So long as you have the proper perspective, a series Jonah Keri just did at Grantland is a lot of fun. It’s about the players in baseball who have the most trade value – when considering the whole package of performance, projections, contract, age, etc. – ranked in order. Then, for editorial flair, the players are grouped in digestible chunks that Keri can discuss together. I really enjoy it.
You don’t have to go too far to find a Cub, though. Best trade value in the organization? Do you know without looking? Or did the picture spoil it? Hopefully it’s obvious after the 2014 season: it’s Anthony Rizzo, who comes in at number 7. He’s just behind Bryce Harper, for crying out loud.
Rizzo, who just hit .286/.386/.527 with a .397 wOBA and a 153 wRC+ (and turned 25 in August), will make the following salaries in the coming years: $5 million, $7 million, $7 million, $11 million, $14.5 million (club option) and $14.5 million (club option). That’s an incredibly team-friendly deal,* and makes Rizzo incredibly valuable. I totally agree with his placement on this list.
*(It’s easy to forget that the Cubs did take a significant gamble when they gave Rizzo that contract, which was one of the richest ever bestowed on a player with so little service time. At the time, Rizzo had put together a good half season at the big league level and a terrible half season at the big league level. That was it.)
Next up for the Cubs at number 18? Can you guess this one, too? It’s Kris Bryant. The next highest player who hasn’t played in the big leagues? Byron Buxton, at 43(!). Yes, Keri loves him some Bryant.
Finally for the Cubs, there’s Jorge Soler at 44, just behind Buxton, and just ahead of Gregory Polanco. Soler’s contract situation isn’t quite as friendly as it would be for a traditional prospect, but it’s still pretty good. Addison Russell and Javier Baez just missed the list.
Now, I could probably make an argument that Starlin Castro (team-friendly contract) and Jake Arrieta (only just now reaching arbitration) should have been on the list, as well. But when you consider that it’s a mere 50-player list and there are 30 organizations in baseball, getting three on the list plus two near misses ain’t too shabby.
And, again: this is just supposed to be fun. Not some hard-and-fast, end-all-be-all of trade value.