2021 Trade Value: #1 to #10

Design by Luke Hooper

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week after the All-Star Game to take stock of the top 50 players in baseball by trade value in anticipation of next week’s trade deadline. 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.

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 2022-2026, courtesy of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections. The table will also include the player’s guaranteed money, if any, the year through which their team has contractual control of them, last year’s rank (if applicable), and then projections, contract status, and age for each individual season through 2026, if the player is under contract or team control for those seasons. Last year’s rank includes a link to the relevant 2020 post. One note on the rankings: particularly at the bottom of the list, there’s not a lot of room between players. The ordinal rankings clearly matter, and we put players where they are for a reason, but there’s not much room between, say, 35 and 60. The magnitude of the differences in this part of the list is quite small. Several talent evaluators we talked to might prefer a player in the Honorable Mentions section to one on the back end of the list, or vice versa. We think the broad strokes are correct — but with so many players carrying roughly equivalent value, disagreements abounded. Thanks are due to Sean Dolinar for his help in creating the tables in these posts. At the bottom of the page, there is a grid showing all the players who have been ranked up to this point.

Below you’ll see commentary from both of us for each player. And now, on to this year’s final group.

Five-Year WAR +21.3
Guaranteed Dollars $72.0 M
Team Control Through 2024*
Previous Rank #48
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 34 +5.1 $37.5 M
2023 35 +4.8 $34.5 M
2024 36 +4.4 $32.5 M
Team Option *deGrom can opt out after 2022

First things first: deGrom was eighth on these rankings before landing on the Injured List last week. I won’t claim we used some fancy algorithm to re-rank him, but this is a hedge. Why deGrom? Because no player carries more value for a team who wants to win playoff games now (assuming health, as I will for the rest of this blurb). The contract isn’t the cheapest, but if you trade for him now, you’re getting the best pitcher on the planet for up to four straight postseason runs. It’s “up to” because deGrom has an opt out after 2022 and there’s a team option for 2024 — but this seems like a case where it’s going to extend through 2024 unless he either goes full supernova upfront (fine for the acquiring team) or blows out his arm before the team option.

Obviously, deGrom isn’t getting traded. But we’re squarely in the realm of hypotheticals here, and playoff teams would jump at the opportunity to turn whatever rotation they have into probably the best in baseball by adding the best pitcher in the game. This is a place where WAR doesn’t really work; starters provide a disproportionate amount of value in October, when they pitch a higher percentage of games. Who better to have in that situation than deGrom? This contract is a rare and wondrous thing: the chance to get one of the best players in the game for as many as four straight years without then having them for seven years of decline down the road. – BC

In April of this year, deGrom was twice given an extra day of rest in what seemed like smart load management. In early May, he was scratched with side tightness, then left his next start early with more of the same, which led to a brief IL stint. Three starts later, he left a game after six innings due to flexor tendonitis; an MRI showed no structural damage. He left his next start after just three innings due to shoulder soreness. Another MRI showed no big issues. Last week, it was revealed that deGrom had more forearm tightness. Another MRI, and more insistence that nothing that bad is going on here. The ace threw off flat ground yesterday, per SNY.

So what does one do with Jacob deGrom? When he’s healthy, he’s the best pitcher in baseball, and there’s not much of an argument — prior to earning a membership with the MRI Club of America, he was on an historic single-season pace. He could make just over $100 million from 2022-24, but as Ben mentioned, he can also opt out after next season. He’d be tough to trade today, but if healthy, you’d be a fool not to want him. There’s really no one like deGrom, who averages (averages!) over 99 mph with his fastball and has a slider that, at 90-93 mph, matches the average fastball velocity from a decade ago. Again, he’s the best pitcher in baseball when healthy, and this 10th-place ranking is the midpoint of potential outcomes based on his recent injuries, despite the constant MRIs that seem to provide some sort of assurance that things might not be as bad as they sound. – KG

Five-Year WAR +22.9
Guaranteed Dollars $74.0 M
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #5
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 28 +5.5 $13.0 M
2023 29 +5.3 $30.5 M
2024 30 +4.7 $30.5 M

Thanks to the structure of his deal, Bregman isn’t prohibitively expensive over the next three years. He’s set to make only $13 million next year, before tipping into the world of mega-deals in 2023. Three years is a sweet spot; you’re not trading for a rental, but you’re also not wearing the ugly decline phase five years out, though Bregman is only 27, so an extra year or two wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Team sources seemed to agree; we got plenty of pushback on Cole and Trout, but not much on Bregman’s inclusion, and indeed, if you do a pure surplus value accounting, he’d place highly on the list.

