2015 Trade Value: The Full List

Over the last five days, we’ve gone through my take on the 50 most valuable trade chips in baseball, 10 players at a time. But I figure it’s helpful to see the whole list together as well, so with the help of Sean Dolinar — if you’ve enjoyed the upgraded visuals around here the last few months, let him know, because he’s the guy behind it all — we’ve created a unified graphic of the smaller images we put at the end of each post. This breaks down each player’s projected ZIPS WAR over the next five seasons (or for however many years of those five years they’re under team control for), while also displaying their contract status, with guaranteed salaries listed in gray, team options in blue, and arbitration (or pre-arb) years listed in green.

If you missed any of the posts, below I’ve included the links to the individual breakdowns, with some explanation for why each player rates where he does. If your favorite player isn’t on this list, I promise it’s not because I’m biased against your team, or hate you personally; in a lot of cases, it’s simply because I had to draw an arbitrarily line somewhere in the midst of a crowd of similar players. George Springer, for instance, has generated some comments based on his exclusion, but if you wanted to swap him in for some of the guys in the 41-50 range, I wouldn’t argue much; there are a lot of similarly valuable players who could have ended up towards the back half of the list.

And there are some really terrific performers who just ended up missing the cut because the game has been absolutely flooded with elite young talent lately. The best player in baseball is 23, and the couple of guys who have the best chance to claim the #2 spot over the next few years are both 22. Then there’s the 23 year old rookie third baseman who draws Mike Schmidt comparisons and the 20 year old shortstop who looks like like he might already be the best player in the AL at his position. The two best pitchers are 27 and 26, and then there’s a bunch of 24-26 year olds who dominate the next tier down. I don’t remember baseball ever being dominated by a group this good at these ages. It’s remarkable, and that depth of young talent displaced some guys who would easily have made the list in a more normal environment.

And from my perspective, this exercise isn’t really about identifying the narrow differences in trade value among specific players anyway; it’s more about thinking through the pros and cons of performance and cost, the and the trade-off between present and future. The interesting questions, for me, aren’t whether the Pirates would trade Andrew McCutchen for Carlos Correa — both players are more valuable to their own franchises than another organization, making a trade like that a bad idea for all parties — but how you weigh different levels of certainty and risk against upside and long-term value.

This is a particularly nerdy endeavor with few practical applications, since — Josh Donaldson aside — nobody in this tier ever gets traded. But it’s fun for me to work through, and hopefully fun for you guys to read as well. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and I look forward to doing this again next year. Who knows, maybe by then someone will challenge Mike Trout for the top spot. Okay, probably not, but hey, the fight for #2 will be interesting!

The links, and then the graphic.

All 2015 Trade Value Posts
#1 to #10
#11 to #20
#21 to #30
#31 to #40
#41 to #50
Honorable Mentions


Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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7 years ago

Great job as always, Dave. Sean, too – love the visuals.
It seems like you’ve been defending your definition of trade value a lot. You don’t need to. If people really want to know who the best players are going to be for the rest of this season alone, they can find that elsewhere. What you do makes for a far more interesting list, and if that’s lost on certain fans, that’s their problem.
If every team in the majors released all of their players and a fantasy draft were scheduled for the next day, where the teams were drafting not only the players but also their existing contracts, I’m pretty confident the first two rounds would go down awfully close to your rankings.
Great work, as always!