Over at Grantland, the outstanding Jonah Keri has released the second annual MLB Trade Value Rankings series, with parts one and two complete. The Miami Marlins have two representatives on the list as expected, and they both reside in the top 20 players with the highest trade value in baseball.
Trade value is an important concept for Marlins fans because so many rumors involving Miami are associated with trade value. We often talk about trade value here in strict numbers form, but the reality is that trade value has some subjective qualities to it. We valued Hank Conger on the site at almost $50 million in surplus or trade value. I doubt his real trade value, according to the Los Angeles Angels, is anywhere near that number, just because a team is unlikely to think so highly of a decent third-year catcher. So while the math certainly plays a role, factors such as the scarcity of talent of a certain level and other more subjective things come into effect as well. There is a reason why you might still want Felix Hernandez at $25 million a season over Hank Conger.
But overall, the trade value rankings are both a science and an art, and Keri has jotted down an excellent, worthy list this year. Miami has two players in the top 20, and you probably already know who they are. One is Jose Fernandez, the elite starting pitcher who just put up one of the best rookie seasons of all time from a starter. The other is Giancarlo Stanton, the elite slugger with legitimate questions about his game but legitimate power to make up for that. Here is what Keri said for Stanton.
16. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins (7): Stanton might have more raw power than any hitter in the NL, with one homer per 15 at-bats so far in his career5despite playing his home games in two Miami pitchers' parks. But he has also already burned up half of his six years of team control. Moreover, he's not a perfect player by any means, with the ninth-highest strikeout rate in the majors since his 2010 debut, inconsistent defense, and, most troubling of all, far too many games missed due to injury (85 over the past two seasons). A team would have to empty its farm system to acquire him, with no guarantee of getting the world-beater it was hoping to land.
That is the situation Miami faces in case the team cannot secure Stanton to a long-term extension. Stanton's injury concerns and drop in production in 2013 make for declining trade value, as evidenced by his 16th ranking compared to last season's seventh-place finish. If the team is forced to trade him, they would like to trade him for high prospect value, but the acquiring team would still have a number of questions about Stanton's future as a star.
So Stanton landed 16th on this season's list. But which players are around him? And if Miami was interested, would they do a one-for-one trade for any of these fellow stars? Let's play a game involving the players around Stanton on the trade value list and see which teams would blink first.
Matt Harvey (17)
The New York Mets starter would have rated higher, Keri said, had he not suffered a season-ending torn UCL that led to Tommy John surgery. But before that, he was at least in the running for best pitcher in the National League along side a number of players, including Fernandez. Harvey will likely miss all of 2014 following Tommy John surgery, but even if with that missed time, he would be a 26-year-old ace starter who has thrown 237 2/3 career innings with a 2.39 ERA, 2.33 FIP, and 27.9 percent strikeout rate going into 2015.
Right now, would the Marlins consider a one-for-one trade for Harvey? The Fish love pitching, but they would probably be too scared of the injury concern to jump on such a move. The Mets, on the other hand, would probably also be concerned, if only because they might struggle to re-sign Stanton under their current budget constraints. I think Miami says no first in such a trade offer.
Stephen Strasburg (15)
Strasburg also once had Tommy John surgery, and his dip in value from last season stems from the fact that, while he still threw cannon-like 96 mph heat, his numbers dipped just a little since the injury. His strikeout rate fell to 26 percent from 30 percent in 2012, and his ERA and FIP went to 3.00 and 3.21 respectively. He is arbitration eligible for the first time in 2014, though he is not slated to make a significant raise from the $3.9 million he earned last season.
Then again, last year and this year showed that even a less effective Strasburg is still a three-win pitcher on the year, and Strasburg is still throwing heat and is only 25 years old. Still, Stanton is a year younger and a position player of similar caliber at this stage in their careers. At this point, I would guess that Miami blinks first and says no to a trade.
Troy Tulowitzki (18)
The Miami Marlins really could use a shorstop, and even if Tulowitzki misses significant playing time every season, he is still the best shortstop in baseball. He remains a strong defensive stalwart and he has been the best offensive player at the position since 2010. The problem for Miami would be his contract, which still owes at least $134 million over the next seven years.
But if Miami has been looking to lock up Stanton for the long haul, why would they say "no" to getting a more "proven" All-Star caliber shorstop for the extreme long haul? Miami would have that position set through at least 2017, when we can expect a slow decline of Tulowitzki's skill set. In this scenario, as good as Stanton in Coors Field playing for the Rockies would be, I think Colorado says no first. Tulowitzki in Colorado is bordering on an institution, and they seem highly unwilling to trade him away despite the long-term risk they tok on the deal.
Yasiel Puig (14)
This one is perhaps the most interesting of the questions posed here. The Puig-for-Stanton trade was thrown out there by MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian when he said for the Los Angeles Dodgers to offer Puig and "anyone but Clayton Kershaw" for Stanton. Peter Gammons approved. The Fish would get a future star under a lot of team control for a reasonable cost, and the Dodgers would get an impact bat whom they could easily sign to the extension he deserves. Stanton would also get to return home to California while the Marlins get an exciting Cuban player to help energize the fan base.
There is not a lot of love loss here at Fish Stripes for Puig after he threw a tantrum when striking out against Fernandez, but no Marlins fan would deny that he would be awesome in Marlins Park. The question is whether the Dodgers would be interested, and I think in this case the Dodgers say no first.
You can play this game with all of the other players around Stanton on the list. What number would you go up to on the list before trading Stanton one-for-one seems unrealistic? Stanton for Yadier Molina? Stanton for Chris Sale? Stanton for Miguel Cabrera (ha)? How about going down the list, how far down the list would a one-for-one be unacceptable for you Fish Stripers? Stanton for David Wright? For Felix Hernandez? WIl Myers? Let us know in the comments section!