Dave Cameron rolled out his annual trade value series on Fangraphs this week. His stated goal of the project is to determine which players would command the biggest return in a trade if their current team were to make them available. Combining projected future performance with contract status (both dollars and term) properly values the players’ trade value. Age, injury status, and position (pitchers riskier than hitters) were also accounted for. This is a ranking of the top 50 assets in Major League Baseball.
All but 5 teams were represented on this list. The purposely losing Houston Astros. The Ruben Amaro-led Philadelphia Phillies. The GM-less San Diego Padres. The albatross-infested (Verlander and Cabrera) Detroit Tigers. And the New York Yankees. Not only did the Yankees fail to make this list. They also found themselves on Cameron’s top-5 anti trade value list, the 5 worst contracts in baseball. Alex Rodriguez was number 3 on the list due to the fact that he’s old (almost 39), suspended (Biogenesis), and grossly overpaid ($61 mil owed through 2017). He’s 6 home runs away from another $6 million. Dave opines that he would be black-balled out of the league a la Barry Bonds due to the baggage and under-performance if he was a free agent right now and that the Yankees would have to eat $67 million for another team to take him off their hands. It could have been worse as Mark Teixeira‘s contract (2 years at $23.125 mil per year) just missed the top-5 cut as the contract nears its end and Tex is at least healthy right now. CC Sabathia‘s contact also likely just missed this not-top-5 list. These long-term contracts for players on the wrong side of 30 almost invariably go bad.
The lack of a Yankees player on the top-50 trade value list boils down to 2 things. 1) The Yankees don’t have any superstar player signed to a below market deal. 2) They don’t have any elite prospects in the top minors ready to crack a big league roster and command only pre-arb and arbitration prices while granting 6 (or 7) years of team control. The closest they have to a very valuable contract is Masahiro Tanaka. The AAV might be slightly under market value for this caliber of pitcher, but the player opt-out after 2017 limits the upside for New York (if he’s good he opts out and if he’s bad or hurt then the Yankees are stuck). Oh, and he currently has a partially torn UCL. Brett Gardner‘s contract is nice, too, but there’s still not enough surplus value to be top-50 in the game for a player on the wrong side of 30. The Yankees can continue to tread water the next few years by paying market rate (or above) deals in free agency to offset the fact that the farm system hasn’t given them much since the late 90s. To find themselves on this list the Yankees will have to draft and develop better as it’s very hard to find great value in free agency or through trades.