2022 Trade Value: #21 to #30

Design by Luke Hooper.

As is tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the lead-up to next week’s trade deadline to take stock of the top 50 players in baseball by trade value. For a more detailed introduction to this year’s exercise, as well as a look at the 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 of you 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 2023-2027, 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 2027, if the player is under contract or team control for those seasons. Last year’s rank includes a link to the relevant 2021 post. 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 of the players who have been ranked up to this point.

Now, let’s get to the next batch of players.

Five-Year WAR +19.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #12
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 28 +4.3 Arb 2
2024 29 +4.2 Arb 3
Arb

From 2019 through the ’21 All-Star break, Bieber went on an absolute tear. He racked up 5.5 WAR in 2019, won a Cy Young award for his performance during the pandemic-shortened ’20 campaign, and then backed it up with another 14 sterling starts to begin the ’21 season. Then he hurt his shoulder and made just two short starts the entire rest of the year; he came out in 2022 with slightly reduced velocity. Yikes!

Except, Bieber’s still great. He’s made 18 starts so far this year, and while his strikeout rate is down, he’s still missing a pile of bats while barely walking anyone. And after a few lackluster early-season showings, he appears to be getting some of his velocity back as well. He’s throwing his slider more frequently than his fastball this year, anyway, and that slider is as sharp as ever.

If you want to make your own list, you should feel free to swap anyone between here and Max Fried, because they’re in a similar tier. I’m partial to Bieber’s command and track record; not walking anyone while throwing so many secondary pitches gives me a lot of confidence that his performance is likely to continue. I’m sure that there are teams that would prefer Woodruff to Bieber, or Fried to both, or any mixture of the three, but I had to pick an order and this is the one I’m most comfortable with.

Controllable pitching is great. Getting three postseasons worth of ace-level production would make even the the most devoted prospect hugger in the world excited. If the Guardians decide to blow it up at the deadline – I don’t think they will, to be clear – no prospect in baseball would be off limits. That’s the power of having a controllable superstar, even if it’s only for a few years.

Five-Year WAR +12.1
Guaranteed Dollars $14.0 M
Team Control Through 2026
Previous Rank HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 28 +2.9 $5.3 M
2024 29 +2.7 $8.8 M
2025 30 +2.6 $10.5 M
2026 31 +2.2 $11.5 M
Team Option

I’m not super happy with this ranking, but I couldn’t figure out where else to put Lowe, though he bounced up and down this list from 25 to 40 in various iterations. Everyone was losing their minds about Bryan Reynolds not being on the ranked part of last year’s list, but I lost more sleep (still not very much sleep, but some) over leaving out Lowe.

That’s because Lowe is really good! Since his first full season in 2019, his 135 wRC+ is in line with that of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Matt Olson, Shohei Ohtani … I could go on, but you get the idea. We’re talking about serious offensive firepower — maybe not the very best tier of hitters, but certainly in that stratosphere. Despite standing a modest 5-foot-10, Lowe does it with power; his 75 home runs almost sound like a typo, but you can count them up. Does he play good defense? No, but he plays acceptable defense, and at several positions to boot. Lowe is doing all of that on a phenomenally team-friendly deal; he’ll make a combined $14 million over the next two years, and there are two reasonably priced team options after that. Every team could afford his contract, and all he does is produce at an All-Star level clip.

But there are red flags. He missed two months with injury this year, and his game just doesn’t feel like it should work as well as it does. As one team source noted, he has a lot of old-man skills, and that feels tenuous from a projection standpoint. All those past statistics don’t matter for what we expect players to do in the future, and Lowe’s production, for lack of a better way to say it, feels soft.

I’m not sure teams would put Lowe this high on their lists, or at least not most teams. Perhaps this is an overreaction to missing on him last year. But there’s inherent subjectivity in this list, and I’m using mine here. Is Lowe actually one of the top 30 trade chips, or would he be more like the 35th-most valuable player if everyone in baseball were suddenly available? That’s mostly immaterial.

