2014 Trade Value: An Offseason Update by Dave Cameron December 5, 2014 Every summer during the All-Star break, I run our annual Trade Value series. It’s a lot of fun, and a nice distraction from not having actual baseball for four days, and it makes some sense to publish it in the lead-up to the July 31st trade deadline, since that’s a time when we’re comparing the trade value of a lot of different players. However, there’s also a downside to running the trade value list in the middle of the season, as the list can look a little outdated pretty quickly based on things that happen in the second half of the year. I’ve long tinkered with the idea of running something like an offseason update, looking at guys whose stock has changed dramatically in the last few months, and inspired by Jonah Keri’s take on the same subject, I’ve decided to do just that this year. If you haven’t checked out Jonah’s list, you should definitely do so, and for reference, I’ve noted his ranking for each of the guys who made my updated Top 50. I am not including contract data this time around, because you can find it all in the posts from this summer. First, let’s look at the guys who appeared on the summer version of the list but have seen their stock fall enough that they’re out of my Top 50 at this point. Gregory Polanco, #30 Polanco was a pretty significant disappointment for the Pirates after getting called up, failing to hit for power and playing surprisingly mediocre defense. There’s still plenty of potential there, but his short-term value looks lower than I assumed in the summer. Billy Hamilton, #37 Hamilton hit surprisingly okay in the first half, and had a 105 wRC+ when the list was published, making his overall value more than just a speed-and-defense guy. He then posted a 42 wRC+ after the list was published, reminding everyone that his bat is a legitimate question mark. Dustin Pedroia, #39 David Wright, #40 Players with great track records having down years are the toughest ones to rank. You don’t want to overreact to a few months of performance, but both were sliding down the list during a rough season, and neither one was able to turn it around. Now both are looking like post-prime players on not-so-cheap deals, and have been passed by younger talents with stronger futures. Alex Cobb, #47 Edwin Encarnacion, #49 These two didn’t do anything to hurt their stock besides continue to play, but because neither one has a lot of team control remaining, even subtracting a half season of short-term value can cause them to lose a little bit of trade value. Both are on the fringes of the list, and so they didn’t move much, but because they were already close to the cut-off point, they took the hit when new guys forced their way in. Now, for the guys who did make it, including the six new names. Keep in mind that this an update, not a complete redo, so I spent a lot less time evaluating things for this than I do for the big reveal in the summer. Don’t worry much about whether a guy is 23 or 28. The specific spots don’t matter so much, especially in the update. I was aiming for reasonable tiers more than anything else. 50. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Previous Rank: 48 Jonah Keri Rank: 47 His $100 million extension might take a few teams out of the running for his services, but it didn’t affect his trade value much, as the deal was pretty fair by market standards. 49. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Previous Rank: NR Jonah Keri Rank: 30 He might have ranked a few spots higher if we didn’t just see an elite third baseman who gets a lot of value from his glove traded for far less than what we would have expected. Arenado’s a very nice young player, but how much teams will pay for great 3B defense remains a bit of an open question. 48. Matt Carpenter, 3B, St. Louis Previous Rank: 35 Jonah Keri Rank: NR Another good defender at third who slides a bit due to last week’s trade. Carpenter’s a very good player signed to a cheap deal, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s not that different from Chase Headley. 47. Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Previous Rank: NR Jonah Keri Rank: 44 Was a monster in 100 plate appearances after getting called up. Health track record still a bit of a question mark, but could move way up the list with a strong season in 2015. 46. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Previous Rank: 38 Jonah Keri Rank: 43 He just keeps getting hurt. The very high ceiling would create plenty of interest — look at the expected bidding for Yoan Moncada if you don’t think teams will pay significantly for upside — but he’s going to have to stay on the field pretty soon. 45. Marcus Stroman, SP, Toronto Previous Rank: NR Jonah Keri Rank: NR Stroman was pretty freaking good for the Blue Jays last year, and established himself as one of the best young arms around. He still isn’t tall, but I think we can stop talking about him as a future reliever for a long while. 44. Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago Previous Rank: 37 Jonah Keri Rank: NR He still doesn’t look like a traditional ace, but his spectacular 2014 and his very team friendly contract make him one of the most unheralded assets in the game. 43. Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Previous Rank: 43 Jonah Keri Rank: 50 It’s right-handed power from a guy who can catch and is still young enough to get better. I remain comfortable with where he was ranked over the summer. 42. Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Previous Rank: 44 Jonah Keri Rank: NR Jonah noted that an evaluator he talked to made a strong case for Archer to be on the list. I agree with that guy, whoever it was. 41. Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Previous Rank: 50 Jonah Keri Rank: 25 I’m not ready to be quite as aggressive as Jonah was, but 50 was probably a bit too low over the summer. Gomes’ stock is definitely trending upwards. 40. Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Previous Rank: 20 Jonah Keri Rank: 28 First half Wainwright was amazing; second half Wainwright was a bit of an enigma. Maybe he had arm problems, maybe he didn’t, but he wasn’t very good in October, and there are some indicators suggesting he’s heading for some decline. 39. Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Previous Rank: 45 Jonah Keri Rank: 27 Teheran just kept preventing runs in the second half, and while some of that may have had to do with the likes of Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons, he’s definitely got enough of a track record that teams would pay for what he’s done. 38. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Previous Rank: NR Jonah Keri Rank: NR He was the Royals best player this year, and clearly their best player in October, highlighting that he’s become more than just a good glove guy in center field. There’s enough athleticism there for teams to continue dreaming on even more upside even though he’s already 28, and he’s already quite good as it is. 37. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Previous Rank: 49 Jonah Keri Rank: 38 After the list was published, Marte posted a 178 wRC+. Yeah, my prior ranking was too low. 36. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Previous Rank: 17 Jonah Keri Rank: 22 And here lies the conundrum. Donaldson is an elite player making a fraction of his worth with four years of team control. By outside knowledge, he should be much higher than this, but he just got traded for far less than we all thought he’d go for. Maybe the A’s screwed up, but we have to at least acknowledge that he’s worth less than we think. 35. Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami Previous Rank: 34 Jonah Keri Rank: 24 I still don’t know what to do with injured pitchers. Jonah was more aggressive with them than I have been. Maybe he’s right. Maybe teams wouldn’t give up anything close to this kind of value for a guy with a busted elbow. I have no idea, really. 34. Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Previous Rank: 33 Jonah Keri Rank: 37 One of the best players in the National League, and still signed to a super friendly contract. I affirm his midsummer ranking. 33. Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Previous Rank: 32 Jonah Keri Rank: 35 The arm scare in October seemed like a reminder of the inherent risk with guys like this, but then he went on and pitched really well anyway. With the risk comes plenty of reward. 32. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Previous Rank: 8 Jonah Keri Rank: 42 A perfect example of why the update is useful; Machado getting hurt again after the list was published did a number on his trade value, and while he’s still one of the game’s brightest young talents, he no longer looks like he’ll ever play shortstop again. 31. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta Previous Rank: 28 Jonah Keri Rank: 32 As Jonah said, a very hard guy to peg. Some teams would pay a lot for elite defense and youth, while others wouldn’t be that interested in a guy who doesn’t hit much at all. There are enough teams that value SS defense that I think the bidding would be pretty strong, however. 30. Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Previous Rank: 27 Jonah Keri Rank: 48 Right-handed power is crazy expensive right now. Bautista is one of the very best right-handed bats in the game. Yeah, it’s only a couple more years of team control for an aging player, but I think he’d extract a serious return based on his skillset. 29. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Previous Rank: 22 Jonah Keri Rank: 29 Didn’t hit much at all after coming back from injury, and then was pretty lousy in the postseason too. Still one of the very best players in baseball, but his second half was a reminder that he might not be that for too much longer. 28. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Previous Rank: 6 Jonah Keri Rank: 31 Another guy whose value took a hit from getting hurt in the second half. The contract isn’t cheap and he’s not durable, but when healthy, Tulo is a top three player in the sport. If the Rockies trade him, they’re going to get a ton in return. 27. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Previous Rank: 9 Jonah Keri Rank: 21 The former King of Trade Value went from having a down first half to having a down year, and so he slides quite a bit more than he did over the summer. This might be an overreaction for a guy who is still just 29, but again, an elite third baseman didn’t seem to cost what we thought it would last week. 26. Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Previous Rank: 41 Jonah Keri Rank: 15 A monster season means I was a bit low on him this summer, especially given his team-friendly contract, but the track record doesn’t support a repeat performance. Odds are Brantley either looks way too low or way too high at this time next year, depending on how much of his 2014 season he can sustain. 25. Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Boston Previous Rank: NR Jonah Keri Rank: 40 Betts was in the running for the end of the list over the summer, then went on to put up a 130 wRC+ in a couple hundred big league plate appearances down the stretch. For those focused solely on upside, this might be a bit too aggressive, but Betts is probably a top five second baseman in the big leagues right now, and he’ll be a valuable piece in the outfield if Boston keeps him. 24. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Previous Rank: NR Jonah Keri Rank: 23 I whiffed on this one. Tip of the hit to Mr. Keri for shining a light on one of the game’s most unheralded young stars. Yelich should have been on this summer’s list, and this might even look low in a year or two. 23. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Previous Rank: 26 Jonah Keri Rank: 36 It’s only two more years of team control, but they’re not going to be too terribly expensive, and Strasburg is a legitimate #1 starter. For a team who wanted an ace without taking on a huge financial commitment, Strasburg would be one of the most appealing options around. 22. Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Previous Rank: 16 Jonah Keri Rank: 17 Another case of what to do with a pitcher who ended the year on the DL. I don’t know how much teams would discount Darvish’s value. I don’t know that the teams themselves even know how much of a discount is necessary, because guys like this never get traded. We’re basically just throwing darts here. 21. Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Previous Rank: 31 Jonah Keri Rank: 34 He might not be a traditional front-of-the-rotation guy, but I think I was a little low on him over the summer. Strikes, groundballs, and a hint of a weak contact skillset would have Gray in very high demand if the A’s put him on the blocks. 20. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Previous Rank: 23 Jonah Keri Rank: 41 Yeah, I know, it seems weird to move him up based on his second half performance, but the Red Sox have confirmed his status as their shortstop, and there’s still plenty of upside left in the bat. The dearth of good hitting middle infielders means that Bogaerts still has elite potential, even if he hasn’t shown it in the big leagues quite yet. 19. Matt Harvey, SP, New York Previous Rank: 25 Jonah Keri Rank: 13 Another great arm coming off an injury. I still don’t know what to do with these guys. 18. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Previous Rank: 19 Jonah Keri Rank: 20 The second best pitcher in baseball isn’t cheap, but he’s still really, really good. And the Mariners still aren’t trading him. 17. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Previous Rank: 29 Jonah Keri Rank: 18 He’s basically big league ready at this point, and there are few players in the game who can match his power from the right side. I’ve had one executive tell me that he’s Troy Glaus. Sounds about right, and seems like one of the most valuable young talents in the game. 16. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Previous Rank: 24 Jonah Keri Rank: 26 Freeman’s contract keeps him out of the top 15, but he’s still one of the best young hitters in the sport. And with prices going the way they are in free agency, the contract that looked so surprisingly high a year ago looks like a pretty smart move now. 15. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Previous Rank: 21 Jonah Keri Rank: 11 At the summer list, Posey was coming off a full year of mediocre offensive performance, and was starting to slide in the same way Pedroia and Wright were. He turned things around in a huge way down the stretch, though, reminding us of why we shouldn’t overreact to small samples. Posey is still one of the game’s very best players, even if his days at catcher are probably going to end in a few years. 14. Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Previous Rank: 42 Jonah Keri Rank: 16 You saw his second half, and now he’s a Cy Young winner. Few people have raised their stock as quickly as Kluber, and I was just too slow to catch up over the summer. Kluber’s awesome. Good call, Cistulli. 13. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Previous Rank: 14 Jonah Keri Rank: 12 Still one of the best two-way players in baseball, adding significant value on both offense and defense. Teams still aren’t paying a premium for catcher framing, though, so he probably wouldn’t command as much in return as he’s worth to the Brewers. 12. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Previous Rank: 13 Jonah Keri Rank: 9 Status mostly unchanged. He remains one of the best young hitters in baseball, and has proven he can be a defensive asset at either third base or second base. 11. Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Previous Rank: 18 Jonah Keri Rank: 5 That was some kind of October, and clearly, his value is up since the publication of the list this summer. Jonah makes the case for him as a top five player, but I can’t quite get there yet. Pitchers still break too often, and teams still discount their value based on the chance of having a premium asset suddenly on the shelf. 10. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Previous Rank: 12 Jonah Keri Rank: 7 The fall of Machado and Tulowitzki move him up somewhat by default. I’m still a big fan, of course. 9. Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Previous Rank: 7 Jonah Keri Rank: 19 His second half was miserable, posting a 61 wRC+ after the list was published, and he was an easy out in October, so perhaps I’m being stubborn by not moving him down further. But when you look at what Russell Martin got, and then you remember that Perez is due just $18.6 million in total over the next five years, it’s easy to remember why he ranked so highly over the summer. 8. Chris Sale, SP, Chicago Previous Rank: 11 Jonah Keri Rank: 4 I still don’t like putting pitchers in the top 10, but Sale combines elite performance in a hitter’s park in the American League with an absurdly team-friendly contract. He’s not quite the best pitcher in baseball, but he’s close, and he’s now making just a hair more than Zach Duke. 7. Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Previous Rank: 5 Jonah Keri Rank: 10 The shoulder problems that limited his power in the second half might be the biggest concern, but there’s always personality questions surrounding Puig as well. He’s not a low-risk guy, but the performance/cost ratio remains among the highest in the game. 6. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago Previous Rank: 10 Jonah Keri Rank: 8 Few players offer more right-handed power than Abreu, and unlikely many of the others, he comes with very few red flags. He’s a monster, and everyone just missed the boat on him last winter. Everyone but the White Sox, anyway. 5. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Previous Rank: 15 Jonah Keri Rank: 14 Yeah, $325 million in guaranteed money would scare off plenty of teams, but for those with significant revenues, I think the contract actually raises his trade value. The uncertainty of losing him after four years is now gone, and the backloaded deal makes the present value of the contract less than the big scary $325 million number. Teams like the Red Sox and Yankees would give up a ransom to acquire Stanton, and maybe even a larger one than they would have before he signed his new deal. 4. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Previous Rank: 4 Jonah Keri Rank: 6 I had him at #4 when he had an 85 wRC+ at the All-Star break; he rewarded the confidence with a 131 wRC+ afterwards. I still think he’s going to challenge Mike Trout for title of best player in baseball at some point in the future. 3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Previous Rank: 3 Jonah Keri Rank: 3 Ended the year on the DL, but no real reason to move him down. Still an elite player signed to a hilariously team friendly contract. 2. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Previous Rank: 2 Jonah Keri Rank: 2 Yup, he’s still the best player in the National League. No reason to move him anywhere. 1. Mike Trout, OF, Anaheim Previous Rank: 1 Jonah Keri Rank: 1 You weren’t expecting anyone else, were you? Overall, most players stock isn’t going to move that much in a few months, but there was enough movement with some guys that I felt the update was justified. And now you can compare Jonah’s rankings with mine on a slightly more even playing field. Jonah likes injured pitchers. I liked Boston’s young hitters. There’s plenty of room for difference of opinion here, and I’m glad we both get to take part in this exercise.