2021 Trade Value: #31 to #40

2021 Trade Deadline, 2021 Trade Value, Featured

2021 Trade Value: #31 to #40

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week after the All-Star Game to take stock of the top 50 players in baseball by trade value in anticipation of next week’s trade deadline. For a more detailed introduction to this year’s exercise, as well as a look at those players who fell just short of the top 50, be sure to read the Introduction and Honorable Mentions piece, which can be found in the widget above.

For those who have been reading the Trade Value Series the last few seasons, the format should look familiar. For every player, you’ll see a table with the player’s projected five-year WAR from 2022-2026, courtesy of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections. The table will also include the player’s guaranteed money, if any, the year through which their team has contractual control of them, last year’s rank (if applicable), and then projections, contract status, and age for each individual season through 2026, if the player is under contract or team control for those seasons. Last year’s rank includes a link to the relevant 2020 post. One note on the rankings: particularly at the bottom of the list, there’s not a lot of room between players. The ordinal rankings clearly matter, and we put players where they are for a reason, but there’s not much room between, say, 35 and 60. The magnitude of the differences in this part of the list is quite small. Several talent evaluators we talked to might prefer a player in the Honorable Mentions section to one on the back end of the list, or vice versa. We think the broad strokes are correct — but with so many players carrying roughly equivalent value, disagreements abounded. Thanks are due to Sean Dolinar for his help in creating the tables in these posts. At the bottom of the page, there is a grid showing all the players who have been ranked up to this point.

And now, to the next group of players.

Five-Year WAR +13.9
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank #36
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 27 +3.2 Arb1
2023 28 +2.9 Arb2
2024 29 +2.9 Arb3
Arb

Laureano’s control situation certainly plays into this valuation, for while he’s become a fixture in the Oakland outfield, he doesn’t enter his first year of arbitration until next year. He’s far from a perfect hitter, but his decent approach, plus (and still growing) power, and above-average speed all make up for some swing-and-miss tendencies that limit his hit tool. It all adds up to around an .800 OPS, which Laureano buoys with his center field defense; it’s average in terms of range but he has an arm that is an absolute game changer.

He’s a good-not-great player who is under team control for three more years at what should be a very team-friendly price, and as we’re seeing as this year’s trade deadline approaches, everyday center fielders of value are a rare commodity. Laureano is one of those players who can help win a game in such a wide variety of ways that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the industry bolsters him even more due to one of the more highly praised makeups in baseball, with sources noting his intense, max-effort style. “I think that if Jesus came back and told him he couldn’t play baseball, Laureano would try to fight him,” said one rival executive. – KG

Five-Year WAR +15.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2026
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 24 +3.2 Pre-Arb
2023 25 +3.3 Pre-Arb
2024 26 +3.0 Arb1
2025 27 +3.0 Arb2
2026 28 +2.9 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

The one thing that surprised me most as we went through different versions of the list, collected multiple points of feedback, and engaged in cross-checking was how much the industry perspective on pitching value varies from person to person. Differences in opinion make the market (or so they say), but it wasn’t uncommon to hear that we had every young pitcher way too low or way too high. The immediacy of pitchers’ value is hard to overstate, but they’re also volatile in a way that caps how much many (myself included) would be willing to trade for them.

None of this is specific to Anderson, but he’s a good example of the category. He was absolutely electric in his debut last year and didn’t even exhaust a year of team control thanks to a late start. He’s been solid so far this season, and his underlying numbers look similar. He’s drawing bad swings — and whiffs — at a similar clip and getting a similar number of pop-ups. He’s allowed more loud contact and more homers, but that’s volatile from year to year. In all, he looks like a cornerstone starter, with the one blemish being a slightly elevated walk rate. ZiPS is calling for a pile of 3-WAR seasons, and the price is right. But again, pitching performance is volatile and we ended up docking him for it (as compared to doing a straight-forwardly projected surplus value accounting). Discussions like these happened around a ton of pitchers, not just Anderson, but he’s a great excuse to explain how we thought about the group. – BC

Five-Year WAR +11.0
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 27 +2.5 Pre-Arb
2023 28 +2.4 Arb1
2024 29 +2.3 Arb2
2025 30 +2.0 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

“I thought Murphy had an argument with Will Smith for being the best catcher in baseball after last year,” one big league executive told me in regards to the Oakland backstop. “Then he had the collapsed lung and that got him off track.” Known as a legitimate defender with plus power and one of the best catcher arms around (in terms of strength but not accuracy), there are aspects to Murphy’s 2021 season that give you a bit of pause, especially his approach. His walk rate has declined and while his power is well above-average, he gets to it less than ever in terms of hard hit balls. It’s hard to say how much of this is still recovery from his late-January medical scare, and most industry people who offered feedback on this year’s rankings were willing to give him a mulligan for his sub-standard first half.

