by Joe Giglio
Grantland’s Bill Simmons has been unveiling an NBA Trade Value column for 12 years. His system ranks the top 50 players in the sport based on their trade value among all teams. It’s time someone attempts to put the practice into baseball rosters.
While the concept is almost identical, there are two major exceptions: First, NBA salaries are locked in for the duration of a contract. MLB salaries with pre-free agency players are not. Arbitration numbers fluctuate drastically based on the performance of a young player and service time. Second, there is no salary cap in baseball. A $2 million player in the NBA giving equal production to a $12 million player is much more valuable than in a non-salary cap sport. That being said, cost control is the goal of any team no matter their financial state.
Before the list begins, bear in mind the ground rules:
*Age matters: Would you rather have C.C. Sabathia in his mid-30’s or Clayton Kershaw in his mid-20’s?
*Salary matters, weighted by team: Tim Lincecum might be more “valuable” than Evan Longoria, but he’ll be seeking a gigantic contract in the coming years. Longoria is locked up. That matters a ton. *The list runs in reverse order. The most valuable trade commodity in the sport comes in at No. 1. *Have fun with it. The rankings don’t necessarily mean a player is the “48th best in baseball” or better than players not listed, it’s just a snapshot into contracts and value around the game.
*All player ages and contract status will be provided
Mike Napoli (30, 1yr/9.4mil): Has turned into a lethal power bat.
Matt Garza (28, Arb eligible in ’13, FA in ’14): Theo Epstein’s biggest trade chip.
Neftali Feliz (23, Arb eligible in ’13, FA in ’16): Has good value as a reliever, great if he can start.
Yu Darvish (25, 6yr/60mil): Look for him to climb on this list next season.
Jesus Montero (22, Pre-Arb Eligible): Destined for a good spot on here if he can catch.
Michael Pineda (23, Arb eligible in ’14, FA in ’17): Don’t let the New York media fool you, every team would take him in a heartbeat.
Mike Trout (20, Pre-Arb eligible): Mike Scioscia might not be ready to play him, but he’ll see the writing on the wall soon.
Joe Mauer (28, 7yr/161mil): I can’t believe he’s not in the Top 50.
David Wright (29, 2yr/31mil if ’13 option is picked up): Can the fences at Citi Field restore him to his glory days?
Group M: “Damn, If We Were Only Allowed To Talk…”
51B. Chipper Jones (40, 1yr/13mil)
51A. Derek Jeter (37, 3yr/36mil)
It’s just the way baseball works, folks. There aren’t many of these guys in the history of the game. Despite it making a ton of baseball and financial sense, there just isn’t anyway Atlanta or New York would trade either of these guys.
Group L: “We Like Him, But Make Us An Offer”
50. Carlos Gonzalez (26, 6yr/76mil)
One of the rare five-tool players running around the sport. His ’10 stats might have set the bar too high for his future, but he would bring back a haul.
49. Josh Hamilton (30, 1yr/13.75mil)
Let’s put it this way: Hamilton’s story is much more impressive than his next contract will be. There’s still a bit of skepticism around his ability to keep clean, healthy, and productive over a long period.
48. Curtis Granderson (31, 2yr/23mil if ’13 option picked up)
Can he repeat his ’11? The magical 41-homer year might have been the tipping point of greatness for a player bursting with talent since coming up with Detroit. New York is going to have an interesting decision to make on him after ’13.
47. Dan Haren (31, 2yr/28.2mil if ’13 option picked up)
The Angels have four top-of-the-rotation arms to lead them into October. I might take Haren over all of them.
46. Zack Greinke (28, 1yr/13.5 mil)
Similar to Hamilton in a strange, almost unfair way. You could probably make the argument that he belongs much higher on a list like this.
Group K: “He’s More Important To Us Than You Realize”
45. Matt Wieters (25, Arb eligible in ’13, FA in ’16)
Everyone said he would hit like Teixeira, but was skeptical of his long term prospects at the position because of his gigantic stature. Well, he’s fooled us all. While the offense has been solid, he’s become the best defensive catcher without the last name Molina. If the bat comes along, Boras is going to get him paid.
44. Josh Johnson (28, 2yr/27.5mil)
In two years we’re going to be looking at a $100 mil arm or a reclamation project. Your guess on which is as good as mine.
