With barely more than a month to go before the trade deadline, it’s a good time to assess the value of the players who may hit the block. This is a reminder that the contract often dictates the value, as you can see that some great players are low on the list (and some OK ones are high on it).
As you can also see, it’s a long list. There are already a lot of teams leaning toward selling (though many players on this list are teams that haven’t yet decided what to do), which could make it a buyer’s market. So far, though, it’s just a slow-developing market.
The Ultra Valuable
1. Josh Donaldson, Jays 3B. If the Jays decide they’d like to reset, they’d get a haul for the former MVP. Seems like a pretty steep long shot that they’d do it since they couldn’t even part with Jose Bautista – however, there’d be quite a lineup if they could do it, starting with the Cardinals and Red Sox (can’t see them trading him in division, though).
2. Gerrit Cole, Pirates SP. Word coming out of Pittsburgh is that he very likely isn’t going anywhere. But the Pirates are willing to consider anything, and they’d get a ton for Cole with two years to go before free agency if they’d consider this. “St. Louis and Pittsburgh are the two teams in the National League I’m thinking will go right to the wire before deciding,” one talent evaluator says. The bet here is they do a modified sale but likely don’t part with Cole.
3. Jose Quintana, White Sox SP. With $32 million to go through 2020 presuming the options are picked up, he still brings significant value even after a mediocre start (4-8, 4.69). He does have a 2.25 ERA in June, and the ChiSox have no intention to lower the price, as GM Rick Hahn told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post and has been mentioned before in this space.
4. Eric Hosmer, Royals 1B. Big-time winner played over Paul Goldschmidt for the WBC-winning Team USA. The free agent after the year is posting numbers befitting a nine-figure player. However, it’s hard to see the Royals selling. “They’ll want to keep the old gang together and see if they can do it again,” predicts one rival.
5. Ervin Santana, Twins SP. Hard to believe the interested teams wanted the Twins to chip in last year. Santana has pitched beautifully, and with the Twins in the race and said to be putting a high price tag on him, he very likely stays in Minnesota. (But with a negative-48 run differential, I think selling makes a lot of sense.)
6. Jason Vargas, Royals SP. He’s the majors’ first 11-game winner, though soft tossers aren’t usually coveted at trade time. Also, the Royals aren’t all that likely to wind up as sellers now, as stated previously.
7. Sonny Gray, A’s SP. The “swing and miss breaking ball” is “back,” but one rival exec claims he’s “no longer an ace.” He’s still a bargain at $3.45 million, though, with two more years before free agency, and a chance to rejoin the elite. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said the Braves, Cubs, Blue Jays and Mariners were among teams to recently scout Gray, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo says he’s heard the Red Sox are “keen” on him (I like the term). The guess here is, he is just warming up. Could be a coup for someone. “If you’re in the market for a top of the rotation guy, Quintana and Gray are really your guys,” one exec says, suggesting the market will be limited to two elite guys despite the noise about all the others.
8. Lance Lynn, Cardinals SP. The free agent to be has had another nice year. Under the radar but better than you think. But he’s also another who’s more than likely to stay put (Cole, Santana and Vargas fit that category, as well). While the Pirates and Cards may wait until the last minute to decide, the Cards almost always seem inclined to go for it.
9. Mike Moustakas, Royals 3B. He’s having a great year in his walk year, and the Red Sox and maybe the Yankees could use him.
10. Yonder Alonso, A’s 1B. He is hitting way beyond expectations in his walk year. Also has a relatively puny salary ($4 million) which was based on past performance. The A’s will try to extend him first. Before likely trading him.
11. Sean Doolittle, A’s RP. He’s back to being a dynamic lefty since his return. Reasonable contract with multiple nice team options. “He’s as good as I’ve seen him,” one exec says.
12. Justin Wilson, Tigers RP. He has David Robertson’s stats but not his salary. No reason any contending team wouldn’t want him.
13. A.J. Ramos, Marlins RP. The Marlins’ closer is an effective pitcher, though some contenders may view him as more of a set-up type since he isn’t especially a hard thrower and has no one wipeout pitch but instead relies more on a nice repertoire. Still a very nice piece, though.
14. J.D. Martinez, Tigers OF. Big righty bat has produced huge whenever he’s in the lineup. Free agent after the year is the most logical Tiger to go.
15. Kelvin Herrera, Royals RP. He isn’t having his best year, but his reasonable salary makes him a nice alternative to the pricier David Robertson.
16. Ian Kinsler, Tigers 2B. He’s off to less than his usual start following his WBC heroics, but his salary seems quite reasonable for this excellent all-around talent ($15 million through next year assuming the ’18 option is picked up).
17. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates OF. He’s regained his form and thus his trade value. Reasonably priced at just a tad over $20 million through next year.
