed long-term deals yet, but since both are in their first full seasons in the majors, each have five more years of team-control, including a pair of pre-arbitration seasons that will see them make something close to the league minimum. Gray and Ventura rank a bit higher than Quintana mostly for upside reasons, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the three. These are three of the most valuable young arms in baseball, and they only rank this low because pitchers break.

That leaves us with just one player left to discuss, and the guy who doesn’t fit into any other mold. Billy Hamilton is his own guy, a legitimately unique player whose value is exceedingly difficult to narrow down. On the one hand, I still know a lot of smart people in the game who don’t think Hamilton is going to sustain enough offense to be more than steals-and-defense specialist. On the other hand, Hamilton already has 30 extra base hits this year, and the Ben Revere comparisons look outdated at this point.

Here’s what we’re pretty sure we know; Hamilton is among the game’s most valuable baserunners, and his defense in center field has been even better than the most optimistic forecast. If Hamilton maxes out as an average hitter in the big leagues, then he’s Jacoby Ellsbury with perhaps even better defense. But Hamilton’s already exceeding expectations at the plate, and has a career 107 wRC+ in 381 big league plate appearances. His Triple-A performance remains worrisome and can’t just be discarded, but Hamilton’s base from which to grow as a hitter appears higher than he was given credit for.

Hamilton’s probably never going to be a good hitter, but the surprising power has put away any thought that he might not play as an everyday regular. Now, the question is more of how much higher he can go from here. If he sustains offensive performance even close to where he’s at now, then he’s a legitimate star in the making.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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9 years ago

Still have to quibble about the formatting. While the player capsules might have sounded repetitive they really didn’t read that way. Especially when everyone is looking to read about their favorite player anyway, they loved anything that Mr. Cameron has to say about their star.

I strongly prefer the other format. This is actually takes quite a bit away from the content IMO.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Not really, just makes me use the search bar to filter through the article for any tidbits that apply to players I care about. Meh, its your column, write it the way you want.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Even still, this format requires you to scroll back and forth between the text and the chart if you want to look at the stats of the players you’re talking about. That got really annoying by the time Billy Hamilton came around.

9 years ago
Reply to  mettle

is there a way to freeze the table at the top of the browser window when you scroll past it? granted, it would probably work better if there are only 10 players in the table, but it would solve the issue of jumping back and forth between the text and the table itself.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

If someone isn’t reading the entire article under the old format that’s their own loss. I don’t know if you should cater to people who aren’t necessarily willing to read your article, especially over the people who did read the previous article and enjoy it far more than this style/format.

I enjoy the series, but I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more with the individual player blurbs as opposed to the new format.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Totally agree with Dave on this one. The new format allows deeper analysis and more interesting framing.

9 years ago
Reply to  Elias

The first post I thought, I don’t like this(like a lot of other people), but after this post I liked this better, and have a good feeling going forward.

Keep up the good work Dave, it’s most appreciated!

Salty Dog
9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

I like the article format since it allows you to discuss groupings of similar players (Wright and Pedroia from this article, Kluber/Marte/Teheran/Archer in the first article, etc), but I really miss the “surprise factor” of being able to scroll down the list one by one and see who’s next. There isn’t nearly as much excitement when they’re all in a list at the beginning. It’d be nice to blend them somehow so that the reader doesn’t see everything at once.

One idea would be to include the rankings and data in-line with the article, e.g.

49 Starling Marte 25 OF 3.0 2021 $52,500,000 31
45 Julio Teheran 23 SP 2.3 2020 $41,600,000 Unranked
44 Chris Archer 25 SP 2.4 2021 $42,250,000 Unranked
42 Corey Kluber 28 SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked

46 Edwin Encarnacion 31 DH 3.7 2016 $20,000,000 45

50 Yan Gomes 26 C 3.4 2021 $40,950,000 Unranked
43 Devin Mesoraco 26 C 3.0 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked

… etc.

It wouldn’t present them in order as is normally done, but you could always put the ordered list at the bottom. That would preserve some of the mystery factor since you wouldn’t see everyone at once while allowing the writing to be in article format rather than countdown blurb format.

Or maybe that’s a terrible idea. It’s just a buzzkill for me to see them all up front and I would love to see a format that preserves some of the mystery of who’s ranked where.

Salty Dog
9 years ago
Reply to  Salty Dog

Oops. Just for posterity, there were supposed to be tags that indicated an intro before everything and then text about that group of players for each group. They were removed since they used a similar format to HTML tags.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

I’ve generally read all of these articles in previous years. This new format looks like a table followed by a wall of text. I haven’t read either one. I instead skipped to the comment to see if others felt the same.

There is no suspense. There is no organization. This doesn’t look fun to read at all.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Dave, you’re a smart guy and it’s your column, so you should write it however you want.

But it seems that you’re not making anyone happy with the change (both those who were happy reading the entire article under the old format, and those you don’t want to be forced to read the portions they’re not interested in).

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

“Dave Cameron doesn’t want me to read his stuff.”

That’s what I got out of this.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Instead of reading the content about the individual player I was interested in, I just skipped ALL of the content. Unintended consequence of reformatting = not reading at all. I only have time to skim articles on here anyway.

9 years ago
Reply to  southie

Yeah, count me alongside everyone else here: this format change was a terrible, terrible mistake. Almost destroys the value of this series entirely. I used to read every entry with anticipation, looking to learn about players who had slipped under my radar, and looking forward to the appearance of old favorites. Now I can barely focus on finishing the entire article, and the new structure is dissolute and permits some players to be dismissed in a sentence (or even a sentence fragment), which is not what they deserve.

It’s not too late to switch back to the old format for the rest of these entries, Dave. Please — think about it, seriously. It’s not too late.

9 years ago
Reply to  southie

I just noticed this thread and am a little surprised. This was a great article. I can find an interesting sentence or two about Billy Hamilton anywhere, but the context and analysis are invaluable.