The real question, then, is whether he’s still the 2018-19 MVP candidate, or whether his last 350 plate appearances represent a new level. Projection systems, Kevin and I, and pretty much everyone we talked to agree: we’re willing to bet on a rebound. Bregman has never been a plus-power type, but he makes the most of his contact by pulling the ball in the air and hitting line drives. He combines patience with phenomenal bat control, and while I’ll take the under on him walking 17.2% of the time in a season again, he’s a perennial threat to walk more than he strikes out, and his air-happy approach will lead to torrid stretches. Am I worried about the changing baseball here? A little, but the ball has been de-juiced down to 2018-19 levels — when Bregman hit 72 bombs over two years — so I’m not that worried. – BC

In 2019, Bregman hit 41 home runs and nearly usurped Mike Trout in AL MVP voting. That suggests immense power, but in reality, Bregman’s pop is merely plus, as no player in baseball takes greater advantage of the Crawford Boxes than the 27-year-old third baseman, who will earn $74 million from 2022-24.

Slowed this year by a hamstring issue that delayed his spring training debut until late March, as well as a brief a stint on the COVID IL and his current quadriceps injury, Bregman has struggled to get locked in for any kind of extended stretch in 2021, but when that happens, he’s an on-base machine who makes as much hard contact as anyone in baseball. Scouts and stats differ greatly on the defense, as the eyeballs say he’s a good third baseman, while the numbers aren’t so glowing, but in terms of offense, expecting a .900-plus OPS through the remainder of his contract with 80 extra-base hits and nearly 100 walks a year feels like a safe expectation. – KG

Five-Year WAR +19.8
Guaranteed Dollars $5.25 M
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #18
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 27 +4.6 $5.25 M**
2023 28 +4.3 Arb3
2024 29 +3.8 Arb4
Arb **Can increase based on GS/Cy Young finish in 2021

Personally, I’d take Corbin Burnes over Buehler. But cooler heads prevailed, and Buehler belongs in the top 10 anyway. He’s an absolute beast, to the point where writing about his skills is almost a waste of time. Do you like pitchers who strike out a ton of batters? Do you like it when they avoid walks, too? How about if they have four plus pitches? He’ll give you six or more innings of excellence every time out, and look the part while doing it.

We did get some feedback that the top 10 was high for anyone with only three years of team control remaining, but that was definitely the minority opinion. When you get to this level of player — a stud who scouts, data-driven types and the ever-increasing group that uses the best parts of both all agree is a top-flight pitcher — valuations are non-linear. Teams would pay more for 12.7 WAR (per ZiPS) over three years than they would over six, and it’s not particularly close. Teams also seem higher on Buehler than ZiPS, though by any accounting he’s an ace. Stars! They’re not just like the rest of us, particularly when it comes to the measurement of value. – BC

Buehler has become the poster boy for teams finding comfort when drafting a player who has recently had — or in Buehler’s case, required — Tommy John surgery. Buehler underwent the procedure shortly after signing as a first-round pick in 2015 and since then he’s been the picture of health while exceeding all of the projections for him when coming out of Vanderbilt. Even post foreign substance crackdown, few pitchers in baseball can spin it like Buehler. It’s a six-pitch mix where everything is hard, everything moves, and everything is bolstered by 70 command.

Buehler signed a unique extension prior to this spring training, one that will pay him $2.75 million in 2021, but defines his 2022 salary mostly by how many games he starts this year. By taking the bump every five days for the remainder of the season, he’ll earn $6.25 million next year (the number above reflects the guarantee he’s already earned with his current number of starts) and he has a chance to push that near $7 million should he finish the year among the top three in National League Cy Young voting. That’s unlikely but hardly out of the question. He’s on pace for a big pay day in 2023 in terms of the third year of the arbitration scale, but a starter of this quality, with an excellent track record of health since his surgery, is always a bargain pre-free agency. – KG

Five-Year WAR +27.1
Guaranteed Dollars $337.5 M
Team Control Through 2032
Previous Rank #47
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 29 +6.5 $22.9 M
2023 30 +6.1 $25.4 M
2024 31 +5.6 $30.4 M
2025 32 +4.9 $30.4 M
2026 33 +4.1 $30.4 M

This spot on the list is based on a close reading of Betts’ contract terms. As best as we (and a few people we consulted with, including Jason Martinez) can tell, the strange nature of his deal changes team obligations. The Dodgers gave him a record $65 million signing bonus, payable in 13 equal installments. We believe that lets a team that trades for him off the hook for the $55 million of it that is still payable, which is a big deal. Money would always get moved around to make both teams happy in any swap involving a contract this big, but that’s a meaningful difference and made us comfortable bumping him up the list some. In fact, when we did a ZiPS-based calculation of surplus value incorporating discounts and inflation (one of the many inputs we used), Betts finished 10th. The total outlay is $55 million lower than the table above shows — $5 million in each year.