18. Lorenzo Cain, Royals OF. Terrific player and winner is heating up as he heads toward free agency. Brings speed and a winning attitude.
19. Brian Dozier, Twins 2B. Great power, good in the clubhouse and reasonable on payday. Yet, the Twins didn’t find the market overwhelming in winter, and that probably doesn’t change now. The Twins also look like they are entrenched in the race, as well.
20. David Robertson, White Sox RP. He’s having a nice year with 41 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings, a 0.95 WHIP and only one blown save. The Nats have to regret not to have gone through with the deal for Jesus Luzardo and Drew Ward. “There aren’t a lot of true ninth inning guys available,” one evaluator points out. “He’s done it in New York,” says another. The price has gone up, presumably way up. The ChiSox also are willing to pay some of his deal ($19 million to go through next year) if it means getting better prospects back.
21. Matt Adams, Braves 1B. The Braves are paying him practically nothing, and he’s producing at an amazing rate. But Freddie Freeman is trying third base (more on that in the NL notes), which means he may stay.
22. Brad Hand, Padres RP. Dynamic lefty reliever could help almost anyone. That $1.3-million salary is yet another big plus.
23. Zack Cozart, Reds SS. Very good player having a terrific year but the Reds would still need to find a contending team looking for a shortstop (more on him in the NL notes). They very nearly traded him a year ago to the Mariners before the deal fell through at the last minute. Not a lot of good teams are desperate for a shortstop, but if they do find the right fit again, he could shoot up this list.
24. Josh Harrison, Pirates 2B. He’s deserving of an All-Star spot this year when he leads NL second basemen in WAR, and his price is fair, with $14 million due through next year, then two club options after that.
25. Alex Cobb, Rays SP. The free agent to be would have a 3.06 ERA if not for one bad start, Peter Gammons of MLB Network pointed out. So far it looks like the Rays are contending, and thus, holding however.
The Pretty Valuable
26. Dan Straily, Marlins SP. He’s been the Marlins’ best starter, and a salary just above the minimum should make him interesting to some if not many. Certainly has lived up to his end of the bargain deal.
27. Yangervis Solarte, Padres INF. He’s showing increased power, has nice versatility and a pretty reasonable deal (just over $12 million through ’19), with a teams couple options. Could be a plus back with the Yankees (more on that in the AL notes).
28. Lucas Duda, Mets 1B. He’s showing some big power in limited at-bats in his walk year. The Yankees could be a possibility, and a Mets person suggested they’d be willing to talk to the Yanks, though conceded it’s a little more complicated trading with the team eight miles up the Grand Central and Major Deegan.
29. Pat Neshek, Phillies RP. He’s been nothing short of brilliant this year, and he brings a different look, to boot.
30. Jerry Blevins, Mets RP. One of the top lefties in the game also has an option for next year that looks like a slam dunk at present.
31. Mike Minor, Royals RP. He’s having a brilliant comeback campaign in K.C. with a WHIP below 1.
32. Jim Johnson, Braves RP. He’s showing good stuff (1.04 WHIP) in anchoring the Braves pen. Has reasonable salary, too ($4.5 million a year through next year).
33. Alex Avila, Tigers C. Fully recovered, he’s producing huge numbers again for his father’s team (Al is the GM). Looks like a major bargain at this rate. A trade “could make for some awkward dinner conversations,” one rival said. (But it could bring back a decent prospect based on superb production.)
34. Brandon Kintzler, Twins RP. The best closer nobody’s heard of, he’s 20-for-23 in saves. Probably staying put the way the Twins are hanging in there.
35. Tony Watson, Pirates RP. Hard-throwing lefty isn’t having the best year and was recently moved out of the closer’s role. The talent is there, though.
36. Addison Reed, Mets RP. Gutsy reliever is striking out one an inning and filling in ably at closer for injured Jeurys Familia.
37. Arodys Vizcaino, Braves RP. He’s finally showing that talent everyone thought he had.
38. Scott Feldman, Reds SP. Professional pitcher has done a solid job and is already famous for trade-deadline trades (Jake Arrieta).
39. David Phelps, Marlins RP. Hard-throwing reliever has filled multiple bullpen roles and is worth his $4.6-million salary, even after winning arbitration.
40. Jay Bruce, Mets OF. He’s hit up a storm this season and certainly proved he can play in New York after drawing no interest in paying his $13 million salary. But now with half the deal paid, and his big numbers on the board, someone should pay the freight. Though, with the outfield demand running low, one person suggested it might take the right injury to the right team.
41. Eduardo Nunez, Giants INF. Versatility and speed make him a valuable player. About the most likely Giant to go.
42. Brandon Phillips, Braves 2B. He’s hitting .300, and best of all, the Reds are on the hook for $13 million of his $14 million salary. The strong personality could be viewed as positive or not.