Five-Year WAR +12.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank #25
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 29 +2.9 Arb 2
2024 30 +2.5 Arb 3
2025 31 +2.5 Arb 4
Arb

Welcome to another episode of “Ben praises Framber Valdez.” Still strangely unheralded in the broader baseball community, Valdez is working on his third straight excellent season, and at this point his sinker/curve arsenal is a proven commodity. Does he walk too many batters? Indubitably! Are the strikeout rates lacking? Again, yes. But that’s all totally fine, because it’s hard to score runs when you can’t get the ball in the air, and his 4.60 GB/FB ratio is the best in baseball by a ludicrous margin. Only one other starter even eclipses 3.00; Valdez’s sinker is on another planet relative to the rest of the league.

Do his grounder-heavy ways limit which teams would be interested in his services? Absolutely. The Astros have a solid defensive infield, which makes his production play up. Put him in front of a leakier group, and you might get a heaping helping of errors and seeing-eye singles. But there are enough teams with good gloves – the Astros are eighth in infield defense this year per Statcast, so there are at least seven teams that make good sense – that there would be a bidding frenzy if he hit the open market. Can you imagine him in front of the Cardinals’ defense? San Diego’s? Valdez would be a fine addition to any team, but there are several where he’d be downright indispensable.

Five-Year WAR +16.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2026
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 24 +2.9 Pre-Arb
2024 25 +3.2 Arb 1
2025 26 +3.3 Arb 2
2026 27 +3.5 Arb 3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Now we’re getting to the really good stuff. From here on out (and arguably starting with Valdez, actually), trading for these players is inconceivable in the absence of extreme mitigating circumstances. Kirk is going to be on the Jays for a long time, and he’s one of the best hitters in baseball. Does that sound like someone you might be interested in?

To say that all Kirk has ever done is hit might undersell it. He so clearly outmatched his opponents in low-level minor league play during the 2019 season that the Jays called him up at the tail end of the ’20 season, and as it turns out, he’s plenty good enough in the big leagues, too. Last year was a nice proof of concept – he takes a ton of walks and barely strikes out, which gave him room to underperform his raw batted ball metrics by a country mile and still post an above-average offensive line.

This year, he’s up to the same tricks, only turned up a notch – he has more walks than strikeouts, and he’s hitting the ball with authority to all fields. I don’t think he has a 40-homer season in him – he’s more Tony Gwynn than Barry Bonds – but it doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to predict that he’ll be a great hitter going forward. He’s also putting up good catching numbers this year. Multiple evaluators I talked to think that if Kirk maintains his current talent level, he’s more top 15 than top 30.

He’s lower than that on this list, though, because the risk is real. He’s built like a bowling ball, and small-sample framing numbers aside, he definitely appears stretched defensively. It’s no accident that Toronto’s favored defensive alignment has Kirk at DH. If Kirk doesn’t stick behind the plate, DH is his only real landing spot; he’s too short for first base and too slow even for an outfield corner. That’s a tremendous drop-off, and it’s a big risk as he ages. It’s pretty clear that he can hit, but plenty of his value is wrapped up in being a catcher and that’s not an inevitable long-term outcome. If he could play an average corner outfield or first base, I’d move him up the list a few spots.

Five-Year WAR +28.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #17
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 28 +6.2 Arb 3
Arb

Ohtani’s initial landing spot on my list was on a separate list of one titled “Where do you place this guy?” He’s so unlike everyone else in baseball that I simply left him out in the first few iterations to save myself the headache of trying to compare Ohtani to pretty much anyone else. He hits! He pitches! He’s the biggest superstar in the game, a player the likes of whom we haven’t seen in 100 years, if ever.

What does that mean for his value in trade now that he’ll be a free agent after only one more year of arbitration? No idea! If everyone were signed for forever, or if no season after 2023 mattered, Ohtani would be in the top five. Maybe he’d still fetch more in trade than I have him pegged for here. If he does get traded, the team bidding the most for him probably has a high value on him internally, while another team might reasonably decide they couldn’t construct their team around Ohtani’s unique talents.

Every year, we caution readers of this list that it’s mostly not to answer the question “would you trade the player ranked 26th for the one ranked 27th?” That might never be more true than it is this year. Would you trade Ohtani for Kirk? It’s hard to imagine two more different players, and I doubt either team would be interested in making that trade.