There’s obviously tons of uncertainty in a projection that goes that long, but models absolutely love the shape of Betts’ production, and this year is a great example of why. Despite a rough season defensively (which we’re not too concerned about) and a much-hyped slump, he’s on pace for 5.3 WAR, and he’s been playing hurt while the Dodgers chase the stubborn Giants. And as an added note to the pedants in the group (you know we love you), we did take into account the fact that Betts has deferred payments that accelerate if traded. He’s obviously not going to be traded, but if he were, even with the acceleration, the pile of superstar-level production is simply too large to ignore. – BC

You know a player is great when his OPS is pushing .900 and everything you read or hear about him is focused on when he’s going to really get going. Hampered this year by a seemingly never-ending series of minor dings, Betts is still Betts when he’s available and healthy. He destroys fastballs and his already outstanding approach has actually improved in 2021, as he’s become more aggressive in the zone while chasing out of it less than he has in the last two seasons. Overall, the underlying metrics suggest he’s still largely the same player who notched top-10 MVP finishes in 2019 and ’20, and he might even be getting better in some ways. It’s just his health that is holding him back and none of this year’s myriad issues feel like long-term concerns.

Betts is signed for (gulp) 11 more years, during which he will be paid close to $340 million. Yes, it’s a ton of years, and yes, it’s a ton of money, but if he can maintain his five-to-eight win pace into his early 30s, which seems more probable than plausible, he’ll be more than worth it. – KG

Five-Year WAR +20.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2027
Previous Rank #11
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 21 +3.0 Pre-Arb
2023 22 +3.7 Pre-Arb
2024 23 +4.3 Pre-Arb
2025 24 +4.5 Arb1
2026 25 +4.7 Arb2
Pre-Arb
Arb

On a relative basis, I was on the sideline for this one, as I don’t have the same expertise in prospects and early-majors players that Kevin and many of our contacts do. That said, what did you think we were going to do, not put Franco in the top 10? He’s had a shaky start to his major league career, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen such a clear star at such a young age, and the other players you might put in that category are ahead of him on this list. And by electing to not play Wander Franco, the Rays squeezed out an extra year of low salaries, as he’ll likely miss the Super 2 cutoff and so won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2025.

Money aside, there’s not much to knock about him. Shortstops with 80 hit tools don’t come along very often, and many of those who have are in the Hall of Fame. Switch hitters are supposed to take a long time to develop, and yet Franco has set fire to every minor league level he’s appeared in, no matter how preposterously young he is for the competition. Some teams might even have Franco first on their personal lists — if you truly have no money to spend, three years of excellent production at basically no cost (and then three more on the relative cheap) is enticing. But we ended up drawing the line here, and everyone ahead of him has no question marks around whether they can do it in the majors. – BC

For every elite prospect, you can find at least one detractor in the scouting world. There’s always that one person who for whatever reason just doesn’t see it, or expects future goodness as opposed to greatness. That’s just not the case with Franco, or at least not as far as I can see. If there is somebody in the evaluation community who thinks Franco is going to be anything less than an amazing big league player, I haven’t found them, and I’ve made a significant effort to do so.

At times, Franco feels almost too good to fail. He has a good approach at the plate, although it’s unlikely to ever result in high walk rates, as his incredible plate coverage means there are just too many pitches he can drive. And then there is the marriage of plus-plus bat speed, above-average power and a nearly staggering ability to make contact with that combination. He’s also a solid-average shortstop with a plus arm who runs well, too. Oh, and have I mentioned that he’s only 20? Franco is only 20 games into what has so far been a quite unlucky major league career, but some are already wondering if he’ll be the next free agent to break contract barriers when he hits the open market at an age that would suggest he’s just entering his prime. – KG

Five-Year WAR +35.4
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #3
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 23 +7.0 Arb2
2023 24 +7.1 Arb3
2024 25 +7.1 Arb4
Arb

My god, Soto can hit. Despite a delayed and slow start — he had only 60 PA in April and finished May with a 112 wRC+ — he’s back to his normal scorched-earth nonsense. He’s hitting a hilarious .302/.424/.498 in what people are calling a down season, and I kid you not, he’s at .390/.513/.780 for the month of July. Not that July statistics are meaningful or important to the exclusion of others, I just like writing down Soto’s statline and gawking at it. Soto is the best projected hitter in baseball, and he’s also been well above average in the outfield this year. It’s getting ridiculous.