43. Jed Lowrie, A’s INF. Professional hitter is very versatile, and usually wanted by somebody. Red Sox could make sense. So could the Jays, who may need some help at second base.
44. Joe Smith, Jays RP. He’s having an excellent year Up North. Anyone who gets him should be pleased.
45. Juan Nicasio, Pirates RP. Hard-throwing reliever looks dominant at times.
46. Ryan Buchter, Padres RP. He’s having an OK year in the Padres’ pen after a very good one last year.
47. Jason Motte, Braves RP. He’s pitching very well again, and he comes cheap, too. Nice resurrection case.
48. George Kontos, Giants RP. Professional reliever is posting a better than solid season.
49. Jaime Garcia, Braves SP. He’s pitching pretty well in his walk year, well enough to be moved. “Left-handedness helps,” says one exec.
50. Derek Holland, White Sox SP. He’s having a solid year his first go-round on the South Side, and has a reasonable $6-million salary.
51. David Freese, Pirates 3B. Solid player with a fair deal. Wouldn’t be the worst choice for Red Sox.
52. Santiago Casilla, A’s RP. He has had a middling performance so far this year to match his salary.
53. Matt Moore, Giants SP. The deal so many believed was a bargain looks pretty fair right now, though you’d have to think he improves off his poor first-half performance (6.04 ERA). “Thought the arrow was going in the right direction last year. Now, not so much,” one scout says.
54. Rene Rivera, Mets C. Solid backup is a good defender and a better hitter than you think.
55. Drew Storen, Reds RP. The former closer has made adjustments and could help a contender. The $3-million salary isn’t overwhelming.
56. Daniel Nava, Phillies OF. Having a nice year his first season in Philadelphia, and the price is right at $1.25 million.
57. A.J. Ellis, Marlins C. Veteran catcher is great for a clubhouse and can handle a staff like few others.
58. Kurt Suzuki, Braves C. Veteran catcher could go to a contender. Well-priced at $1.5 million.
High salaries, but interesting
59. Johnny Cueto, Giants SP. He’s a terrific pitcher with a tricky contract. That opt out following the year means he very likely is just a rental (but he could still stay in the event of gets hurt). That opt out makes it “scary” for the acquiring team in the words of one rival exec. One solution could be for the new team to pick up the seventh year on his contract in exchange for him forsaking the opt out. “Really hard to move Cueto,” comes the assessment of a rival.
60. Howie Kendrick, Phillies UTIL. He can hit, and now he can play a few different positions, too. Jack Magruder of FanRag noted that the D-Backs have shown interest in Kendrick in the past.
61. Ryan Madson, A’s RP. The WHIP is below 1 but he doesn’t come cheap ($7.5 million this year and next).
62. Joakim Soria, Royals RP. Terrific and professional pitcher is averaging well more than a strikeout an inning. He also makes a significant salary for a reliever not currently closing ($14 million through next year).
63. Edinson Volquez, Marlins SP. The no-hit kid brings some allure, though his performance has been decidedly uneven this year. The $13 million salary next year looks steep, too.
64. Marco Estrada, Jays SP. The soft tosser is still striking out more than an inning, though a mundane start and low velo mean they wouldn’t get anything resembling a haul.
65. Jeremy Hellickson, Phillies SP. He outperforms his stuff regularly, but teams don’t love soft tossers at playoff time. That $17.2 million salary ain’t cheap either.
66. Todd Frazier, White Sox 3B. The ChiSox haven’t found a ton of takers in the early going. But if they get a Boston-Yankees derby going, they may do OK here. Frazier, from Toms River, N.J. would be at home in either place. As with others, the ChiSox would pay some/much/all of the $12 million salary down if they could get a prospect they like. “They are not in dump mode,” one rival notes.
Great players but overpriced
67. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins OF. He’s hitting some massive homers, and playing very well overall. Be he has $295 million to go – and that’s after this year.
68. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 1B. It’s painful to put him near the bottom of this list, but his long and huge contract makes him basically untradeable at present. He’ll put together a big second half but it’s hard to see this contract paying off in the end. Will go into the Hall as a Tiger, and probably end his career as a Tiger, too.
69. Justin Verlander, Tigers SP. Terrific talent and borderline Hall of Famer is sometimes pitching up to his $28-million salary, so this one could go either way. While it’s still hard to see the Tigers trading this Hall of Fame candidate in any case, word is that three or four teams mentioned him in talks. The question will be: What would they offer? “A lot of miles on his arm,” remarks one scout. “Ten years ago somebody would do it. But teams are being more fiscally responsible nowadays,” says a rival exec. So he thinks anyway.
70. Ryan Braun, Brewers OF. With $67 million to go through 2020, that doesn’t seem all that overpriced, particularly considering the talent. However, he cleared waivers last year, and competing execs seem a bit leery. He’s been on the DL a fair amount in recent years (including now), though he was just activated.