If you’re looking at these rankings from a surplus value perspective, Ohtani sticks out like a sore thumb. If you’re looking at them in terms of projected team-controlled WAR, he doesn’t fit. But well, he’s Shohei Ohtani. If you’re just looking for the best player in baseball and you’ll figure the rest out later, Ohtani’s your guy (he’s actually second in my book, but we’ll get to the other guy later).

Five-Year WAR +17.1
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 26 +3.6 Arb 1
2024 27 +3.7 Arb 2
2025 28 +3.5 Arb 3
Arb

Webb and Valdez were stacked together for a lot of this exercise, and putting Kirk and Ohtani between them is more out of a desire to break up similar blurbs than anything else. You like groundballs? Webb’s got them in spades, and while he doesn’t get quite as many as Valdez, he makes up for it with fewer walks. Watch him pitch and you immediately get it; he repeats his drop-and-drive delivery precisely, flashes two solid secondaries to complement his sinker, and pitches efficiently, getting deep into outings with regularity.

I don’t think Webb is an elite starter, exactly. His production isn’t on the same level as Bieber’s, to use someone else I’m writing up today. But you get an extra year of Webb, and my goodness is that valuable. He’s done enough to make it clear that he’s an above average starter, a borderline All-Star in any given year. He’s durable, too; I’m not a pitching mechanics expert, but someone whose opinion I trust on this matter mentioned that to me as a positive factor.

The relative scarcity of pitchers on this list is strange, because every team needs more pitching. But that’s because there aren’t a lot of pitchers like Webb – reliable contributors who will be around for a while. If there were more Webbs in the world, there would be more pitchers in the top 50, but offense would be a lot lower. It’s a good thing that good pitching like this is hard to come by, if you want to watch the occasional run.

Five-Year WAR +17.7
Guaranteed Dollars $315 M
Team Control Through 2032
Previous Rank #7
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 30 +4.5 $25.4 M
2024 31 +4.2 $30.4 M
2025 32 +3.7 $30.4 M
2026 33 +3.1 $30.4 M
2027 34 +2.2 $30.4 M

I didn’t meet in person with any of the people I asked for feedback on this list. Modern living, pandemic times, the preponderance of electronic communication, all of that. But if I had, I think one of them would have done a spit take when they saw Mookie’s spot on the list. He’s signed to a big contract for a long time, and he’s almost 30. If you’re valuing players by tallying up their WAR, tallying up their costs, and comparing the two, Betts would be at the very back end of the list, and that’s after accounting for the fact that some of his salary is in the form of a signing bonus that the Dodgers will owe even if they trade him, which would save an acquiring team roughly $50 million over the life of his deal.

Thankfully, that’s not how baseball works; it’d be a dry and boring world if it did. How good players are matters – quite a bit, in fact – and Betts is in the midst of yet another great season. He’s so smooth and measured at the plate that it’s easy to underestimate his power, particularly taking his size into account. But he has such phenomenal bat control that he maxes out his power quite a lot, which explains the strange confluence of enviable batted-ball metrics without huge maximum exit velocity. It doesn’t hurt that he might have the best sense of the strike zone of anyone in baseball; he swings at an average rate of good pitches and chases at half the prevailing rate, per Statcast.

The biggest risk around Betts is his uncertain long-term outlook, obviously – he’s under contract through 2032 and has battled injuries of late. Trade for him, and you’re accepting some tough years in the indeterminate future, either due to poor performance or lack of availability. That would keep some teams out of a hypothetical Betts sweepstakes; you can imagine an owner flatly saying no to taking on the salary commitment. Of course, a Betts sweepstakes is hypothetical for a reason: the Dodgers aren’t interested in dealing him because he’s Mookie Betts! He’s a key part of their championship aspirations.

In a few years, Betts won’t be on this list. That’s how it goes with long-term deals like this. But when you compare him to Mike Trout, I think the reasons for Betts’ spot here make perfect sense. He’s cheaper, younger, and healthier. If you want to add a current superstar and keep him under contract for a long time, some of the names in the top 10 are your best bet. But if you’re setting your sights lower – still impossibly high, but lower – Betts is the guy you’re looking for.