He’s no longer just a plate discipline guy, though he’s probably the best in the league at knowing and exploiting the zone. But he’s also in the 95th percentile for maximum exit velocity and 97th for hard hit rate. He’ll make a bundle in arbitration and it really doesn’t matter, because he’ll be worth far more than that. Only the fact that he’ll be eligible for free agency in three years kept me from putting Soto first on the list — that and the fact that everyone in this rarefied air is incredible. For my money, though, Soto is the best position player in the game, right this minute — and he’s only 22. – BC

Soto isn’t having the same season he did in 2020, but that would be an almost impossible task after he lead the league in all three triple-slash stats. He’s still one of the top 10 offensive players in baseball, with only a May slump keeping him out of the conversation for the top spot. Soto’s game begins with some of the best strike zone awareness in the game, an astounding achievement for a 22-year-old, as no qualified hitter in the majors swings at fewer pitches out of the zone. He can be a bit passive in the zone at times, but limiting the mistakes he makes while waiting for something to drive mitigates the issue. Then there is the massive power. It all adds up to a perennial MVP candidate. Soto still has three arbitration years remaining and will be building from a platform of $8.5 million this year, meaning he’ll earn some big numbers for a guy who hasn’t reached free agency yet, while still being excessively underpaid based on the value he provides on the field.

The only aspect of Soto’s future that gives some industry people minor pause is his size. Four years ago, he was 185 pounds in the Sally League. He’s packed on 40 since and has gone from a plus runner to a fringy one in the process, and some worry that even more bulk will lead to him becoming a bat-only type. Still, even in that unlikely worst-case scenario, Soto is on pace for a record-breaking free agency heading into the 2025 season. – KG

Five-Year WAR +25.6
Guaranteed Dollars $26.0 M
Team Control Through 2028
Previous Rank #6
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 25 +5.3 $5.0 M
2023 26 +5.3 $7.0 M
2024 27 +5.2 $7.0 M
2025 28 +4.9 $7.0 M
2026 29 +4.9 $7.0 M
Team Option

Albies isn’t as good as Soto. He’s not as good as anyone in the top 10, if you ask me. But he’s also getting paid roughly nothing for approximately the next infinity years, and he’s an above average hitter playing a middle infield position. He’d be a bargain even if he declined to a 100 wRC+, and there’s not much indication that will happen. Teams value true superstars in excess of their pure surplus value — just look at our top 10 — but this is a two-by-four of surplus value smashed across your head. You simply can’t ignore it.

It sucks that we have to talk about Albies this way, though. The first word in every conversation about his value as a baseball player is almost always going to be the ludicrously team-friendly contract he signed before the 2019 season — seven years and $35 million, with two wait-what-why team options at $7 million tacked on to really make it feel silly. He’s an excellent player, undoubtedly one of the best 40 or 50 in baseball, and that should be enough. Are we part of the problem for putting him where he is on this list? Maybe. But I can simultaneously feel conflicted about the deal and recognize that any team would give up a bundle for his discounted services. – BC

The first time I travelled to the Dominican Republic was in January of 2013 for MLB’s annual international showcase, which gathers the best and the brightest from the upcoming class even though the overwhelming majority of the players in attendance have already agreed to verbal deals. It was a much-hyped event, and I was there to get my feet wet and calibrate my eye to that level of player. Power-hitting outfielder Eloy Jiménez and an impressive Venezuelan shortstop named Gleyber Torres were there, both headed to the Cubs. The second I walked into the stadium in San Cristobal, I was met by a friend with another club who welcomed me to the DR and told me, “Keep an eye on this big kid going to the Red Sox, he can absolutely rake.” That kid was Rafael Devers.

It’s still the most star-studded event I’ve ever attended in terms of future impact. I wrote up all of the players I saw, and while I didn’t put the biggest recommended signing bonus on him, I still distinctly remember how, among all the already famous names, all the seven-figure future bonuses, the best pure baseball player on the field was a tiny shortstop (he was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-foot-6 and less than 150 pounds) from Curaçao, who at the time went by Ozhaino Albies. He had a remarkable two days. There was no power but he sprayed hard line drives to all fields in batting practice, made every play during fielding drills, and was even more impressive when games started, at one point laying down a bunt for a base hit (unheard of at such events) when he noticed the infield playing too far back. It was hard not to fall in love with him, and despite the tiny frame, he still earned a $350,000 bonus from Atlanta that summer.

