2020 Trade Value: #31 to #40

While a shortened season might make this year’s version of our Trade Value Series an unusual one, with the deadline looming, we are not about to break with tradition. For a more detailed introduction to this year’s exercise, as well as a look at those players who fell just short of the top 50, be sure to read the Introduction and Honorable Mentions piece, which can be found in the widget above, along with the other installments in the Series.

For those who have been reading the Trade Value Series the last few seasons, the format should look familiar. For every player, you’ll see a table with the player’s projected five-year WAR from 2021-2025, courtesy of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections. The table will also include the player’s guaranteed money, if any, the year through which the team has contractual control of the player, last year’s rank, and then projections, contract status, and age for each individual season through 2025, if the player is under contract or team control for those seasons. Last year’s rank includes a link to the relevant 2019 post. Thanks are due to Sean Dolinar for creating the tables in these posts. At the bottom of the page, there will be an updated grid showing all the players who have been ranked up to this point.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the next 10 spots on this year’s list.

Five-Year WAR +16.4
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #39
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 29 +3.9 Pre-Arb
2022 30 +3.7 Arb1
2023 31 +3.5 Arb2
2024 32 +2.9 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

After ranking 39th on this list last year, Jeff McNeil finished the 2019 season with the same hot bat he started it with on the way to a 4.6 WAR campaign. Given roughly a season and a half of big league plate appearances, McNeil has a stellar 139 wRC+, and his 7.3 wins pro-rate to roughly five wins per 600 plate appearances. Those results might urge for moving him up rather than down, but there likely wouldn’t be significant interest in McNeil’s skillset if he were offered in trade. He isn’t great anywhere defensively, though he is versatile and has experience at second base, third base, and both corner outfield spots. He has average to slightly above average power, but he does make a ton of mostly-medium hard contact. He also needs those hits to continue to fall, and might be more vulnerable to increased shifting. A player with that power profile who relies on solid contact to get on base and who is without a true position probably won’t inspire teams to trade away a bunch of their prospects to acquire him, but McNeil gets results.

Maybe he is undervalued by the industry as a whole. He’s making the minimum through next year, likely won’t earn big salaries in arbitration, and won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season. Those arbitration years all come in McNeil’s 30s, limiting his upside. McNeil hits and plays multiple positions well enough to make him a desirable player, but continued questions about his future production have driven his trade value below some less-accomplished players.

Five-Year WAR +16.4
Guaranteed Dollars $22.8 M
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #40
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 28 +3.0 $6.5 M
2022 29 +2.9 $6.8 M
2023 30 +2.8 $8.5 M
2024 31 +2.3 $10.0 M
Team Option

Coming off a solid, 2.7 WAR 2018, the Twins and Max Kepler agreed to a contract extension that guarantees the outfielder $35 million for five years, with a $10 million team option on the 2024 season, just $9 million more than the $1 million buyout for that year would be. In 2019, Kepler had the breakout season many had been expecting for years, nearly doubling his home run total from 20 in 2018 to 36 in 2019. The increase in power saw his wRC+ go from average to 121, and his WAR totaled 4.4 on the year. Kepler is a good outfield defender. He draws walks and doesn’t strike out much. Even if his 2024 option is exercised, he will earn just under $32 million over the next four seasons.

Kepler had some support to be even higher on this list. The concerns that held him back were mostly age-related given his type of production. At 27 years old, it’s possible that his defense has already peaked, and since his fly ball swing produces a lot of outs, his low batting average will suppress some of the value of his good walk rate. His breakout produced a good batting line, but not a great one. The last year of his contract and the option season both occur in Kepler’s 30s. He’s a good player and a very good value, which is why he’s on this list, but Kepler’s skills are more solid than spectacular and the pandemic might have wiped out most of what would have been his best season.

