2017 Trade Value: #11 to #20

Freddie Freeman has been worth seven wins in 115 games since being omitted from last year’s series.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Welcome to the fifth installment of this year’s Trade Value series; you can find links to the previous four posts above. If you’re not familiar with this project, there’s an explanation of the process in the HM post, so that’s the best place to start.

As a reminder for those who don’t like clicking links, however, the five-year WAR projections are based on Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS forecasts, though the players aren’t ranked based on those projections; these figures are included merely as a piece of information to help round out the picture. The guaranteed-dollars line measures the amount of money the player is owed outside of team options or arbitration years; for most of these guys, team options are very likely to be exercised, and many of them will end up making more than the guaranteed-dollars number reports.

Now let’s turn our attention to today’s 10 players, as we get ever so close to the top 10.

Team Control WAR Total +14.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 25 +3.8 Pre-Arb
2019 26 +3.6 Arb1
2020 27 +3.7 Arb2
2021 28 +3.7 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

In writing up the Mets’ young outfielder over the winter, Tony Blengino wrote the following:

Michael Conforto has arrived at a career crossroads. There’s no reason that he cannot be one of the better hitters in the NL, if he can moderate his budding extreme-pulling tendency and become a tough out against left-handed pitching.

Let’s take a look at how Conforto is developing along those lines:

Conforto’s 2017 Improvements
Year 2015 2016 2017
Pull% 46% 43% 30%
wOBA vs LHB 0.222 0.142 0.375

Check and check. Conforto’s made the adjustments necessary to take a step forward, and so far this year, he’s even gotten rid of his infield-fly problem from the last few years, allowing his BABIP to rise significantly. Conforto’s not as good as his current 148 wRC+, in all likelihood, but he does indeed look like one of the better hitting outfielders in the game right now. Toss in better-than-expected defense, and the 24-year-old looks like the franchise player the Mets were hoping he’d become a couple of years ago.

It’s just half a season, of course, so there’s plenty of risk here. But there aren’t that many hitters in the game who have his offensive upside and can add some value on defense, so while this feels like an aggressive ranking to me — I originally expected him to be in the 30-50 range — I do think the Mets would be able to land a pretty impressive haul for him if they were willing to make him available.

Five-Year WAR +15.8
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 26 +3.2 Pre-Arb
2019 27 +3.3 Pre-Arb
2020 28 +3.2 Arb1
2021 29 +3.2 Arb2
2022 30 +3.0 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Here’s another player I went in thinking would be 20 spots lower than this. When putting the list together, though, I couldn’t justify moving him down any further. Contreras’ value is tied up in doing lots of things well, so while he might not be the best catcher at any specific thing, he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Even his biggest offensive weakness (his low contact rate) wasn’t an issue in the minors, and the Cubs have had success at helping hitters make more contact than they did in their first few years.

He’s also a significantly better athlete than most catchers, so this isn’t a situation where the value is tied up in the positional adjustment; Contreras could still have a good career even if he was forced out from behind the plate. He’d have to become a quality defensive outfielder, since the bat isn’t elite or anything, but there’s at least a higher floor here than with other young catchers who instantly lose a ton of value if they have to change positions.

The other reason he ended up climbing this list is that the current group of young catchers in baseball is, to be blunt, terrible. With the old guard of elite catchers declining with age, the young guys have mostly not developed into suitable replacements, and there are a lot of teams out there looking for catchers-of-the-present-and-future. While third base and shortstop are loaded relative to historical norms, Contreras is one of just a few good young catchers in MLB right now, and that would play into his trade value if he were available.

Team Control WAR Total +10.0
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2020
Previous Rank #30
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 28 +3.5 Arb2
2019 29 +3.4 Arb3
2020 30 +3.2 Arb4
Arb

Speaking of position switches, here’s a case where a change in position actually did have a significant impact on a player’s value. In most cases, it doesn’t make a huge difference at which position a player is placed, as the change in his fielding metrics is often offset by the change in baseline expectations from the new position. But in this case, Springer — a guy who has played almost exclusively right field in the majors to this point — has performed well enough in center field to be seen as a legitimate option there, and while he was already a very good player in right field, the bat makes him pretty darn special in center.