As impressive as he was, nobody in 2013 foresaw the player Albies would become: an All-Star second baseman with power for his size who can be fairly described as remarkable. Albies isn’t the fourth best player in baseball, but he chose to take security over upside to an extreme degree when he signed his 2019 extension, and that deal plays a big role here. It’s hard to blame a player for taking $40-plus million when it’s put in front of him, but someone, somewhere should have better impressed upon Albies just how much he was leaving on the table. – KG

Five-Year WAR +27.8
Guaranteed Dollars $83.0 M
Team Control Through 2028
Previous Rank #1
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 24 +5.6 $15.0 M
2023 25 +5.7 $17.0 M
2024 26 +5.6 $17.0 M
2025 27 +5.5 $17.0 M
2026 28 +5.3 $17.0 M

Acuña was number one on our list before he tore his ACL and I wouldn’t fault you for keeping him atop your own personal ranking. He was in the midst of his best season yet before a fluke accident ended it, making a strong claim as the best player in baseball (I still had Soto atop my personal rankings, and had Acuña in a tie for second, but that’s splitting hairs). He’s on a Trout-ian trajectory, improving the areas that were initially seen as deficiencies to the point where he’s casually posting excellent chase rates while still being aggressive in the strike zone. His double-digit walk rates and average strikeout numbers look like the real deal, something few expected after his first few years in the majors.

The contract is absurd, obviously. It might not be Albies-level bad, but it’s simply too little money to pay such a bright star in the context of major league revenues, and it comes with two team options that are as close to automatic pickups as it gets. There’s really nothing to fault Acuña about, aside from the injury, and as Dan Szymborski pointed out in his look at Acuña’s projections following the tear, the prognosis is good for a mostly-complete return to form. But there’s clearly some risk here, and some lost playing time even in the best case scenario. It’s not a big risk — which is why he’s number three on this list — but it’s scary enough to bump him down ever so slightly. – BC

Acuña’s gruesome July 10 injury was heartbreaking, both for Braves fans and for people who simply love watching great players. Still, while it greatly hampers the chances of the Braves turning things around in 2021, it doesn’t significantly impact Acuña’s long-term value, as after this season, the seven years and $117 million left on his extension is one of the most team-friendly deals in the game.

Prior to the injury, Acuña was in the midst of a career-year, which is really saying something for a player who has already done so much in his early 20s. By cutting down on his strikeouts, hitting more balls in the air, and having his power numbers go from plus-plus to among the best in the game, Acuña is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, and even if his plus-plus wheels dissipate following his recovery from knee surgery, it shouldn’t have a much of, if any effect on his overall contributions. – KG

Five-Year WAR +33.9
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank #24
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 23 +7.1 Arb1
2023 24 +6.9 Arb2
2024 25 +6.9 Arb3
2025 26 +6.7 Arb4
Arb

After two seasons of solid offensive production but too many grounders, Guerrero converted his prodigious raw power and plus hit tool into what observers have been calling for since his days as the top prospect in baseball. He’s a spray hitter, only instead of peppering line drives into the gaps, he sends them over the outfield wall. He’s aggressive in the strike zone, and swings violently enough that he runs a high whiff rate, but he makes up for it by hunting pitches he can drive and spitting on balls outside of the strike zone; add plus pitch recognition to his list of tricks. Several team contacts we spoke to thought he deserved the top spot on the list, even before Acuña’s injury; he’ll hit Super 2 status this year, which means four years of arbitration-salary control for one of the best hitters in the game, a young superstar coming into his own.

If I wanted to throw cold water on the Guerrero hype, I could point out that he has a worse wRC+ than Yordan Alvarez since they debuted in 2019, or that he’s first base-only, unlike the rest of the position players in this rarefied air. But that’s silly, and I don’t actually think those things matter. Vlad might not be a true-talent 190 wRC+ hitter, but pretty much no one is, and he’s going to be an absurd bargain for years (even with healthy arbitration figures) while perennially competing for MVP awards. He’s forced himself into the discussion for best player in baseball, and no one we talked to cared too much about the defensive limitations; when you hit that well, you could be DH-only and teams would hardly care. – BC

We’re living in a golden age of young hitters, but Guerrero’s path is the more normal one. In terms of major league performance, it took awhile for good to become great, but Guerrero has become just that. Yes, playing in Buffalo has helped him quite a bit in terms of putting up the best OPS in baseball, but all of the underlying metrics, ones that really don’t care what stadium they’re measured in, scream that every bit of this massive jump forward is the real deal.