Five-Year WAR +13.5
Guaranteed Dollars $18.3 M
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank #38
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 27 +3.0 $4.3 M
2022 28 +2.9 $5.5 M
2023 29 +2.7 $7.5 M
2024 30 +2.7 $10.5 M
2025 31 +2.2 $12.0 M
Team Option

Like Kepler, Jorge Polanco is 27 years old and had a four-win breakout in 2019 buoyed by a batting line that was about 20% above league-average. They signed their contracts at the same time, but are slightly different. Polanco only has three more guaranteed years instead of Kepler’s four, but the former has two options which provide an extra year of team control. Even with the two option years, Polanco is set to earn under $40 million from 2021-2025. That extra year of control with the slightly lower guarantee pushed Polanco slightly ahead of Kepler.

Polanco’s main issue at the moment is his below-average defense at shortstop. He’s passable there, but he might be a better fit at second or third base, struggling as he does with throwing and balls hit to the hole between shortstop and third base. It’s possible that Josh Donaldson displacing Miguel Sanó could help Polanco some, but he either needs to clean up his throwing issues or be next to a good third baseman to stick at the position. While moving positions likely wouldn’t negatively affect his WAR as long as he was close to average, it might diminish his value in trade. He’ll need to keep his bat above average to keep his value regardless of position, but his contract is too good to keep him from sliding down this list any further.

Five-Year WAR +14.7
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 26 +3.3 Pre-Arb
2022 27 +3.1 Arb1
2023 28 +2.8 Arb2
2024 29 +2.8 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Is Austin Meadows the former top-prospect who put up a 142 wRC+ and 4 WAR at 24 years old? Certainly. Was Meadows also a top prospect for years longer than he should have been because he couldn’t stay healthy, then played less than a full season a year ago due to a sprained right thumb? Yes, he is. Those I spoke with definitely saw Meadows more in the former category rather than the latter. In 2015, he played in 127 games and received 584 plate appearances. He spent the next three seasons averaging under 400 PA and 100 games per season. His performance suffered a bit with his various hamstring and oblique injuries, but he’s crushed the ball since coming over to Tampa Bay in the Chris Archer deal. He’s not the best outfielder, but he is playable and the bat should continue to make up for deficiencies elsewhere. Meadows will make the minimum again next year before hitting arbitration in 2022. There are still some injury concerns, but none of his prior ailments have long-term implications and he’d still be a quality player even if he ends up resigned to a designated hitter role.

Five-Year WAR +14.1
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 26 +3.0 Pre-Arb
2022 27 +2.9 Arb1
2023 28 +2.8 Arb2
2024 29 +2.7 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Ramón Laureano’s emergence caught me by surprise. His highlight reel throws grab your attention, but they mask mediocre range that keeps him closer to average in the field. If we were to look at Laureano’s stats on July 1 of last year, we’d see a 4.5% walk rate, a 27.8% strikeout rate, a .183 ISO, average exit velocity of 90.1 mph and a 98 wRC+ in 331 plate appearances. He only got 150 PA after that due to a stress injury to his shin that caused him to miss the month of August, but his numbers were impressive. His walk rate increased to 8% while his strikeout rate declined to 20.7%. His ISO was a mammoth .352 and he maintained an 89 mph exit velocity while making a lot more contact. His 189 wRC+ during that time turned an average season into an All-Star-level performance. He’s continuing to draw walks this season, a good sign for his future. He can still play center field and is a very good baserunner. He just turned 26 last month, will continue to make the minimum for another season after this one, and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season. Laureano’s arm makes you notice, but his production at the plate is on the rise and deserves more attention.