43. James Shields (30, 3yr/28mil if ’13 and ’14 option picked up)
Complete Game James doesn’t just eat innings. He devours them. Remember when he was available in trade talks about three or four years ago? We rarely hear about that anymore.
Group J: “Money Talks”
42. Prince Fielder (27, 9yr/214mil)
If he truly is what Scott Boras sold him as – Warren Sapp on a baseball diamond – Detroit will get bang for their buck. If he’s the next Mo Vaughn, they won’t.
41. Cliff Lee (33, 4yr/96.5mil)
Thirty-three is old for a list like this, but keeping Lee off simply wouldn’t be fair. All the struggles early in his career limited his big league innings. Philly is hoping he’ll stay fresh through ’16.
Group I: “Shh…We Think Our Guy Is As Valuable As Anyone In Baseball”
40. Ian Kinsler (29, 2yr/17mil if ’13 option is picked up)
The two-time 30-30 Club member gets on base and hits for power at a position not known for either. He’s got Gold Glove ability, too.
39. Ryan Zimmerman (27, 8yr/104mil)
Washington committed big time to the guy who has been there with the franchise since the move to Washington. Can he stay healthy and produce as the tide turns?
38. Ricky Romero (27, 4yr/27.5mil)
Toronto has quietly developed the most precious commodity in baseball: A left-handed ace.
37. Carlos Santana (25, Arb eligible in ’14, FA in ’17)
Casey Blake for Carlos Santana is going to go down as one of the most lopsided trades in a long, long time.
|Heyward's value is still sky high despite a rough '11|
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.
36. Madison Bumgarner (22, Arb eligible in ’14, FA in ’17)
It’s not hard to envision a near future with Bumgarner leading the Giants rotation. Quietly flew under the radar last season despite a 3.21 ERA and nearly 200 strikeouts.
35. Jason Heyward (22, Arb eligible in ’13, FA in ’16)
Don’t let last year fool you, this guy is still a rare commodity in baseball. The list of players with an on-base percentage as good as his .393 as a 20-year old? Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Al Kaline, Jimmie Foxx, and Mel Ott AGAIN. Some guys just below the .393 mark: Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Frank Robinson.
34. Jacoby Ellsbury (28, 1yr/8mil)
Where did that 2011 season come from? He’s a Top 15 player in all of baseball – including this trade index – if he repeats it. He’ll also be a rich, rich man.
Group H: “You’re Going To Have To Blow Us Away”
33. Jose Reyes (28, 6yr/106mil)
Fans like to rag on the demeanor, look, and injury history. Let’s not forget what a dynamic talent this guy is. Miami got a star shortstop at a reasonable price.
32. Yovani Gallardo (26, 4yr/37.5mil if ’15 option picked up) A 3.69 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning since becoming a full-time starter. He’s not even in his prime yet.
31. Jon Lester (28, 3/32.2mil if ’14 option picked up)
Boston gets too much credit for some of the player development that they’ve done since ’04. Here’s one guy they don’t get enough credit for.
30. Matt Cain (27, 1yr/15mil)
He’ll be the richest right-handed pitcher in the history of baseball by this time next year.
29. Jered Weaver (29, 5yr/85mil)
He has to wonder how much money he left on the table with that team friendly extension last year.
28. C.C. Sabathia (31, 5yr/117mil)
Five straight seasons of over 230 innings with sub-3.37 earned run averages. His weight will always be a concern, but there’s little reason to believe his rubber arm won’t put him in the 300-win discussion down the line.
Group G: “Too Young, Too Talented”
27. Starlin Castro (22, Arb eligible in ’13, FA in ’17)
The Cubs shortstop became the youngest player to ever lead the National League in hits. The scary part? He’s still learning how to play the game at the big league level.
26. Matt Moore (22, 8yr/37mil if ’17-’19 options picked up)
Rays GM Andrew Friedman might be charged with robbery down the line for getting Moore to agree to that contract. Considering he has thrown more playoff than postseason innings, there is major risk for Tampa, but it looks worth it. Moore is more polished than David Price was at the same age.
Coming next week: Part 2
Joe Giglio is a sports talk host at WNST in Baltimore, co-host of the Just a Bit Outside podcast on iTUNES, former intramural coordinator at DeSales University, husband, and baseball fanatic willing to argue Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame candidacy at a moment's notice. Follow him on Twitter @Giglio_Joe and check out his blog at joegiglio.blogspot.com.