Springer won’t keep hitting like he’s hitting now — the only guy ahead of him in HR/FB ratio is Aaron Judge — but he looks like he’s taken a legitimate step forward offensively at the same time he’s shown he can play a more difficult position. His .395 xwOBA isn’t that far off his .414 mark, so he’s not just getting a bunch of cheap homers that would have otherwise been outs from his home park. As great as his middle-infield teammates are, there’s a pretty good argument that Springer has been the Astros’ best player this year.

The downside for his trade value is that he only has three more years of control after this one, and as a Super Two guy, his arbitration salaries are going to climb quickly, especially after this monster season. But in terms of short-term value, there aren’t many better bets than a 27-year-old center field who can hit like a first baseman.

Five-Year WAR +21.3
Guaranteed Dollars $85.6 M
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank #19
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 31 +5.1 $21.4 M
2019 32 +4.6 $21.4 M
2020 33 +4.1 $21.4 M
2021 34 +4.1 $21.4 M
2022 35 +3.5 $22.0 M
Team Option

The 2017 Giants kind of stink, but it’s not their franchise catcher’s fault. Even at age 30, Posey has again established himself as an elite hitter, shaking off questions about whether all that time behind the plate was beginning to have negative consequences. With a 142 wRC+ — which would tie for the second-best mark of his career — Posey continues to show that he’s got the kind of offensive profile that should age pretty well, and he’ll still be valuable even when he stops catching.

Now, granted, he’s going to lose value when he eventually moves to first base full-time. And at $21 million per year, he’s not exactly cheap. But for what Posey is, that remains a huge bargain. He’s an elite player, one of the most valuable all-around stars in the game, and you can’t buy what he brings to a team for anything close to $20 million a year. So, like Max Scherzer, while his age and salary might prevent a number of teams from being interested, teams with sizable payrolls and a desire to win now would be all over Posey if the Giants made him available.

But the Giants will keep their best player, because without him, they wouldn’t just kind of stink. They’d be awful.

Team Control WAR Total +15.5
Guaranteed Dollars $13.8 M
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #21
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 29 +4.1 $6.3 M
2019 30 +3.9 $7.5 M
2020 31 +3.8 $9.0 M
2021 32 +3.8 $11.0 M
Team Option

If you still prefer ERA as your pitcher-evaluation tool of choice, this one might annoy you a little bit. Since the start of the 2016 season, Archer’s 4.00 ERA ranks 47th out of 88 starters who have thrown at least 200 innings, right behind Jeremy Hellickson. And there’s no question that some of his struggles are of his own accord, as Archer is again allowing some of the hardest contact in baseball. But we’re still talking about a durable 28-year-old running strikeout rates near 30% while holding his walks down and getting last year’s home-run problem in check this season. Contact quality is something that can be improved, while Archer’s level of strike-zone dominance remains pretty rare.

And, of course, there’s the contract. Assuming both of the club options are exercised, he’ll make $34 million over the next four years, or just a little more than Brett Cecil got as a free agent this past winter. Even if he keeps underpeforming his peripherals, he’s still a very good pitcher making basically nothing. If all the ERA estimators that expect his results to improve pretty significantly are right, then he’s a frontline starter making middle-reliever money.

With the Rays in contention this year, we probably won’t find out just what kind of absurd package Archer would bring back in a trade. It will be interesting to see if they shop him over the winter, though; a trade out of Tampa feels somewhat inevitable, especially with how many teams are dying to make a trade for a controllable starter of this ilk.

Five-Year WAR +19.5
Guaranteed Dollars $21.4 M
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 25 +3.8 $2.4 M
2019 26 +3.8 $3.8 M
2020 27 +3.9 $6.2 M
2021 28 +3.9 $9.0 M
2022 29 +4.1 $11.0 M
Team Option

A few years ago, Jose Ramirez posted an .077 ISO in Double-A. His contact skills and defense got him to the big leagues, but he was the definition of a slap hitter. His average exit velocity was just 85 mph, and his 88 mph EV on balls in the air put him in the same group as Nori Aoki, Erick Aybar, and Dee Gordon.

