2018 Trade Value: #41 to #50

Max Scherzer’s contract renders him an option only for big-market clubs.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week of the All-Star Game — while the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade assets in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the honorable-mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the four to follow, I’ll present a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age/WAR/contract through 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ll also include all the players we’ve ranked so far are in grid format at the bottom of the post.

The ZiPS WAR forecasts did influence the rankings a bit: for players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the final 10 spots on the Trade Value list this year.

Five-Year WAR +16.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 22 +2.2 Pre-Arb
2020 23 +3.0 Pre-Arb
2021 24 +3.7 Pre-Arb
2022 25 +3.7 Arb1
2023 26 +3.7 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

This last spot, as I’m sure was true on all of the versions of the list Dave did, was a tough to decide upon. As you can see from the honorable mentions, basically every type of player has a solid candidate for this spot. One could argue on behalf of Matt Olson, for example, that he’s a similar player to Tucker, has just one fewer year of control, and has already posted 3.6 WAR in his first 167 games. That said, Tucker seems to get a bit of a boost from the industry because of his recent call-up and that isn’t all nonsense: calling a top prospect up to a contending team before there’s any incentives by way of service time suggests the things non-Astros people know about Tucker (mental makeup, etc.) are positive.

On a deeper level, most of the other players in the running for this spot have fewer control years, have less prospect/scouting pedigree, have hit tool concerns, or are a pitcher. Tucker has been hyped as one of the best bets in his age group since he was 17 years old and there’s something to being elite for a long time, as Joe Flacco can attest. It may not be predictive in this specific case, but I’ll take a sweet swing with long-term pedigree any day.

Five-Year WAR +14.0
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 28 +3.0 $14.3 M
2020 29 +3.0 $14.3 M
2021 30 +2.9 $14.3 M
2022 31 +2.7 $14.3 M
2023 32 +2.4 $17.0 M
Team Option

Segura was one of the few players who inspired different takes from execs and scouts for reasons other than just the size of contract. On the positive side, you see a shortstop on pace for a four-win season, who contributes in all facets, and is in his peak on an affordable long-term deal. On the negative side, his value as a hitter is tied pretty closely to BABIP, he’s probably more of a three-win type going forward, is about to start his decline phase, and even if the contract isn’t bad, you’re tied to him for four more years. Both sides agree he’s a useful player and trade chip, but the range is something like 35th to 70th depending on which end of this divide you fall.

Five-Year WAR +22.8
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2020
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 29 +4.9 Arb2
2020 30 +4.7 Arb3
Arb

I considered moving Paxton down after he walked off the mound a few days ago, but left him here for a few reasons. First, it’s a minor injury (though he’s had back issues before, so it isn’t nothing) and, second, Paxton was already ranked here despite having never compiled more than 136.1 innings in a season.

When healthy, Paxton is so good that he can post ace-level WAR figures in fewer than 25 starts. When it comes to trade value, these sorts of arms are even more useful because, whatever they lack in durability, they compensate for it with the ability to make an impact in the postseason. So, you don’t get the 220 innings you’d like and are forced to contend with a roller coaster regular season, but when the playoffs comes, you’ll want him on that wall — nay, you need him on that wall.

Five-Year WAR +20.1
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2020
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 27 +4.2 Arb2
2020 28 +4.2 Arb3
Arb

I almost used the word bonkers in the Paxton comment, but it feels more appropriate to use regarding Bauer. ZiPS projects him for 4.2 WAR in 2019 and 2020 and he’s already at 5.1 WAR in 136 innings this season. As if his eye-popping performance this year wasn’t enough, Bauer obsessively designs pitches with high-tech equipment in a warehouse over the winter, to the point that Elon Musk thinks he should cool it with all the science, bro. His personality isn’t for everyone, but there’s no indication that it affects his trade value. In addition, the whole “ace having a great season is worth even more in the postseason” thing applies even more to Bauer than Paxton, since there’s a better chance Bauer will be healthy when it matters.