Five-Year WAR +23.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #14
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 28 +5.2 Arb 2
2024 29 +5.1 Arb 3
Arb

For my money, Burnes is the best healthy pitcher in baseball right now. He’s working on his third straight season with an ERA below 2.50 and averaging more than six innings per start, addressing concerns about how deep he works into games. His pitching style is shock-and-awe, all unhittable cutters and hammer curves. But it’s also precise; his early-career wildness is completely gone, seemingly cured when he changed his pitch mix before the 2020 season.

To the extent that there are nits to pick, they’re basically about how much better he is than the other excellent starters who will reach free agency after the 2024 season. In my estimation, he’s a lot better. This isn’t a Rick Porcello situation, a one-off Cy Young effort by a fine but not excellent pitcher. Burnes leads baseball in pitching WAR since the start of the 2020 season, and that’s true whether you care about FIP-based or RA9-based WAR. He’s not doing it in a fluky way, either; each of his three best pitches are bat-missers that he commands well.

Sure, pitchers break. But teams still sign them and trade for them because elite pitchers are both hard to find and phenomenally valuable. Look no further than Max Scherzer’s current contract to understand what Burnes would get if he were a free agent tomorrow.

Five-Year WAR +16.5
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 26 +3.6 Arb 2
2024 27 +3.5 Arb 3
2025 28 +3.4 Arb 4
Arb

No, Braves fans, Riley shouldn’t have won an MVP award last year. Yes, Braves fans, he’s one of the best players in baseball. His early-career scuffles are squarely in the rear-view mirror now, with light-tower power and a solid hit tool combining to make him one of the scariest at-bats in the game.

He’s not one of those mythical hitters with no holes in his swing and he’s prone to a bit of swing-and-miss, so you might think that pitchers could solve him. That’s not how it works in practice. In real life, if you leave a breaking ball over the plate, he’ll hit it to Jupiter. The numbers are so ridiculous that it sounds like I’m making them up: he’s slugging .879 when he puts an in-zone slider into play this year. He covers fastballs on the inner half of the plate, too. Indeed, your best bet against Riley is to beat him with fastballs away and breaking balls out of the zone, but unless you’re Jacob deGrom, that’s easier said than done.

I guess you could say there’s a scouts vs. stats divide on Riley’s value – of the people I talked to, the stats types were higher on him than the scout types – but we’re talking about the difference between an A- and an A here. I think it’s fair to worry that his expansive approach carries some risk of a strikeout-induced decline, and he doesn’t grade out particularly well defensively. But those are small issues, and Riley is one of the players that I’m more likely too low than too high on.

Five-Year WAR +18.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank #20
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2023 25 +3.9 Arb 1
2024 26 +4.0 Arb 2
2025 27 +3.8 Arb 3
Arb

Let’s talk about Riley some more. He and Bichette are similar players, power-first infielders with a pile of team control remaining. There’s one big difference: Bichette has been merely okay this year, while Riley is having his best season. Did I mix them up or something?

I didn’t, though I wouldn’t laugh you out of the building for switching them. I think Bichette is going to settle in as a 20%-above-average hitter, worse than I have Riley going forward. But he’s going to do it while playing shortstop and that matters quite a lot. ZiPS concurs, as you can see from the above forecasts, though I’m higher on Riley than the model.

For his part, Bichette is making some adjustments that I think will serve him well. He’s swinging less often, and in particular, chasing less often. So far, that’s cost him against fastballs, but I don’t think that’s a long-term issue because he’s shown tremendous power against fastballs in the past. Forget this year’s numbers — I don’t think pitching coaches are instructing their charges to come after Bichette with in-zone heat.

Right now, Bichette’s arrow is pointing down and Riley’s is pointing up. If they continue on their current trajectories, or replicate this year’s expected statistics ad nauseam, Riley is better. Consider this a statement in favor of regression towards the mean. Or, you know, just a wildly misinformed attempt to place trade value on every player in baseball. Your choice.