This year, he has 49 extra-base hits in 86 games. He’s slugging .601, the fifth-highest mark in baseball. He had 19 career home runs coming into this year; he’s already at 17 this season.

Some of this is the product of legitimate change. Ramirez has an average EV of 90 mph now, and he’s at 92 mph on balls in the air, so he’s just hitting the ball much harder than he used to. But there’s some noise here too; he has one of the largest gaps between his xwOBA (.365) and his actual wOBA (.409) in all of baseball. Of course, a .365 wOBA from a 24-year-old with the skills to play the middle infield or be an elite defensive third baseman is still a really nice thing to have, but while it’s tempting to look at Ramirez’s current line and claim he should be higher, he’s almost certainly not this good.

But even if he settles in as a +4 WAR player, as ZIPS expects, that’s still a remarkably valuable young player. And given that he just signed a long-term extension that’ll keep him in Cleveland through 2023 and includes just $26 million in guaranteed money, Ramirez is likely going to be one of the most underpaid stars in baseball for the foreseeable future. If you’re a team on a shoestring budget, Ramirez is probably even more valuable than many of the guys ranked ahead of him, all of whom will cost far more once they start getting paid in arbitration.

So, yeah, Jose Ramirez has become a fantastic player, and is now signed to one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball. If he keeps this up for another year, he’ll easily be in the top 10, and maybe top 5. Right now, there’s still some skepticism about how much of this power spike he’ll retain, but he’s clearly a better player than anyone expected him to become, and we should probably stop putting a ceiling on him at this point.

Team Control WAR Total +17.4
Guaranteed Dollars $86.0 M
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 28 +4.5 $21.0 M
2019 29 +4.4 $21.0 M
2020 30 +4.3 $22.0 M
2021 31 +4.3 $22.0 M

A year ago, I didn’t put Freddie Freeman on this list. It sounds insane now, but at that point, he was hitting .286/.373/.518, good for a 131 wRC+, coming off a year where he put up a 132 wRC+ and was worth +3.4 WAR. He was clearly a very good player, but he was making $20 million a year and still looked mostly like an underpowered first baseman whose primary skills were getting on base and hitting doubles, which the league hasn’t always rewarded.

Well, since being omitted from last year’s list, Freeman has hit .333/.442/.667, the best mark of any hitter in baseball during that span. Freeman’s put up nearly +7 WAR despite playing just 115 games in the last year, and he’s in the conversation for best non-Trout hitter in baseball.

So, yeah. Whoops. Freddie Freeman is really good. Like Posey, he’s not as cheap as many of the other guys in this range, but he’s a huge bargain for what he’s become. Just 27, and with the kind of offensive game that makes him almost impossible to get out, Freeman is the kind of hitter that teams just can’t acquire these days; you just have to hope you develop one internally. The Braves have found their offensive superstar, and they’ll happily keep him, no matter what kinds of silly packages other teams would offer to try and get him out of Atlanta.

Five-Year WAR +21.1
Guaranteed Dollars $46.0 M
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #50
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 26 +4.2 $11.5 M
2019 27 +4.3 $11.5 M
2020 28 +4.4 $11.5 M
2021 29 +4.4 $11.5 M
2022 30 +3.9 $17.5 M
Team Option

A 25-year-old who gets strikeouts, ground balls, and generates some of the weakest contact of any pitcher in baseball, Martinez has most of what you need to be a legitimate ace. If he can figure out how to get left-handers out, there could be a Scherzer-esque jump from good pitcher to great pitcher in his future.

Even so, he’s one of the most valuable players in the game. There aren’t that many 25-year-old +4 WAR pitchers around as is, but the $51 million extension he took from the Cardinals this spring gives the Cardinals a remarkable bargain. At $11.5 million in annual salary, Martinez makes less than what it cost to sign Bartolo Colon last winter. Any time you can get a guy this good for innings-eater money, you’re doing pretty well for yourself.