Five-Year WAR +14.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 24 +2.8 Pre-Arb
2020 25 +2.9 Arb1
2021 26 +3.2 Arb2
2022 27 +2.9 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Berrios isn’t as good as Bauer or Paxton and may never get to quite that level of domination, but his virtues appeal to a much larger swath of teams. Bauer and Paxton are essentially non-options for clubs with little chance of competing, and the breadth of a player’s appeal to the league (or lack of it) is pretty relevant to this exercise.

Berrios has an additional two years of control, is 24, has no meaningful injuries in his past, and is still improving — and possesses good enough stuff that you can see him taking another step forward. When you see trade rumors to the effect that a club on the outskirts of contention is looking for “controllable starting pitching,” this is the guy they’re hoping to get.

Five-Year WAR +17.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 21 +2.5 Pre-Arb
2020 22 +3.2 Pre-Arb
2021 23 +3.8 Arb1
2022 24 +3.9 Arb2
2023 25 +3.8 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

I mentioned in the introduction post that some prospects who’ve produced hot starts to their career have received a bigger boost in the industry than one might anticipate, even if the underlying rationale makes sense. Devers was that sort of guy last year and is now in the stage of his young career when he’s had some bad luck and hasn’t taken the step forward that many anticipated given his pedigree. In his defense, he’s still just the age of a college junior, his underlying stats aren’t bad, and the reason we scout the minor leagues so closely is to pick out the guy we’d like to buy when his stock is down. Devers is obviously still a player basically any club would like — that’s why he appears on this list — but his defense has never been great, so this is a bet on the bat. Most people with whom I spoke in the industry are still in on Devers, and so is ZiPS, it appears.

Five-Year WAR +14.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 22 +2.5 Pre-Arb
2020 23 +2.8 Pre-Arb
2021 24 +3.1 Pre-Arb
2022 25 +3.1 Arb1
2023 26 +3.2 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

Robles suffered a hyperextended left elbow in Triple-A on April 9th and has been out ever since. He’ll likely come back at some point this season, but will be more of an MLB asset once again in 2019. If the Nats can stomach keeping him in the minors until about five weeks into 2019, they’ll control him until 2025, but Robles is a dynamic player and the Nats are contending, so that may not end up being the best idea. Since there’s almost no MLB data here with which to work, I’ll turn back into prospect guy and tell you that Eric Longenhangen and I think Robles is a plus-plus runner, thrower, and defender who could be a plus or even plus-plus hitter and have a shot at 15 homers. He isn’t the kind of prospect whose raw stats make you go all heart-eyes emoji face, but when scouts watch Robles, that’s how they react.

Five-Year WAR +13.9
Guaranteed Dollars $22.0 M
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 26 +3.0 $5.0 M
2020 27 +2.8 $7.0 M
2021 28 +2.7 $10.0 M
2022 29 +2.7 $11.5 M
2023 30 +2.7 $12.5 M
Team Option

I’ll always refer to Herrera as “Doobie.” That’s not particularly relevant to this article, I just need to establish that fact before moving on. Now then…

Herrera was perceived earlier in his career as being a bit erratic on-field at times, which is sometimes entertaining and sometimes worrisome. He’s been pretty consistent offensively, but a concern with speed-based players is that they can sometimes drop off a cliff when the speed backs up. That’s something to watch with Herrera, as UZR and DRS both suggest he’s declined this year defensively while Inside Edge doesn’t quite see that. It’s a small sample either way, and Herrera is cheap even if that is happening. His defensive decline, whenever it happens, would make him more of a solid honorable mention than a top-50 type.

Five-Year WAR +18.3
Guaranteed Dollars $64.2 M
Team Control Through 2022
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 31 +4.9 $21.4 M
2020 32 +4.3 $21.4 M
2021 33 +3.6 $21.4 M
2022 34 +3.1 $22.0 M
Team Option

I made this list mostly moving down from 1, so you don’t get the same experience reading a countdown as I did making the list, but this is about the juncture where the young prospect types and more expensive veterans started to congregate. Just ahead of this group is where the undeniable, consensus top-tier types reside. For obvious reasons, Posey isn’t in that stratosphere anymore, not because he isn’t a great player — he’s exactly the type whom WAR underrates — but because 31 year old catchers showing some indication of decline often turn into first basemen before you know it. And his team just drafted his expected replacement.