Five-Year WAR +12.8
Guaranteed Dollars $23.5 M
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 30 +3.7 $9.0 M
2022 31 +3.2 $13.0 M
2023 32 +2.6 $13.0 M
Team Option

Over the last two years, Max Muncy’s 10 wins rank 15th among all position players. For those players with at least 1,000 plate appearances in that time, his 5.6 WAR/600 PA ranks eighth behind only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon, Matt Chapman, and J.T. Realmuto. Muncy’s production has been right up there with the best players in the game and he’s guaranteed just $20.5 million over the next two years with a third-year option for the Dodgers at just $11.5 million more. A bargain deal and great production is on the good side of the ledger for Muncy, but he’s not without some negatives. He bloomed late so he’ll turn 30 later this month and these next few seasons aren’t likely to be as good as the last few. He also more of a modern second baseman, helped by heavy shifting rather than inherently good fielding. Those factors don’t negate Muncy’s bat, but they do serve to drive down his value some compared to what you might expect given his recent track record of production.

Five-Year WAR +19.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 24 +3.9 Pre-Arb
2022 25 +4.0 Pre-Arb
2023 26 +3.9 Arb1
2024 27 +3.9 Arb2
2025 28 +3.9 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

While passing around this list for feedback, there was a general consensus that Yordan Alvarez was in the wrong place. Where that consensus crumbled was on whether Alvarez was too high or too low. His 178 wRC+ over roughly half a season was an incredible hitting performance, even if he’s reduced to the designated hitter spot. Alvarez struggled in the playoffs with an 80 wRC+ over 65 plate appearances. Still, even with those playoff numbers, Alvarez put up a 163 wRC+ for the season, which is really good. There’s also his history of knee issues, and even though he is just 23 years old, Alvarez has a big body and there are questions about how well he will age. But it’s not hard to see why his power and offensive production so far outweigh concerns about his October showing or the continued potential for injury, especially when combined with his league-minimum salaries through 2022. Putting that type of bat in a lineup transforms it, and teams will happily give up good prospects and players for great, cheap production.

Five-Year WAR +19.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 26 +4.3 Arb1
2022 27 +4.1 Arb2
2023 28 +3.8 Arb3
Arb

Lucas Giolito was once a top prospect, but his value didn’t match his ranking when he was included in the Adam Eaton trade four years ago. He underwent Tommy John surgery just as he signed his first contract with the Nationals, which might have tamped down his value then. His development in the majors was slow prior to a breakout 2019 campaign, when he struck out 32% of batters on his way to a five-win season. He focused his fastball usage to the four-seamer and increased the use of a changeup to get batters out. He’s a fly ball pitcher, but induces weak contact; only Clayton Kershaw had a higher percentage of infield fly balls last season. Giolito turned 26 years old last month and he’ll be arbitration-eligible at the end of this season. In creating this list, it became pretty clear that good young pitchers with multiple years of team control are in short supply. There’s always going to be more of a risk with pitchers, particularly those with a short track record of success like Giolito. But there are a decent number of veterans with big contracts and a healthy number of unproven prospects, but not many pitchers in between, creating a solid value for guys like Giolito.

Five-Year WAR +14.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #50
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 28 +3.3 Arb1
2022 29 +3.3 Arb2
2023 30 +2.9 Arb3
Arb

Speaking of young pitchers with three more years of team control, Luis Castillo may be a couple of years older than Giolito, but the Reds’ righty also had a breakout season in 2019 after pitching his first full season the year before. Castillo struck out 29% of batters last season and pairs those whiffs with an elite groundball percentage due to a high-90s sinker. That combo helps keep the ball in the park even when pitching in Cincinnati, and it is stuff that would translate anywhere. His changeup is his out pitch, inducing a swing-and-miss a quarter of the time he throws the pitch. He’s followed up his 2019 season with an excellent start to 2020. He’ll be arbitration-eligible at the end of this season, but his short track record of success will keep his salaries relatively low the next few years. He’s currently in a very good rotation alongside Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray, but Castillo might be the team’s best pitcher. By our rest-of-season projections, he’s one of the top dozen pitchers in baseball.

