Continuing on in the week long series on the 50 most valuable assets in major league baseball. If you missed the introduction, it can be found here.
Ranking, Player, Position, Franchise, 2006-2008 WPA/LI
40. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York, 10.06 WPA/LI
39. John Lackey, RHP, Anaheim, 7.48 WPA/LI
38. Dan Uggla, 2B, Florida, 4.01 WPA/LI
37. Edinson Volquez, RHP, Cincinnati, 1.18 WPA/LI
36. Curtis Granderson, CF, Detroit, 4.14 WPA/LI
There wasn’t a harder player on this list to place than A-Rod. On talent, he’s still top ten, even at age 32. He’s one of the greatest players of all time, and he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer if he never played another day in his life. However, that contract he just signed with New York last winter – no other team in baseball even came calling when they had a shot to acquire him without giving up any talent, and at the price he’ll now command through 2017, there are a lot of teams that wouldn’t claim him even if he were placed on waivers. However, for those few teams that would be willing to take on that deal, he’s remarkably valuable, and we can’t overlook that he’s still among the league’s absolute best.
I talked about Lackey last week, and really, if he wasn’t a free agent after 2009, he’d rank quite a bit higher. He’s very good, very durable, and a bargain for the next year and a half. He’s going to get a huge paycheck whenever he signs his next extension, though, so his window as a significant financial asset is closing rapidly. Teams looking for an ace to make a run the next two years would pay a lot for Lackey, but his value is on the way down, and he almost certainly won’t be on this list next year.
Uggla probably swings the bat harder than anyone else alive, and he’s taken that grip-it-and-rip-it approach and turned it into the home run lead in the National League. The former Rule 5 pick has established that his power is for real, and since he makes just a bit more than nada, the Marlins are able to build a potent offense around players like him while keeping a shoestring payroll. However, for those who will argue that his ’08 performance means that he should be higher up on this list, Uggla comes with some deficiencies, especially on the defensive end. He’s bad enough with the glove that his real position is probably third base, and the bat is a little less special over there than it is at an up the middle spot. He’s also 28 – not the spring chicken that you might expect for a guy in his third league.
Barring a second half collapse, Volquez is going to run away with the breakthrough performance of 2008. No, he’s not this good, but his stuff has always been there and the performance is built on sustainable skills. He isn’t second in the league in strikeouts by accident – his combination of velocity and movement is good for generating swings and misses, and he’s getting a ton of ground balls even when hitters do make contact. The command is a real problem, and he’s going to have to throw more strikes, but if the Reds put him on the trade market right now, Walt Jocketty’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
Granderson busted through a year ago, posting a ridiculously awesome season to raise his status from good player to top notch center fielder. He’s not quite as good as he was last year, but as a good center fielder with legitimate power and speed, he’s a legitimate two way weapon for the Tigers. They were smart enough to lock him up long term for a piddly $30 million through his prime years, and will be reaping the rewards of his goodness through 2012 at least.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.