He’s barreling balls at nearly twice the rate of his previous two seasons and his average exit velocities, which were already near the top of the scale, have gained nearly 3 mph. His greatly increased walk rate is more the result of getting pitched around than an actual change in his swing decisions, but there’s a profound maturity to making an adjustment to the adjustment and not expanding one’s zone, a maturity Guerrero has demonstrated. He’s even done some work to alleviate concerns about how well he will age by greatly improving his physical conditioning, gaining a step of speed and turning into a solid defensive first baseman while learning the position on the fly. Playing at an MVP level for the rest of the season should materialize into one of, if not the highest first-year arbitration salaries in history this winter, but his 2022-25 campaigns, even at the highest of arbitration prices, should still be the envy of the 29 stateside organizations. – KG

Five-Year WAR +34.7
Guaranteed Dollars $338.3 M
Team Control Through 2034
Previous Rank #2
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 23 +6.6 $5.7 M
2023 24 +6.8 $7.7 M
2024 25 +7.1 $11.7 M
2025 26 +7.1 $20.7 M
2026 27 +7.0 $20.7 M

This is a statement pick for the player with the number one trade value in baseball, though not as much of one as you’d think. A few sources told us they didn’t like putting Tatis so high when most teams couldn’t touch him. But on our ZiPS-based surplus value rankings, he finished second behind Acuña. It’s a lot of money to be sure, but based on the projections, there’s simply not much decline phase in his deal — it will end when he’s 35, by which point he’ll surely be on the downswing, but it isn’t one of these titanic contracts that takes him into his 40s, simply because he signed it at 22 years old.

At the end of the day, we decided that getting a long string of MVP performance at a slightly discounted rate would entice teams more than the same performance (Guerrero or Soto) for fewer years at more of a discount. Bargains are all well and good, but financial flexibility doesn’t hit many home runs, and the Tatis deal is the rare case where you can lock up a superstar for an ungodly number of years without implicitly mortgaging the distant future. Tatis isn’t getting moved, but if the market somehow opened up, it would be an absolute barn-burner; you’re basically getting seven years of an MVP-level talent at a serious discount, then another six years of a market rate free agency deal for a star. It’s like giving Manny Machado his current contract — but getting his entire pre-free-agency production at a great price in the bargain.

I should talk briefly about how Tatis gets to his value, since this isn’t just an accounting of contracts. He’s a walking avatar of bat speed, with plus-plus raw power that he gets to frequently despite a swing-happy approach that leads to plenty of swinging strikes. It’s reasonable to expect an uptick in pitch recognition over time — he’s only 22 — that should compensate for any slowing of his bat. If there’s a worry, it’s his defense, as he’s sprayed a whopping 27 throwing errors in less than 2,000 career innings. But I wouldn’t bet against such a freakish athlete fixing that fault, and he briefly managed it in 2020, which gives evaluators hope that his raw tools will win out in the end. Tatis is one of the best few players in baseball — and he’ll be a Padre for a very long time to boot. That makes him the best value in the game. – BC

There has been a lot of consternation among our readers about the placement of players with long contracts on this list, and Tatis is currently the longest of the long, locked up as he is through the 2034 season. There will be three more presidential elections with a pair of years on either end before the Padres are off the hook for this one, but at the same time, Tatis’ salary doesn’t reach eight figures until 2024, doesn’t hit $20 million until 2025 and doesn’t exceed $30 million until 2029. With the rate of baseball’s revenue growth and the AAVs for top level players climbing, this might look like a bargain, even a decade from now.

Yes, there are teams that would never choose to take on this kind of commitment, but as stated in the introduction to this series, these rankings are based on the maximum possible trade return, not the average, and teams that spend their resources like the Yankees and the Dodgers would open their vaults to bring Tatis into the fold should A.J. Preller suddenly become possessed by an alien force and make him available. He’s the most exciting player in baseball, and arguably, also the best. – KG