Five-Year WAR +18.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #49
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2021 27 +3.9 Arb1
2022 28 +3.8 Arb2
2023 29 +3.8 Arb3
Arb

It’s fairly unusual for an established player to jump as many spots in these rankings as Matt Olson did; losing a year of team control as salaries are expected to rise makes it difficult to see an increase in trade value. But Olson’s wRC+ jumped from 118 in 2018 to 134 in 2019, which meant a four-win season in only 547 plate appearances. He has elite exit velocity, with his 92.8 mph average seventh in the game last year. Because he’s able to get the ball in the air consistently, he makes good use of that hard contact and cranks out a ton of homers, even playing in Oakland. Olson is also a fantastic fielder, winning the last two Fielding Bible awards. He only has three more years before free agency, but those years should be among his best as he’s still just 26 years old. I initially had a more modest move up the list in mind, but multiple front office sources indicated he was still too low, and there was some support to move him even higher. First base production has declined over the last decade compared to the rest of the league, with a 108 wRC+ the last two seasons, a five point drop from the previous five years, which that makes Olson’s production more impressive. The offense-defense combo at first base might make him underrated publicly, but he has incredibly high value for those in the industry.

2020 Trade Value, 31-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
31 49 Matt Olson 26 +3.9
Arb1
+3.8
Arb2
+3.8
Arb3
32 50 Luis Castillo 27 +3.3
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
33 HM Lucas Giolito 25 +4.3
Arb1
+4.1
Arb2
+3.8
Arb3
34 HM Yordan Alvarez 23 +3.9
Pre-Arb
+4.0
Pre-Arb
+3.9
Arb1
+3.9
Arb2
+3.9
Arb3
35 HM Max Muncy 29 +3.7
$9.0 M
+3.2
$13.0 M
+2.6
$13.0 M
36 Ramón Laureano 25 +3.0
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Arb1
+2.8
Arb2
+2.7
Arb3
37 HM Austin Meadows 25 +3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Arb1
+2.8
Arb2
+2.8
Arb3
38 38 Jorge Polanco 26 +3.0
$4.3 M
+2.9
$5.5 M
+2.7
$7.5 M
+2.7
$10.5 M
+2.2
$12.0 M
39 40 Max Kepler 27 +3.0
$6.5 M
+2.9
$6.8 M
+2.8
$8.5 M
+2.3
$10.0 M
40 39 Jeff McNeil 28 +3.9
Pre-Arb
+3.7
Arb1
+3.5
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
41 HM Adley Rutschman 22 +1.6
Pre-Arb
+2.0
Pre-Arb
+2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Arb1
+2.5
Arb2
42 28 Joey Gallo 26 +2.4
Arb2
+2.4
Arb3
43 16 Shohei Ohtani 25 +2.3
Arb1
+2.2
Arb2
+2.1
Arb3
44 HM Nate Pearson 23 +1.8
Pre-Arb
+1.8
Pre-Arb
+1.7
Arb1
+1.6
Arb2
+1.6
Arb3
45 Jesús Luzardo 22 +1.7
Pre-Arb
+1.9
Pre-Arb
+1.6
Arb1
+1.6
Arb2
+1.5
Arb3
46 HM Keston Hiura 23 +3.0
Pre-Arb
+3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Arb1
+3.2
Arb2
+2.8
Arb3
47 HM Mookie Betts 27 +6.2
$22.9 M
+5.9
$22.9 M
+5.7
$25.4 M
+5.1
$30.4 M
+4.4
$30.4 M
48 24 Jacob deGrom 32 +4.6
$37.5 M
+4.1
$37.5 M
+3.8
$34.5 M
+3.5
$32.5 M
49 19 Xander Bogaerts 27 +4.1
$20.0 M
+3.9
$20.0 M
+3.7
$20.0 M
+3.2
$20.0 M
+2.5
$20.0 M
50 HM Dustin May 22 +2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+2.3
Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option
Player Option

We hoped you liked reading 2020 Trade Value: #31 to #40 by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Cave Dameron
Member
Cave Dameron

Thank you Craig, very cool!