All of that said, Murphy provides present value, plenty of control, and considerable remaining upside, rare in a catcher. “I wouldn’t be surprised if 2021 is one of the worst years of his career,” concluded the source. – KG

Five-Year WAR +19.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #16
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 25 +4.1 Arb2
2023 26 +4.1 Arb3
Arb

It’s hard to be underrated when playing in Boston, but Devers is just that. Currently on pace for a six-win season, it’s easy to forget that he is just 24 years old and will be one of the most desirable free agents in the game come 2024, when teams will be buying into the expected prime of his late-20s. “He has some fastball issues, and I think that’s always going to be a thing,” said one senior evaluator. “But overall you’ve always trusted that he can hit.”

Devers is plenty good offensively, already a middle-of-the-order bat on a championship level team, and all the arrows are pointing in the right direction as he’s walking more and barreling more balls than ever, making it easy to see him threaten the rarified air of a 1.000 OPS down the road. The walks are mostly a reflection of pitchers trying to work around him, as Devers chases much more than your average bear, but expect even greater production as the bat becomes more dangerous in his late-20s. – KG

Five-Year WAR +17.2
Guaranteed Dollars $15.5 M
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #25
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 29 +4.1 $15.5 M
2023 30 +3.7 $16.0 M
Team Option

Nola took a bit of a dive as we solicited feedback from teams. That’s not to say he’s bad — obviously, we think he’s one of the 40 most valuable players in baseball — but the lack of team control was a sticking point that came up over and over again. That left us grouping him with Devers, and I think the comparison between the two is illuminating. Devers will very likely cost less, and the two have roughly equal projections, which pegs them to a similar location.

Why Nola ahead of Devers? Partially, it’s down to preference, and Kevin and I were both high on Nola coming into the exercise. Partially, it’s a scarcity argument. I think that teams would be more likely to pony up a bit extra for a potential ace than a corner guy who can really hit, even if the WAR numbers shake out roughly equally. There are other pitchers with similar control ahead of Nola, but this is a rough proxy for where teams valued someone they saw as great but with a ceiling — with one true plus pitch, it’s hard to imagine him doing much better on the strikeout front than he is now, so he needs to limit walks (which he does) to really pop. That’s not to say we agree wholeheartedly there, but the argument was persuasive enough to drop him somewhat. – BC

Five-Year WAR +12.8
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 26 +2.8 Arb1
2023 27 +2.7 Arb2
2024 28 +2.6 Arb3
Arb

Verdugo is currently in the midst of a brutal slump that has seen his power go missing in action, but sources were still impressed with his skill set as an everyday outfielder who doesn’t hit free agency until 2025. “He’s a super high-contact bat with enough oomph and approach that I feel like he should be doing better than he is,” said one team exec, while also admitting the holes in Verdugo’s game. “There are a lot of groundballs and he feels more like a pesky, bottom-of-the-order guy on a championship team.” A solid defender in the corner who can stand in center when pressed due to average speed, Verdugo also has an impressive arm that adds to his value in the field.

We’re not here to defend the Mookie Betts deal, but the Red Sox didn’t walk away completely empty-handed, and despite his recent struggles, Verdugo feels like he’ll be a safe two to four win player for the remainder of his time in Boston. – KG

Five-Year WAR +19.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 25 +4.0 Pre-Arb
2023 26 +4.1 Arb1
2024 27 +4.0 Arb3
2025 28 +3.7 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Another player who provoked wildly varying opinions, Grisham is one I was very high on coming into the exercise, and while we slowly moved him down, I think this valuation represents a floor for him. It’s simply not easy to get someone who plays a plus center field and can hit, particularly someone who does that and hasn’t yet reached arbitration. From a pure ZiPS-projected surplus value standpoint, he’d be in the top 15 or so, and you can’t do that on low salaries alone; as you can see above, Dan’s model buys what Grisham is selling.

There’s not much argument that Grisham is an excellent center fielder. He gets good jumps and can flat-out fly; every defensive system loves him. If you want to dock him, then, it’s for his lack of pedigree coming up and his short track record as an impact bat. But it’s not that short anymore; he’s been hitting for power since 2019, and has an even longer history of solid on-base skills. He has legitimately elite plate discipline, so I’m not worried about the sustainability of his walk numbers even a little bit. None of his tools other than the speed jump off the page, but I can’t look at his batting line and see anything but a plus hitter, and the defense is obviously great. This is one we might look back on in a year and scratch our heads at; only the short track record kept him this low. – BC

Five-Year WAR +16.0
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2025
Previous Rank HM
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 27 +3.4 Pre-Arb
2023 28 +3.3 Arb1
2024 29 +3.3 Arb2
2025 30 +3.1 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Every time we sent this list out to a team, they came back and asked for Smith to move higher. I’m not a huge fan of putting catchers high on the list, if only for playing time reasons, but Smith does everything so well, and at such a compelling value, that some people had him even higher than this. He’s absurdly polished at the plate; he works counts, has good command of the zone, and makes loud contact when he swings. Forget the “for a catcher” qualifier; he’d be a great hitter anywhere on the diamond.

