The 2016 Cubs are loaded with five of the 50 most valuable – as theoretical trade assets – players in baseball.
Keri’s list of baseball’s 50 best players factors aspects such as age, contract, position scarcity, etc., then ranks them by trade value. And it should come as no surprise that the Cubs (whose average age was 26.7 in 2015) were well represented on the list with four position players.
Bryant and Rizzo, who were both in Keri’s top-50 last year, are unsurprisingly ranked among the top-10 this year. Bryant moved up from 18th to fifth on the strength of his NL Rookie of the Year season in 2015, while Rizzo moved from seventh to sixth after back-to-back top-10 finishes in NL MVP voting.
Addison Russell (32), Kyle Schwarber (33), and Jake Arrieta (39) are all brand new to Keri’s top-50.
Having seen Russell traded once already, we have a sense of what kind of value he has in a hypothetical deal. Even then, that might not represent a proper valuation after he cemented his status as a quality everyday player at two middle infield positions as a rookie in 2015.
Keri projects Schwarber (33) to possibly join rarefied air of players who have 30 homers and nearly 100-walk potential. And at age 23, those kinds of players could command a ridiculous return in a trade.
Meanwhile, Arrieta (38) checks in among the top-40 as he enters the final two years of team control with agent Scott Boras seemingly primed to take another client to free agency. The lack of long-term control dings the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner’s trade value a bit, but there is no questioning his real-life value to the 2016 Cubs.
Outfielder Jorge Soler fell out of the top-50 after being ranked 44th last season. Keri notes that Soler, like fellow top-50 dropout Gregory Polanco belongs in a class of players worthy of Honorable Mention status, with upside.
Of course, this isn’t to say any of these players are readily available on the trade market. Instead, Keri’s top-50 is more about gauging which players would conceivably bring the biggest return if each was available via trade.
If Sonny Gray is No. 20 on this list, it means the Athletics likely wouldn’t trade him for anyone ranked 21–50, but they would have to at least consider swapping him for the players ranked 19–1.
Spoiler: Gray is 20th on the list, so it would be unfair to think a simple Gray-for-Schwarber deal would hypothetically get done. On the flip side, imagine Billy Beane demanding Bryant or Rizzo in exchange for Gray.
Keri’s list puts player value in a completely new perspective.