As he did last season, Dave Cameron is doing a MLB Trade Value Series over at Fangraphs. And, just like last season, I am going to do a Cardinals version. As I look back at my top 10 from last year, I find that there has been some attrition, both due to trades(Goodbye Walrus) and poor performance(Hellow Daryl Jones). Quick Recap of what I'm trying to do here, using Cameron's explanation from last year's intro:
Essentially, the idea is to take all the information that goes into encapsulating a player’s value to an organization - his present skills, his future potential, how long he’s under club control, the expected cost of paying him over that time, and the risks involved with projecting his future performances - and figure out which players currently have the most trade value in baseball.
As with last year, this is not a prospect list, and no injured players, since they will be hurt come the trade deadline(Daniel Descalso) are included. The higher a player is on the list(1 being highest), the more value he would bring bag in a hypothtical trade. Untouchable players are denoted with an asterisk. Oh, and not trade clauses are stupid, so i discount them entirely(I was gonna put Holliday somewhere on this list, but his contract really makes him untradeable).
My top 3 from last season has not changed.
1. Albert Pujols--Even in a "down-year" he's still a top 5 offensive player. Add to that his defensive abilities, and, well, you have a player that will go down in baseball history as one of the best ever. Only 30 years old, Pujols could conceivably continue to play at a superstar for the next 5-6 years. As I said last year, "if we traded him this year, we would expect the other team's entire farm system in return, plus the hottest women(or men for those ladies reading) in the team's respective city." While this has not really changed, I did not mark him as untouchable simply because if the Cardinals know for a fact that won't be able to re-sign him, they should making him available, just to see what they can get back in return.
2. Colby Rasmus*--He was number 2 on my list last year, that was before he figured out the major leagues. He has come into this year showing much better plate discipline, the ability to hit lefties, and above average power. In fact, offensively, he is the best centerfielder in MLB. Even though his UZR stats paint him as having a bad year defensively in centerfield, most would agree he is a + defender(though his arm has been very disappointing this season). Rasmus will be only 24 at the end of this season and is under team control for 4 more seasons. All of this adds up to one incredible value. He is probably the first player other teams ask for when the Cardinals inquire about a big-time player, and hopefully he is the first person Mo and Company say no about.
3. Adam Wainwright*--Aces are hard to come by, and for the past 2 and a half season, Waino has been a definite ace. He has gotten better every season, and were it not for the media's love for Tim Lincecum, he probably would already have a Cy Young under his belt. His contract is yummy from the organization's stand point: $4.65M this year, $6.5M next season, and two club options in '12 and '13 at $9M and $12M, respectively. That is well below market value for a true ace. He is 28, so he is only just now entering his prime. He would bring back a healthy haul in terms of value. Still, the Cardinals should not consider trading him, unless they suck in 2012 or 2013,
4. Shelby Miller--Teams value young pitchers who project to be aces above all else when they bargaining during a potential trade. After Rasmus, Miller is probably the guy other teams are asking about most when Mo calls. 97mph with a put-away curve and good control does not come around everyday. Still, he has not yet pitched above Low A ball, though his impressive stats(12.9 K/9, 72:18 K:BB ration) there suggest he may be ready for High A any day now. He's not untouchable, but its pretty close.
5. Jaime Garcia*--LH top half of the rotation pitchers are a rare commodity, and the Cardinals just happen to have one. He's lower than Miller because of his injury history. Maybe I am counting that against him too much, but I'm afraid of guys that have had major arm surgery before they turn 25. Still, Garcia has mixed impressive groundball rates with moderate strikeout rates. He could stand to walk a few less batters, but this is his first year starting in the majors, so we can't expect perfection. He'll be under team control for 4 more seasons(still not sure why he was accruing service time while he was on the DL for Tommy John surgery) which means, assuming he keeps even close to his current level of production up, he'll be an amazing value for most of the next half decade. Right now, I think he's untouchable due to his cheapness and goodness(yay word usage skills!!), and due to the lack of top end starting talent in the upper levels of our minor league system. We are gonna need relatively cheap pitchers to fill out the rotation for the next few years if we want to re-sign Pujols.
6. Ryan Ludwick--I really thought he would be a free agent after this season, but according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, he'll be under team control for another season after this year. When healthy, he puts up good numbers offensively and plays really good defense in RF. Being under team control for one more year helps his value, and since he only makes 5.45M this year, you'd think his salary for next season will be under 8M. He'll probably exceed that figure in terms of WAR. He's no spring chicken, but a team looking for offensive help would offer something good in return.
7. Eduardo Sanchez--If you have been following the Cardinals transactions over the past couple of seasons, you might think that RH relief pitchers are a dime a dozen. In the past year and a half, we have traded away Mark Worrell(ass), Luke Gregerson(where did he come from), Chris Perez(erratic), and Jess Todd(short). In the past 2 and a half seasons, we have introduced Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, and Fernando Salas to the major leagues. We have Josh Kinney, Fransisco Samuel, Matthew Scherer, Pete Parise and Mike MacDougal in AAA. We also have a guy who throws 97, has a wipeout slider, and possesses good command and control in Eduardo Sanchez, who is most assuredly not a dime a dozen. His stats in the minors are very solid and he projects to be a closer or a shutdown set-up man in the bigs, and other teams value that type of player. He'll be cheap for at least 3 years once he gets to St. Louis. Basically, he is the best a RH relief pitcher with no major league experience can be in terms of trade value.
8. Jon Jay--Maybe I am putting too much stock into current performance, but I think teams would quickly ask for Jay in trade negotiations. When drafted, some scouts said Jay could someday win a batting title. While, that may be a slight overstatement, I do think he could easily hit .300 in the big leagues, with an OBP above .350, all while playing good defense at all 3 outfield positions(his bat plays best in center). He'll be under team control for 6 years after this season.
9. Bryan Anderson--Catchers already have inherent value just due to their position. Add to that the fact that Anderson is putting up pretty good numbers in AAA this season with a 276/345/449 line. He's shown better power so far this year than over the past couple seasons. He's blocked in St. Louis, since LaRussa refuses to keep good players on his bench. 6 seasons of team control make him even more valuable. Did I mention he bats left-handed, and that his defense is getting better reviews this season?
10. Mitchell Boggs--Power arm with incredible FB movement and a slider that, when on, is pretty nasty. He has little to no control, but, if he can somehow harness that, watch out. Teams salivate of guys who have stuff like this, so he could be a nice secondary piece in a trade. 5 more season of team control after this year make him a pretty nice commodity.
I'm sure I'm forgetting someone who should be on here. Add your suggestions in comments or just quibble with my order.