Next Monday, we’re kicking off one of the most popular things we do around here: the Trade Value series. It’s been an annual tradition for going on 10 years now, and I find it a nice distraction from the fact that the All-Star break fails to give us any interesting baseball to talk about. Plus, it gives you guys all kinds of ammunition to prove that I am, in fact, an idiot.
To that end, I’d like to look back at last year’s list, and make some comments about what we might have learned over the last calendar year. List first, then comments.
Now for the lessons.
It feels like every year I tell myself “no pitchers in the top 10” and every year I talk myself into why this guy or that guy should be the exception. Yeah, the risks are high, but this guy is so good that he’s worth it, right? No, they’re not. They’re going to blow out their arms at some point, and the recent surge in Tommy John surgeries is only going to make teams even more gun shy about building around pitching. Pitchers are great until they aren’t. Hitters have risks too, but they don’t regularly need a couple of years to go heal themselves. No pitchers in the top 10 this year. I swear.
Because the All-Star break was a week later last year, our last calendar year split isn’t exactly “since the list was published”, but it’s very close. And so, with that said, I present Buster Posey’s line very close to since the list was published: .272/.339/.383, .316 wOBA, 105 wRC+, +2.6 WAR. That puts him right between Zack Cozart and Jimmy Rollins in overall value. His track record suggests that he’s better than this, but for the last year, Buster Posey hasn’t been very good, and he certainly won’t be this high again.
There were two guys who really gave me problems last year: Chris Davis and Yasiel Puig. Both were remarkable in small samples, and both provided the kind of skills that teams pay through the nose for. I ended up going with Davis over Puig, but ranked both pretty aggressively. Puig now looks low, while Davis looks high. I still don’t know what I should have done with them. And this year, I get to try and figure it out again with Jose Abreu.
The other challenging guys are star players with big contracts. Of course teams would pay through the nose to get Felix Hernandez, but then you see Justin Verlander and pause a little bit. Yeah, there are rich teams that would take the money, but would they take the money and give up premium talent like the other guys on this list in return? Maybe? I don’t know? I don’t know.
It’s kind of fitting that Dustin Pedroia, Jurickson Profar, Jason Kipnis, and Xander Bogaerts are all right next to each other. It’s like a club for middle infielders who were supposed to hit but haven’t. And Jean Segura thinks they’re all on fire.
Shelby Miller, almost since the list was published: 183 IP, 4.74 FIP, 4.68 xFIP. He’s in a three way tie — with Edinson Volquez and Eric Stults — for last in pitcher WAR among 79 qualified starters. This isn’t a slump. Shelby Miller is broken.
Will anyone challenge Mike Trout for the top spot this year? Who is going to be the highest ranked player that didn’t appear last year? What else should I have seen a year ago that proves, definitively, that I am an idiot? Let me know in the comments, and we’ll see you on Monday for this year’s edition of the list.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.