Behind the plate, he’s an average receiver; nothing to write home about, but certainly well above the bar given his offense. A catcher with an average glove and league average bat would already be quite valuable; Smith is obviously more than that. He’s also under team control through 2025. I still think that the rigors of daily catching will keep him from racking up enough playing time to merit a higher spot than this, but that’s debatable, and no one doubts Smith’s talent at this point. – BC

Five-Year WAR +10.2
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2026
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 27 +2.3 Pre-Arb
2023 28 +2.2 Arb1
2024 29 +2.3 Arb2
2025 30 +1.9 Arb3
2026 31 +1.5 Arb4
Pre-Arb
Arb

Arozarena was the opposite story to Smith; no one moved down the list more as we solicited feedback. Several people noted that the holes in his swing and approach are getting increasingly exposed, a conclusion that’s hard to argue with based on his recent performance. Teams have been coming after him with sliders this year and he hasn’t performed well against them, though he’s still making reasonable swing decisions and hitting the ball hard when he connects.

“When he connects” is what will hold him back, and with an extra half-year of data, it looks like his newfound power is accompanied by more whiffs, which makes his pre-2020 contact skills seem less attainable. If that’s the case, Arozarena might be slightly high on the list here; an above-average corner bat is hardly a unique gemstone of a player. This spot in the rankings is partially about years of control — no one below him on the list has nearly his major league track record with five years of suppressed salaries still to come. It’s partially about the fact that he’s a career 117 wRC+ hitter in the majors without considering his ludicrous postseason, and is running a .330 OBP despite being “exposed.” But it’s also a ranking that I struggled with, and one that could look silly in either direction in two months. – BC

Five-Year WAR +21.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank #31
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2022 28 +5.3 Arb2
2023 29 +5.1 Arb3
Arb

From 2018-19, Olson made it pretty clear what he was a 50 bat with some walks and all sorts of power; as a first baseman, it all added up to a three-to-four win player. Then came a miserable 2020 campaign that raised all sorts of questions. Well, all of those questions and more were answered in the first half of this season, as Olson has had an explosive 2021 so far, with all of his underlying metrics suggesting that every bit of his breakout is for real. His strikeout rate is down nearly half from 2020 and one-third from his 2018-19 good seasons, while his peak power has grown and he’s using all fields more than ever. “He’s really closed some holes and turned himself into having an argument for being one of the most complete hitters in baseball this year,” said one insider.

Olson is an average defender at first base, so the overwhelming majority of his value comes from what he does with the lumber in his hands, but when that production falls among the top 10 in baseball, what the player can do beyond producing runs is just gravy. Building off a $5 million platform for his next two years of arbitration, Olson is one of the more valuable impact bats in the game. – KG

2021 Trade Value, 31-50
Rk Pv Player Age 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
31 31 Matt Olson 27 +5.3
Arb2
+5.1
Arb3
32 Randy Arozarena 26 +2.3
Pre-Arb
+2.2
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+1.9
Arb3
+1.5
Arb4
33 HM Will Smith 26 +3.4
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Arb1
+3.3
Arb2
+3.1
Arb3
34 HM Trent Grisham 24 +4.0
Pre-Arb
+4.1
Arb1
+4.0
Arb3
+3.7
Arb3
35 HM Alex Verdugo 25 +2.8
Arb1
+2.7
Arb2
+2.6
Arb3
36 25 Aaron Nola 28 +4.1
$15.5 M
+3.7
$16.0 M
37 16 Rafael Devers 24 +4.1
Arb2
+4.1
Arb3
38 Sean Murphy 26 +2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.4
Arb1
+2.3
Arb2
+2.0
Arb3
39 Ian Anderson 23 +3.2
Pre-Arb
+3.3
Pre-Arb
+3.0
Arb1
+3.0
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
40 36 Ramón Laureano 26 +3.2
Arb1
+2.9
Arb2
+2.9
Arb3
41 Trevor Rogers 23 +4.1
Pre-Arb
+4.2
Pre-Arb
+3.8
Arb1
+3.7
Arb2
+3.7
Arb3
42 HM Dylan Carlson 22 +2.6
Pre-Arb
+2.7
Pre-Arb
+2.8
Arb1
+2.6
Arb2
+2.6
Arb3
43 Freddy Peralta 25 +3.6
$2.5 M
+3.4
$3.7 M
+3.1
$5.7 M
+2.9
$8.0 M
+2.8
$8.0 M
44 Nick Madrigal 24 +2.4
Pre-Arb
+2.5
Pre-Arb
+2.3
Arb1
+2.1
Arb2
+2.0
Arb3
45 39 Max Kepler 28 +3.3
$6.8 M
+2.9
$8.5 M
+2.6
$10.0 M
46 49 Xander Bogaerts 28 +4.5
$20.0 M
+4.2
$20.0 M
+3.7
$20.0 M
+3.1
$20.0 M
+2.5
$20.0 M
47 Tim Anderson 28 +2.8
$9.5 M
+2.7
$12.5 M
+2.4
$14.0 M
48 Luis Garcia 24 +2.9
Pre-Arb
+2.9
Pre-Arb
+2.6
Arb1
+2.5
Arb2
+2.3
Arb3
49 Pablo López 25 +2.6
Arb1
+2.6
Arb2
+2.4
Arb3
50 40 Jeff McNeil 29 +3.1
Arb1
+2.8
Arb2
+2.3
Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb
Team Option
Vesting Option

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