Ranking the Trade Value of Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor

Earlier this week, I asked our readers to rank the star players rumored to be on the trade block. I asked just two questions. The first asked readers to rank the players by how good they are right now. The second asked readers to rank the players by their trade value.

The first question proved to be an easy one, as 42% of the more than 2,500 responses had the exact same ranking.

To provide a little more context, here is how often each player ended up at a particular ranking:

Crowdsource Results Ranking 2020 Value of Stars on the Block
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Nolan Arenado 5.4% 23.4% 56.9% 14.3%
Mookie Betts 71.1% 17.3% 5.1% 6.4%
Kris Bryant 0.8% 7.3% 16.6% 75.3%
Francisco Lindor 22.6% 52.0% 21.4% 4.0%

There’s a very clear majority at each position, with the ranking going Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant. It likely isn’t a coincidence, but that is also how the players are ranked when it comes their 2020 projections on our Depth Charts. Given the players’ contracts and years of team control, asking for a trade value ranking is a much different question. Betts might be the best player, but he’ll be a free agent after this year and makes $27 million. Lindor and Bryant have similar salaries (around $18 million) and will both be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, assuming Bryant’s grievance goes against him. Arenado can also be a free agent after the 2021 season, but he makes twice as much money as Lindor and Bryant, and has a player option at the end of the 2021 season for five years and $164 million.

The results of the poll provide a clear first place finisher, but the results in the middle are somewhat muddled:

Lindor occupies the first spot in the top five results. That the sixth response that has Lindor first only ranks 10th among the choices probably has more to do with the names that follow him than his standing with the readers. The percentages by vote looks like this:

Crowdsource Results Ranking Trade Value of Stars on the Block
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Nolan Arenado 17.2% 14.7% 27.0% 41.2%
Mookie Betts 13.6% 31.5% 34.7% 20.2%
Kris Bryant 2.5% 32.5% 28.2% 36.8%
Francisco Lindor 66.7% 21.4% 10.1% 1.8%

It’s clear the readers favored Lindor, and it certainly looks like Betts is the second choice given that 45.1% of readers put him either first or second, which is 10 percentage points higher than Arenado or Bryant. After that, there’s a decision to be made about how to weight first place votes against last place votes. More than 40% of respondents put Arenado in fourth place, but the Rockies’ third baseman also received the second-most first-place votes. Here’s how each player looks when considering head-to-head matchups:

Crowdsource Results Ranking Trade Value Head-To-Head
v. Arenado v. Betts v. Bryant v. Lindor
Arenado N/A 40.3% 46.8% 20.0%
Betts 59.7% N/A 57.7% 22.0%
Bryant 53.2% 42.3% N/A 5.3%
Lindor 80.0% 78.0% 94.7% N/A

When we compare head-to-head results, Arenado is clearly last, but there are a lot of people who feel strongly about his trade value in a way almost nobody seems to have felt about Bryant’s. If we did a 4-3-2-1 point system, Arenado comes out ahead of Bryant. Nearly everyone felt that Arenado is better than Bryant, but most of those same people believed that their respective contract situations made Bryant a better trade value than Arenado. That makes sense given that Bryant will earn about $45 million over the next two seasons before free agency while Arenado will earn $70 million. If Arenado is good, then he’ll be a free agent, too. If his performance falls off, he’ll decline to opt-out and take the $164 million he’s owed for his age-31 through age-35 seasons.

If we were to compare the responses to Kiley McDaniel’s Trade Value Series in July, we also see some disconnect. Like the readers, Lindor was clearly the best, coming in at number 13 on McDaniel’s list. That’s where the paths diverge, however. Bryant was ranked 25th although with around 20% of his team control gone since that time, he would almost certainly be ranked much lower relative to his peers if the list was done today. Both Betts and Arenado made the Honorable Mention section, but were behind Bryant. The biggest disparity seems to come in the rise of Betts and the fall of Bryant. The Cubs’ star didn’t close the year completely healthy, which likely played a role. For Betts, there’s the appeal of simply getting the best player, even if he leaves at the end of the season.

For the most part, I think the results are fairly predictable and likely representative of the sport as a whole (as well as the order I would have chosen when looking at the head-to-head results), but the Arenado first place votes really stick out relative to the rest of the results. That’s probably worth another post by itself.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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4 years ago

Does the Red Sox scandal, and potential loss of draft picks, affect Betts’ value? And if so, how much?

4 years ago
Reply to  thestatbook

I don’t think it changes Betts’ value at all.

P.S.: I don’t know why everyone downvoted this. It seems like you’re just asking a question.

4 years ago
Reply to  thejerk

this scandal, and its connection to Cora specifically, unfortunately throws a little doubt on Betts. Cora came into Boston in 2018, of course, and:

Betts 2013-17 wRC+: 122
Betts 2018 wRC+: 185
Betts 2019 wRC+: 135

It could just be coincidence, but that outlier career year at the plate with Cora coming in is now subject to some questioning.

4 years ago
Reply to  MRDXol

From what has become public about the Red Sox sign stealing so far, someone had to be on base to relay the sign to the batter.

So if it was a factor, we should also see a difference with men in scoring position.
Here are Bett’s situational splits.
Year wRC+ Bases Empty/Men on Base/Men In Scoring
2014 146/100/105
2015 111/135/131
2016 127/148/168
2017 82/146/155
2018 191/172/200
2019 141/124/126

There’s not much of a pattern in that, but it is not a coincidence that he had an outlier career year at the plate in 2018.
Betts BABIP 2017: .268
Betts BABIP 2018: .368
Betts BABIP 2019: .309