And if Martinez manages both to stay healthy and take another step forward in his development — unlikely that both happen, but at least possible — he’d come with as much future value as anyone in the game. He’s one of just a few players on this list to be controlled for six years after this one, so the extension he signed with St. Louis effectively resets his clock to as if he were a rookie called up after the service-time date passed for this year. Maybe he never makes that improvement, or maybe his arm blows up and he’s happy to have gotten the guaranteed money when he could, but it’s legitimately hard to remember a more team-friendly extension than the one Martinez just gave the Cardinals this spring.

Five-Year WAR +21.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 25 +4.0 Pre-Arb
2019 26 +4.1 Pre-Arb
2020 27 +4.4 Arb1
2021 28 +4.4 Arb2
2022 29 +4.5 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

It was always going to be impossible for Sanchez to live up to last year’s debut, but let’s not overlook what he’s doing this year: this is a 24-year-old catcher putting up a 127 wRC+. That’s a pretty special thing, especially given that Sanchez also has one of the best throwing arms in the game and adds real value in how well he controls the running game. He isn’t Mike Napoli. Sanchez is a catcher who also happens to hit the crap out of the ball.

That said, there are enough red flags to keep him out of the top tier for now. He’s one of the most extreme pull hitters in baseball, and you’ll note that the guys he’s hanging out with aren’t running BABIPs over .300. Toss in the pop-up problem and a below-average contact rate, and it’s easy to see Sanchez running a .240 batting average one of these years.

But the power is top-shelf, and should carry the rest of his offensive game, even if he turns out to be a low-average slugger. The size presents concerns about his future position, but he’s good enough behind the plate now that it’s not a short-term concern, and he should be able to catch for most of his controlled years. As long as he stays athletic enough to stick behind the plate, with this kind of offensive ability, he’ll be one of the game’s best catchers.

Five-Year WAR +19.1
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2018 22 +2.3 Pre-Arb
2019 23 +3.3 Pre-Arb
2020 24 +4.4 Arb1
2021 25 +4.4 Arb2
2022 26 +4.6 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Bellinger is one unique dude. He’s a first baseman by trade, but Statcast has him down as one of the fastest players in baseball, and his athleticism has led to some speculation that he could actually play center if needed. Twenty-one-year-olds who can at least generate discussion about playing an up-the-middle position don’t generally have this kind of power.

Bellinger, of course, won’t average 58 homers per 162 games for much longer. But his swing is made for loft, and Bellinger certainly looks like a guy who can be an elite slugger for the foreseeable future. This kind of power, mixed with his athletic ability, at this age, is almost unheard of.

But we’re also just a half-year into his big-league career. There’s probably an adjustment period coming, and we don’t know for sure how he’ll handle it. As a pull-heavy lefty with a 67% contact rate, he’s going to run into the same problems maintaining his average and OBP that Kyle Schwarber ran into this year. There’s a reason ZiPS and Steamer are projecting him to hit .245 the rest of the season. The expectation should be that he’s going to regress quite a bit in the second half, and that’s perfectly okay.

Because even as just a good hitter now instead of a great one, there’s obvious star potential here. Whether he’s an elite defensive first baseman or uses his speed to turn into a quality defensive outfielder with more work out there, Bellinger isn’t just a bat-only slugger. He’s a masher who should help in every area of the game, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Dodgers trading him at this point.