Very Good Players But Also Likely Overpriced
71. Jose Bautista, Jays OF. The Jays shocked folks by bailing him out with a $19-million deal after showing little to no early interest. He’s still had his moments but his overall numbers have slipped again. With the demand not there for outfielders, and plenty ahead of him, it’ll be a tough go. Plus, he has 10-and-5 veto rights, and loves, loves, loves Toronto.
72. Justin Upton, Tigers OF. He’s having the year you’d expect, but the devaluation of sluggers means he’s probably vastly overpaid. No way he opts of the contract that pays him $22.125 million a year for many more years. One Tigers connected person said you can pretty much count on Cabrera, Upton, Jordan Zimmermann and Victor Martinez staying put.
73. Neil Walker, Mets 2B. If healthy, he’s worth nearly every penny. But that $17.2-million salary looks awfully heavy with him on the DL. (Side note: good job by him taking the qualifying offer.)
74. Jeff Samardzija, Giants SP. The salary looks steep, but Samardzija has pitched very well lately, and with an extraordinary strikeout-to-walk ratio, too. A trade isn’t as far-fetched as one might think (though he has a semi-limited no-trade clause). “He’s pitching a lot better than his record and ERA,” remarks one scout.
75. Ian Kennedy, Royals SP. He’s pitched pretty well when healthy, but he has a high contract that includes an opt-out after the year, which makes things dicey.
76. Melky Cabrera, White Sox OF. He’s a professional hitter having the year you’d expect. But the salary of $15 mil still seems a tad high. “He was having a better year last year and they weren’t able to move him,” one rival notes.
77. Martin Prado, Marlins 3B. Terrific in the clubhouse and pretty good in the field, too. But he isn’t a $13 million player at this point.
78. Mark Melancon, Giants RP. A majority of the signing bonus ($12 million of $20 million) has already been paid, but the deal still looks a little robust due to a rough start in San Francisco. The Nats loved him and were willing to do a similar deal (without the up-front money), so they’d make sense if he’s off the DL.
79. Dee Gordon, Marlins 2B. He’s a solid starting second baseman but he hasn’t gotten back to his batting-crown year, and while he hit the most emotional and one of the more memorable home runs last year, he hasn’t hit one this year. That $42 million to go looks a tad steep.
80. Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers SP. He’s doing much better lately, but he’s still pitching like a below average pitcher overall with a well above average contract. Hard to trade.
81. Curtis Granderson, Mets OF. Great for a team, and he’s started hitting again. But $15 mil looks a little pricey. Many love him. “Character guy who’s been there.”
82. Nick Markakis, Braves OF. He’s gathering hits and playing decent defense, but a lack of home-run power still makes that $10-million salary look steep.
83. Brad Ziegler, Marlins RP. He’s struggled of late in Miami, but maybe the scene just doesn’t agree with him. He doesn’t come cheap ($12-million plus through next year) but he has many fans. “Good buy-low candidate with great makeup,” is the one exec put it.
Can Help Someone If Deal is Offset
84. Joaquin Benoit, Phillies RP. He hasn’t seemed pleased to be in Philly, but he hasn’t pitched his best, either.
85. Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets INF. Some rough injuries limited his range earlier, but he’s been raking since his return (and his request to be dealt). Could help someone. Hate to say it, but he’s a really good second baseman.
86. R.A. Dickey, Braves SP. He’s done decently in his age-43 season, and that in itself is an accomplishment.
87. John Axford, A’s RP. He has talent but hasn’t performed his best this year.
88. Rajai Davis, A’s OF. We all remember the big World Series home run last year, but he isn’t off to a very nice start this year.
89. Hector Santiago, Twins SP. No. 5-type starter is having a so-so year in Minnesota.
90. Alcides Escobar, Royals SP. He hasn’t hit a lick. The saving grace is he doesn’t make much and is a free agent after the year. And oh yes, he still has that fine glove.
91. James Shields, White Sox SP. He’s pitched mostly good games when healthy, and the Padres are paying about half his salary. The Chisox would still need to chip in a few dollars to deal him. Not impossible though.
92. Bartolo Colon, Braves SP. The miracle worker may have run out of miracles. Finally. (Colon was designated for assignment after publish and will likely be a free agent. He’s had a terrific career if no one gives him a job.)
93. Francisco Liriano, Jays SP. He looked great in spring training, but a high ERA and higher salary ($13 million) means they’d have to contribute to the kitty to deal him.
94. Matt Garza, Brewers SP. He’s remade himself, to his credit – yet still isn’t worth that $12.5-million salary.
95. Junichi Tazawa, Marlins RP. Very good pitcher for the Red Sox may finally be running out of gas in Miami.
96. Matt Cain, Giants SP. The $20-million price tag looks way high now.