2021 Trade Value, 1-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
1 2 Fernando Tatis Jr. 22 +6.6
$5.7 M
+6.8
$7.7 M
+7.1
$11.7 M
+7.1
$20.7 M
+7.0
$20.7 M
2 24 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 22 +7.1
Arb1
+6.9
Arb2
+6.9
Arb3
+6.7
Arb4
3 1 Ronald Acuña Jr. 23 +5.6
$15.0 M
+5.7
$17.0 M
+5.6
$17.0 M
+5.5
$17.0 M
+5.3
$17.0 M
4 6 Ozzie Albies 24 +5.3
$5.0 M
+5.3
$7.0 M
+5.2
$7.0 M
+4.9
$7.0 M
+4.9
$7.0 M
5 3 Juan Soto 22 +7.0
Arb2
+7.1
Arb3
+7.1
Arb4
6 11 Wander Franco 20 +3.0
Pre-Arb
+3.7
Pre-Arb
+4.3
Pre-Arb
+4.5
Arb1
+4.7
Arb2
7 47 Mookie Betts 28 +6.5
$22.9 M
+6.1
$25.4 M
+5.6
$30.4 M
+4.9
$30.4 M
+4.1
$30.4 M
8 18 Walker Buehler 26 +4.6
$5.25 M
+4.3
Arb3
+3.8
Arb4
9 5 Alex Bregman 27 +5.5
$13.0 M
+5.3
$30.5 M
+4.7
$30.5 M
10 48 Jacob deGrom 33 +5.1
$37.5 M
+4.8
$34.5 M
+4.4
$32.5 M
11 34 Yordan Alvarez 24 +3.7
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+3.6
Arb2
+3.5
Arb3
12 10 Shane Bieber 26 +4.7
Arb1
+4.4
Arb2
+4.1
Arb3
13 4 Mike Trout 29 +6.3
$37.1 M
+5.7
$37.1 M
+5.0
$37.1 M
+4.0
$37.1 M
+3.2
$37.1 M
14 Corbin Burnes 26 +3.7
Arb1
+3.5
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
15 Gerrit Cole 30 +5.7
$36.0 M
+5.2
$36.0 M
+4.8
$36.0 M
+4.3
$36.0 M
+3.9
$36.0 M
16 Ke’Bryan Hayes 24 +3.1
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Arb1
+2.9
Arb2
+2.7
Arb3
17 43 Shohei Ohtani 26 +3.6
$5.5 M
+3.5
Arb3
18 HM Zac Gallen 25 +3.0
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Arb1
+2.7
Arb2
+2.5
Arb3
19 28 Brandon Woodruff 28 +3.4
Arb2
+3.0
Arb3
+2.7
Arb4
20 23 Bo Bichette 23 +4.8
Pre-Arb
+4.9
Arb1
+4.8
Arb2
+4.6
Arb3
21 Jake Cronenworth 27 +3.5
Pre-Arb
+3.4
Arb1
+3.1
Arb2
+2.7
Arb3
22 12 Ketel Marte 27 +4.2
$8.4 M
+4.0
$11.0 M
+3.8
$13.0 M
23 Kyle Tucker 24 +4.4
Pre-Arb
+4.2
Arb1
+4.2
Arb2
+4.0
Arb3
24 41 Adley Rutschman 23 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.4
Pre-Arb
+3.4
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
25 Framber Valdez 27 +1.8
Arb1
+1.7
Arb2
+1.6
Arb3
+1.5
Arb4
26 17 José Ramírez 28 +5.6
$11.0 M
+5.3
$13.0 M
27 19 Jack Flaherty 25 +4.0
Arb2
+3.9
Arb3
28 33 Lucas Giolito 26 +4.4
Arb2
+4.3
Arb3
29 Julio Urías 24 +3.3
Arb3
+3.3
Arb4
30 14 Luis Robert 23 +2.8
$6.0 M
+2.6
$9.5 M
+2.7
$12.5 M
+2.6
$15.0 M
+2.4
$20.0 M
31 31 Matt Olson 27 +5.3
Arb2
+5.1
Arb3
32 Randy Arozarena 26 +2.3
Pre-Arb
+2.2
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+1.9
Arb3
+1.5
Arb4
33 HM Will Smith 26 +3.4
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
34 HM Trent Grisham 24 +4.0
Pre-Arb
+4.1
Arb1
+4.0
Arb3
+3.7
Arb3
35 HM Alex Verdugo 25 +2.8
Arb1
+2.7
Arb2
+2.6
Arb3
36 25 Aaron Nola 28 +4.1
$15.5 M
+3.7
$16.0 M
37 16 Rafael Devers 24 +4.1
Arb2
+4.1
Arb3
38 Sean Murphy 26 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.4
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+2.0
Arb3
39 Ian Anderson 23 +3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Arb1
+3.0
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
40 36 Ramón Laureano 26 +3.2
Arb1
+2.9
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
41 Trevor Rogers 23 +4.1
Pre-Arb
+4.2
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+3.7
Arb2
+3.7
Arb3
42 HM Dylan Carlson 22 +2.6
Pre-Arb
+2.7
Pre-Arb
+2.8
Arb1
+2.6
Arb2
+2.6
Arb3
43 Freddy Peralta 25 +3.6
$2.5 M
+3.4
$3.7 M
+3.1
$5.7 M
+2.9
$8.0 M
+2.8
$8.0 M
44 Nick Madrigal 24 +2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Arb1
+2.1
Arb2
+2.0
Arb3
45 39 Max Kepler 28 +3.3
$6.8 M
+2.9
$8.5 M
+2.6
$10.0 M
46 49 Xander Bogaerts 28 +4.5
$20.0 M
+4.2
$20.0 M
+3.7
$20.0 M
+3.1
$20.0 M
+2.5
$20.0 M
47 Tim Anderson 28 +2.8
$9.5 M
+2.7
$12.5 M
+2.4
$14.0 M
48 Luis Garcia 24 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+2.6
Arb1
+2.5
Arb2
+2.3
Arb3
49 Pablo López 25 +2.6
Arb1
+2.6
Arb2
+2.4
Arb3
50 40 Jeff McNeil 29 +3.1
Arb1
+2.8
Arb2
+2.3
Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option
Vesting Option