2017 Trade Value, 11-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
11 Cody Bellinger 21 +2.3
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+4.4
Arb1
+4.4
Arb2
+4.6
Arb3
12 Gary Sanchez 24 +4.0
Pre-Arb
+4.1
Pre-Arb
+4.4
Arb1
+4.4
Arb2
+4.5
Arb3
13 50 Carlos Martinez 25 +4.2
$11.5 M
+4.3
$11.5 M
+4.4
$11.5 M
+4.4
$11.5 M
+3.9
$17.5 M
14 Freddie Freeman 27 +4.5
$21.0 M
+4.4
$21.0 M
+4.3
$22.0 M
+4.3
$22.0 M
15 Jose Ramirez 24 +3.8
$2.4 M
+3.8
$3.8 M
+3.9
$6.2 M
+3.9
$9.0 M
+4.1
$11.0 M
16 21 Chris Archer 28 +4.1
$6.3 M
+3.9
$7.5 M
+3.8
$9.0 M
+3.8
$11.0 M
17 19 Buster Posey 30 +5.1
$21.4 M
+4.6
$21.4 M
+4.1
$21.4 M
+4.1
$21.4 M
+3.5
$22.0 M
18 30 George Springer 27 +3.5
Arb2
+3.4
Arb3
+3.2
Arb4
19 Willson Contreras 25 +3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
20 Michael Conforto 24 +3.8
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Arb1
+3.7
Arb2
+3.7
Arb3
21 15 Chris Sale 28 +6.1
$12.5 M
+6.2
$15.0 M
22 Michael Fulmer 24 +3.7
Pre-Arb
+3.9
Arb1
+4.1
Arb2
+4.1
Arb3
+3.7
Arb4
23 9 Paul Goldschmidt 29 +4.8
$11.0 M
+4.6
$14.5 M
24 13 Jose Altuve 27 +5.8
$6.0 M
+5.1
$6.5 M
25 32 Miguel Sano 24 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Arb1
+3.0
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
26 38 Andrew Benintendi 22 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Arb1
+3.1
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
27 23 Christian Yelich 25 +3.6
$7.0 M
+3.5
$9.8 M
+3.5
$12.5 M
+3.5
$14.0 M
+3.2
$15.0 M
28 27 Carlos Carrasco 30 +3.7
$8.0 M
+3.4
$9.0 M
+3.2
$9.5 M
29 40 Lance McCullers 23 +3.0
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
+3.3
Arb3
+3.3
Arb4
30 49 Jon Gray 25 +3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.5
Arb1
+3.6
Arb2
+3.6
Arb3
31 8 Nolan Arenado 26 +4.9
$17.8 M
+5.0
Arb4
32 16 Madison Bumgarner 27 +5.2
$12.0 M
+5.2
$12.0 M
33 Max Scherzer 32 +5.5
$15.0 M
+5.1
$35.0 M
+4.6
$35.0 M
+4.6
$35.0 M
34 12 Noah Syndergaard 24 +4.7
Arb1
+4.9
Arb2
+5.0
Arb3
+5.0
Arb4
35 Luis Severino 23 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Arb1
+3.1
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
36 Jameson Taillon 25 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+2.2
Arb3
37 22 Jacob deGrom 29 +3.2
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
38 37 Alex Bregman 23 +3.5
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+3.8
Arb2
+4.0
Arb3
39 Ender Inciarte 26 +3.7
$4.0 M
+3.5
$5.0 M
+3.4
$7.0 M
+3.4
$8.0 M
+3.3
$9.0 M
40 31 Addison Russell 23 +4.2
Arb1
+4.6
Arb2
+4.5
Arb3
+4.5
Arb4
41 26 Yoan Moncada 22 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Pre-Arb
+3.6
Arb1
+3.8
Arb2
42 25 Jose Quintana 28 +3.8
$8.8 M
+3.8
$10.5 M
+3.6
$10.5 M
43 Robbie Ray 25 +3.4
Arb1
+3.5
Arb2
+3.7
Arb3
44 Anthony Rendon 27 +4.4
Arb3
+4.2
Arb4
45 20 Xander Bogaerts 24 +3.8
Arb2
+3.6
Arb3
46 28 Jackie Bradley Jr. 27 +3.2
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
47 Marcus Stroman 26 +2.2
Arb2
+2.5
Arb3
+2.5
Arb4
48 James Paxton 28 +2.8
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
+2.8
Arb4
49 Aaron Nola 24 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
50 47 Jake Lamb 26 +2.6
Arb1
+2.7
Arb2
+2.6
Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option

We hoped you liked reading 2017 Trade Value: #11 to #20 by Dave Cameron!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

newest oldest most voted
Daniel
Member
Daniel

I’m assuming Nick Markakis will be in the top 10. I don’t see how he can’t be.

Aaron Judge's Gavel
Member
Aaron Judge's Gavel

Obviously the future first member of the 5,000 hit club has to be one of the best bargains in the game.