2022 Trade Value, 21-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027
21 20 Bo Bichette 24 +3.9
Arb 1
+4.0
Arb 2
+3.8
Arb 3
22 Austin Riley 25 +3.6
Arb 2
+3.5
Arb 3
+3.4
Arb 4
23 14 Corbin Burnes 27 +5.2
Arb 2
+5.1
Arb 3
24 7 Mookie Betts 29 +4.5
$25.4 M
+4.2
$30.4 M
+3.7
$30.4 M
+3.1
$30.4 M
+2.2
$30.4 M
25 Logan Webb 25 +3.6
Arb 1
+3.7
Arb 2
+3.5
Arb 3
26 17 Shohei Ohtani 27 +6.2
Arb 3
27 Alejandro Kirk 23 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.2
Arb 1
+3.3
Arb 2
+3.5
Arb 3
28 25 Framber Valdez 28 +2.9
Arb 2
+2.5
Arb 3
+2.5
Arb 4
29 HM Brandon Lowe 27 +2.9
$5.3 M
+2.7
$8.8 M
+2.6
$10.5 M
+2.2
$11.5 M
30 12 Shane Bieber 27 +4.3
Arb 2
+4.2
Arb 3
31 21 Jake Cronenworth 28 +4.0
Arb 1
+3.8
Arb 2
+3.5
Arb 3
32 43 Freddy Peralta 26 +2.8
$3.7 M
+2.7
$5.7 M
+2.5
$8 M
+2.3
$8 M
33 HM Cedric Mullins 27 +3.2
Arb 1
+2.9
Arb 2
+2.9
Arb 3
34 HM Bryan Reynolds 27 +3.8
$6.8 M
+3.7
Arb 3
+3.6
Arb 4
35 19 Brandon Woodruff 29 +4.1
Arb 3
+3.8
Arb 4
36 HM Max Fried 28 +4.6
Arb 3
+4.4
Arb 4
37 38 Sean Murphy 27 +3.0
Arb 1
+2.8
Arb 2
+2.7
Arb 3
38 Oneil Cruz 23 +2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.6
Pre-Arb
+2.7
Pre-Arb
+2.6
Arb 1
+2.4
Arb 2
39 Dylan Cease 26 +3.3
Arb 1
+3.3
Arb 2
+3.2
Arb 3
40 HM Jazz Chisholm Jr. 24 +2.2
Pre-Arb
+2.4
Arb 1
+2.5
Arb 2
+2.2
Arb 3
41 22 Ketel Marte 28 +3.2
$11.6 M
+3.1
$13.6 M
+2.8
$16.6 M
+2.4
$16.6 M
+1.9
$14.6 M
42 Luis Arraez 25 +3.3
Arb 2
+3.2
Arb 3
+3.1
Arb 4
43 HM Pete Alonso 27 +4.2
Arb 2
+4.2
Arb 3
44 48 Luis Garcia 25 +2.3
Pre-Arb
+2.2
Arb 1
+2.2
Arb 2
+2.0
Arb 3
45 18 Zac Gallen 26 +2.8
Arb 1
+2.7
Arb 2
+2.6
Arb 3
46 Ty France 27 +3.7
Arb 1
+3.3
Arb 2
+3.3
Arb 3
47 13 Mike Trout 30 +4.9
$37.1 M
+4.5
$37.1 M
+3.9
$37.1 M
+2.9
$37.1 M
+2.2
$37.1 M
48 Riley Greene 21 +2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Arb 1
+3.0
Arb 2
49 42 Dylan Carlson 23 +2.6
Pre-Arb
+2.5
Arb 1
+2.4
Arb 2
+2.3
Arb 3
50 32 Randy Arozarena 27 +2.3
Pre-Arb
+2.1
Arb 1
+2.0
Arb 2
+1.7
Arb 3
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

121 Comments
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EonADS
19 days ago

Hot cup of tea, fresh off the presses Trade Value series, and a nice breakfast before work. This is a good day.

airforce21one
19 days ago
Reply to  EonADS

Do you normally eat breakfast after work?

EonADS
19 days ago
Reply to  airforce21one

No, but it’s usually me going “oh crap I might be late” and choking down something portable in the car.

I don’t often get to make myself an omelet and enjoy it.

Last edited 19 days ago by EonADS