newest oldest most voted
TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

So, as expected, Jimenez was forgotten this year, similar to Tim Anderson’s total exclusion last year. While I love this list, I would appreciate an honest answer on this as I felt last year there was no acknowledgement that Anderson was accidentally left off.

MikeS
Member
Member
MikeS

His ZIPS projections for the next couple years aren’t that far off Moncada, Anderson, and Robert and he is due about the same amount of money. He’s only 9 months older than Robert and younger than the other two. Seems odd he doesn’t at least merit an honorable mention.

sadtrombone
Member
Member
sadtrombone

I give it a 95% chance they just forgot about him entirely. Out of sight, out of mind. Give them a chance to re-do it and he’s on the list somewhere, forcing Ben to deep-six his McNeil blurb.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

He should take Kepler’s spot.

Jorge Fabregas
Member
Member
Jorge Fabregas

I’m not sure the 3 year ZiPS on player pages are updated during the year. I suspect that missing time dinged his projection.

MikeS
Member
Member
MikeS

The Honorable mentions had a section titled “If they were healthy.” It only listed pitchers, but if that were the reason he could have fit in there. Or a couple other categories.

Also, just because I’m a White Sox fan with an inferiority complex, I’ll point out that Moncada was left off the list because his power had waned and he has hit .346/.393/.808 with three home runs and three doubles in the very small sample since the All Star break.

Travis L
Member
Member
Travis L

If you believe that kind of sample contains any additional information, I have to ask: does your fantasy league play for money, and do you have any openings next year? I could use the cash.

MLBtoPDX#2024
Member
MLBtoPDX#2024

Travis must be watching Jim Rome and now thinks he knows stuff. Mets Fans with Inferiority problems are the absolute worst fans in Sports, even worse than Dodgers and the Cholos

casey j
Member
casey j

Actually, a guy with NO power rarely hits 3 bombs in a week. Its ,more likely an indicator that he will hit 10+ homers in the second half, rather than the 5-6 he hit in the first, especially knowing what we knmow about his raw power, and what he has done in the past. I would take it useful information.

florida ron
Member
florida ron

He’s a DH.

ccjl
Member
ccjl

Eloy Jimenez? Being dreadful in the field caps his value, and he’s coming off a significant injury. Still definitely better than most of the 41-50 lot, but he was never showing up in the top 10.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

Yeah, I don’t think anyone thinks he should be too-10. But he should make the top-50 and at the very least be a “near miss” HM.

Kevin Goldstein
Editor
Member

He probably should have been honorable mention, which is what he was last year. That’s the honest answer.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

Thank you!

FrancoLuvHateMets
Member
FrancoLuvHateMets

Normally quibbling about a couple spots up or down on a subjective list is too silly to even mention, but I don’t get 41-50 this year at all. Especially on the position side of things. I’d take all the HMs and guys like Jimenez over them in a heartbeat.

fredsbank
Member
Member
fredsbank

Yeah man, there’s a conspiracy, Fangraphs hates your favorite team.

CampingJosh
Member
Member
CampingJosh

I mean, maybe. It seems more like my favorite team’s owners hate my favorite team (Cubs).