Being on the hook for another $60-plus million in a market where first baseman aren’t getting much love isn’t a fun place to be. In addition, all the things Posey does that can’t be captured by WAR largely disappear with to first. He would be a great addition for a contending team that has almost everything but a catcher, but for those middle-tier clubs that I referenced in the intro, possibly getting tied to this type of player and giving up payroll flexibility for what could be a more ordinary player at the end of his deal is a tough sell. Also, for the record, I am not betting against Buster Posey, because that seems like a bad idea.

Five-Year WAR +26.6
Guaranteed Dollars $105.0 M
Team Control Through 2021
Previous Rank #33
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 33 +6.5 $35.0 M
2020 34 +5.6 $35.0 M
2021 35 +5.2 $35.0 M

And we wrap up this first installment of the list with one of its most polarizing players. Scherzer’s deal is interesting because he’s still getting about $7 million a year of a pro-rated signing bonus through 2021, but the deferred money (the $35 million is paid $15 million a year through 2028) affects the net present value to a similar degree, so I decided to leave it listed as-is. Some small market teams like Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay could technically afford $22 million through 2021 then $15 million through 2028 for three years of Scherzer — it’s a huge but not insane part of their payroll — they would just never actually do that. So with all of those teams off the board and most of the middle-tier teams choosing to use their money with more of medium-term outlook, the market for Scherzer appears as though it would be limited. Also, he turns 34 this month and will decline at some point, even if he’ll punch me for saying that.

All that said, for a big-market contenders that needs an ace in the playoffs, a 6.5 WAR pitcher may have the impact of a 10 WAR pitcher if deployed in a certain way during the postseason. And some orgs can stomach the $15-22 million tab, regardless of how long it runs, for that kind of impact over three postseasons. A trade-value list for just the Yankees may have Scherzer 20 spots higher, but this list is for a little bit of everyone. I feel like Dave and I did the math here similarly, as I moved him down eight spots from the 2017 edition of this series, based mostly on aging.

2018 Trade Value, 41-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
41 33 Max Scherzer 32 +6.5
$35.0 M
+5.6
$35.0 M
+5.2
$35.0 M
42 17 Buster Posey 30 +4.9
$21.4 M
+4.3
$21.4 M
+3.6
$21.4 M
+3.1
$22.0 M
43 HM Odubel Herrera 25 +3.0
$5.0 M
+2.8
$7.0 M
+2.7
$10.0 M
+2.7
$11.5 M
+2.7
$12.5 M
44 Victor Robles 21 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.8
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
45 HM Rafael Devers 20 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+3.9
Arb2
+3.8
Arb3
46 Jose Berrios 23 +2.8
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
47 Trevor Bauer 26 +4.2
Arb2
+4.2
Arb3
48 48 James Paxton 28 +4.9
Arb2
+4.7
Arb3
49 Jean Segura 27 +3.0
$14.3 M
+3.0
$14.3 M
+2.9
$14.3 M
+2.7
$14.3 M
+2.4
$17.0 M
50 Kyle Tucker 21 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Pre-Arb
+3.7
Pre-Arb
+3.7
Arb1
+3.7
Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option

We hoped you liked reading 2018 Trade Value: #41 to #50 by Kiley McDaniel!

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Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.

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Michael
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Michael

Replacing the most Dave Cameron posts of all time with Kiley? Come on Cistulli and Sullivan. You could’ve been more creative or impressive. Bill James? Billy Beane? President Obama?

olive dakota
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replacing an excellent writer who knows his stuff with another excellent writer who knows his stuff? come on cistulli you could’ve done better than this. the i’m just a bill guy from schoolhouse rock? that guy who ate beans in the theater at cars 2? president lincoln?

Shirtless George Brett
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Shirtless George Brett

As awesome as Dave was I think its actually more interesting to have a guy like Kiley do this list as he actually did this type of thing for real.

CC AFC
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CC AFC

Bill Simmons just had a heart attack over you calling this the most Dave Cameron post of all time.

(Note: Dave used to credit Bill in his columns for the idea – this is not an endorsement of any ownership of the idea)

RoyalsFan#14321
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RoyalsFan#14321

I always enjoyed Simmons’ versions too.

Careless
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Careless

That’s a hell of a lot of downvotes for a pretty inoffensive joke